On November 23, 2022, when Jean Castex – best known for being Emmanuel Macron’s former prime minister – officially took the helm of the RATP, public transport users in the Ile-de-France region sighed with relief. Everyone sees in this political figure the emergency exit from a situation that has become untenable on a daily basis for them since Covid. And that’s an understatement as the files to be managed are heavy to bear, between recruitment problems, social tensions within the company and a still limited transport offer. But the new CEO’s shoulders seem broad enough to achieve this. A year later, many actions have been put in place and the situation has gradually improved, with a major recruitment plan which is bearing fruit, but the fact remains that a certain number of problems, particularly on the metro and bus networks.

And the first to complain are none other than the users themselves, many on social networks calling out the RATP on the problems they encounter on a daily basis, leaving scathing messages accompanied by evocative photos. Line closures, repeated incidents or even extended waiting times… ““Take public transport!”, those who never take them scold us,” complains this user of lines 8 and 10. “What more can be said ? Oh yes, that I broke a record this morning by taking 1 hour 50 minutes to go from République to Pont de Garigliano,” wrote another. “If line 8 is not disrupted every day in November, it will self-destruct, right? Fed up with all these problems,” says a third. And many wonder about the quality of service that will be offered to them during the Olympics. “The RATP is not able to operate the lines correctly in normal times. Imagine the situation for the Olympic Games,” says the latter. “The machine is a little seized up,” summarizes Arnaud Bertrand, president of the Plus de trains association.

Concretely, if we stick to the punctuality figures published in open data by Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM), the margin for progress between September 2022 and September 2023 appears quite minimal. Only the fully automatic lines (1 and 14) as well as lines 2, 5 and 9 – i.e. five lines out of the fourteen in the network – have achieved the objectives set by IDFM in September. A year ago, only lines 1, 2, 5, 10 and 14 as well as the RER A reached the objectives. For example, line 6 had the lowest punctuality rate in the network, at 84.3%, in September 2022 and failed to transform the test a year later, since the rate remains unchanged . Others have nevertheless seen their performance improve: this is particularly the case for line 4, whose automation is almost complete. If its performance rate was 86.5% in September 2022, it was 93.42% in September 2023.

Opposite, the RATP defends itself as best it can, explaining that it is going through a “difficult” period, particularly due to the “resurgence of abandoned packages”. The Autonomous Authority even puts forward the figure of “70% growth in abandoned packages” compared to last year, with 325 reports and interventions linked to this phenomenon in October, compared to 190 a year ago. She also mentioned “other difficulties” including the dilapidated network infrastructure, citing line 8 equipped with equipment “which is 25 years old, 30 years old”. On this line, the performance rate during peak hours has completely fallen in one year, going from 88.3% in September 2022 to 84.85% in September 2023. And if at the RATP, we especially explain that comparing the figures from 2022 to those of 2023 “does not make sense”, insofar as “there are more trains contractually” today than at the time, we still note that the level of metro production increased from 94.6% to 95.8% between September 2022 and September 2023.

RATP assures that a lot has been done internally, with a recruitment plan which has already made it possible to hire 4,200 people in 2023 out of a target of 4,600. But it concedes that there are maintenance problems: “we have the lines modern with effective signaling on lines 1, 2, 5 and 14 on which there are fewer incidents and fewer breakdowns and there are the old cuckoos like line 12 on which the MF67 trains run, which have more than 50 years”. Until now, “we have been able to maintain and maintain the trains but today, we lack renewal,” continues the Parisian Régie. Today, certain lines therefore appear “difficult” such as the very long line 8 or the line 6 currently being modernized, on which two types of equipment are currently running, making it “more complicated to operate”. “The reality is that this year we improved our production by one point compared to last year, but that the offer offered is much greater. The number of trains running every day is much greater,” insists the RATP.

Despite these ongoing modernizations and investments to renew the equipment already made, it is clear that in recent weeks, the situation even seems to have deteriorated further. Between August and September 2023, the peak hour performance of all 14 lines fell, and although the latest figures have not been revealed, the results are not better in October and November. So much so that Valérie Pécresse wrote a letter to Jean Castex on November 7, asking him to “consolidate the expected dynamic of improvement”. If the president of the region and of Île-de-France Mobilités (IDFM) notes “with satisfaction the results for the month of September showing production rates in peak hours and overall respectively of 93.82% and 96% in improvement compared to the month of June”, she deplores that this trajectory “turned around in the month of October with results in a clear decline”.

She cites in particular the production of lines 3 and 7 and especially 6, 8 and 13, “which fell to less than 90%”, “well below IDFM’s expectations”, and which “generated the expression many dissatisfactions from users. “In September, there are nine lines that are doing much better than in 2022, but there are still five lines that are not there,” confirms Laurent Probst. For the president of IDFM, “the real causes” of this degradation of service lie mainly in “the absenteeism of drivers”, while “all jobs are filled”. He also mentions “some maintenance problems on the rolling stock” as well as “pure operating problems” with an “internal organizational subject”. “The causes are multiple, which is why we asked for an action plan on each of the five lines, the RATP is working on it,” launched Laurent Probst.