It is hard to comprehend: INSEE announces a 14.6% rise in train prices between April 2021 & April 2022.

SNCF, on the other hand, claims that long-distance tickets are “less expensive” and “less expensive”.

Who is telling the truth? Both, actually. It all depends on the measurement you are making, the method you use, and the time frame you are looking at.

First, on the side of Insee. Every month, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies publishes an update of its price index. It is noted that passenger transport by train has increased 14.6% between April 2021, 2022 and 2021.

It’s not so simple. Train prices dropped sharply after being stable from 2015 to 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis. This happened until recently.

Between February 2020 and April 2020, SNCF traffic split by 20. According to other monthly figures by INSEE, the return to normal or nearly, occurred in the summer 2021.

The trend has been logical: ticket prices have dropped by 10-15% between 2015 and 2019. A significantly lower demand led to a lower average ticket price.

The 14.6% figure represents the difference between the “cheapest” month in recent years and… the most costly. The increase in price is less dramatic when you smooth the data over time. It was 6.4% between April 2015 and April 2022.

INSEE reports that prices for April 2022 saw a new record in rail passenger transport with an index of 106.46 (base 100): It had never been higher than 104.5 before.

The SNCF, for its part, ensures that ticket prices are falling. It does not measure the exact same thing.

First, it only communicates with “long distance” trains. TGV Inoui and Ouigo are the examples. They do not reflect whether regional express train prices have changed or increased.

It is therefore impossible to make a comparison. The SNCF, however, does not refer to the same period. She claims that tickets are “getting cheaper “… with even an 7% drop in price since June 2021’s launch of the new fare offers.”

To get this result, however, the company divides the total revenue for a period by how many tickets were sold in that same period. This method retains only the average amount of money that travelers spend, and not the evolution of an offer.

If a majority of travelers decide to choose the cheaper Ouigo or Intercites options, it will not have an impact on Inoui ticket prices as measured by INSE. However, the SNCF can affirm – correctly – that the average trip cost for each person has decreased.

Similar to the Covid period, the average selling price has fallen: it’s when trains are nearly full that the SNCF charges the remaining tickets at full-price.

2021 saw a reduction in the number of people using trains. The ratio of lower prices to passengers was also higher, which led to a decrease in the average.

Jean-Pierre Farandou CEO of SNCF

Another problem is that the SNCF compares the current prices to those of 2019, which was the last “normal year” before Covid. This makes it possible for a higher cost to be shown than 2021 or 2020. The company insists it is the right method because it involves comparing two “normal”, unaffected years.

These are the “average” prices for SNCF and INSEE. Medium stability, a bit like highways can refer to a stable price for all tickets… but also a 20% increase or decrease in some.

One thing is certain: generalized inflation doesn’t spare the SNCF. It is something that is being prepared for.

We could see rising energy costs, higher wages, increased costs for materials, and rail costs… We might have to pass some of these costs on from 2023.

Jean Pierre Farandou