Fifty months separate the two speeches made by the same man: Emmanuel Macron. And what a contrast between the newly elected president, who came to inaugurate the new high-speed line (LGV) Le Mans-Rennes, on 1er July 2017, and, four years later, the Head of State campaigning for his re-election, celebrating, Friday, September 17, the 40 years of the TGV.
The 2017 Macron said: “The answer to the challenges of our territory is not to go and promise TGVs to all the departmental capitals of France. (…) This means not relaunching large new projects but committing to financing all infrastructure renewals. (…) We have been pushing big projects for decades now, never funding them. “ The 2021 Macron says: “I can tell you that when the TGV doesn’t arrive or pass through a city, it’s terrible. (…) This French passion for the train, we are going to pursue it in a big way. (…) The 2020 decade will be the TGV decade. “
It is therefore the official end of the “break” decreed at the start of the five-year term and of the absolute priority given to everyday transport. The Head of State even cited six major projects emblematic of the revival of high speed: the Roissy-Picardie link, the Bordeaux-Toulouse and Montpellier-Perpignan high-speed lines, the new Provence-Côte d’Azur line (Marseille-Nice ), Paris-Normandy, as well as Lyon-Turin.
The apparent contradiction between the two discourses is assumed by the government through a well-established storytelling which can be summarized as follows: We have accomplished the efforts of regeneration, modernization of the railway, by reforming the SNCF, by injecting 61 billion euros into the system since 2017 (including 35 billion of taking over the company’s debt), by accomplishing a good part renewal of the existing network. But the break was indeed a break, not a definitive end to projects. We can relaunch major projects.
A trompe-l’œil return
Except that this speech comes up against several realities which make this renewed interest in the TGV a trompe-l’oeil return. First reality: the projects in question (often old, some dating from the early 2000s) are currently only very partially funded. The government announces 6.5 billion euros mobilized by the State, but which represents only 40% of the partial cost of the three main future major projects which are Bordeaux-Toulouse, Montpellier-Perpignan and Marseille-Nice.
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