Ouigo off “grands projects”, say French

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.


3 comments to “Ouigo off “grands projects”, say French”
  1. Mr Macrons comments are correct , but the difference between France and Britain is the already have a substantial network and we have nothing. Planning for the recently opened LGV lines began more than 10 years ago , so perhaps the French should have , not only cancelled those , but closed down entirely the highly successful existing HS network built up over nearly 40 years ! ? Incidentally , the ‘Ouigo’ model is an excellent example for HS2 to follow. It would at least quell the myth that has grown over the last few years , that HS2 train fares will be so expensive that few people will be able to afford to travel on them.On the contrary , cheap ‘ walk-up and go ‘ tickets will guarantee
    full trains and long-term economic and financial success of the new system. However , as with anything completely new
    one can’t be certain either way , but let’s be optimistic.

  2. Is this yet another rat leaving a sinking ship?

    Stuart Westgate begins second stint at Nichols Group

    Former programme development director for HS2 Stuart Westgate has rejoined Nichols Group.

    He will be a senior partner at the consultant, which has advised on Crossrail and the 2012 Olympic Games, responsible for strategic leadership and business development.

    Prior to joining HS2 in 2015, Westgate spent four years as director of major projects advisory at KPMG, having joined the business from Nichols which is based in Marylebone, central London.

    Westgate said: “I am very excited to be taking on this career defining role in the UK’s leading infrastructure strategy adviser, at a time when infrastructure investment, renewal and growth are at their highest levels.”

    Nichols Group chair said: “Stuart is a welcome addition to our leadership team during a key period of expansion and growth.”

  3. Given that 55.7 bn is 2015 estimate what is that in today’s prices.
    I would guess at least 60 bn plus connectivity costs etc probably nearer 70 bn
    What are our MPs doing?

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