Les RAPIDES de . . . partout

Some of the Transports Citroën networks became Rapides . . .

billet / ticket bellgraphic RCA
The fleetname "Rapides" was to become well known in many parts of France. It appears to have had its origins from developments within some of the Transports Citroën networks from the 1930s, whilst it is possible that some other non-related operators may have adopted the name as well.
Le nom "Rapides" allait devenir bien connue dans de nombreuses régions de France. Il semble avoir eu ses origines dans l'évolution de certains des réseaux de Transports Citroën des années 1930, alors qu'il est possible que certains autres opérateurs non liés peuvent avoir adopté le nom ainsi.

As early as 1934 we can find these operators listed in the Quillet timetable:

also known as the Compagnie Ardennaise des Transports Citroën

also known as Cars Citroën and believed to have left the direct control of Citroën in 1934.

Transports Citroën - Réseau de Caen was established in October 1932. This was very quickly renamed Rapides de Normandie - Cars Citroën but passed under SGTD control in 1936 and was merged into Les Courriers Normands in January 1937. (SGTD - Société Générale des Transports Départementaux - was a substantial provincial bus operator across France and already had a presence in 17 départements by 1929 and in 25 départements by 1945).

RAPIDES DE LA MEUSE of Bar-le-Duc and Verdun
also known as the Société Meusienne des Transports Citroen. Acquired by the SGTD group in 1945. Part of Transdev Grand Est since 2015 (as also Rapides de Lorraine below).

Founded in February 1933 at Nancy by the merger of Rapides Bleus (5 routes and 20 vehicles) with Société Lorraine des Transports Citroën (14 routes and 50 vehicles), both of whom had only started operating the previous year. By the start of the second world war there were 32 routes and about a hundred vehicles. Passed into the ownership of the Gagneraud group, along with Rapides de Maroc and Rapides de Cote d'Azur. Bought by the CGEA in 1991, eventually part of Connex, then Veolia, and since 2015 operates as Transdev Grand-Est.

cover rapides de bourgogne 1954
Commnenced in 1932 from Citroen-related origins and operating at that time a network of routes also serving Soissons, Chateau-Thierry and Chalons-sur-Marne.  The company is associated with the family of Denis Ardon who was the Citroën concessionaire in the cathedral city of Reims.

also known as the Société Tourangelle des Transports Citroen. (Rapides de Touraine were acquired by the Verney group and then merged with their STAO Touraine company in the 1990s).

formerly the Compagnie Citroën du Poitou, changing name as early as April 1933.

stop sign Rapides de Lorraine
Not all of the several Rapides companies mentioned were actually a group in the sense of common ownership but there are some inter-relationships. It may have been in part simply adoption of a popular and obvious trade name by various separate companies.
Toutes les sociétés Rapides mentionnées ne constituaient pas en fait un groupe au sens de propriété commune, mais il existe des interrelations. Il peut s'agir en partie simplement de l'adoption d'un nom commercial populaire et évident par diverses sociétés distinctes.

RAPIDES DU LITTORAL can be added to our list in 1937. In fact this was two companies, one registered in France and the other in Monaco, reflecting the operating area. This was pat of the Gagneraud grouping along with Rapides du Lorraine and Rapides de Cote d'Azur.

RAPIDES DE COTE D'AZUR - a substantial operator founded in 1937, becoming part o the CGEA group in 1991 and then later into the Veolia group. Owned by the Gagneraud group who also owned Rapides de Lorraine. The latter day patron, Michel Gagneraud, died in August 2014 at the age of 78.

Moving forward over thirty years these Rapides companies were included in the Chaix Réseaux Divers timetable in 1968:

Rapides de Bourgogne (Auxerre)
Rapides de la Meuse (Bar-le-Duc)   (merged with the Courriers de la Marne of Chalons-sur-Marne
              by 1972 to become the 'Rapides de la Marne et Meuse')
Rapides de Lorraine (Nancy)
Rapides de Champagne (Reims)
Rapides de Touraine (Tours)
Rapides du Poitou (Poitiers)
Rapides de Cote d'Azur (Nice)

It is known that in 1975 the companies below came under the control of the predecessors of the Transcet / Progécar group, which suggests also that these four at least were previously under common ownership, possibly that of STAM (Société des Transports Automobiles Mondragon):

Rapides de Bourgogne (Auxerre)
Rapides de Touraine (Tours)
Rapides du Poitou (Poitiers)
Rapides du Sud-Est (Avignon) - origins unclear

cover of timetable

rapides champagne cover 1950

The Transcet group expanded by several acquisitions but its 'Rapides' activities included by 1992:

Rapides de Bourgogne (Auxerre)
Rapides de Touraine (Tours)
Rapides du Poitou (Poitiers)
Rapides du Sud-Est (Avignon)
    and they introduced two new additions to the 'Rapides' repertoire:
Rapides Saone-et-Loire (Macon) - from 1987, previously the Régie des Transports de Saone-et-Loire
Rapides du Val de Loire (Orleans) - previously part of TREC - Transports Régionaux de l'Est et du Centre with bases at both Troyes and Orleans - might this in some way be a descendant of the pre-war Compagnie Transports Régionaux de l'Est et du Centre (Autocars Citroën) of Troyes?

