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Rail market share falling in France, says regulator

28 Nov 2017

FRANCE: In a report on rail passenger services covering 2015 and 2016, regulatory body Arafer found that rail’s market share had fallen by an average of 0·5% a year since 2011, whereas that of other modes had increased.

Published on November 16, the report said that rail had a 9·2% share of the French transport market in 2016.  A low point of 7·1% was recorded in 1995, when services were affected by serious industrial disputes, after which the figure rose to reach 10% in 2011. While the 2016 figure was two percentage points ahead of Germany and 4 points ahead of Italy, the European average being just 7·7%, rail’s market share in many other European countries had been rising rather than falling over the same period. The report pointed to car sharing and deregulation of long-distance coaches as factors that may have influenced the French market.

In 2016 passenger services on the 28 800 route-km national network handled 1·16 billion passengers, representing 87 billion passenger-km, equivalent to about 3·2 million trips a day. About 88% of journeys were made by TER or Transilien services, average load factors being 25% for TER services and some TGV services attaining 67%.

Passenger-km fell by 1% compared with 2015, whereas trips by private car, including car sharing, rose by 2·7% and long-distance coach travel increased by 17%. Usage of TER services declined by 2·8%, with traffic on international trains dropping by 7·8% and on domestic inter-city trains by 6·5%. TGV traffic was stable with a 0·1% increase, and there was a 3·8% rise on Transilien services.

Arafer noted a stark contrast in network utilisation, with just 27% of the network carrying 80% of all passenger trains and 31% of the network handling just 1% of passenger services.

Arafer also analysed the quality of service, finding that an average of 346 or about 5% of trains a day were cancelled in 2016, mainly because of strikes during the second quarter. Excluding Transilien services, trains accumulated a total of 11 million delay-min in 2015, more than half of which were attributable to ‘manageable’ factors that were the responsibility of SNCF Réseau or the operator. About 11% of trains arrived at their destination with a delay of 6 min or more.

Revenue in 2015 amounted to €13·4bn, of which €8·3bn was from fares and €5·1bn was in the form of grants, compensation or subsidy from the public sector. TER services received a total of €3bn representing nearly 75% of income, while Intercités services attracted €300m of public funding (32%); grants towards Transilien services amounted to €1·7bn (62%). A further €100m was provided as compensation for certain fares on TGV services. Average fare per passenger-km was €0·08. This figure takes into account passengers travelling on free tickets — about 5% of passengers on TGV services travel at no cost.

Access charges paid for use of track and stations amounted to 31% of income on average, with TGV services paying 38%.