Difficult start to the year for SNCF

The health situation is further reducing reservations and train attendance, warns Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs. But the carrier displays a certain optimism based on the new behavior of travelers and on the strategy put in place.

For almost two years now, activity at the SNCF has been on a roller coaster. Each covid wave accompanied by restrictions causes a drop in attendance, each relaxation or drop in viral activity causes train occupancy to jump.

A complex situation that the SNCF is beginning to better anticipate and master. This is the message that Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, made a point of conveying during a meeting with the press this Friday.

With the Omicron wave and the obligation made to companies to increase the share of telework, this beginning of the year 2022 no exception to this rule. “Since the beginning of the year, attendance has been 65% on the Transilien, 50% on the TER and 70% on the outline (65% among professionals)” compared to a “nominal” year indicates the person in charge.

The figures are even worse if we refer to the last few days. “We observe a drop of 50 % of bookings since last week On average, the train occupancy rate is around 50% today, hence the lowering of the transport plan that we announced February holiday bookings are down by 19% (but there are few cancellations). We have seen the Omicron impact since the beginning of the year”, explains Christophe Fanichet.

Quick ability to adapt

However, the carrier displays a certain serenity in view of its experience and its observations.

“There are now phenomena which are long-term. When they can, the French take the train massively and we know how to adapt quickly to these changes in the situation. At Christmas, we transported 5.5 mil lions of travelers, this is a normal level. The French are no longer waiting, they are planning their future trips. We have counted 750.000 reservations on the day the ticket office opens for the February holidays, we sold 600.000 tickets in two days during a flash sale. It’s good that the French want the train”, explains the CEO. The SNCF is also confident on its ability to attract travelers through its strategy summarized by “making it simpler and cheaper”.

And highlighting the success of its Avantage card with 3 million customers including 75% of first-time buyers, the teleworking package adopted by 5 regions, the upcoming launch of the unique SNCF Connect application whose objective is to be in the pocket ” of 3 out of 4 French people in the next two years”.

To make it “cheaper”, the SNCF wants to continue in its policy of “barrel prices” with flash sales, the development of its loyalty cards and the introduction of a “TGV Max Senior” subscription formula.

The operator also intends to reduce the “irritants” suffered by travelers such as problem of the combination of offers (correspondences) or the has regularity. “We have progressed but we still have to improve,” admits Christophe Fanichet. A dedicated program should soon be presented, they will have to convince user associations that are very critical of the service offered.

“Concerned” by Eurostar

“I am confident for 202002070086 on mobility by train even if you have to be careful”, insists the leader who recalls that the objective is to eventually double the number of customers. An objective which is nevertheless likely to come up against several difficulties.The health situation, as we have said, has immediate consequences on traffic, the fall in the number of professional travelers is also worrying . Pros are responsible for 50% of passenger income from the SNCF.

“We do not yet know whether this drop is structural or not”, wonders Christophe Fanichet, who is betting on the overall increase in travelers to compensate for the decreases in turnover (also fueled by the price reductions granted through Avantage).

Another point of concern,