The Covid-19 crisis seems to have seriously affected SNCF to the point of wondering if it will survive on its own. "The loss in turnover should be close to four billion euros" warned its CEO, Jean-Pierre Farandou in mid-June. These concerns were heightened with the first forecast for this summer's numbers. If the SNCF usually has around 25 million passengers, it should not see more than 20 million.

This situation is all the more amplified as the SNCF had a very eventful end of 2019, notably with the yellow vests movement but also the very strong strikes against the pension reform in December. The losses for this period were 801 million. According to transport expert Gilles Savary, this situation would have been fatal for any other company. The SNCF owes its salvation to the fact that it is 100% owned by the state even though it has become a limited company which, de facto, no longer protects it from bankruptcy.

On May 20, the CEO of SNCF launched an appeal for help from the state to the deputies. "I hope that the parliament and the government will be there to relaunch the SNCF." If the government was more occupied with the fate of Air France with an unblocked fund of 7 billion euros, it remains nonetheless attentive to the situation of the SNCF. Indeed, the state says it is ready to help SNCF "to the tune of several billion euros".

This announcement while it was well received by the actors, it remains too late according to them. Indeed Henri Poupart-Lafarge thundered in front of the deputies that "the railway sector is not immune to the crisis" highlighting that Germany has already lowered VAT on mainline trains and provided federal aid to the Länder of 2.5 billion euros to support rail activity.

SNCF considers this aid essential because the hole caused by the pandemic has cascading repercussions. SNCF Réseau, responsible for renovating rail lines that are often out of age, estimates the impact of the health crisis at 700-800 million

Teleworking has also had a more than negative impact on SNCF. In fact, the workers were invited during the confinement but also at the end of the latter and as far as possible to carry out their mission by teleworking, thus resulting in a decrease in the travel of business customers. Ile-de-France Mobilité finally seems to have been able to get in touch with the State in order to discuss / fill the hole of 2.6 billion euros left by the epidemic in the funds of this organization managing public transport in the region Parisian.

SNCF will also have to face the entry of competition. If it has been in a monopoly position since 1937, the latter will have to face other rail operators. The Italian company Trenitalia, which was due to arrive in June with Milan-Lyon-Paris routes, had to delay its launch although its intentions remain unchanged. However, this threat has been described as marginal. The regional lines worry the SNCF much more. Certain elected officials have issued calls for tenders to choose a new operator, this is notably the case for the Paca, Grand Est and Hauts-de-France regions, and soon the Pays de la Loire and Île-de-France. Philippe Tabarot, vice-president of Pace, sums up the situation as follows: "We believe that with this competition, the provider will ensure a better quality of service (fewer late trains) at a lower cost".
(modified 08/26/2020)