THE SNCF lost almost €1bn last year in what it has described as an "annus horribilis".
The French state rail operator said falling passenger and freight numbers in 2009 had contributed to the net loss of €980m - compared with a €575m profit in 2008 and a €1bn profit the year before.
The SNCF said the economic crisis had meant that the number of people travelling by TGV had not risen for the first time in memory.
Chief executive Guillaume Pépy said some of the company's under-performing areas had been hidden in recent years by a good profit from TGV ticket sales.
The rail operator added that it was "not expecting a massive recovery this year".