France is still number one

Posted: 20 August 2014 | Frédéric Baverez, CEO of Keolis France | No comments yet

Keolis is the largest public transport operator in France, its home country, boasting the highest market share in urban transportation with 45% of the trips on the open market. Although its international activities are expanding, France still generates Keolis’ largest share of revenue. In 2013, 54% (€2.7 billion) of total global revenues of €5.1 billion were generated at home. The 14 other countries where the company now operates generated 46% (€2.4 billion). Despite being proud of its fast-growing international activities, exclusively for Intelligent Transport, Frédéric Baverez – CEO of Keolis France – explains why the transport operator’s biggest market remains France.

In urban transport, Keolis operates in close to 90 French cities, including Lyon, Lille, Bordeaux, Rennes, Orleans, Dijon, Tours, Caen, Angers, Lens and Brest. In 2013, revenues from urban networks increased 6.4% and the company retained 99% of its urban contracts. 

Keolis is also acting as technical advisor for publicly-owned operating companies in Strasbourg, Metz, Le Mans and Pau. It should be noticed that Keolis is also France’s leading hybrid bus operator. 

In intercity transport, Keolis has a 20% market share, operating regional bus lines and school bus services in 75 of 96 departments in France.

Opportunities and challenges

Keolis’ history dates back 100 years. Its domestic focus so far has been to develop its expertise operating urban and intercity services outside monopoly regime. But the scheduled opening-up of the transport market in this region (by 2024 for the existing services and from now on for new services) will present Keolis with major new opportunities. 

The company’s unique expertise in operating driverless metros gives it legitimacy on projects such as the Grand Paris Express, an extensive rapid transport network for the Greater Paris area, home to 12 million inhabitants. Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2015. 

Topmost among the challenges Keolis is facing is the increasing expectation by French public transport authorities for higher quality transport solutions at lower costs. Ridership continues to grow in France, but the share of costs assumed by the passenger is constantly falling. Only 31.7% of operating costs today are covered by commercial revenues. 

In response, Keolis is building revenue by providing new services to increase passenger traffic, creating transport offers that are adapted to new travel patterns, developing tailor-made customer relation – ships to build loyalty, and opening new or extending existing tram, bus and metro networks. To follow are some of the most recent developments.

Strong expertise in launching new tram networks

Keolis now operates 11 tram networks in France following the opening in August 2013 of an entirely new tram system for the city of Tours. The Tours system creates a high-capacity, non-polluting north-south corridor to complement the existing bus network which has also been redesigned. Tours’ transportation system has been revolutionised with a state-of-the-art ticketing system, new areas served, improved passenger information, and a mobile site delivering information to passengers in real-time.

In terms of tram extensions, Keolis Lyon launched a 2.1km-long extension on one the city’s busiest tram lines in February 2014. The new section links two of the southeastern city’s most dynamic neighbourhoods via a new bridge reserved for the tram, bicycles and pedestrians. Four new stations also opened, allowing travellers to connect to the city’s metro, train stations and intermodal centres.

Also, work began in February 2014 on the construction of the first tram line linking France and Germany. The extension from Strasbourg (France) to Kehl (Germany) is the first cross-border tram project in Europe. The tram will be extended by 6.6km by 2017 and will have three new stations in Strasbourg and three in Kehl.

In September 2014, the city of Le Mans in northwest France will inaugurate a second tram line, extending the existing network by The first line was launched in November 2007.

More services on buses and BRTs

Keolis currently operates nearly 16,000 buses and coaches in France and is constantly upgrading its networks and adding new services to attract and retain passengers.

In October 2013, for example, the city of Metz launched a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system with two lines totalling 18km and 37 stations. The buses are environmentally-friendly thanks to a hybrid propulsion system which reduces emissions and fuel consumption by 15% to 20%.

Improved safety was an important focus in Metz. For example, alternate traffic flow was set up on some narrow sections of the routes. And while the Metz BRT system is not required to meet the same safety standards as a guided transport system, Keolis nevertheless is making this network come very close to complying with the same requirements as for a light-rail.

Keolis’ growing expertise in BRT was a significant factor in the 2013 renewal of its contract with the city of Nimes for 10 years. Launched in September 2012, Nimes’ BRT is part of Keolis’ commitment to modernise the city’s transport network to attract 15.3 million passengers annually by 2022.

