Luc Lallemand

SNCF Réseau President Luc Lallemand.

FRANCE: Luc Lallemand is to leave his role as President & Director-General of infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau, the transport ministry confirmed on September 28; he is to be succeeded by Mathieu Chabanel.

Lallemand became President of SNCF Réseau in March 2020, having previously led its Belgian equivalent Infrabel. At that time, the organisation was being restructured as part of the national railway reform programme, and Lallemand was tasked with launching a number of key efficiency drives to increase usage of the conventional network while maintaining tight control of costs. SNCF Réseau has been targeted with achieving positive cash-flow by the 2024 financial year.

However, the performance contract signed with the government last year has made it more difficult to achieve these objectives. This was highlighted by rail regulator ART in a report issued in February this year, which cited the multiple barriers hindering access for new entrants.

SNCF Réseau has struggled to secure government funding to accelerate key investment, including its planned development of 16 centralised signalling hubs and the roll-out of ERTMS. In April 2021, Lallemand described a government decision to consolidate SNCF Réseau’s debts into the state accounts as ‘catastrophic’, warning that the infrastructure manager would now be subject to contradictory policies from the Ministry of Economy & Finance and the Ministry of Ecological Transition, which is responsible for transport. Nevertheless, the government paid tribute to Lallemand’s contribution to the rail sector when announcing his departure.

Matthieu Chabanel

Matthieu Chabanel is to succeed Lallemand.

Chabanel has been confirmed as Lallemand’s successor but his start date is yet to be finalised. A graduate of the Ecole Nationale des Ponts-et-Chaussées, Chabanel has held various posts in the transport ministry and was appointed Deputy President of SNCF Réseau’s predecessor organisation RFF in 2012. Since then he has held various senior positions within the infrastructure manager, including Operations Director and head of major projects.

While the regulator has still to formally rubber stamp the appointment, the ministry says Chabanel’s priorities will be to improve the quality of the main line network for all users (passengers, freight shippers and operators) by maintaining the independence of SNCF Réseau. He will also be expected to recommit to ‘operational excellence and respecting the financial situation of SNCF Réseau’, in line with the railway reforms of 2018.