How far are the days when the launch of a new TGV line was announced by the President of the Republic himself. This symbol of the building state, national pride, seems to have lived. Last week, it was by a simple letter sent by the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, to elected officials of the Occitanie region, and communicated to the local media that the funding by the State to the tune of 4.1 billion euros for Building the 220 km of high-speed rail lines between Bordeaux and Toulouse has been announced. Or 40% of the 10 billion euros needed. "For the next LGV
(Editor's note: high-speed line)
, he will undoubtedly send an SMS", laughs an executive of the SNCF.
An announcement without fanfare, which will however put Toulouse at 3:20 from Paris instead of 4:20, and which surprised the railway workers.
"Nobody expected it," says an administrator of SNCF Réseau.
It has been a very long time since we last saw a file on this LGV.
Another director confirms: “During the last SNCF Réseau Board of Directors, a question was put to management on this subject.
She told us that she did not know more than what she had read in the press.
When contacted, SNCF Réseau did not wish to respond.
"Part of the money is provisioned"
In any case, this announcement is anything but trivial. "It's a change of course," decrypts Jean Lenoir, vice-president of FNAUT, the national federation of transport user associations. In 2017, when the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron, inaugurated the new portion of the TGV between Paris and Rennes, he announced a pause in the construction of high-speed lines and the priority given to daily trains. This funding for Bordeaux-Toulouse, out of the hat, even if we are in favor, surprised us. "
Especially since in 2018, the infrastructure guidance council, installed by Emmanuel Macron to set the timetable for investment in transport, postponed its achievement at best around 2030. An eternity for the fourth city in France awaiting its completion. TGV for nearly thirty years. With this announcement, Jean Castex, at the microphone of France Bleu Occitanie, acknowledges: "The implementation of my announcements should allow it to begin in 2024." Provided that Europe and especially the communities of Occitanie follow financially . “Given their mobilization for years, there is little doubt, said a source familiar with the matter. Some of the money is already provisioned. "
The break will therefore have been short-lived.
Why such a turnaround?
“We are in the continuity of what was planned within the framework of the LOM
(Editor's note: mobility orientation law)
, justifies an adviser from Matignon.
It was expected that the State would secure 40% of the project.
We have the 4.1 billion euros, why wait until 2029 to disburse them?
"An acceleration decided by the Prime Minister" on his own initiative ", in the words of the adviser and which" will create jobs ".
A line that shouldn't be profitable
Sorrowful spirits will note that this announcement comes a month and a half before the first round of regional elections and one year before the presidential election, by a Prime Minister, a native of the country, since he was mayor of Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) for twelve years old and departmental councilor of the same territory. "There is undoubtedly political politics", notes Jean Lenoir.
“No doubt, adds a railway union official who wishes to remain anonymous.
In any case, we took it as a political announcement.
Because this LGV, even if it was obviously the next one which was to emerge from the ground, there is only a cell of half a dozen people still working on it at the SNCF.
Since the Brétigny accident, our priority has been the existing network.
As for our stations, the latest report from the Court of Auditors points to their underinvestment.
These 4.1 billion euros, we would need for all that ”.
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This prompted Fabien Villedieu from SUD Rail to say: “Let's not oppose the TGV and the daily trains. But since the tap is open, it benefits everyone, high-speed lines as well as conventional lines. And especially that the SNCF is not the turkey of the farce. “Because one element particularly worries the public company: the cost of operating this new section while the pandemic increases its debt further.
If the construction of the line should fall to the private sector, its maintenance, except surprise, will be entrusted to the SNCF. However, most studies indicate that the Bordeaux-Toulouse LGV will not be profitable, like 60% of high-speed lines and in particular the one linking Paris to Bordeaux. "We lose 100 million euros per year on this line when the trains are full," says a senior executive of the SNCF. The tolls
(Editor's note: the rights of way on the rails)
are overpriced. "
A pitfall that should not be known by the new LGV, assures a government source. “The funding is entirely public, 40% the State, 40% the communities and 20% Europe. This will have a virtuous effect since there will be no debt for SNCF. The tolls will only have to offset the maintenance costs. The ball is now in the communities' court. "