Why do you like the train so much that you hate it?


SNCF train – Vincent Loison / SIPA

  • SNCF reported having a record summer with 26 million passengers.
  • However, the train is subject to many criticisms from the French, and this throughout the year.
  • So the train, we love it or we hate it in France?

The train is a bit like family: we complain a lot but deep down, we love it. Criticized all year for his delays, his prices, and his cars full of children who cry and shout,
the train has had a record summer: 26 million passengers in two months, according to
SNCF, 7% more than last year. So what is this paradoxical relationship between the French and the rail?

First observation: the train is not as hated as all the attacks it causes want to believe. "Where he receives the most criticism is during everyday use, especially in the Greater Paris belt. When it comes to taking the train every day, obviously, we see the flaws. This represents 70% of travelers, hence this impression of constant criticism, "recognizes Jean-Claude Delarue, President of SOS Users and the Federation of Users of Transport and Public Services.

Reproaches on all the transports

Nothing to see for him with the summer: "For a holiday use, with a fast and efficient TGV, the train is rather appreciated. It feels like you're on vacation as soon as you enter the car, unlike the car, for example. "

For Yves Crozet, an economist specialized in transport, the train does not really get off much worse than another transport: "All have their constant reproaches. Obviously, when a train is late, in a society where time is the scarce resource, it creates tensions. But we can not say that the car or the plane is spared by the critics … "

Faster and cheaper, the train becomes popular again

The saving of time, precisely, is what explains, according to Yves Crozet, the good figures of the SNCF in July and August: "It is more than 600 kilometers of high speed lines which were opened recently. The TGV, whose use has increased by 11%, compared with 7% for all rail traffic, has seen its rail kilometers increase by a third! "Another reason for this summer success according to the economist, the growth that increases, and therefore households that go on a trip, and the pricing policy of the SNCF more advantageous:" Today, the train returns to roughly 9 cents a kilometer, when he was over 10 cents in the decade. "

And unfortunately for the support of Greta Thunberg, ecology would not have much to do with it: "It would be utopian to think that this has an impact. Moreover, the number of users of the aircraft increases faster than the number of users of the train, "slice Yves Crozet.

A symbol of public service

Even the car-train journey seems complicated, as the Marie Delaplace analysis, co-head of the Master Development and Territories at the School of Urban Planning of Paris (EUP): "I do not know if the French are ready to abandon their car. The development of the use of the train requires that the management of the first and last kilometers be ensured. The origin as the destination of a trip is never the station. "

But suddenly, this train, we love it or we just enjoy the TGV and its benefits? The professor at the EUP complicates the thing: yes, we are attached to the train in France, but it has nothing to do with any love for rails, locomotives or even the mode of transport itself. If we like the train, it is for what it represents: "The report to trains is mainly in a report to the public service. We hold to our public services and are dissatisfied with their degradation. This is true for public transport by train, but also for the hospital, for education … "

The love of social achievements

If the railway history has its fans, but does not transcend the crowds, it is the support of the SNCF by the State that would explain this love we have for our trains: "Since the mid-nineteenth, the infrastructures are supported by the State. The service is provided by private companies, but the state provides some form of regulation, especially in terms of price. Then, with the Popular Front, the public service of the transport of passengers was imposed. This logic of state intervention was questioned in the 1980s and even more so today by neoliberalism, which increases the difficulties associated with public service. "

Enough to inspire the love of our fellow citizens, as Yves Crozet concludes: "Every time we attack the public service, the Frenchman is afraid of being next on the list and we get to its advantages. There is no love of the train, but social gains. "

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