SNCF cost 250 euros for each Frenchman in 2020 before buying a train ticket

According to a study by the Fipeco side, the bill for taxpayers has increased further compared to 2018.

It is expensive to build and maintain a railway network: if the French often drive towards the SNCF fares, few people know that they unknowingly pay an average of almost 250 euros a year before buying a train ticket.

This is one of the conclusions of the latest study from the Fipeco website (led by the former judge of the Court of Auditors François Ecalle) on the cost of SNCF for French taxpayers. For the year 2020 alone, this annual cost would be 16.7 billion euros, compared to the number of French people, when we reach the sum of about 249 euros.

In this study, Fipeco adds the costs of SNCF and the special social security scheme for railway workers for the State and the regional authorities and thus for the taxpayers.

The taxpayer finances 40% of SNCF’s operating costs

Specifically, last year the regions and Ile-de-France Mobilités paid 6.7 billion euros to SNCF to operate local rail transport. The state supported the operation of SNCF with 2.3 billion.

Through the state and regional authorities, taxpayers paid 9.0 billion euros to the SNCF, or 40% of its operating costs. To this sum must be added state and regional subsidies to finance half of the airline’s investments, ie 4.5 billion euros out of the 8.9 billion recorded in the group’s financial report for 2020.

Finally, the state pays a balance subsidy to the special pension scheme for railway workers, whose budget expenditure is € 3.2 billion. That is a total of 16.7 billion euros.

In the end, when he buys a ticket, the traveler pays only 20% of the actual cost of the latter. The rest is paid by tax.

This bill is salty and it rises from year to year. In fact, the previous study by Fipeco on the issue estimated this cost in 2018 at 14.4 billion euros for the state and the regions and therefore for the taxpayers. Or 215 euros per Frenchman. And that was 13.7 billion euros in 2016, according to the 2018 report by Jean-Cyril Spinetta.

Investments in renovating classic lines are expensive

This addition could nevertheless have been less heavy, according to François Ecalle, who questioned the investments that have risen sharply in recent years in a brutal way. But also the increase in the amounts the regions pay for the operation of TER.

“We are now paying for the fact that for years we have primarily favored investments on high-speed lines, and we have somewhat forgotten the maintenance of urban networks in the IDF and TER. Today we pay for it because the maintenance of these urban networks costs much more than if we had done this work ten or fifteen years earlier, ”the specialist explains to BFM Business.

The total cost of SNCF for taxpayers in 2016 and 2020 (EUR billion)
The total cost of SNCF for taxpayers in 2016 and 2020 (€ billion) © Fipeco

And this inflation should not be stopped for the time being. It is about SNCF’s abysmal debt, which is gradually being taken over by the state and therefore by the taxpayers.

The state “has already taken over 25 billion euros in debt from the SNCF group at the beginning of 2020, and the group’s net debt was nevertheless still 38 billion at the end of 2020. It was expected in 2018 that” a new debt takeover of 10 billion would take place in 2022, but it has been brought forward to 31 December 2021, and it is undoubtedly not the last, ”emphasizes François Ecalle.

Debt and pension scheme

In addition, the fact that the new recruits to SNCF do not benefit from the statute for the railwaymen to retire will relieve the operator’s finances? Not so sure according to François Escalle.

“The cessation of the recruitment of railway workers with status is gradually reducing the social security contributions paid to the special pension scheme from 2020. The new agents are affiliated to the general scheme whose social security contributions increase as a result. The cost to taxpayers, understood as those who are taxable and social security contributions should therefore not be substantially altered in the short term by this reform. “

Nevertheless, the opening up of competition on the main lines and TER, which is finally starting to accelerate, should mechanically generate a reduction in costs (fewer trains to buy, fewer railway workers to pay) for SNCF and therefore for taxpayers.

Olivier Chicheportiche Journalist BFM Business

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