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SNCF bail-out approved in Brussels, Socialists cry 'foul'

SNCF bail-out approved in Brussels, Socialists cry 'foul'
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France’s national rail company SNCF appears to be back on the right track;

The European Commission has green-lighted its freight restructuring plan. State aid amounting to 800 million euros, spread over three years, is part of it. The whole package is for a billion and a half euros, with a return to profitability forecast for the end of 2006. In exchange for the approval, France accepts to open the sector up to foreign competition almost a year earlier than previously agreed. The new date is March 31 2006. SNCF will also reduce its traffic. The Socialists in the European Parliament have denounced the restructuring, calling it a triumph in the long run for road transport. In the past two decades, rail freight has lost half of its market share while truck traffic in the EU has doubled. One percent less carried by train means one million more trucks on the road.