Since 2002 and the implementation of the law “SRU” (Dec. 13th 2000), French regions are the authorities organizing the collective transportation offer of “regional interest”. They are therefore in charge of defining the offer and service level, through a contractualization process with the operator (SNCF until the liberalization of the market). Moreover, since the implementation of the railway reform (August 4th 2014), the regions are authorized to set themselves the tariffs they for the routes they organize. This results in a wide variety of tariffs between regions.
Beyond the issues of financial balance of the regional transportion network, the pricing system is a key factor to ensure the attractiveness of regional public transport, as well as a tool for social equity and a lever for guiding uses. The consistency and legibility of tariffs for the user is thus key to ensure the efficiency that could be expected from the pricing system and, consequently, the attractiveness of the collective regional transport offer.
It is therefore necessary to have a precise and complete vision of the tariffs offered by the different regions. This is a first step when considering the harmonization of these tariffs. 6t-bureau de recherche, carried out a comparative analysis of the pricing of French regional trains and coaches, on behalf of the National federation of transportation users‘ associations (FNAUT) and Régions de France.
This comparative analysis is based upon a comprehensive inventory of the different tariffs available, using information available online as well as provided by the regions themselves. A series of interviews with key actors of the regional and collective transportation offer in seven regions, selected so as to ensure a variety of situations, has also been conducted.
Note that Corsica and the Île-de-France region are not included in the scope of this study, as their regional transportation offer is very specific.
Coaches tariffs were also analyzed, but more succinctly, as regional rail transportation offer is the core of the study.
Sales channels are relatively homogeneous between regions
All regions have humanized sales channels (ticket offices), but also automatic machines in stations. They also have digital sales channels, with standardized regional websites. On the other hand, offers and tariffs may vary between sales channels, with some tariffs only available online, for example. This raises issues in terms of equity of access to these offers, particularly for people who are not at ease with new technologies.
The “full tariff”, the “commuter tariff” and social tariffs only show limited differences between regions
Depending on the region, tariffs are set according to a simple (linear) kilometer-based pricing structure or a graduated structure. There are only small differences between regions, the cost of a 40 km journey at full tariff varying between €8 and €10.
Figure 1 : Comparison of regional “full tariffs” based on a 40km journey (second class)
Similarly, the “commuter tariffs” (annual or monthly subscriptions allowing unlimited travel on a defined route) appear to be homogeneous between the different French regions, and also make the regional collective transportation offer much more economically advantageous than private car.
Figure 2 : Comparison of regional “commuter tariffs” based on a 40km journey
Finally, social tariffs, derived from SNCF commercial tariffs, are also relatively homogeneous between the different regions, particularly when it comes to age-based social tariffs.
These common features of regional tariffs would therefore benefit from being more widely promoted, enabling users to take advantage of the experience acquired while travelling in one region in other French regions.
For occasional users, tariffs are heterogeneous
On the other hand, there are some very heterogeneous tariffs between the different regions. These include group tariffs and intermodal tariffs. The question of pricing for inter-regional and, even more so, international journeys (for border regions) must also be considered. Note that regional road transport offers are heterogeneous, between regions but also between departments within the same region.
The challenge is therefore to make regional public transport offers easier to understand, by communicating, for example, on the minimum and maximum tariffs, in order to make the experience of occasional users easier and, therefore, to strengthen the competitiveness of regional public transport.