At the weekend, SNCF, the French railway company, opened two new high speed rail lines, with French president Emmanuel Macron taking the first train on the new route to Bordeaux and subsequently making a speech on the future of transport in France..
But what was interesting was the president’s attitude to the future of French railways, with a refocusing away from “grands projets” and looking instead to “everyday transport”.
Railway Journal reports on Macron’s speech:
Making it clear he does not favour major new projects such as additional LGV lines he stated: “I am telling you the dream of the next five years should not be a new big project like this one” but that a key priority for his government was to improve daily life for French citizens and offering simpler more reliable transport systems were part of this.
Macron is reported as saying that choices of projects would have to be made, with some de-prioritised or stopped.
Addressing the rail sector specifically, Mr Macron said his new government would “look at rail differently” with the aim of “improving rail.” He stated the large debt accrued by French National Railways (SNCF) had to be addressed and that change was necessary in the rail sector. He suggested that “SNCF must become a champion of mobility in the 21st century,” and that this would involve people’s jobs changing, singling out ticket offices as one area where existing roles may not have a long-term future.
Meanwhile the Economist reports on the rotten state of ordinary French railways saying:
…passengers like the TGV, but more rely on conventional lines, whose infrastructure is increasingly rotten. SNCF earns €13bn ($15bn) from mass transit, to just €6bn from high-speed. It gobbles up €5bn annually from taxpayers, and Mr Macron has to decide whether the state will shoulder its more than €40bn of debt. And with 250,000 staff, the firm desperately needs to be trimmed.
In addition the Economist refers to the newly named Ouigo, saying its “a no-frills version of high-speed trains, runs from stations near to France’s larger cities.”
You can read more about this (in French) here.