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Rail improvements discussed by SNCF President and Minister of State

Recently the president of the SNCF was the guest of Minister of State Serge Telle. On the agenda: improvements to the TER service and the Mandelieu-Ventimiglia line both linked to the economic boom in Monaco

The president of the SNCF and the Minister of State Serge Telle have been in discussions recently regarding travel issues and improvements to rail services linked with Monaco. The interview with the press was meant to be brief, including a few questions about the reasons for the SNCF president’s arrival and the state of relations between SNCF and the Principality. In the end, Guillaume Pepy said more than ahead of his working meeting with the Minister of State, Serge Telle. On the agenda for their discussions: the improvement of the existing Mandelieu-Ventimiglia line, for which Monaco has contributed EUR 714,250 for the preliminary studies; improving cross-border rail relations between the Paca Region, the Principality and Liguria; The audit of the Monaco station service  ̶  from the budget of the Paca region and the improvement of the TER service. These subjects are often supported by the Monegasque side, sometimes from a regional perspective, but without ever falling into the controversy between the SNCF and the President of the Region, Christian Estrosi. There was no derailment, however, but Guillaume Pepy’s admitted his fault with regards to users who are justifiably fed up with the railway head’s own words.

Monaco train station

Pepy: impression of a job that is never finished

“Six or seven years ago, the Principality bought five trains. Meanwhile, traffic has increased by 2 to 3% per year. So, all that we have done, and which has worked, it must be done again a few years later. You have to expand, strengthen, carry out more maintenance, and buy new trains. It is a real race of speed and I recognise that it can be disruptive for travellers and inhabitants because one has the impression of a job that is never finished. And it is somewhat true because we have so much growth, between tourism and residents, that in truth we never reach the end.” So much for excuses. As for the facts: “Between 1998 and now, traffic has tripled on tracks that have always remained the same, so we see the scale of the issue…” It is the departure or arrival station for more than 43% of passengers on the Mandelieu-Ventimiglia route, 67% of which are Paca TER subscribers. It is the second most-used station on the Côte d’Azur after Nice, with more than 6 million passengers year round, compared with 7 million in neighbouring Nice. Monaco is indeed the hub of this France-Italy axis so often vilified by its users, headed by the group “Naufragés of the TER”. Seeking to increase the quality and frequency of the service of the Principality, Serge Telle has thus made himself the spokesperson of these dissatisfied rail customers. It is a role somewhere between diplomacy and honesty.

Telle: “Not a record to be proud of”

“This consultation is absolutely essential for the development of Monaco. About 45,000 people work in Principality  ̶  which explains the traffic jams at the entrances and exits of Monaco. And a large part of the population travels by train, so consequently the trains are overflowing. Studies will be conducted on this subject, but the increase in frequency of the trains is linked to the economic growth of Monaco.” This interdependence has been jeopardised, according to the representative of the Monegasque State, by a lack of rigour. “Today, this line is one of the most used in France and the conditions of transport are not at their best possible. This line, for example, has the highest rate of fraud in the entire national territory. This is not a record to be proud of.” A decisive blow not comparable to the heated conflict in 2009 between the Monegasque state and the SNCF – at that time regarding a strike, but with Pepy also being pushed against the ropes. “We have two major concerns: insufficient regularity and the aging infrastructure, on which a lot of work is carried out by the SNCF Networks (…). On this line, there are railway jams and too many trains. If you want to get better service, from time to time you need to have fewer trains but with more capacity (…). There are also many strikes in Paca which disrupt normal traffic.” And now? “The 2016 results in regularity were better than in 2015. We are at 84-85%. We have to reach 87-88% by 2017. A jump of two or three points is absolutely indispensable,” according to Pepy. The improvements are subject to major works and a refurbishment of “the schedules, the services offered and the equipment so that one can have a robust service, whereas today the service is not sufficient.”

Monaco train station

“An earlier 8:48 train in February”

As announced recently, a modification of schedules in Monaco station has been confirmed. “We will reposition a train that arrives too late. In February, the arrival of a train will be advanced to 8:48, while today it arrives at 9 o’clock. Which means that, generally, the passengers have taken the previous train and this caused overcrowding”, explained Jean-Aimé Mougenot, regional director of the SNCF. “The bad news is that there was a bug in the December schedules. The good news is that we will correct it”, summarised Pepy.“Today we have, during peak hours, trains that have 500 seats, or even 650 seats. We can go further, notably thanks to the arrival of new materials paid for by the region,” added Territorial Director Jacques Frossard. He also noted that, outside the off-peak midday hours, only double-deck trains circulate now.

These discussions between SNCF president and the Minister of State have served to publicly highlight the issues important to Monaco rail passengers and the future direction of improvements to come.

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