This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

France’s state-owned rail agency is going gangbusters:

[T]he new SNCF chairman sees rail stations, mainly in the regions, becoming new transport (and commercial) hubs not just for trains but for buses and trams – “all those places where people don’t want to bring their cars.”

SNCF executives believe rail can take market leadership from air and road on journeys up to four hours long and point to the success of Eurostar (part owned by the group) in increasing traffic so far this year by around a fifth on the back of shorter journey times between London and Brussels/Paris. You can even get to Marseille from Paris in little more than three hours.

Pepy is, therefore, unfazed by the recent move by Air France-KLM to join forces with French freight operator Veolia and launch its own TGV services to, say, Charles de Gaulle airport. “SNCF is not going to be an airline-style operator as we need to operate regional and local services as well.”

This comes via Savage via AutoblogGreen, who both focus on SNCF’s $1.7B profit in 2007. While that’s certainly encouraging, I’d caution against focusing too much on those numbers. SNCF runs both freight and passenger service in France, as a government monopoly. I’m pretty sure that if the US congress decided to nationalize BNSF, Union Pacific and the rest and roll them up into a huge ball with Amtrak, the resulting agency would be profitable.

Still, it goes to show that if you invest consistently in rail infrastructure, you can expand it pretty rapidly when demand rises. On the other hand, if you let it decay for 40 years and then try to throw a hail mary at the last minute, it’s going to be pretty difficult to achieve anything significant.

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