The transformation began in the 1990s, with the first European regulations, and continued with the gradual switchover of closed rail economies to a globalized economy. Today, the rail industry is open to competition everywhere in Europe, and the operation of freight and passenger networks will undergo the same changes between now and 2020.
The rail sector has benefitted from the recent changes in policy directions (the Grenelle Environment Roundtable) which have been to the advantage of rail – TGV (high-speed), TER (regional trains), tramways, while the amount of large motorway construction projects has dropped in France. Thus, the replacement going forward to 2014 of 200 TGV (high-speed) trains in France is expected, coupled with the promise of a €100 billion (USD 132 billion) investment in infrastructure. The SNCF (France's national State-owned railway company) and the regional governments have put out large calls for tenders to replace 1,850 regional trains (TERs), the customer numbers of which could quadruple between now and 2050.
The production aim for the 2008-2015 period is to invest €13 billion (USD 17 billion) in 6,420 km (4,000 miles) of tracks and in 2,420 points and crossings (see http://www.rff.fr/IMG/presentation-entreprises-europeennes.pdf (in French only) – French rail network renovation plan – European firms briefing meeting held on 14 January 2010 – Réseau Ferré de France (the company which owns and maintains the French national railway network).
In addition to these domestic markets, export markets also exist, which can account for 50% of the turnover of large companies. The overall development of the rail offering entails the acquisition of specialized subsidiaries, incorporating a qualified staff recruitment and training policy, sustained R&D activities and heavy investments in equipment. Through their rail offering development strategy, the big players in the sector have created a big increase in their requirements for dedicated facilities but also a large need for specific and subcontracting expertise. Faced with this new situation, the rail maintenance offering market is going through a transformation and giving rise to new demand. The mission of Mecateamcluster®, an expertise cluster in the fields of the design, construction and maintenance of mobile machinery , is to be a customized solution to the requirements expressed by these actors in the rail sector, by providing them with a coordinated and structured network of subcontractors and of expertise, the offering of which is clear, understandable and transparent. The strategy of a network has come into its own around a shared rail platform venture which enables the cluster to provide a solution in terms of technical expertise, of training and of dedicated facilities.