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After a record summer, SNCF more cautious about the start of the school year

After a “super summer” marked by record attendances, the return to school looks more uncertain for SNCF in the context of inflation and purchasing power concerns, SNCF.Travelers chief executive Christophe Fanichet told AFP in an interview. “We were there, but we weren’t always on time,” admits Fanichet, who runs the railway company itself.

“This is the first summer we’ve had such long periods of heatwaves everywhere. (…) We slowed down the trains, the rolling stock was extremely busy. “This is a subject we will find at the beginning of the school year,” he notes. “We’ll do a feedback in September: the heat wave, as we all understood, has to fall within the norms and standards of the box.” Regardless of the region, north or south. “It was hot on the tracks and in the trains, but the railway workers were still there,” he points out. “They were hot too! »

Fanichet also notes that “Covid was still there” this summer, affecting “both passengers and our agents.” Although the number of serious incidents remained relatively limited, SNCF Voyageurs nevertheless went through a bad period at the end of July, marked in particular by “galleys” on RER B and D in Ile-de-France, the sinking of Paris – Clermont and repeated accidents at Tallis.

Two trains of the Franco-Belgian company broke down on July 19 and 24, before a train hit an animal on the 29th, causing a monstrous mess on the line. “A hardware failure like that of Thalys must not happen again,” the manager judged.

Very good news

Very good news though. The recovery that started in the spring was confirmed and SNCF carried 10% more passengers compared to the already record summer of 2019, before the health crisis. “We will carry 23 million passengers on the TGV and Intercités in July and August. With the international 28 million”, Fanichet rejoices. “We got all the trains out and all the trains were very, very full. »

TERs also saw a sharp increase in attendance, up 15% on 2019. “There is a rail appetite for carbon-free mobility,” explains the manager. “The price of fuel also helps us. As the start of the school year approaches, Christophe Fanichet is particularly cautious. Bookings remain encouraging for leisure, but “we still don’t know what to say about professionals”, admits the head of SNCF Voyageurs.

“SNCF is a kind of thermometer for what is happening in France,” he believes. However, “inflation is still there, there are French concerns about purchasing power, energy costs, we don’t really know what will happen in terms of health…” On the social side, “There will be local social movements here and there he predicted. But no major national strike is looming, apart from inter-union days like the one on September 29.

“It’s hard to get hired”

A big topic for the start of the school year: the SNCF group wants to hire 5,000 employees, including 600 in Transilien alone (trains in the suburbs of Paris). “It’s hard to get hired like any other profession,” he sighs. “What’s more, the subject is difficult: we recruit people we have to train, which takes a lot of time. “Finally, a little concern about the delivery of materials.

“The auto industry is shut down because it’s on a tight supply schedule. We don’t, but our stock is starting to fall,” notes Fanichet. “I didn’t stop a train today because parts were missing. But the question is starting to arise,” he warns. As for a possible increase in the price of TGV tickets to take inflation into account, “we will have to make a decision in the autumn”, he points out.

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