In 2020, an SNCF report commissioned by Élisabeth Borne, the new Prime Minister then in charge of Transport, recommends promoting train travel within metropolitan areas and therefore creating SEM (Metropolitan Express Services). Since then, 22 communities have already launched studies. The most successful is that of the Eurometropolis of Strasbourg (Bas-Rhin), whose network is due to open by the end of 2022.
For its part, the Métropole Rouen Normandie (Seine-Maritime), which had 492,681 inhabitants in 2018, decided to finance a study designated to SNCF Réseau because it is faced with a densification of its traffic, but also with the effects of the fire. Lubrizol in September 2019 and the protest against the so-called “East Bypass”, this A133-A134 motorway project which must consume no less than 516 hectares of agricultural land and 146 hectares of wooded areas.
Only, in the meantime, three associations for the defense of users, infrastructures and railway agents (SOS Gares, SNCF Draw Defense Committee of Sotteville and the Normandy Railway Vigilance Committee) have submitted a file already nicknamed “The railway star”.
For the collective, the SEM “must allow you to move quickly, economically and ecologically”, explains Mathieu Vilela, representative of the Normandy Railway Vigilance Committee. Already, it will make it possible to reduce road traffic and therefore the share of CO2 by 60,000 tonnes per year. It will make it possible to reach 25% of trips by public transport by 2030, because it will be fully interconnected with soft mobility and will benefit from the tariff integration agreement”.
“As a reminder, completes Mathieu Vilela, at the moment, there are 1.4 passengers in a single car traveling in the Metropolis. The SEM will also reduce the number of deaths while pollution is the cause of 600 deaths per year in the agglomeration. Finally, and for us this is very important, it will make it possible to maintain a real public service to preserve the purchasing power of users”.
And to do this, activists have a sizeable argument in the fact of “using things in operation to develop others”. There are already rails, electricity almost everywhere. We are not going to destroy anything, nor expel anyone. On some lines, trains with passengers and freight are already running and everything will pass through the Gare de Rouen node. This makes the project economically viable,” emphasizes Jean-Louis Dalibert of SOS Gares.
SEM A, B and C by 2030
In their file, presented to Nicolas Mayer Rossignol, President of the Rouen Normandy Metropolis, the collective envisages a schedule between September 2022 and September 2030 with, initially, the opening of the SEM B line which, every 30 minutes in week, will restore Clères to Serqueux: “For this, it will be necessary to electrify between Malaunay and Clères over 10 km, reopen the Darnétal station and create a stopover in Isneauville”, indicates Mathieu Vilela.
Will follow, the SEM C to go from Rouen Saint-Sever to Elbeuf with the renovation and the commissioning of the Elbeuf city line and the creation of the Saint-Sever station, then the SEM B, from Yvetot to Elbeuf, the longer, but which already exists for SNCF suburban trains where it will be necessary to adjust the timing, open a multimodal hub at the Tourville-la-Rivière shopping center for its 500,000 customers a year, and build a station in Cléon for the 2,000 employees of the Feugrais hospital and the 3500 from the Renault factory.
A cost of 84.4 million euros
The reactions to these proposals were not long in coming: “It has a crazy effect even on social networks. It affects people in their daily lives. It’s very important,” says Jean-Louis Dalibert. Of course, all this cost the collective 84.4 million euros: “We are based on that of Mulhouse in the Haut-Rhin. It has a number of kilometers of similar lines. This project can be financed by the Normandy Region, the Department of Seine-Maritime, the SNCF, the State and recently Europe. We can also imagine that part of the money saved on the Bypass could go to the Metropolitan Express Service”, conclude Mathieu Vilela and Jean-Louis Dalibert.