Decidedly, the SNCF is not a company like the others.
On Thursday, it announced excellent results for the 2022 financial year: 2.4 billion euros in net profit, record turnover of 41.4 billion and profitable and growing activity for all group entities. (passenger transport by train, rail freight, logistics with Geodis, public transport with Keolis, etc.).
We note an increase in the number of passengers which marks a plebiscite of the train both for high speed and regional trains
“says Jean-Pierre Farandou, CEO of the SNCF.
Since last spring, the TGVs have had a very high occupancy rate (85%).
One in three is even full.
The pandemic which had caused three billion losses in 2020 to the railway group is nothing more than a bad memory.
New proof of this return to form: the public company has respected the commitment set in the railway pact in 2018 to generate positive free cash flow from 2022 (+ 1.3 billion).
With such performances, any large group would allow themselves a touch of self-satisfaction.
Not the SNCF, which refrains from any triumphalism.
Jean-Pierre Farandou focuses above all on showing that these benefits will benefit the national community.
Clearly, there will be no dividend for its one and only shareholder, the State.
SNCF money remains with SNCF
,” he insists.
Every euro earned, including by our subsidiaries, goes to rail.
These profits should make it possible to renovate the rail network, buy wagons or locomotives and continue the group's debt reduction.
And the boss of the old railway lady recalls how Geodis and Keolis, very dynamic also outside our borders, make it possible to develop the railway heart of the group in France.
95% of our investments relate to France while 37% of our turnover is international
," he slips.
If he almost apologizes for the SNCF making big profits, it's because he knows the sensitivity of the subject in France.
The group may have been a limited company since 2020, but its status has not changed in the hearts of the French.
The SNCF is perceived as a public service which must run as many trains as possible to participate in the development of territories, not to earn money.
“Said Bernard Vivier, director of the IST (Higher Institute of Labor).
Paradoxically, its good financial health therefore risks exposing the SNCF to a lot of recriminations.
Starting with the employees.
The social conflict over the pension reform has nothing to do with the group's results.
But, at a time when railway workers like a lot of other categories want to put France on hold on March 7 or even start a renewable strike, the profits of the SNCF could fuel social anger a little more.
In a context of inflation, the SNCF agents may think that with its comfortable margins the group should have granted more increases
, considers Bernard Vivier.
And this can swell the ranks of the strikers because, for the past fortnight, this conflict over pensions has been an opportunity for the demonstrators to express other subjects of dissatisfaction such as the loss of purchasing power.
“In fact, the SNCF walks on eggshells because no one knows if the social protest will be pschitt after March 7 or if it will take more momentum.
Reassembled railway workers
At a minimum, in view of its record results, the unions will put pressure on the company to obtain upgrades.
If the group arrives at such a result, it is thanks to the work of the employees
, argues Thomas Cavel, general secretary of the CFDT-Cheminots.
We must rediscuss internally the sharing of wealth creation.
Salary conditions are not good at the SNCF.
We are going to ask for a rapid reopening of wage negotiations
”, soberly notes Didier Mathis, secretary general of Unsa-Ferroviaire.
At the end of the NAO (mandatory annual negotiations) which ended in December with increases of 5.9% (general + individual), the management had promised a new round of discussions on the subject in July.
Employees will be all the more upset that they do not understand why the Railway Pact is partly financing the maintenance of the rail network by SNCF Voyageurs, which operates trains and thus deprives the company of room for maneuver in the field of wages.
New entrants like Trenitalia and soon Renfe bring nothing to the budget of SNCF Réseau.
, ”says Didier Mathis.
Train users are also likely to wince when they discover the profits of the SNCF.
That the SNCF earns money, it's healthy.
But that it wins when its service has never worked so badly, it's a huge problem
, ”said Arnaud Bertrand, president of “Plus de Trains” which federates regulars of the Transilien and the RER in the Paris region.
In a context of very profitable activity for the SNCF, the association finds it hard to bear that the rail operator is so finicky in compensating passengers who are victims of recurring delays on their line.
In the contract with IDFM (Ile-de-France Mobilités), it is provided that the SNCF pays compensation if punctuality is less than 80% for three months
, says Arnaud Bertrand.
Subscribers to the Étampes branch of RER C are not entitled to it because over one of the three months considered, punctuality was 80.035%.
But, in this calculation, trains canceled the day before are not taken into account.
The SNCF spends more time optimizing its contracts than running trains.
The pill is all the more difficult to pass as the price of the Navigo Pass jumped from 75.20 euros to 84.10 euros in January.
On the main lines, the situation is not more encouraging in the eyes of passengers who also received an average price increase of 5% on January 10.
Not to mention the effects of yield management, which increases prices secretly.
The supply is insufficient compared to the demand.
The Intercités are abandoned
», Considers Bruno Gazeau, president of the Fnaut (National Federation of Transport User Associations).
Thus, the Intercités Limoges-Paris completes the course in 3h17 when it took 2h50 fifty years ago.
And it took the boss of the electrical group Legrand, based in Limoges, threatening to move his headquarters for the rail operator to restore the 6 o'clock train which allows you to arrive in the capital in the morning.
Even the TGV lines are affected: since January, a daily Grenoble-Lyon-Paris has been deleted.
Exasperated elected officials
The Regions which finance the TER are also exasperated to see the SNCF posting good results without the service being up to par.
For lack of having recruited enough, the SNCF cancels 80 regional trains every day with us.
But as it was in a monopoly situation when we re-signed a contract two and a half years ago, the clauses are very favorable to it: today, we have already reached the ceiling of penalties for 2023 set for service not performed,
" sighs Franck Dhersin, vice-president of Hauts-de-France, in charge of transport who, by dint of searching the accounts of the railway group, discovered that the latter had made a profit of 17 million in 2021 on his agreement with his Region.
An accumulation of reproaches which are not likely to disconcert the SNCF as it knows them by heart.
Not to mention that if the 2022 financial year turned out well, 2023 begins under troubled auspices.
The coming year is marked by uncertainties, whether in terms of the international context, inflation and the cost of energy.
These are all elements that can have an impact on our business and on train demand
emphasizes Jean-Pierre Farandou.
Thus, the SNCF already knows that its electricity bill will jump by one billion this year.
Failing to satisfy all stakeholders, last year's profits may serve to cushion the shock if the revenue-cost balance is less favorable in 2023.