Friday, 20 Apr 2018
Business

SNCF: towards the creation of a subsidiary for rail freight?

Édouard Philippe wants to get French rail freight back on track. And for that, he announced Monday that the government was floor on the idea of ​​a “spin-off” of Freight SNCF , the activity of the railway company dedicated to rail transport, a deficit and highly indebted activity. For the Prime Minister draws a damning conclusion: “The situation of our country in terms of freight transport is not the right one. So he asked Transport Minister Élisabeth Borne to “think about the future of the sector (…), putting all the elements on the table”.
Of these, he cited “the question of operational organization of the company (SNCF), including the issue of the SNCF Fret “subsidiary, during a visit to the port of Bonneuil-sur-Marne (Val-de-Marne). Fret SNCF depends on SNCF Mobilités, of which it represents more than half of the debt (4.3 billion euros out of 7.9 billion). Structurally deficient despite several government support plans, the activity could be recapitalized more easily if its accounts were isolated in a subsidiary. When asked about the question, Élisabeth Borne told the AFP that it belonged to the SNCF to work on this scenario and to make proposals.
An option already mentioned and rejected by SNCF management
The boss of the SNCF Guillaume Pepy told AFP that he should speak on the subject Monday “in the day”. In October 2017, the management of SNCF had strongly denied “any project of spin-off or privatization for 2018” Fret SNCF, while unions had said that the option had been mentioned. Édouard Philippe, who emphasized the environmental benefits of rail transport, also stressed the “need to better invest in the network, including small lines that can get boxes where they are.”
According to him, it is also necessary to “look at the evolution of tolls because for a long time we have reasoned as if it was enough to raise the toll of rail freight tolls rapidly and continuously to balance on paper the accounts of the SNCF, what does not happen. “The transformation of the rail system is not just the transformation of passenger transport, it is also the transformation of the freight transport . It’s the same subject. We must take the reform as a whole, “insisted the Prime Minister, while the railwaymen, opposed to this reform of the SNCF presented recently, continue to lead a strike by episodes. While Emmanuel Macron said Sunday evening that the debt of the SNCF would be progressively taken over by the State from 1 January 2020, Édouard Philippe noted that “the question of knowing which quantum, which modalities, is still on the table”.

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