“We will add 20,000 more places per week on the Paris-Bordeaux TGV”

With 4.2 million passengers on the Atlantic axis during the summer, the attendance of the TGV jumped by 10% compared to 2019. Victim of its success, the SNCF had to deal with overcrowded trains, which created an outcry among users and some elected officials. The Gironde senator Nathalie Delattre thus denounced a “big deterioration in the quality of the service” and wrote, together with other elected officials, to the CEO of the SNCF to ask for more trains.

In an interview with 20 minutesFranck Dubourdieu, director of the TGV Atlantique axis, announced a 9% increase in capacity from 2023.

We have seen overcrowded trains all summer on the Atlantic axis, what is the record in terms of attendance?

Travelers generally return by train, and especially on the Atlantic axis, with strong dynamics throughout the South-West. During the period from June to August, we made + 10% of customers to reach 4.2 million travelers, compared to 2019. This is a record. We saw that this dynamic was confirmed in September, especially at the weekend, but also during the week thanks to the habits that have improved since the Covid-19, with people choosing to move to cities located on the side of the LGV .

How has behavior changed since Covid-19?

In the “business” market, there are fewer day travelers. These round trips usually involve one or two meetings, which are replaced by video meetings. Business trips today tend to take place over two or three days. In addition, many companies decided to move their headquarters to the provinces, and employees decided to leave the Paris region to live in Niort, Angoulême, Poitiers, Bordeaux or Arcachon. But no more in the south. We have had a real explosion in our product of daily subscribers in these destinations, with people who only go to Paris once or twice a week, which is really a result of teleworking.

The other side of the coin, the TGV is a victim of its success, and the tone has risen this autumn about the lack of trains on the Atlantic axis, especially on the Paris-Bordeaux line. Will you fix it?

We are not waiting for letters from elected officials to realize that our trains are full, and we have been working on this for several months… We are now offering one train per hour, with reinforcements every half hour in rush hour. We consider this level of quantity to be satisfactory, on the other hand, we have enough to improve the number of double trains because, after delivery delays, we have delivered five additional Océane trains until 2023 . This will give us the capacity to match the equivalent of four single trains, which will therefore be transformed into double trains, corresponding each time to 1,100 additional places. From 2023, we will therefore increase the capacity of the South-West by 9%, ie 3,000 to 4,000 more places per day, for a total of 20,000 more places per week in the Paris-Bordeaux section, and ahead. This is huge, but now we have to continue working with the region to optimize our connections with the TER network, because it is this network that generates a lot of TGV traffic.

Why the choice to double the trains, instead of adding more?

There are many reasons for this, but mainly because the energy used by a double train is almost the same as a single train, especially in a Paris-Bordeaux where there are no stops. This is very important because of the current context.

Are you concerned about this energy issue?

Of course, we have a program called Opti-Conduite, which contains a simulator for optimizing the electric traction according to the profile of the line. This makes it possible to determine the “call for strength” to be requested from the TGV. Our drivers have been trained, and we are in the process of deploying them to be ready next winter, with the ambition to save up to 10% of the traction energy of a TGV.

And if attendance continues to increase in the Atlantic axis, what is the project after 2023?

I believe that we must first survive until 2023, because we have the right to ask ourselves the question of the level of growth that we will have in the coming months. We are already betting on increasing 9% capacity, and depending on what happens in 2023, we will adapt.

In addition to the problem with the frequency of the TGVs, a “degradation of service” has also been pointed out in recent weeks. What is your observation?

The most important thing for us is safety, and all our decisions are made based on it. In terms of quality, I think we have been criticized by many for the problem of regularity. It must be understood that we have a very difficult summer due to high temperatures, but when the temperature exceeds 35 ° C, we are obliged to use speed limits on our trains south of Bordeaux. Instead of running at 160 km/h, they sometimes only run at 100 km/h, which creates delays for trains going down from Bordeaux and those going up to Bordeaux as well. As we have trains that sometimes travel up to 3,000 km per day, this can lead to a cascade of delays along the entire axis, up to Brittany.

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