In return, the rail company must make drastic changes, including job cuts, as services open up to more competition.
About 2,000 jobs have already been cut in 2017 and 2018, and this year SNCF Mobilités employees (train and station workers) are the main target.
A total of 2,095 posts are being axed, as well as 162 in SNCF leadership roles, though 171 jobs will be created for SNCF Réseau (rail maintenance).
The railway union opposes the cuts. UNSA Ferroviaire leader Roger Dillenseger said: “We will have to do more with fewer people.”
From January 1 next year, the special railway worker status of cheminot, which comes with many advantages, will dis-appear for new recruits.
The number of people benefiting from this has been decreasing for many years.
There were 300,000 in 1970, 175,000 in 2000 and 146,000 last year. Existing cheminots with the status will keep their rights, including a number of free train tickets, discounts for family members, 28 days paid holiday, guaranteed lifetime employment, early retirement and a better pension.
They will keep this even if they transfer to another rail firm as the market opens up.
From December, regional railways (TER) will be opened to new private companies.
By the end of 2020, SNCF will also have to share the TGV long-distance trains market with competing companies.
Meanwhile, SNCF’s turnover is expected to increase by 8-9% and new InOui TGV trains should be all over France by next year, replacing old trains which lack sockets and wifi.
These new trains have already gone into service in Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Lyon, Toulouse, Nancy, Metz and, more recently, Saint-Nazaire.
They offer a more comfort-able journey with extra space and services, but without an increase in price.
SNCF also continues to diversify by opening more OUIGO low-cost lines.
Passengers can now travel by OUIGO from Paris Gare de Lyon to Nice, with stops at Lyon, Valence, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Toulon, Cannes and Antibes.
Paris to Nice fares start at €19.
OUIGO, launched in 2013 with a line from Marne-La-Vallée to Marseille, has since attracted 33million users and aims for 26million more by 2020.
Plans for a new TGV service from Paris to Lyon – passing by Orléans and Clermont-Ferrand – have been put on the back-burner as SNCF would rather focus on completing a new dedicated high-speed TGV line between Lyon and Paris this year.
SNCF is about to spend €600million on this major construction project, so Clermont-Ferrand has been deferred until 2025.