French train delays last year ‘among the worst seen in a decade’

A new report has criticised the punctuality of TGVs and international services in France

Significant delays were recorded across trains and planes in France in 2022, with most having increased since 2021
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Punctuality levels for rail services in France last year were among the worst seen in the last decade, according to a new report.

The claim was made by France’s transport service quality authority l'Autorité de la qualité de service dans les transports.

Its 90-page dossier, published on Tuesday (July 25), looked at train and plane delays. It also covered the number of flights or rail services that were cancelled within three days of their scheduled departure.

The findings show that punctuality worsened in almost all cases (apart from some exceptions), in a year marked by a mass return to travel after the Covid crisis.

‘Worst years since 2012’

The report states: “The punctuality of all rail services has deteriorated overall, whether compared with 2019 or 2021. Indeed, for TGV and international services, 2022 is among the worst years since 2012, alongside 2017 and 2018.”

Its findings were similar for Intercités train services, which it said had been affected by the heatwaves of summer 2022, as these forced SNCF to slow down trains across its network. Forest fires also played a role.

However, the report said the main reason for the delay was the companies’ lack of preparedness for the high increase in passengers after Covid.

It said: “The significant increase in demand has led to a sharp rise in rail traffic, which means that in the event of an incident, the number of trains affected is often greater because it is more difficult to make up for the situation.”

The authority also said the year saw the highest number of TER train cancellations since it began collecting data in 2013.

Flights: ‘Worrying levels of delay’

As for flights, the authority found that for flights within France, delays had almost doubled in incidence from 10.9% in 2021 to 19.4% last year.

The average delay was 46 minutes, up from 41 minutes in 2021 and 44 minutes in 2019.

For medium-haul flights, the delay rate was 28.1% in 2022, up from 15.4% in 2021. The average delay was 46 minutes in 2022, up from 40 minutes in 2021.

Routes to North Africa and other European destinations “generally reach the most worrying levels of delay”, said the authority.

For long-haul flights, the delay rate was 28.4% in 2022, up from 24.1% in 2021 and 23.6% in 2019. The average delay was longer; around 51 minutes in 2022 compared to 47 minutes in 2021.

Most of the delayed routes in 2022 were those to French overseas departments and territories, while in 2019 the most delayed routes were to Asia.

Delay levels per service

  • TGV: 14.2%. This was a significant increase from 2021 (11.3%).

  • Intercités: 16.7% (up from 14.1% in 2021)

  • TER: 8% (up from 7.1% in 2021)

  • International routes: 14.6% (up from 10.3% in 2021)

  • RER and Transilien: 9% (up from 8% in 2021). Punctuality is better in Ile-de-France than in the 2010s, except for the RER B, which is getting worse

  • Domestic flights: 19.4% (up from 10.9% in 2021)

  • Medium-haul flights: 28.1% (up from 15.4% in 2021)

  • Long-haul flights: 28.4% (up from 24.1% in 2021)

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