Major rail union pushes for alternative plan to save Fret SNCF

Image: Shutterstock. Henry Sy John

Opposed to Fret SNCF’s “economic discontinuity,” the French railways’ major labour union, the CGT, is not giving up the fight to force the government and the EU to review the plans for the rail freight subsidiary’s future.

An agreement reached earlier this year between France and the European Commission on the company’s colossal debts makes provision for a reduction in its business scope, its legal dissolution, the creation of two new companies (transport and maintenance) in January 2025, and the abandonment of any mention of ‘Fret SNCF’ on convoys.

It entails Fret SNCF giving up 23 dedicated block train routes to its competitors, which account for 30 per cent of its traffic, expressed in tonne-kilometres transported, and 20 per cent of its turnover. The downsizing will lead to a 10 per cent cut in the company’s workforce.

The counter-proposal

The CGT’s counter-proposal to save Fret SNCF was presented at a press briefing at its headquarters, symbolically held last week on the closing day of the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, where transport was one of the fundamental issues under discussion, the union’s leader, Sophie Binet, reminded attendees.

The union’s three-point plan focuses firstly on the creation of a rail freight debt fund, “a mechanism used between 2020 and 2022 to clear SNCF Réseau’s (French Infrastructure Manager) debt”. The union is also campaigning for a new legal form for Fret SNCF, “bringing together freight and passenger transport activities in a single company”. Thirdly, “to establish Fret SNCF as a public tool serving the nation’s needs with the aim to protect the company from market forces”.

The CGT also supports the introduction of a regulatory framework which would impose upon logistics companies an obligation to use rail freight for at least 25 per cent of shipments while calling for a relaunch of the single wagonload segment, particularly in service of the waste management sector, and more specifically nuclear waste, but also for commodities such as timber and other raw materials.

Better road transport regulation

The CGT has submitted its project to France’s President Emmanuel Macron. Still, the union is fully aware that rail freight’s real handicap is its lack of competitiveness compared to road.

“We need to have a fair price for transport, and we need the European Commission to look at the real issue, namely the distortion of competition with polluting transport, which charges taxpayers for their infrastructure,” urged Sophie Binet.

The CGT also calls for an end to the road haulage sector’s practice of “social dumping,” whereby workers are given pay and/or working and living conditions that are substandard compared to those specified by law or collective agreements.

Is it too late?

Unfortunately for the union, its efforts appear to be little more than a last hurrah, with no wavering in the government’s position forthcoming. Indeed, Fret SNCF’s “economic discontinuity” is already well underway. The company’s commercial and marketing director, Edouard Laverny, revealed earlier this month that between 10 December 2023 and 1 January 2024, 13 of the 23 traffic routes in question will have been taken on by the unit’s competitors. DB Cargo France is rumoured to have obtained seven of these routes.

The remainder will follow by 1 July 2024, the only exception being the Perpignan-Rungis train – carrying fresh fruit and vegetables from southern France to the Paris wholesale market – which should be transferred at the beginning of October 2024.

Author: Stuart Todd

Stuart Todd is a correspondent and frequent contributor for RailFreight.com

1 comment op “Major rail union pushes for alternative plan to save Fret SNCF”

bönström bönström|20.12.23|00:01

Just temporarily, subsidies may be justified, but for soundly proving a mode worth funding, etc., as all other modes, railways have to prove equal in respect of quality rendered to clients, ware owners, etc.
Resiliency as well as redundancy, safely have to be provided for!
Electrification, yes, but a timely an optimal, etc., etc.
Quality pays, and in particular at transports!

Add your comment

You are currently logged in as ""

If this is incorrect, you may log off.

characters remaining.

Major rail union pushes for alternative plan to save Fret SNCF | RailFreight.com

Major rail union pushes for alternative plan to save Fret SNCF

Image: Shutterstock. Henry Sy John

Opposed to Fret SNCF’s “economic discontinuity,” the French railways’ major labour union, the CGT, is not giving up the fight to force the government and the EU to review the plans for the rail freight subsidiary’s future.

Do you want to read the full article?

Are you already a member?

Log in

Having problems logging in? Call +31(0)10 280 1000 or send an email to customerdesk@promedia.nl.

 

Author: Stuart Todd

Stuart Todd is a correspondent and frequent contributor for RailFreight.com

1 comment op “Major rail union pushes for alternative plan to save Fret SNCF”

bönström bönström|20.12.23|00:01

Just temporarily, subsidies may be justified, but for soundly proving a mode worth funding, etc., as all other modes, railways have to prove equal in respect of quality rendered to clients, ware owners, etc.
Resiliency as well as redundancy, safely have to be provided for!
Electrification, yes, but a timely an optimal, etc., etc.
Quality pays, and in particular at transports!

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.