One more plan to develop rail freight

Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister for Transport confirmed, Monday, September 13, that the State would grant rail freight annual aid of 170 million euros until 2024, beyond, therefore, the mandate of the current majority. This sum will largely be used to subsidize the tolls charged to operators using SNCF Réseau tracks, and to encourage them to entrust trains (9% of freight traffic) with what they send by road (89%).

Already announced by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, in July, this envelope is part of a plan of 72 measures. Thanks to him, the government wants to double the share of rail in the transport of goods in France by 2030, as enshrined in the Climate and Resilience law of August 24.

Even if it reached 18%, the share of French freight, the second largest rail freight carrier in Europe behind Germany, would still be only at the average level of the European Union. However, Brussels has set itself the objective of increasing it to 27% in 2030 and 36% in 2050. It is nevertheless necessary for the Union to achieve carbon neutrality by this date, the train being new. less polluting than trucks.

An endless fall since the post-war period

France lives a continuous decline in freight trains facing the road: from 60% in 1950, their share fell to 30% in 1984, to 18% in 1994 and 9% today.

The government has already promised the rail an envelope of 4.75 billion euros within the recovery plan. The NGO Réseau Action Climat estimated, however, in a detailed report, that only 650 million were new. However, according to figures cited in December in the Senate by a leader of SNCF Réseau, the French network alone would require 3.7 billion euros of investment per year. Freight suffers, for its part, from the poor condition of small lines and the congestion of the “nodes” of Lyon, Lille and Paris.

French rail freight is also threatened by the worrying situation of Fret SNCF. Long as a monopoly, the SNCF subsidiary only weighs 55% of the market. After twenty-eight years of cumulative losses, it benefited from the takeover of its debt of 5.2 billion by its parent company, as well as a subsidy of 270 million euros when it went under private status in 2020. What Brussels could dispute.

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