Two recent reports demonstrate the risks to the European rail industry of being required to follow the policy of SNCF, made even worse by the recent restructuring of the railway there to re-integrated SNCF and RFF. According to a study commissioned by UTP, SNCF and ARAF1, SNCF already employs up to 43% more people to perform the same job as other operators; they pay high salary packages, with some staff retiring at full pay pension at the age of 50.
Now they seek to include private operators into the same package of inefficiencies, to make what competition there is ‘fair’. They forget that rail is in competition with road and air, where no such legislation exists, and where operators are free to set the salary packages within a basic employment law and introduce efficiencies to provide not only excellent service but growth.
The failure of SNCF to achieve this has resulted in it loosing 31% of its freight traffic between 2003 and 2013, according to AFRA2; the new entrants have picked up some of this loss, but are often obstructed by the SNCF signallers in providing a good service, and fear a new law requiring them to pay the same salaries and benefits as SNCF will add to their costs and allow the road competition to gain even more traffic at rail’s expense. Similar comments apply to the long distance coach competition with TGV Services.
Now France wants to extend the same legislation, protecting their own dying rail industry from competition, to the whole of Europe’s railways. In no other industry which is open to competition is there European legislation requiring all workers across Europe to have the same pay and benefits. Do we really expect the road and air competition to introduce similar legislation?
The solution, in France and across the EU, is to encourage competition within rail to match that which exists in air and road, and continue to allow operators to set salaries and benefits, and introduce efficiencies, creating a committed and dedicated workforce incentivised to grow their businesses.
Contrast with the UK where, between 1993 and 2013, freight and passenger traffic increased by 60% and 90% respectively, and railway jobs increased by 35%.
1 La Vie du Rail 26 December 2014. Summary of a Report by consultancy Eleven commissioned by UTP (Union des transports publics), SNCF and ARAF (Association française du rail) La Vie du Rail it quotes the report that, if the independent freight operators were required to have the same staffing levels as SNCF, they would have to increase their workforce by 43% for general freight and 41% for combined transport. For the few independent passenger operators, the equivalent figure is between 18% and 22%.
2. La Vie du Rail 30 January 2015. ARAF states that between 2003 and 2013 SNCF lost 31% of its freight traffic and is now losing long distance passenger traffic so that the TGV’s are no longer profitable. e150215 la vie du rail on AFRA152