Hautes-Pyrénées: the tram market, a “major challenge” for CAF in Bagnères

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Faced with “rapid and significant growth” in its business, railway manufacturer CAF France is now focusing, at its Bagnères-de-Bigorre site, on the production of trams.

“This is a major challenge for our Bagnères-de-Bigorre site, which will thus become the showcase of our know-how in tramway construction,” said Alain Picard, managing director of Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) in France, in an interview with La Dépêche du Midi. As if to sweep away the concerns aroused in this small municipality in the Hautes-Pyrénées by the announcement of the transfer of train production from the historic site of the Soulé factories (which became CFDB then purchased in 2008 by CAF) to its Alsatian site in Reichshoffen (formerly Alstom acquired from CAF in August 2022) but also from the departure of the director of the Bagnères plant.

“CAF has never achieved such a level of activity in France”

“His departure is not related to the future of the site, nor to any casting errors, but is due to the personal positioning of an executive who aspired to a position we do not have with us. After a very good career with Alstom, he made a great job with us”, insists Alain Picard. “Pending the hiring of a new director, Aïtor Artza acts as interim manager. A way to prepare well for the arrival of the construction of the trams, from the autumn of 2023”.

Even if the Bagnérais establishment has already proved itself in this sector (we owe it the trams in Luxembourg and Besançon), it will be called upon to step up the pace, or even embark on light trains. Because work is there and there will be, assures Alain Picard. “CAF has experienced tremendous growth in recent years. Out of an order book of 13 billion euros this year, 20% is made in France. We have never achieved such a level of activity in France where, from 20 million euros /year between 2010 and 2018, let’s go to 450M€ in the period 2023-2025. Faced with this rapid and strong growth, Bagnères could not have done everything. The best way to serve customers is for everyone to do what they know Reichshoffen he will therefore make the trains and Bagnères the trams, starting with those of Montpellier and Marseille”. And CAF France is already positioned on other calls for tenders, in France but also in Europe. But what about the company’s announced creation of 400 positions in 2019?

200 employees by 2024

“For Bagnères, the tram market represents a considerable challenge and the positioning of this site is fundamental for the group. We are facing very large calls for tenders, with major renovation projects and the construction of the first trains will begin in Marseille and Montpellier in March 2024. It’s tomorrow! And this will be accompanied by new hires. I remind you that from 80 employees in 2017, we have already gone to 120 in 2022 and by 2024 we will be 200, “says Alain Picard.

Currently two projects employ the employees of the factory, the construction of the RATP maneuvers (the first will be completed within 2-3 months) and the restructuring of the RER A even if this is late. “We have been faced with technical difficulties but restructuring is always complicated. It is when we dismantle that we see everything. In 2023 we will therefore have less activity than expected but it will take off from 2024”, he is keen to reassure.

The candidates remain to be found but the general director of the CAF is confident. “In Bagnères we have two difficulties. On the one hand, it is a deindustrialized sector and, on the other, it is squeezed by the aeronautics. In Occitania, the railway sector is only present in Tarbes and in Bagnères. To promote recruitment, we are working with the State and the Region and we are also counting on the future Polytechnic University of Tarbes”.

And the reopening of the Bagnères-Tarbes railway line in all this? “With trams, it is not necessary in the short term since the trains leave on trucks, but in the medium and long term, for other future projects, such as light trains (in the long term), the railway will be an Asset, it will connect Bagnères with France and Europe. I think we shouldn’t focus on the line but on competence and the key element is the university of technology”.

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