Regularly accused of doing too much of advertising, marketing and the effects of announcement from the passengers rather than focusing on the maintenance of the network and the punctuality of the trains, the SNCF is in a paradoxical situation : the more it works, the more it exposes itself to the resolution, and the irritability of the travelers.
The two failures at four-month intervals, which have paralyzed traffic Montparnasse station in July and December 3, strengthened the sense of a high vulnerability of the French train system. The minister of Transport Elizabeth Terminal has beautiful describe this incident as “unacceptable”, order reports, and to put pressure on the leaders of the group, the travellers are likely to see more long time this kind of problems. In question ? The work of maintenance and modernization of a network that is bursting out of everywhere. Since 2008, billions of euros are still invested in railroads, but to listen to experts, it will take his evil in patience for at least another ten years before we can expect a return to normal !
Why the announcements of the SNCF, they are disappointing after the failure of 3 December ?
Everyone expected big announcements on the part of the SNCF after the wakeup call of the government, but it is ultimately a response quite limited, presented to Patrick Jeantet, the boss of the infrastructure by sending a letter to the minister of Transport. By and large, the appointment of a new “managing director”, Matthieu Chabanel, up here in charge of the maintenance and work. This engineer X-Bridge must propose by the end of January, a new organization “of the entire chain of engineering and project management.” Not sure the general public really understands what it is. “It is more of a response technocratic than political,” observes an expert group rail, while some, including mp PS Valérie Rabault, had again raised the question of resignation of Guillaume Pepy, chairman of the management board of the group or of Patrick Jeantet, its number 2.
Recognizing the existence of “substantial flaws” in the failure of Sunday 3 December, which was blocked during part of the day hundreds of passengers, the CEO of the SNCF Network, has promised a full audit of the whole process of implementation of the operations of modernization of the system. But the results of which will be known only by a year…
Why there may be other failures ?
The leaders of the SNCF does not hide it : the incidents of the type of those of the Montparnasse train station are likely to recur. Simply because there is more work on the tracks. Until 2020 more than 1500 sites are committed every year to cope with the increase in the number of travellers (+30%) and aging infrastructure. Knowing that, for example, 50% of the works of art, including the bridges, tunnels,.. have more than 100 years !
Patrick Jeantet has conceded to him-even when his interventions in the media earlier this week : “The multiplication of these projects, in particular in the Île-de-France, will increase the occurrence of risk and it is our responsibility to organize ourselves in order to better anticipate, minimise the occurrence and, where applicable, deal with the consequences.”
The situation for the group by rail is even more complex because it combines several types of work, greatly increasing the risk of crash : those related to the maintenance of an aging network and those related to the modernization of the tracks. It is these latter who have been at the origin of the bug in Montparnasse : a computer failure on a command post switch to allow an increase of 20% per hour the circulation of the TGV on the West of France.
The investments are sufficient?
The lack of understanding of the travellers in the face of failure repetition also comes from the fact that we do constantly tell them that billions of euros are invested in infrastructure, without that they still see the results. In 2016, the executive has announced a performance contract with SNCF Network “unprecedented” 46 billion euros over ten years. Almost as much as the debt train !
More than 34 billion euros, financed by the SNCF Network, the State, and the increase in tolls, will be invested between 2017 and 2026 for the modernisation of main railway lines and the compliance of the network (deletions of crossings, and accessibility standards). In particular, the contract provides for 27.9 billion euros over 10 years for the renewal of the main network. This represents nearly 2.6 billion euros in 2017 (compared with less than a billion until 2006). The milestone of 3 billion euros per year will be reached in 2020.
How to explain the absence of Guillaume Pepy?
Quick to react and landed on the sets of tv at the slightest crisis, Guillaume Pepy has been very discrete this time. Tired of taking hits and probably a bit eager to climb in the first row while the week was great for him: good results of the TGV on Wednesday, crowed with the president Macron in Doha on Thursday with the signing of the metro won in partnership with the RATP. “I reproach enough to be omnipresent in the media and when I remain silent, I am also critical, he should know !” ironisait it in the middle of the week.
It is true that this time it is Patrick Jeantet, which is mounted in the niche as the management of the infrastructure is the responsibility of the CEO of the SNCF Network (ex RFF). Also difficult for the general public to find their way through the complex governance of the group : since the law of railway of 2014, it is divided into two public institutions of an industrial and commercial nature (EPIC) on the one hand, SNCF Mobility, in charge of circulating the TGV, City, coaches…directed by Guillaume Pepy and SNCF Network, the manager of the track. An EPIC head-the umbrella organisation for all with the two CEOS, who are respectively the chairman and deputy chairman of the management board. And in the event of a conflict between the two men, a chairman of the supervisory board, non-executive, in the person of Frédéric Saint-Geours, former DG of PSA.
Travellers will be better informed?
Even if the direction of the group welcomed in the beginning of the week an improvement of the passenger information, compared to the stream of instructions to be contradictory when the paralysis of last summer, there remains “some progress,” says one in the entourage of Guillaume Pepy. It was decided to inflate the budget is allocated to these questions to more than 50 million euros in 2018. In total, 150 million euros should be invested over the next three years.
The SNCF has promised in the wake of the incident of 3 December to reimburse the expenses incurred by the travellers who had at least a four-hour delay or a cancellation of their train.