Should France privatise the SNCF?

France's new government has announced a change of direction in transportation policy. It plans to invest less in large projects and instead improve the existing infrastructure. French media are at odds over whether the privatisation of the state-owned railway company SNCF should be on the agenda.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Rail company is a burden on the state

The French railways must be privatised if the country wants to meet the challenges of the future, Le Figaro is convinced:

“Above all that means having the courage to truly reform the SNCF. This state-run company that is the nerve centre of transportation in France is groaning under the weight of its outdated status, collapsing under the burden of huge debts and living off a penniless state. Given the profound changes and growing competition in the transportation sector, preserving the status quo would be inexcusable.”

Le Drenche (FR) /

A boon for the private sector

Representatives of the rail workers' union Sud-Rail argue against the plans to privatise SNCF in Le Drenche:

“The privatisation of public services does not necessarily protect the public interest. But it does ensure that private sector service providers are able to access the wealth bound up in public contracts. ... Worse than that, this liberal deviation could even result in the misappropriation of public funds to finance the private sector through colossal state subsidies that, nationwide, amount to as much as is earmarked in the public budget for any given sector. At the end of the day, this will result in billions of euros being used every year to generate profits at the expense of taxpayers in a very non-transparent manner. Competition doesn't bring down the cost of a public service, as everyone can see from their own water or electricity bills.”