Railway forum: the need for thoroughgoing reform to revive French railways

In Paris on September 15, Ministers Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet and Thierry Mariani will open the French railway forum. The forum’s four specialised committees (competition and social issues, governance, economy and finance, industry) have been charged with producing a blueprint for the sustainable revival of the French railway sector.

AFRA calls on all those involved to launch a root and branch reform of the French railway system, particularly in light of the fact that the report of the tripartite committee (State-RFF-SNCF) published on the occasion of the parliamentary reports on the national master plan for transport infrastructure (SNIT) clearly states that, unless it is subject to long overdue reform, the system cannot survive.
Sectoral debt, run-down infrastructure and the collapse of the rail freight market are the symptoms of France’s out-dated model. These facts lend weight to AFRA’s demands for a clear division of tasks and assets between the infrastructure manager, RFF, and the railway companies, for sustainable and multi-annual funding arrangements for licensed transport undertakings, for the liberalisation of the railway market and for healthy, fair and regulated competition.
The situation is serious and requires urgent action. AFRA regrets the slow pace at which the ORTF (guideline legislation on railways) was given parliamentary approval and implemented* as well as the numerous delays in the publication of the Grignon report. Such delays can only jeopardise the future of the railway sector. It is to be hoped that the railway forum will culminate in concrete decisions with immediate effect.
The new entrants on the French railway market are determined to contribute their international experience to the success of this forum. They look forward to the publication of a clear and detailed road map at the end of the conference in February 2012. This should include a lifting of the last barriers to entry to the rail freight market and first steps towards the competitive tendering, in 2013, for regional passenger services.

 
AFRA(l’Association Française du Rail), founded in March 2009, brings together railway companies, which consider that the French market for freight and passenger transport will only be able to develop fully within an open, competitive and regulated market.
AFRA currently has the following railway companies among its members:
Veolia Transdev, CFTA Voyageur and Trenitalia in passenger transport; Euro Cargo Rail (a subsidiary of DB Schenker Rail) Europorte (a Eurotunnel company), Trenitalia, Colas Rail and T3M in freight and combined transport; Vossloh, a rail infrastructure and technology company.
Contact /Jacques Malécot: AFRA Chief Executive. Tel: +(33) 1 75 44 87 59; +(33) 6 27 22 83 44.

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 * Almost two years after the enactment of this law, some of its implementing legislation is still awaiting publication, including the “stations decree”.