What if the Paris metro started operating normally again? What if he was no longer a subject of complaints and recriminations, as he has been for a year and a half? This is Laurent Probst’s bet: “In the spring, we are confident that the Paris metro will return to the situation of 2019”, affirms the general director of IDFM (Ile-de-France Mobilités), the organization which finances public transport in Ile-de-France. This commitment can be seen as a provocation for many users frustrated by the deterioration of service on their line. “8 minutes of waiting for metro line 8 at 6 p.m. A crowded subway. Can we still consider that the RATP is providing a service? a user on X (ex-twitter) recently expressed annoyance.

But if the RATP and IDFM are making such promises, it is because the trend is starting to reverse in the metro. Certainly, in January, several lines remained damaged (3,6, 8, 12 and 13). But punctuality during peak hours increased overall on the network to 92.5% compared to 88.5% in December. Is this rebound not likely to be slowed down, when the group announced on Friday a loss of 109 million euros for a turnover of 6.5 billion? No, replies RATP, whose financial director, Jean-Yves Leclercq, specifies: “Our objective in 2024 is to succeed in the Olympic Games and to return to normal regarding our production in the metro for everyday travelers. »

In reality, if the Authority found itself in the red for the second year in a row, it is because of its management of some of London’s famous red buses, which turned out to be a very bad deal. In its historical scope, Ile-de-France, despite inflation in electricity costs, RATP generated a slight profit of 18 million euros. Because traffic has resumed even if it remains 14% lower than in 2019. But above all because all stakeholders have given a boost to the operator of the Paris metro, buses and trams.

Very opportunely, the State compensated him to the tune of fifty million euros to compensate for the first confinement. And Ile-de-France Mobilités has decided to take responsibility for a slightly larger part of the salary increases at RATP than expected. She therefore allocated 125 million to the Régie last year. And will pay another 160 this year. For its part, the public transport operator did not sit idly by: in the second half of the year, it implemented a savings plan of several tens of millions of euros, notably concerning structural costs. It was not out of the goodness of their hearts that the RATP partners rushed to its aid. This is to allow the boss of the public company, Jean Castex, to deploy his plan to restart the metro, a plan which is starting to bear fruit. It is almost a national cause in the run-up to the Olympic Games. But this program requires a lot of resources.

“Jean Castex’s first project was to mass recruit metro drivers. The company lacked it following the Covid pandemic during which hiring was slowed down,” says Marc Pélissier, president of Fnaut (National Federation of Transport User Associations) Ile-de-France. But, since the end of the health crisis, candidates operating in a favorable job market have become demanding. There is no question of working odd hours, weekends or public holidays for a pay that does not follow. To deal with this, Jean Castex has untied his purse strings: 105 euros net monthly general increase in 2023, 100 euros gross this year.

Between 2022 and 2024, revaluations reached 15.1%. Of course, inflation absorbed most of it. But few companies have done better. The icing on the cake, the 120 million paid by IDFM to turn RATP’s accounts on its activities in Ile-de-France into the green should allow agents to receive “a profit-sharing which should be as usual around 1 000 euros,” estimates Jean-Yves Leclercq, the financial director. With these financial gestures and all-out recruitment campaigns, the public transport company has achieved its objective: to hire 6,600 people in 2023, including 300 metro drivers and 650 station and station agents. This year, 250 additional drivers are expected to join the RATP. “In April there will be more than 3,000 drivers. This is enough to meet demand,” said Laurent Djebali, general secretary of FO at RATP.

This does not, however, prevent certain metros from running due to the absence of drivers. The fault lies in increasing absenteeism at RATP as elsewhere. To reduce it, RATP uses carrots and sticks. It is hunting down false work stoppages, with around a hundred dismissals for acts of this kind since 2022. At the same time, it seeks to improve the quality of life at work. A recently signed agreement plans to test the four-day week for 170 station agents or controllers on lines 5, 7, 9 and on the RER B. Also on the program, easier access to 1,100 social housing units this year, the implementation installation of exoskeletons to make certain tasks in maintenance workshops less difficult… Result: “Last year, the days of work stoppage fell by 7%”, we underline at the RATP.

But, on certain lines such as the 8, 12 or 13, the greater availability of staff is not enough to significantly improve the service. What do they have in common? They have outdated rolling stock and infrastructure. Thus, on lines 8 and 13, the trains which are more than thirty years old are running out of steam. They therefore break down more often. And replacement parts aren’t always easy to find. Orders for rolling stock have been successfully placed. But they will not arrive for several years: in 2027 on line 7, in 2029 on line 8. In the meantime, RATP and IDFM are deploying emergency plans on these sick lines. On the 8, for example, 30 additional drivers were recruited. And a team of sniffer dogs has been introduced to intervene more quickly in cases of abandoned luggage. Furthermore, on all lines, the train will no longer be immobilized in the event of passenger discomfort. We understand that with these operational problems, the group is not setting financial objectives for the moment. It is always difficult to chase two hares at once.