Forgotten, the bad pass of Covid-19! "The desire for train" is not denied and the summer should be excellent, the French having "sacralized" their holiday budget, says to AFP Christophe Fanichet, the CEO of SNCF Voyageurs. "We made in 2022 a record summer, with more than 23 million passengers on the main lines in France," recalls the boss of the company. "This year we hope we will do at least as well." Already, the spring bridges have been as good as last year. And for Ascension all the trains were full, he rejoices. The SNCF had closed the parenthesis of Covid-19 last year with 10% more passengers compared to the summer of 2019, already record. Mr. Fanichet also believes that we must stop comparisons with the pre-pandemic: "Now, we have returned to post-crisis behaviors, which have changed and are stabilising.»
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Teleworking has become part of the customs, business travel is not taking off again and leisure continues to progress, notes the manager, whose field includes passenger trains, TGV, Intercités, TER and Paris suburbs. "Leisure is really the engine of our growth," says Christophe Fanichet. "The indicators are positive. The whole leisure and tourism industry says the same thing. Tourism is going well!" "Despite inflation and a little gloom, the French have sanctified the little bubble of happiness of the holidays," he notes, conceding that these holidays may be shorter for some. "And in sacralization, the train is part of the expenses." The green side of the railway is starting to play hard, "we see more and more young people taking the train," he says. And tourism professionals come to see him to virtuously transport their customers.
Results extended by rugby in the autumn
After a Covid period where the French decided at the last moment, now it's time for anticipation: to date, SNCF Voyageurs has 20% more bookings for the summer, compared to last year. "There are still plenty of places," reassures Christophe Fanichet. Except, already, for the bridge of 14-July. The CEO of SNCF Voyageurs is all the more optimistic that the summer season will continue with the Rugby World Cup, in September and October, for which 2 million visitors are expected, including 600. 000 foreigners. "We opened sales earlier than usual," he notes. "All our trains will come out and are being prepared for the summer," says Christophe Fanichet. "Despite the social movements of recent weeks, we have managed to keep our maintenance frames, to anticipate, to have the parts that allow all the air conditioning to be completely up to date and that the park is 100% available." It is obviously waiting for the arrival of the new TGVs produced by Alstom, from the end of 2024, to increase the capacity of its fleet.
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When asked about ticket prices, Christophe Fanichet answers "Carte avantage", the homemade (and paid) discount card. "This is the vehicle that allowed us to get out of Covid, with the ceiling prices" at 39, 59 or 79 euros depending on the length of the journey. "It's also our tariff shield," he insists. As for the TER, "growth is continuous", with an increase in the number of travelers expected by 15% (compared to 2022, after already an increase of 15% between 2019 and 2022). "There is a rediscovery." And then there are regional policies," he said. Michelin has just published a guide to discover Occitania by train. We would never have seen this five years ago!»
Christophe Fanichet explains this enthusiasm for regional trains by ecological awareness, attractive fares for young people, efforts to take bicycles on board as in Brittany, and of course the rise in gasoline prices. No particular threat of strike in sight, according to him, even if "there may be here or there local issues". "We are of course very attentive," he says.