PARIS: France plans to invest 100 billion euros in rail transport by 2040 as part of a government push to reduce the country’s carbon footprint, the government said on Friday.
The plan, aimed at expanding and upgrading the rail network, includes launching express commuter trains similar to the Paris RER system in major cities, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said.
The announcement seeks to tackle perceived inequalities between Paris and other parts of the country when it comes to public infrastructure, exacerbated by soaring energy costs that have made transport expensive for millions of commuters.
“Lacking access to transportation sometimes means having to give up a job offer, missing out on education, not seeing a loved one”, said Borne.
France would make the planned investments together with national rail operator SNCF, the European Union and local governments, she said.
President Emmanuel Macron said in November he wanted to see regional train networks put in place in around 10 large cities. He did not say at the time how this would be funded or when the first steps to implement these plans would be taken.
Access to affordable transportation is a sensitive political issue in France. Macron’s first term in office was marked by the Yellow Vest movement, which erupted over fuel prices and reflected frustration in rural areas.
The Ile-de-France around Paris, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, already has an extensive suburban rail system, the Rapid Regional Express, or RER.
State-controlled rail operator SNCF surprised earlier this week when it reported record revenue of 41.35 billion euros ($43.73 billion) in 2022, up 19% from 2021, and net profit of 2.4 billion euros.
Jean-Pierre Farandou, the head of the SNCF group, said last summer that investment in rail infrastructure was insufficient compared with neighbouring state rail systems. He estimated then it would cost 100 billion euros to double train use in France and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. ($1 = 0.9455 euros) (Reporting by Dominique Vidalon Editing by Tassilo Hummel and Frances Kerry)