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Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français
Locale France
Predecessor See SNCF History
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Length 32,000 km
Headquarters Paris

SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer français, French National Railways) is a French public enterprise. Its functions include operation of rail services for passengers and freight, and maintenance and signalling of rail infrastructure owned by Réseau Ferré de France (RFF). It employs about 180,000 people. The rail network consists of about 32,000 km of route, of which 1,800 km is high-speed line and 14,500 km electrified. About 14,000 trains are operated daily. The chairman of SNCF is Guillaume Pépy. Its headquarters is in the 14th arrondissement of Paris, in the Rue du Commandant Mouchotte.[1]


Business scope

A 2nd-generation TGV Réseau train at Marseilles St-Charles station.

SNCF operates almost all of France's railway system, including the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, meaning "High-Speed Train"), Paris's Transilien suburban rail network, and some segments of the RER (Réseau Express Régional, "Regional Express Network"), another suburban rail system serving Paris.

In the past SNCF also owned the tracks, but this has changed due to new European Union regulations. Since 1997 the tracks and other rail infrastructure have belonged to a separate government establishment, Réseau Ferré de France; this change was intended to open the market to independent train operating companies, although few have yet appeared. There have been claims that this is mainly due to very restrictive regulations that are allegedly motivated by protectionism. For example, the licensing procedure for the multi-system ICE3M took four years, while the same train was allowed onto tracks in the Netherlands and Belgium within a year of its introduction.


SNCF was formed in 1938 on the nationalisation of France's five main railways (Chemin de Fer in English means railway, literally, 'path of iron'). These were the:

The French state took 51% ownership of SNCF and has since put large amounts of public subsidies into the system. In the 1970s, SNCF began the TGV high speed train programme with the intention of creating the world's fastest railway network. It came to fruition in 1981, when the first TGV service, from Paris to Lyon, was inaugurated. TGV lines and the TGV technology have since spread to several other European countries plus South Korea.


Role during World War II

On 16 May 2006 the SNCF and the French State were successfully taken to the administrative court for complicity in crimes against humanity by the father of MEP Alain Lipietz, because of their role in transporting members of his family to the Drancy deportation camp during World War II. They were subsequently jointly fined 64,000 euros,[2] but the judgement was appealed. Previous similar attempts by others in the civil courts had failed. SNCF argued that they were required to transport Jews by the Vichy regime and the Nazis, and that they had never taken the initiative. However SNCF chose to transport them in cattle wagons (stock cars), as it was done for soldiers, and invoiced the state for 3rd class tickets. In 2006 the administrative court in Toulouse found the SNCF guilty of aiding in the deportations.[3][4] The SNCF appealed, arguing that its actions were consistent with it having been requisitioned by the occupying German forces under the terms of the 1940 Armistice, and that employees of the Deutsche Reichsbahn oversaw major facilities and operations.[5] The SNCF was cleared in 2007 by the Bordeaux appeal court which agreed that it had been operating under orders and had not autonomously made the decisions pertaining to deportation trains.[6]

Hundreds of SNCF employees (cheminots) were shot for acts of Resistance during World War II. Another 2,480 were deported, of whom 1,100 died. Another 2,361 were killed at work (due to bombings, land mines, etc).

Modern day

Part of the record-breaking V150 unit being sailed in triumph down the Seine for display at the foot of the Eiffel Tower

Since the 1990s, SNCF has been selling railway carriages to regional governments, with the creation of the Transport Express Régional brand.

Jacques Chirac, then French president, pledged in his 2006 New Year Address that by 2026 no SNCF or RATP train would be powered by fossil fuels.[7] This pledge confirms France's commitment to nuclear power for its energy needs. Nuclear power stations already generate most of the electricity used to power SNCF trains.

SNCF's TGV has set many world speed records, the most recent on April 3, 2007, when a new version of the TGV dubbed the V150 with larger wheels than the usual TGV, was able to cover more ground with each rotation and had a stronger 25,000 hp (18,600 kW) engine, broke the world speed record for conventional rail trains, reaching 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph).[8]

Codeshare with airlines

SNCF codeshares with Air Austral, Air France, Air Tahiti Nui, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Continental Airlines, Middle East Airlines, Emirates Airline, Qatar Airways and United Airlines and in exchange, allows passengers on those flights to book rail service between Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport in Roissy (near Paris) and Aix-en-Provence, Angers, Avignon, Bordeaux, Le Mans, Lille, Lyon Part-Dieu, Marseilles, Montpellier, Nantes, Nimes, Poiters, Rennes, Tours, and Valence with their airline. The IATA designator used by airlines in connection with these journeys is 2C.


SNCF has full or partial shares in a large number of companies, the majority of which are rail or transport related. These include:[9]

  • Geodis (100%)
  • ERMEWA (49.6%)
  • France Wagons (100%)
  • SGW : Société de Gérance de Wagons (67.5%)
  • CTC : Compagnie des Transports Céréaliers (69.36%)
  • SEGI (98.96%)
  • Naviland Cargo (94,37 %) previuously CNC, Compagnie Nationale de Conteneurs.

General freight transport:

  • C-Modalohr Express (51%)
  • Novatrans (38.25%)
  • Districhrono (100%)
  • Ecorail (99.9%)
  • Froidcombi (48.93%)
  • Rouch Intermodal (98.96%)
  • Sefergie (98.96%)

Passenger transport


  • (50,1%), the on-line travel agency of the SNCF
  • Rail Europe (50%)
  • GLe-trade


  • AREP (99.99%)
  • SNCF International (100%)
  • Inexia
  • Systra (35.87 %): engineering for public transport


  • ICF (100%): rental housing (social and private housing)

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Société nationale des chemins de fer français, the national railway company of France

Simple English

Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français
Locale France
Predecessor See SNCF History
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Length 32,000 km
Headquarters Paris

SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français) (French National Railway Company) is a French public enterprise. Its functions include operation of rail services for passengers and freight, and maintenance as well as signalling of rail infrastructure owned by RFF (Réseau Ferré de France). It employs about 180,000 people. The rail network consists of about 32,000 km of route, of which 1,800 km is high-speed line and 14,500 km is electrified. About 14,000 trains are operated daily. The chairman of SNCF is Guillaume Pepy. Its headquarters are in Paris, in the Rue du Commandant Mouchotte.


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