The French state plans to help the SNCF “to several billion euros”, in the face of a serious shortage, especially due to the Covid-19 crisis, said Minister of Transport Delegate Jean-Baptiste Djebbari on Thursday. .
After Air France or Renault, the state now wants to lend a hand to SNCF, so that the company can handle the large deficit caused especially by the Covid-19 crisis. The Ministerial Delegate for Transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, promises support “for a sum of several billion euros”, in an interview with Figaro dated Thursday, July 23, while noting that the state has already allowed the SNCF to “borrow 1.2 billion in the markets and financed the “salary of one in three railway workers” for sub-activity during the containment.
“Several options are on the table: recapitalization of the group or recovery of an additional part of the debt, for example,” says Jean-Baptiste Djebbari. “Will we use one alternative over another or mix solutions? […] The distinction has not yet been made. “
In mid-June, SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou estimated that the Covid-19 crisis alone would cost the rail operator almost € 4 billion in turnover.
If we add the turnover loss linked to the strikes against the pension reform, estimated at one billion euros, the deficit for SNCF is about 5 billion euros since December last year.
Already in May, fearing that SNCF’s financial situation – which accumulated a debt of about 35 billion euros in early 2020 – would worsen, Jean-Pierre Farandou appealed to the state’s shareholders: “The view that a support plan for SNCF does not seem unreasonable to me , “He said, recalling that Air France and Renault had benefited from it.
The government is waiting for reforms
“If the state invests significant sums, it in return expects SNCF to have a high economic, environmental and social performance,” warns Jean-Baptiste Djebbari in Le Figaro.
“We want the railway network to be modernized within ten years so that passenger trains can run smoothly, day and night, as well as freight trains. The course of the 2018 reform, ie an investment of several billion euros per year until 2022 to recreate the railway network, continues he.
“A sufficiently strong support can enable SNCF to return to balance as soon as possible. It is clear that this is not about resuming the manufacturing debt,” emphasizes Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.
The ecological transition in the sights
During his speech on July 14, Emmanuel Macron stressed that he intended to “massively rebuild” rail freight, small train lines and night trains as part of his ecological transition policy.
In view of the “relaunch of rail freight in France”, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari indicates that he has specifically proposed to the Prime Minister “to reduce tolls for companies operating on the national network”.
The government also aims to “start two more night trains by 2022 with, why not, a Paris-Nice to start”, said the ministerial delegate.
“The state will first finance the renovation of existing rolling stock before considering purchasing new train sets to develop a larger European network in the longer term,” he explains.
On the “small lines”, “the state will continue to mobilize significant co-financing to renovate as many other lines as possible”, he promises.