While gross profit or Ebitda increased by just 0.5% to €3bn, net profit trebled to €383m. SNCF also managed to reduce its debt by nearly €1bn to €7.3bn.

"Against a backdrop still affected by economic crisis, SNCF demonstrated excellent responsiveness in 2012," says SNCF chairman Mr Guillaume Pepy. "Our passenger business remained robust, particularly in the first half of the year. This helped offset developments in freight transport and logistics, now in a downward cycle with markets in full recession. We have continued our cost control initiatives, while investing €2.3bn." SNCF spent 48% of its investment budget on new locomotives and rolling stock.

SNCF's infrastructure division recorded a 6.4% growth in revenue to €5.5bn, while turnover at its regional passenger transport business increased by around 4% to €12.8bn. Pepy attributes regional passenger growth in particular to "a vigorous rise in passenger numbers and Keolis's growth outside France."

Long-distance passenger services achieved a 2.5% revenue rise to €7.5bn overall, but after a surge in sales at the beginning of 2012, business travel by TGV tapered off during the second half of the year as the economy started to wane.

SNCF Geodis, which is responsible for railfreight and logistics, saw a 1.6% fall in turnover to €9.5bn which it attributes to the recession in western Europe and a 7.7% drop in railfreight income.