French stations are preparing for the arrival of competition

“My mission is to welcome all carriers with fairness. Marlène Dolveck, general manager of SNCF Gares & Connexions, must make room to welcome the new railway operators, starting with Trenitalia from Saturday. The station manager must find square meters in his buildings to accommodate counters, machines, technical rooms and rest areas for employees. Signage must also be adapted. In this case, Trenitalia will install, as in Italy, small mobile kiosks where customers can buy tickets. At the Gare de Lyon in Paris, the Italian company keeps the small shop that Thello (its French subsidiary, since renamed Trenitalia France) had in the days of night trains.

Information for travelers must also be adapted. “In a disturbed situation, we will speak in Italian. We had to train agents, ”notes the boss of the stations. “They pay the same toll as the others, since the reference document for stations is the same for all rail carriers,” insists Marlène Dolveck. “It’s the same price per square meter. We do not have the right to favor one operator to the detriment of another and we are controlled by the regulator “, she adds, noting that the SNCF” pays, and much more expensive “, for its vast station spaces. from Lyon.

“The subject over time is going to be space. If we look forward to ten years, with several carriers, will we not have to pool sales areas, such as in airports? She wonders. After Trenitalia, other companies have announced their intention to challenge SNCF on French rails in the coming years, such as the Railcoop cooperative, Midnight Trains, high-end night trains, or the Spanish Renfe.

Stations ready to adapt to night trains

The revival of night trains, too, should cause stations to adapt. By installing showers like in Paris-Austerlitz or prosaically by arranging to offer catering services available during train departure times.

“Our services will have to be adapted,” insists Marlène Dolveck. “Welcome to the new operators”, launched Wednesday in the Senate the CEO of SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, whose “double hat” includes both the supervision of the now challenged railway company (SNCF Voyageurs) and that of SNCF Networks and Gares & Connexions, whose role is to welcome everyone. “I must ensure that they are received with the utmost fairness. They must have access to the network and access to stations in the same way that the carrier SNCF has access to these essential facilities. I’m very careful about it, and we’re getting there, “he said.

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