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How the SNCF lies to you about train delays: revelations in this edifying investigation


The SNCF assures that only 12.5% ​​of TGVs arrived late in 2023. But according to the Transport Regulatory Authority, this figure would reach 23.3%. In an edifying investigation, Le Monde reveals how the SNCF lies about its train delays.

Late but not late

According to Le Monde, the problem of counting delays comes from the SNCF calculation method. On its official website, a delay of 5 minutes on a journey of less than 1h30 is not considered a delay:

  • a delay of 10 minutes on a journey between 1h30 and 3 hours
  • a delay of 15 minutes on a journey of more than 3 hours

The Transport Regulatory Authority uses another, more concrete method. She “crosses the indicators measured on the one hand by railway companies and on the other hand by infrastructure managers” explains to Le Monde Anthony Martin, deputy to the director of market observation at ART.

Then, the ART defines the punctuality rate, that is to say the percentage of trains in circulation arriving at their terminus on time or with a delay of 5 minutes. Clearly, for the ART, a train is considered “late” as soon as he arrives 5 minutes late, regardless of the journey time.

A big difference

By its very accommodating calculation method, the SNCF therefore has almost 11% fewer TGV delays than the ART. This represents 86 unaccounted delays per day!

For the Intercités, the ART has 27.8% delays. For TER and transiliens, there are just over 10% delays. This still represents at least one delay per week for travelers taking the train for their home-work journeys. And this in the best case scenario since delays are even more frequent during rush hours.

Delays also increase significantly during the summer holidays, a period when the SNCF is in greatest demand, particularly in the South-East region (nearly 30% delay, i.e. 1 train out of 3).

Canceled trains not accounted for

The SNCF also mentions another subtlety in its accounting of delays. « A train canceled before 4 p.m. the day before its run will not be counted »she indicates. Logical some would say, a train not running cannot be late. The SNCF counts these inconveniences in cancellations and not delays.

Besides, deprogramming and cancellations represent 5 to 10% of TGVs . Added to the delays, it starts to add up.

Why are the trains late ?

Still according to the world survey, these delays can be explained by several factors: the management of more numerous travelers for summer periods for example, but not only.

During summer, heat or storms can have consequences on infrastructure, which leads to incidents. To avoid them, the SNCF must force trains to slow down on certain sections. As weather conditions deteriorate over time, these phenomena are expected to increase.

She's good about the weather ? A little. Since 1954, train punctuality has continued to decline, going from 3% delays for all trains to more than 9% (AQST figures). Why ? Because the number of travelers has tripled.

Rather than investing in more trains, the SNCF fills existing ones more which degrades infrastructure and therefore causes… delays.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116