FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) has reported a turnover of €30bn for 2020, falling 14.2% compared with €35.1bn in 2019.

SNCF also reported an Ebitda of €1.9bn for the year, with a Covid-19 impact of €5.4bn, compared with an Ebitda of €5.7bn in 2019. SNCF recorded a net loss of €3bn in 2020, compared with a loss of €801m in 2019.  

However, SNCF says that it has also experienced a substantial reduction in its net debt, which shrank from €60.3bn in 2019 to €38.1bn last year, due to the acquisition of €25bn of debt by the French government on January 1 2020 as part of a debt relief plan outlined in May 2018. A further tranche of debt relief worth €10bn is planned for 2022. 

The poor financial results for 2020 reflect the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions, and to a lesser extent, strikes related to pension reforms in the early part of the year. 

SNCF says that passenger services were hardest hit by the pandemic, most notably its high-speed services which experienced a 48% drop in passenger numbers compared with 2019. Similar reductions in passenger numbers were felt by Transilien (-45%), TER (-32%), and Keolis (-30%). 

Passenger demand has remained low during the crisis, but experienced temporary rebounds during the summer and winter when restrictions were temporarily eased.  

SNCF says that it was able to respond well to the crisis by adapting its offers and commercial policy, and due to the diversified nature of its activities - with logistics operator Geodis achieving particularly strong growth in 2020 of 4.5%, offsetting contractions in other parts of SNCF.  

In addition, a crisis plan and cost cutting in April have had a positive impact, with SNCF reporting available cash of €2.5bn at the end of 2020. 

In addition, SNCF has benefitted significantly from the government’s €4.7bn rail sector stimulus package and has worked closely with the national and regional governments to maintain essential services during the crisis. 

Despite the economic turbulence, SNCF achieved international successes, with the renewal of contracts to operate services on rail lines in London, Boston and Washington DC, as well as new contracts to operate buses in Copenhagen and Stockholm. Geodis also experienced an 8% increase in sales, particularly in Asia and the Americas. 

“This year, we have demonstrated the SNCF Group's capacity for resilience and thus confirmed the relevance of our diversification strategy,” says Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, chairman and CEO of SNCF. “The strong commitment of all our teams was decisive in adapting our continuous offerings to the government's health strategy and meet essential mobility needs. We have also mobilised to prepare for the future by accelerating industrial and commercial adaptation. This will notably involve a recovery of volumes with a more accessible pricing policy.”