Clément Beaune (Paris, 42 years old) embodies the social democratic wing of Macronism, the centrist and transversal movement of French President Emmanuel Macron. He belongs to the circle of faithful who have accompanied Macron since he conquered the Elysee in 2017. He was his European adviser and his minister of Europe, before assuming the Transport portfolio in 2022. Beaune receives EL PAÍS in his office on Boulevard Saint-Germain, on the eve of the EU Transport Council that was held this Friday in Barcelona. He is a passionate advocate of the train, but...
QUESTION. How did you travel from Paris to Barcelona?
ANSWER. Exceptionally, by plane. In a single day, the train journey was not compatible with the agenda. But he is right to underline that. I make most trips by train.
Q. In the case of Paris-Barcelona, it is cheaper to travel by plane.
A. And it's not the only journey. The explanation is simple: structurally, an airline costs less than a TGV line, whose cost per kilometre built sometimes exceeds 30 million euros. Not to mention maintenance. That is why the train is heavily subsidized, both in France and in Spain. Three quarters of the actual cost of a train ticket is borne by the public purse. To improve, let us step up efforts to put more trains on the run. Opening up some lines to competition also helps make banknotes more competitive. As consumers and citizens, we also have to pay the right environmental and social price for the aircraft. A 10 or 20 euro note does not reflect this cost. Our behaviors must evolve.
Q. You propose a minimum price for flights in Europe.
A. It is an issue that I have begun to address with several of my counterparts: Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria...
Q. What should that minimum price be?
A. It's too early to tell. We have to work on the technical aspect: it depends on the flights, on the duration. And it requires political will. At this time of ecological transition, all sectors that emit greenhouse gases contribute. Aviation must first be reformed through investment and innovation, but we also need measures that show the true environmental cost to citizens. The right scale to act is Europe.
Q. A minimum price of 30-40 euros is not the same as 150 euros.
A. The first option seems more credible to me. It is not a question of preventing our most modest fellow citizens from travelling. That would be badly accepted, ineffective and contrary to the ambition that the ecological transition be everyone's fight.
Q. There is a risk that the plane will become a means of transportation for the rich. Low cost has democratized tourism.
A. There have been phases in the history of aviation: pioneering and democratizing. Today is the phase of decarbonization. It is not a question of booking the plane to a small elite, but of saying that in the low cost there are hidden costs, and in particular the environmental cost. We must decarbonize without renouncing democratization.
Clement Beaune. Minister of Transport. In his office at the ministry. Paris, France 21/09/2023.Bruno Arbesú
Q. The ecological transition is complicated at times. They know it in France, where the yellow vests protested against the increase in fuel tax.
A. The yellow vests were a reaction to what was perceived as a form of ecological brutality. The right balance must be found. If we take the example of cars, we have a series of rules, such as low emission zones, so that in city centers there are no cars that pollute too much, but we are also developing the offer of electric cars for the most modest households with a bonus to buy their cars, and soon the so-called leasing. social with vehicles for 100 euros per month. We must not give people the impression that they are helpless in the face of the ecological transition. If left unresolved, they will reject this transition. Before each public policy, it is necessary to develop the appropriate social accompaniment to be all in the same boat.
Q. When will the TGV from France finally arrive in Spain? The famous Montpellier-Perpignan line we've been talking about for thirty years? There has been talk of 2044.
A. No, it will be much sooner. There will be progress before the end of the decade.
A. Part of the line will be completed between now and 2030. There has been a lot of talk about these projects, but now action is being taken. In France, three high-speed rail lines have been selected, two of which link with Spain: Montpellier-Perpignan, and what is known as the great southwest project: between Bordeaux and Toulouse, and between Bordeaux and Dax and the Spanish border.
Q. When will the TGV arrive at the Spanish border through Perpignan?
A. In the early 2030s. It is a project in which we put billions of euros, which has the legal authorizations and whose works begin. And on the Atlantic coast, what we defend is Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax, both together, although we start with the connection with Toulouse. The works, with European funding, will begin at the beginning of next year.
Q. It says: "First Bordeaux-Toulouse." It gives the impression that France gives priority to its national connections over the Iberian Peninsula.
A. The phases of the great Southwest project have been known for years. It is not a question of nationality or borders. I understand that in Spain there have been doubts for years about our commitment, but that's also where the works begin. Our commitment is clear, and we said so at the last Franco-Spanish summit. I would add that we have facilitated the arrival of the Renfe operator on these lines between Madrid and Marseille and Lyon and Barcelona, and we are allowing Renfe to operate in Paris and Lyon. We are open and European.
Q. When will a Paris-Barcelona or Paris-Madrid night train take place?
A. The date is not yet set, but it is part of the European route map. It is necessary.
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