“The president of the Ile-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, has made transport a political weapon”

Pertes & profits. Valérie Pécresse took her most beautiful pen and dipped it in the blackest ink to tell the CEO of Alstom her story: you are responsible for a “Industrial shipwreck”, write it president of the Ile-de-France region (IDF) in a letter to Henri Poupart-Lafarge, revealed by The echoes from Tuesday October 26. It was through an audit of SNCF Voyageurs that she learned that the IDF Mobilités transport authority, which she chairs, will not have its first New Generation RER (RER NG) trainsets delivered for lines D and E of the transilien network until mid-May 2023, two years behind the initial schedule.

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Mme Pécresse touches where it hurts: Alstom’s performance. In consortium with the Canadian Bombardier, it had won this contract of 3.7 billion euros (for 255 trainsets), in January 2017. The accumulation of delays is due, she writes, to “Organizational flaws stemming from a manifest lack of control of the industrial process”. A situation “Inconceivable from a world leader in the sector”, which became the second largest railway manufacturer after the takeover of Bombardier. “I demand that you mobilize at your expense all the necessary means to remedy this”, she slices.

Conflicts that are commonplace

The CEO of the SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, also took a little for his rank. In a second letter, Mme Pécresse reproaches him for not having known “Prevent successive planning drifts”, while the rail operator is the only one with the skills to monitor these contracts. According to her, he must claim 64 million euros in penalties from Alstom for the first installment of the contract. And she asks the two bosses to come and explain themselves to the board of directors of IDF Mobilités.

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Modernizing these two lines, which carry 1.23 million passengers every day, is a major challenge. The larger capacity RER NG trains (1,860 passengers) and their Nexteo regulation system will improve service and punctuality, and allow trains to pass through stations every ninety seconds. Alstom argues that it is precisely the complexity of Nexteo, the health crisis and the successive modifications of the specifications by IDF Mobilités which explain the delay.

The president of the capital region has made transport a political weapon. As in the summer of 2020 and in September, when it suspended its payments to the SNCF and the RATP to force the State to pay compensation to compensate for the shortfalls related to Covid-19. As at the beginning of October, by denouncing the drift from 3.8 billion to 5.4 billion in the cost of the extension of line E to the west of the Ile-de-France. Since the full transfer of transport to the region in 2004, conflicts between the State, operators and IDF Mobilités are commonplace. They took a particular acuity with the candidacy for the nomination of the Republicans for the presidential election of an elected official who wants to make financial rigor (and security) her political trademark.