While the French are beginning to see a real way out of the crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, the world of urban public transport is not there yet. A new level has even just been crossed. Monday, September 27, Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), the transport organizing authority of the capital region, announced that it had suspended its payments to RATP and SNCF (respectively 300 and 400 million euros each month) , for lack of having reached an agreement with the State, from which it claims 1.3 billion euros to compensate for the losses related to the health crisis in 2021.
It is not a surprise. The board of directors of IDFM had approved, two weeks ago, the principle of such a suspension if a compromise was not found with the government. This is not a novelty either. Valérie Pécresse, President (Libres!) Of IDFM and the Ile-de-France region, had already, at the end of summer 2020, launched a similar battle with the State, stopping paying public operators until ” that the government ends up giving in and granting 1.45 billion euros in repayable advance and 150 million in subsidies. RATP has let it be known that it “Available[ait] to date sufficient cash to ensure the continuity of the transport offer in the coming weeks, pending the outcome of the discussions between Ile-de-France Mobilités and the State ”.
Attendance rate still declining
The seriousness of the incident – synonymous with a potential stoppage of public transport in the Paris region if negotiations fail – illustrates the persistent difficulties of urban public transport beyond the Ile-de-France case. And this, at a time when the main actors of mobility are preparing to meet at the National Public Transport Meetings (RNTP), the traditional trade fair-forum of the sector which opened its doors in Toulouse on Tuesday, September 28. The event would have something to delight exhibitors (communities, transport operators, equipment manufacturers, start-ups) since it is a return to real contact after eighteen months of crisis.
However, as evidenced by the IDFM episode, the specter of the coronavirus still haunts the area. In mid-September, the frequentation rate in French urban public transport networks reached on average 85% of the level before the crisis. Ile-de-France is the region in greatest difficulty (with only 70% of attendance compared to the situation prior to the crisis and troughs around 55% this summer). Other cities or communities, such as Rennes, Saint-Etienne and Montpellier, with large captive audiences (generally students), are doing better, reaching 90% -95% of pre-pandemic attendance.
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