Every day, during normal periods, ten million passengers pass through the 3,000 French stations. And, every day, they often find that buildings and services should be improved, despite significant progress made over the past ten years.
It would still be necessary to give the means to Gares & Connections, a subsidiary of SNCF Réseau since 2020. However, it is located in “A financial impasse », Warns the Court of Auditors in a report covering the period 2014-2019, published Tuesday, April 20, asking the State to better finance the maintenance of its own railway assets.
The company’s income comes from two sources: fees from railway companies (SNCF Voyageurs, Eurostar, etc.), for some 900 million euros in 2019, and money from commercial concessions (catering, Relais H, offices, etc.), for 394 million euros, of which the carriers recover half of the profits. This economic model should, according to the Court, “Enable it to cover its operating costs and generate an operating margin to finance station investments”.
Nothing like ! The model presents “Several weaknesses that affect its effectiveness”, denounce the magistrates of the rue Cambon. They believe that the service offer “Would benefit from being better defined and the quality of the service provided improved”, with more demanding and refined indicators to assess compliance with its missions, while the objectives of Gares & Connections remain “Still not very restrictive”.
Interlocutors to be convinced
They add that “The royalty system is opaque and unequal”. For example, the invoicing of the fee to carriers “Varies greatly according to the regions and the categories of stations”, without justification of a better service rendered. Which penalizes very large stations. When the company allies itself with private partners to develop the attractiveness of these hubs of exchange, regrets the Court of Auditors, it is these promoters who capture “A large part of the value generated”.
As foreseen by the Mobility Law of 2019, stations of national interest will remain in the bosom of the State, while regional or more modest stations could move to the regions. But whoever it talks to, the SNCF Réseau subsidiary will have to convince the State, regions, carriers and travelers that it is “The best able to [les] manage ”. And to offer the best service at the best price.
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