Similarly, setting up two BRT lines was part of the Keolis commitment when Cherbourg decided to renew its contract with Keolis in June 2014. Over the term of the six-year-plus renewal, Keolis’ objective is to increase ridership by 19.9%, overhaul the fee schedule for youth, increase kilometres by 9.5%, and deploy a revamped customer website.

BRTs are playing a winning role in the intercity market as well. Since September 2013, Keolis’ Lila Premier BRT intercity express coach service has been providing daily service between Nantes and surrounding communities. The new generation buses offer more frequent and direct routes, low-floors for better accessibility, real-time passenger information and, for the first time in French transport, free 4G wireless internet.

For people working odd hours and days, being able to get to work on time is critical. The opening of a ninth on-demand bus line called Fileo was a welcome development for workers at Charles de Gaulle airport northeast of Paris in May 2014. The new line serves the Val d’Oise area north of Paris and allows employees to get to work and back home at any time or on any day of the week. A tenth line is scheduled to launch by the end of 2014. 

Metro operations

Keolis operates metros in Lille, Rennes, at Charles de Gaulle airport, and in Lyon where a 1.8km-long extension of line B of the city’s metro network opened in December 2013. The extension has transformed a formerly neglected area of the city into a vibrant business and residential centre combining metro, bus station and parking for cars and bicycles, with an information centre and a main line SNCF railway station.

This project required nearly four years of construction including the building of a new tunnel under the Rhone River. Passengers have been quick to adopt the service. A month after its opening, the extension was already carrying nearly 20,000 passengers daily.

Innovate to anticipate new passenger needs

Four trends have impacted passenger behaviour – real-time information, social media and crowd-sourcing, the spread of collaborative consumption, and the advent of the ‘Digital City’. In response, Keolis has carried out many initiatives to anticipate evolving passenger needs and provide solutions that answer those changes.

In Caen for example, Keolis launched the first full near field communications (NFC) ticketing system in France. The smartphone application allows passengers to buy tickets and validate them directly on the bus using their smartphone. New mobility solutions have also been launched, such as journey planning applications, real-time information or multi-modal information for a smooth door-to-door journey.

Provide optimal connections

With four metro lines, five tram lines, two funiculars and more than 100 bus and trolleybus lines, Lyon has the largest urban transport network in Europe delegated to a private operator and is a showcase for inter-modality.

Its transport network has several interconnection points and 90% of trips require no more than two changes. Five tram lines connect the metropolitan area’s main hubs, and 120 bus lines serve Lyon and its neighbouring suburbs. Four metro lines cover 31.5km and cross the city’s nine districts.

Based on its experience in Lyon, Keolis offers its expertise in inter-modality to other cities. In Vichy for example, Keolis opened an inter-modal exchange hub in February 2014 at the city’s train station. The 80m2 space, dubbed the ‘gazebo’, provides travel information and ticket sales for city buses, coaches and regional train service. Travellers arriving at the station can find real-time travel information as well as 80 bicycles for rent, and secure bicycle parking.

The Vichy project was the result of the combined efforts of the local PTA, Keolis and its parking subsidiary EFFIA – France’s second largest car parking operator. EFFIA has activities in 220 cities in France and operates more than 125,000 parking spaces both on- and off-street. In Greater Paris, it has 26 car parks with more than 30,000 spaces.

As part of its inter-modality expertise, Keolis has also become the second largest operator in France for on-demand bike services, with very successful experience in Lille, Bordeaux, Rennes or Orleans. This bike expertise reflects the aim of Keolis to develop a comprehensive mobility offer taking into account each mode of transport.


Frédéric Baverez is a graduate of the Mines School of Engineering in Paris. From 1988 to 1991 he worked for the Alsace region’s prefect, and then from 1991 to 1995 was Rapporteur to the Inter-Ministerial Committee for Industrial Restructuring (CIRI) at the French Ministry of Finance. After two years as Technical Adviser to the cabinet of the French Transport Minister, in 1997 Frédéric was appointed Chairman and CEO of SITA IDF – a waste management company in the Greater Paris region. He was then named Deputy Managing Director of Suez Environnement and then Director of Cost Management and Procurement for the entire Suez Group. In 2005, Frédéric became Senior Vice President of Keolis France, in charge of Operations, Projects and Innovation. In 2008, he became Senior Vice President in charge of Eastern France. In 2011, Frédéric was appointed CEO of EFFIA. As of 1 January 2014, Frédéric was appointed CEO France in addition to his role as CEO of EFFIA.

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