Price-setting procedure for use of rail network by French regions ruled unlawful

Décision de justice
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In a case brought by seven French regions and Île-de-France Mobilités, the Conseil d'État today ruled that SNCF Réseau had not followed due process when setting the charges payable by the regions for running regional express trains (TER). The Conseil d’État noted that, firstly, the transport operating authorities (AOTs) had not been given the opportunity to express an informed opinion beforehand due to a lack of information and, secondly, the time scale for implementation had not allowed their observations to be taken into consideration. On these grounds, the Conseil d'État rescinded the charges for using the national rail network for 2024. SNCF Réseau has seven months to begin a new procedure for setting the charges.

To run TER trains on the French rail network in their region, the AOTs - i.e. the regions and the public body Île-de-France Mobilités in Île-de-France - pay charges to SNCF Réseau, the entity that manages French rail infrastructure. These charges, and the procedures for changing them, are set out in a national rail network framework document. The regions of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Centre-Val de Loire, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine, Grand Est, and Île-de-France Mobilités applied to the Conseil d'État to have the 2024 charges rescinded.

The Conseil d'État today ruled that procedure followed to set the charges for the regions’ use of the national rail network for 2024 was unlawful.

Firstly, the Conseil d'État noted that SNCF Réseau had not complied with the requirement for transparency when setting charges for use of the network. During the mandatory consultation period on the draft framework document, which took place from 8 October to 8 December 2022, the information provided by SNCF Réseau contained insufficient details about the estimated total costs of the railway infrastructure and changes to them (e.g. breakdown of costs by operating authority, methods used for setting charges, etc.). Yet, the AOTs, network users and participants in the consultation must be provided with sufficient information to be able to express an informed opinion.

Secondly, the Conseil d'État took the view that the implementation schedule did not allow SNCF Réseau adequate time to effectively take into account the AOTs' observations, thus depriving them of a guarantee that is set out in the applicable legislation. Indeed, on 7 and 8 December 2022, several regions and Île-de-France Mobilités sent SNCF Réseau their unfavourable opinions with significant observations on the charges, the planned increases, and the lack of transparency. Yet SNCF Réseau adopted the network framework document at its board meeting on 9 December 2022.

On these grounds, the Conseil d'État rescinded the pricing in the national rail network framework document for 2024. To prevent serious damage to SNCF Réseau's financial stability, and allow for the adoption of revised charges, the Conseil d'État postponed the rescission until 1 October 2024.


Read the decision (in French)