This follows the adoption of the railway reform bill by the National Assembly on April 17.

“During the Senate review, we were able to both confirm the main principles of the reform - openness to competition, the new organisation of SNCF, and ending status recruitment - and enrich the text through dialogue, particularly through discussions that I conducted in recent weeks with the trade unions,” says France’s transport minister Ms Elisabeth Borne.

“The next step will be early next week at the meeting of the joint committee. The reform is coming to an end in the coming days. Everything is now settled: a bill will be finally adopted; unprecedented financial commitments made by the government; and a course drawn for branch and company negotiations.” Bourne urged everyone to take responsibility now.

Despite the progress being achieved to introduce legislation to reform SNCF and end restrictive working practices, the railway trade unions remain opposed even though the changes will not affect the status of existing employees and are continuing their rolling strikes across the rail network, which are still resulting in many train cancellations.

Under the reform, SNCF will become a unified group, fully owned by the state, with two subsidiaries: SNCF Mobility as the operator and SNCF Network as infrastructure manager, with responsibility for stations transferring from Mobility to Network. The state will gradually take on €35bn of SNCF Network’s long-term debt of €47bn. SNCF will be allowed to end the recruitment of staff with special privileges which guarantee a job for life and early retirement in January 2020.

As far as the opening the network to passenger competition is concerned, competition on the high-speed network will be permitted from December 2020.

Each region will be allowed to take responsibility for regional TER services starting in December 2019 and continuing step-by-step until 2023. The regions will be allowed to take over the ownership of rolling stock and workshops required for the operation of TER services.

In Ile-de-France, concessioning of passenger services will begin in 2025 with Paris RER Line E.