THE French transport ministry announced on May 7 that the chairman and CEO of French National Railways (SNCF), Mr Jean-Pierre Farandou, will not be reappointed for a second term of office.

Farandou was appointed in November 2019 and his current term was due end on May 13. The government has asked him to remain in post after that date in order to ensure the smooth running of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that Paris is hosting this summer.

The Paralympic Games are due to conclude on September 8. Farandou’s successor will then be appointed, at the request of the French president, Mr Emmanuel Macron, by the relevant committees of the lower and upper houses of the French parliament, respectively the National Assembly and the Senate.

According to Le Monde, Farandou had intended to serve at the head of SNCF until he reached the mandatory retirement age of 68 in July 2025. He has recently come under fire from the right and from a section of the government for having negotiated a new pension agreement with railway unions.

Appearing before the Senate shortly after he was informed that he would not be serving a second term, Farandou described the pension agreement as “reasonable, balanced and practical.”

“I am convinced that it is a good agreement, which does not circumvent the law on pensions, and is within the practice of major public and privately-owned companies,” he said. According to Farandou, the estimated €35m cost of the agreement is “reasonable.”

Referring to SNCF’s 2023 results, he said: “it will not cost the taxpayer anything because I have a net profit of €1.3bn. I can certainly fund €35m, I have money.”

On accusations that he had negotiated the agreement in secret, Farandou told the Senate that he had kept both the transport ministry and the prime minister aware of developments.

Implementing the government’s rail reform programme has been one of Farandou’s key priorities. Under his tenure, railwaymen lost in January 2020 their special employment status that enabled drivers to retire at 50 and sedentary staff at 55.

SNCF was hit by two major strikes in protest at pension reform, the first in 2019-20 and the second in 2023 which cost the company €350m.