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In France, passenger organisations require improvements in regional transport services

In France, passenger organisations require improvements in regional transport services
photo: SNCF TER Bourgogne-Franche-Comté/ Facebook/SNCF TER Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
11 / 06 / 2021

The FNAUT passenger lobby group, the UFC-Que Choisir consumer association, and the FUB cycling lobby require improvements in regional passenger traffic across France. They announced their demands ahead of the regional elections on 20 and 27 June.

On 27 May, the three organizations set out the proposals for measures they consider necessary to attract passengers back to regional transport services after a period of stagnation that began before the Covid-19 pandemic. Traffic increased by 55% between 2002 and 2012 but then stabilized or declined, explained UFC-Que Choisir President Alain Bazot, 2012, citing a combination of adverse factors such as low gasoline prices, car sharing, strikes, rail deregulation, and carrier indifference to poor service quality.

In 2019, all French regions spent EUR 4 ∙ 8  billion to support TER (regional rail transport) services operated by SNCF, but the average usability fell to around 27%, suggesting that a significant amount of additional traffic could be absorbed in a small additional cost.

However, compliance with timetables required improvement as a priority. In 2019, approximately 1 in 10 TER services arrived 5 minutes late or longer; while almost 10% of trains were canceled. Punctuality varied markedly from area to area, with trains in Bretagne, Grand Est, and Normandy reaching early arrivals from 85% to 87%. By contrast, the data on TER services in Sud (formerly PACA) and Occitanie regions was approximately 74% to 76%.

The three organizations called for an annual 2% improvement in reliability, suggesting that this can be achieved through a stricter system of fines and performance-based bonuses in relation to the level of subsidy. Passengers should benefit from the prices of season tickets related to the quality of service, they suggested, with the obligation of the operator to automatically refund passengers for any delays.

In order to make local rail services more attractive, the associations indicated that better connections between TER and TGV or TET intercity services were needed. Local passengers should also be able to use TGV services under TER conditions where they were routed over regional lines at the beginning or end of the long-distance journey. More parking facilities for cyclists were needed at the stations, as well as additional capacity for bicycles, which should be transported on TER trains.

Finally, better relationships with users at strategic and operational level were needed.