France to gradually take over SNCF debt
French president Emmanuel Macron announced that the state will gradually take over the debt of national rail operator SNCF, starting in January 2020. He also confirmed that he will continue pressing reforms of the company.
Macron made these statements in a televised interview on Sunday, 15 April. In this interview, he responded to the three months of rail strikes by union organisations of SNCF, which started with the beginning of April. Strikes will be held every two out of five days, seriously damaging the rail freight industry.
The rail strikes are a response to Macron’s plans to make French railway more competitive. SNCF has suffered poor performance for several years, with a loss of 253 million Euros on revenues of 1.06 billion Euros in 2015. Net debt more than doubled between 2008 and 2014 from 1.79 billion Euros to 4 billion Euros and is forecast to reach 5.1 billion Euros by 2020.
Some have argued against a takeover of debts by the state, fearing this could lead to a privatisation of the company. However, Macron confirmed in the interview that this would not bet he case, and SNCF would remain a state-owned company.