The 2012 listing of Transdev (successors to Transcet / Progécar) subsidiaries shows:

Whilst the Veolia group lists these subsidiaries:
RAPIDES DE LORRAINE (Nancy and Metz) - bought by the CGEA in 1991, eventually part of Connex, then Veolia, and since 2015 operates as Transdev Grand-Est.
RAPIDES DE LA MEUSE (Bar-le-Duc and Verdun)
Became part of Connex, then Veolia and in 2015 part of Transdev Grand Est.

It is known also that:
RAPIDES DU POITOU are still in operation (now a subsidiary of the FAST transport group since 2001)
RAPIDES DE COTE D'AZUR are still in operation (still showing the Connex logo on their website)
RAPIDES DU LITTORAL - the name was revived about 2010 for the eastern half of the RCA network
RAPIDES DU SUD-EST are believed to still be in operation (or were in 2005)
But Rapides de Touraine no longer appears having been acquired by the Verney group and merged wth their STAO to form Compagnie des Autocarrs de Touraine.
Some uncertainties remain and there never was a single group which encompassed all users of the 'Rapides' name. Examples of common ownership existed though including the Gagneraud family with Rapides de Lorraine and Rapides de Cote d'Azur.

Rapides de Lorraine 1965

Rapides de Champagne, a Citroen 32B of 1939, fleet number 78, destination Chalons
(photograph by Denis Andon)
Rapides de Champagne Citroen 32B of 1939
Rapides de Champagne 1961

Rapides de Champagne 1961 map

Rapides de Lorraine in Audun-le-Tiche on the Luxembourg border, June 2012. Operating a TIM service (Transport Interurbain de la Moselle)
(photograph by Tony Ethridge)
Accompanied by the map and cover of the summer 1954 Rapides de Lorraine timetable
Rapides de Lorraine Audun-le-Tiche June 2012
cover of the 1954 Rapides de Lorraine timetable
map from the 1954 Rapides de Lorraine timetable

Further information about Marne and Meuse from Malcolm Chase - for a time there was an operator Les Rapides de Marne et Meuse of Bar-le-Duc and Verdun. A timetable is known for 1973, so that is a firm date. But the companies were soon split up again into Rapides de la Meuse and STDM.  Different departments of course, though Rapides de Lorraine covered at least two departments, Meurthe-et-Moselle and Meuse, along with Courriers Meurthe et Moselle, in Moselle department. Rapides de Lorraine ran some urban routes in Metz incidentally, as I think CMM did too. It is strange that SGTD would merge two companies only to split them again quite soon, and to re-use the old-fashioned style of name STDM, but it must have related to the separate departments.

                                                                                             Rapides de la Côte d’Azur and Rapides du Littoral

Part 1 – these notes are taken from a History of CGEA produced in October 1996.

In the early 1930s, competition by coaches on major road corridors went entirely unchecked. At its height, 135 operators ran 800 vehicles daily between Nice, Cannes and Menton.

René Bonnet de la Roche d’Espiel (unknown to me), Pierre Trafford (a household name in regional transport) and others approached businesses with a view to coordination.

As a result, S.T.A.R., which I assume stood for Société des Transports Automobiles de la Riviera, came into being in January 1935, with a capital of 1.5 million francs shared amongst the participants. It initially ran 97 vehicles on 350 daily returns between Nice & Cannes, subsequently reduced to 82 vehicles and 215 returns in view of impending regulation. There were also 7 vehicles used on 65 returns between Antibes and Cannes.

A major competitor was TNL which, with Tramway de Cannes, ran together 70 omnibuses on Nice-Antibes-Cannes, and in May 1937, S.T.A.R. purchased these for 1.5 million francs. Similar consolidation was taking place on Nice – Menton.

Marcel Gagneraud, with similar objectives, entered the arena in May 1937 with the registering of Rapides du Littoral – not one but two companies with the same name. One was French, with a capital of 1.5 million francs, to buy up the rights of existing France-based operators, the other was Monegasque, with a capital of 3.5 million francs, to buy up the rights of existing Monaco-based operators.

A little over a year later, on 12/02/1938, Gagneraud’s French RL bought 75% of S.T.A.R. at 1,200 francs per share (they were worth only 500 francs on issue in 1935!). This solved the problem of uncontrolled competition (and without recourse to public subsidies!).

Before the war, the 120 vehicles of Rapides du Littoral were clocking up 1 million kms permonth with 700 staff. In 1942, Rapides du Littoral (France) changed its name to Rapides Côte d’Aur and in war conditions had only 21 vehicles running 110,000 kms per month with 270 staff.
Part 2 – Rapides du Littoral S.A.M. post war – notes from CRD.

