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FRANCE: ON TRACK TO BLAZE THE TRAIL

By Onoruoiza Mark ONUCHI

France remains a pioneer in high-speed rail (HSR) with its TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) network. The country continues to invest in expanding its HSR lines to improve connectivity between major cities and regions.) It has continued to invest in its rail infrastructure to improve efficiency, sustainability, and passenger experience. It also has one of the most extensive high-speed rail networks globally, and there are ongoing efforts to expand this network to connect more cities and regions. With excellent intermodal connectivity, it has continued to improve connectivity between rail and other modes of transportation, such as buses, metros, and bicycles, to create a seamless travel experience considering its frontline seat as the world’s most popular tourist destination. Like many countries, France is focusing on sustainability in its transportation sector. This includes efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of rail travel through electrification, increased efficiency, and possibly exploring alternative fuels.

The French rail network is the second largest in Europe ninth biggest in the world. Based on key market indicators France was ranked third in 2021 in Europe, behind Hungary which overtook them at 72 units. Hungary, France and Switzerland respectively placed second, third and fourth in the rankings. To remain competitive with other modes of transportation, French rail operators are focusing on improving the passenger experience. This involves investments in comfort, onboard amenities, and digital services.

The SNCF, the national state-owned railway company, operates most of the passenger and freight services on the national network managed by its subsidiary SNCF Réseau. France currently operates the second-largest European railway network, with a total of 29,901 kilometres of railway.

According to the International Energy Agency, rail is the most energy-efficient mode of passenger transport. Even with a relatively low carbon output, SNCF says the industry, and the transport sector as a whole, need to continue to decarbonise. The European Environment Agency says the transport sector is responsible for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The company’s European affairs director, Jérémie Pélerin warns that “rail transport will not develop and it will not be able to play the role it could play in the decarbonisation of transport,”

Making rail transport more competitive, investing in infrastructure, and greening transport are top priorities for SNCF, according to its manifesto outlining recommendations for the next European Commission and European Parliament.

France is definitely on track to speed ahead on rail.

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