Thank you for your interpellation. The European guidelines are closely intertwined with national decisions on the train situation. Like you, I am struck that this European election campaign does not deal with it either, even though in 2018 the debates around the future of SNCF and the role of the train have punctuated public life in France during several months, and that the threats to climate and life have never been so strong. You find below our answers to your questions.
1. Proposal No. 7 of our “Foundations” project provides for the removal of air links for which there is an alternative by public transport in less than 5 hours, the price reduction of the train, a revival of night trains and an increase in the price of flights via an immediate tax on kerosene – or via airport tax – for intra-Community flights.
Night trains are intended to complement the offer of high-speed trains and mainline trains. By serving areas not covered by high-speed lines and bringing the landlocked sectors in major cities (including Paris), they contribute to balance and equality of the territories, without having a significant impact on regions that are also largely protected from the destruction associated with major development projects, which are often unnecessary and imposed.
The undeniable advantage of the night train, which makes it possible to make the most of night time to reach from remote destinations or to Paris gives it a structuring vocation for journeys medium distances in France and Europe. This is particularly the case for the Southern and Eastern regions. Occitania, poorly served by high-speed rail (Paris-Briançon, Paris-Nice, Paris-Toulouse). We therefore strongly support the development of night trains.
2. Rail transport in France and Europe receives insufficient support for development compared to that granted to road or air transport. This is an ecological aberration. This reveals a lack of vision, an inability to think about the future of our society, particularly within the framework of the Paris Agreement, to recognise the know-how and skills of railway workers and the achievements of the public service. The yellow vest crisis should not, in my opinion, be seen as the expression of a rejection of ecology or an exclusive attachment to the car. This is indeed a questioning on collective choices and the investment we are ready to make to fight against social and environmental inequalities.
We advocate a tax and investment bias in favour of the train at the expense of the road. Rail transport outside the TGV is nowadays abandoned, or even simply abandoned. sabotaged by underinvestment. To carry out these rail investments, we propose urgently, to abandon the major unnecessary project of a Lyon-Turin high-speed line (Foundations 8). Its cost has been estimated by the Court of Auditors at €26 billion. We propose to reallocate all French funds to the renovation of the infrastructure and trains of the daily: upgrading of TER and RER, restoration of abandoned lines, obligation to maintenance of lines in service, development of piggyback transport, etc. For example, we want to ensure that small railway lines can be restored, reopened or no longer threatened such as those between Lucciana and Porto-Vecchio in Corsica, or Grenoble-Gap in Rhône-Alpes.
In addition, the freight situation is dramatic. I remember the promises of the Grenelle of the environment in 2009, which forecast that 25% of goods would be transported by rail rail and waterways in 2022; since then, the degradation has been continuous. In Switzerland, on the other hand, 40% of the population of freight transport is by train. We know how much the expansion of transport by road costs our societies in terms of polluting emissions, health degradation public, road accidents and social dumping. The costs of this ecological inaction are amount to tens of billions of euros.
3. We want to challenge the principle of competition, which effectively prohibits any investment public in view of the prohibition of state aid. In most countries, the liberalisation of the rail market is a disaster (rising prices, declining quality of service, neglect of safety, removal of small lines considered unprofitable etc). You express your concern with regard to the Fourth European Rail Pact and above all its unqualified interpretation by the French government. The latter provided for the opening up of transport to competition at the end of this year and at the end of 2020 for TGV lines.
I do not wish to exempt the European institutions from their responsibility. But I want to point out that they have never advocated the end of the status or the closure of small lines railways. This is indeed a choice made by SNCF and the French government in the continuity of the Spinetta report. In the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland, the importance of the train is the subject of a transparent consensus. I believe that the same should be true in France and the collaboration between local authorities and the State should be at the heart of this strategy. We on the other hand, we are more reserved about the development of “Auto-trains”. As an ecologist, it seems to me that today our role is to promote the car in its function of use and not as a property object.
4. We strongly support these proposals. As indicated, we are planning a plan emergency investment financed in particular by the abandonment of unnecessary and costly projects such as the Lyon-Turin or other high-speed lines. We will work with our partners to build and consolidate this network.
5. The construction of new high-speed lines in Europe must remain the exception. These are the following above all to be able to link existing lines with each other, in particular through support for secondary lines. In addition, we must stop giving in to pressure from local elected officials who wish to absolutely have a TGV station. We see stations blooming in the open countryside, built in natural and sometimes even floodable areas, not or poorly connected to city centres, and logically empty. These stations often receive public support that could still be used to the improvement of existing equipment.
6. Rail transport is a public service mission. The rights of users must be to the letter. Significant delays and cancellations are not acceptable and must to grant the right to systematic compensation, anywhere in Europe, including in inter-connection operators.
7. As mentioned above, our Foundations project No. 7 provides for a tax on kerosene – or via the airport tax if immediate legal implementation is difficult. We will bring it to the level of European. Nevertheless, a tax cannot be the only tool, which is why we propose to eliminate short-haul lines when an alternative by train exists. Indeed, a tax system without reducing inequalities is to offer a right to pollute to the wealthiest, who will be able to afford to continue to fly, to the detriment of the poorest.
8. Yes, as mentioned above. Nevertheless, after discussions and exchanges with experts, we appeared that an alternative train journey time criterion was more relevant than a distance, given the unequal access to alternative supply in France and Europe.
9. As mentioned above, point 7 of our “Foundations” project provides for the removal of air links for which there is a public transport alternative in less than 5 hours, the decrease in train prices, a revival of night trains and an increase in the price of flights via an immediate tax on kerosene – or via airport tax – for flights intra-Community. We are also opposed to the construction of any new airports.
In parallel, we consider it necessary, in view of the climate data and the collapse of the not only to improve the above-mentioned offer, but also to work on it the reduction of mobility needs themselves. In this context, we want to put an end to the “round-about” of France, and a logic of moving the territory away from the country more and more the inhabitants of their work, businesses, local public services. Discouraging the use of private cars means first of all putting an end to exponential growth mobility needs.
On these subjects, the Urgence Ecologie MEPs in the European Parliament will set up a strategy of “parliamentary guerrilla warfare”, working with trade unions, citizens involved in the territories, national parliamentarians and by using all procedural means at their disposal to provoke public debate and surprise.
I am of course ready to discuss with you at greater length these essential issues in order to contain global warming around 1.5 degrees. Our mobilization begins today.