Although we say RLM, that is only to avoid any possible confusion with the previous French homonym. The name is Rapides du Littoral SAM (Société Anonyme Monégasque). The official Monaco records state that it was registered in 1958 and has a capital of 175,000 euros. We have to assume there was a moderate change in the legal company identity resulting in a  ‘re-registration’ process in 1958.

We also have to assume that the Monaco residents/ nationals and their heirs, remain major shareholders and are more comfortable with a Monaco company to house their investment.

Even so, I find it difficult to explain what I do not understand myself. The essential advantage of a Monaco SAM is the absence of corporation tax. But that advantage is not extended to French shareholders, nor to others if more than 25% of the company turnover comes from outside the Principality. Otherwise tax is levied at 33.33%. So how are the rights remunerated now? I do not know.

Even then, there is no obvious link to the operational changes. From 1986, when I arrived on the coast, until 1994, no RCA vehicles had Monaco registrations. With the arrival of the Tracers in 1994, this changed but without any obvious route allocation – I saw vehicles with Monaco plates allocated to La Bocca depot and operating on Cannes – Grasse. Why? Then a few years ago RLM is resuscitated as the legal owner on vehicles in route 100. Why? I fear these questions will remain unanswered.

Currently, or at least recently, Thierry Prod’homme, a Transdev man, was Directeur Général, and one member of the board was Manuel Nardi, whose day-time job was Directeur Général of the Société Monégasque des Eaux.

And a curious postscript: from 20/01/2004 until 16/03/2004 Rapides du Littoral appears as a branch of Autocars Broch (an RCA company at the time) – RCS 387 478 175 00012 with an address at 724, RN7, 06700 St Laurent du Var. That has all the signs of an administrative mix-up that had to be corrected quickly but that leaves a trace.

Clive D'eath – 20/07/2018

Follow these links for more information about

Rapides de Touraine


Rapides de Poitou


Rapides de Bourgogne

rapides val de loire logo Follow these links for more information about

Rapides de Lorraine


Rapides de Champagne


Rapides de Normandie


Voici en 2020 ce que sont devenues ces entreprises :

-  Rapides des Ardennes : lignes reprises en 1978 par la RDTA mais aujourd'hui son réseau est beaucoup réduit

-  Rapides de Bourgogne : en 2019 l'entreprise a été renommée Transdev BFC nord (Borgogne Franche Comté)

-  Rapides de la Meuse : aujourd'hui Transdev Grand Est depuis la fusion de 2015

-  Rapides de Lorraine : a été reprise par la filiale interurbaine CFTI ( Compagnie Française de Transports Interurbains). A ne pas confondre avec les CFIT ancienne filiale des réseaux Citroën. Puis en 2015 à fusionné avec d'autres entreprises et aujourd'hui c'est Transdev Grand Est

-  Rapides de Champagne : devenus STDM (Societe des Transports Departementaux de la Marne) du groupe Keolis.
             En 2011, transféré au groupe RATP Dev.  L'entreprise existe toujours sous son appellation STDM

-  Rapides de Touraine : Rachétés par Verney en 1994 ; aujourd'hui Transdev Touraine

-  Rapides du Poitou : L'entreprise existe toujours et fait partie du groupe régional FAST (Financiere Atlantique Services et Transports)

-  Rapides du Sud Est : Existe toujours, aujourd'hui renommés Sud Est Mobilités

-  Rapides du Val de Loire : Existe toujours aujourd'hui, renommés Transdev Loiret

-  Rapides de Saone et Loire : existe toujours aujourd'hui, renommés Transdev BFC Sud

-  Rapides de Cote d Azur ( RCA) : existe toujours aujourd'hui renommés Transdev Cote D'Azur. Lignes périurbaines du réseau urbain de Nice (régie Lignes D Azur).

-  Rapides du Littoral Monégasque ( RLM). Cette filiale est assez spécifique. Elle exploite la ligne 100 Nice Monaco Menton.
               Ses véhicules sont entretenus au depot de RCA. Les RLM sont une filiale de RCA.
               Tous ses véhicules portent une plaque d immatriculation de Monaco et non une plaque de France.

------ Grand merci a Richard Jacquemin pour ces infos courants ------

We would be pleased to learn more about these operators if any French readers of this page have further information!

Si les lecteurs français de cette page pouvaient m’apporter des informations complémentaires à propos de ces autocaristes, je leur en serais reconnaissant!

With grateful acknowledgement to the researches and collections of John Carman, Malcolm Chase, James Bunting and Clive D'eath

   - The magazine  'Charge Utile' has published the histories of several French groups and operators in these issues:
   - La revue 'Charge Utile' a publié l'histoire de plusieurs groupes et sociétés d'exploitation d'autocars dans ces numéros:
          Rapides de Champagne   103
          Rapides de la Meuse  209 / 210

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