Forgotten, the bad patch of the Covid-19! "The desire for the train" is undeniable and the summer should be excellent, the French having "sacred" their holiday budget, told AFP Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs. "In 2022, we had a record summer, with more than 23 million passengers on the main lines in France", recalls the boss of the company. “This year we hope we will do at least as well.” Already, the spring bridges have been as good as last year. And for the Ascension all the trains were full, he rejoices. The SNCF had closed the parenthesis of the Covid-19 last year with 10% more travelers compared to the summer of 2019, already record. Mr. Fanichet also judges that we must stop making comparisons with the pre-pandemic period: “Now, we have returned to post-crisis behavior, which has changed and is in the process of stabilizing.”
Telecommuting has become commonplace, business travel is not taking off again and leisure continues to progress, notes the manager, whose field includes passenger trains, TGV, Intercités, TER and the Paris suburbs. "Leisure is really the engine of our growth," notes Christophe Fanichet. “The indicators are positive. The entire leisure and tourism industry says the same thing. Tourism is doing well!” “Despite inflation and a bit of gloom, the French have made the little bubble of holiday happiness sacred,” he notes, conceding that these holidays may be shorter for some. “And in the sacralization, the train is part of the expenses.” The green side of the railway is starting to play out, "we see more and more young people taking the train", he underlines. And tourism professionals come to see it to channel their customers virtuously.
After a Covid period when the French decided at the last moment, there is now room for anticipation: to date, SNCF Voyageurs has 20% more reservations for the summer, compared to last year. “There are plenty of places left,” reassures Christophe Fanichet. Except, already, for the July 14 bridge. The CEO of SNCF Voyageurs is all the more optimistic as the summer season will continue with the Rugby World Cup in September and October, for which 2 million visitors are expected, including 600,000 foreigners. "We opened sales earlier than usual," he notes. “All our trains are going out and are being prepared for the summer,” notes Christophe Fanichet. "Despite the social unrest of recent weeks, we have managed to keep our maintenance plans, to anticipate, to have the parts that allow all the air conditioning to be completely up to date and that the fleet is 100% available." It is obviously awaiting the arrival of the new TGVs produced by Alstom, from the end of 2024, to increase the capacity of its fleet.
When asked about ticket prices, Christophe Fanichet replies “Advantage card”, the house (and paying) reduction card. “It is the vehicle that allowed us to get out of the Covid, with ceiling prices” at 39, 59 or 79 euros depending on the length of the trip. "It's also our price shield," he insists. As for the TER, “the growth is continuous”, with an increase in the number of travelers expected by 15% (compared to 2022, after already an increase of 15% between 2019 and 2022). “There is a rediscovery”. And then there are the regional policies“, he greets. “Michelin has just published a guide to discover Occitania by train. We would never have seen this five years ago!”
Christophe Fanichet explains this enthusiasm for regional trains by ecological awareness, attractive prices for young people, efforts to take bicycles on board as in Brittany, and of course the rise in petrol prices. No particular threat of a strike in sight, according to him, even if "there may be local subjects here or there". “We are of course very attentive to it,” he says.