Thalys: ‘from 20 000 to 200 passengers a day’
Although the trains were only occupied for one quarter, the French-Belgian high-speed train exploiter, Thalys, increased its offer end of August. Thalys has suffered severely from the corona crisis. Since the lockdown, the company almost came to a standstill.
“Turnover was almost nil,” the French Thalys CEO, Bertrand Gosselin, told newspaper De Tijd. “One connection between Brussels, Amsterdam, and Paris remained operational, but it didn’t attract many travelers. The number of passengers went down from 20 000 to 200 a day.”
During the summer, half of the trains were available again, but they only had a seat occupancy of 65%, compared to an average 85% before the corona pandemic. A relatively good result, but since the end of August, the strict color codes for Brussels and Paris, among others, were putting a spoke again in Thalys’ wheels. “The last two weeks, our trains are only occupied for one quarter,” acknowledges Gosselin.
“Today, we transport 3 000 to 4 000 passengers a day, compared to 8 000 in July and August, and 20 000 before the Covid-19 outbreak. Reservations for the coming months are at its lowest,” the CEO adds.
Still, the company decided to increase its offer to 60% of its normal capacity. “We wanted to give a positive signal,” the CEO explains. “We’re still hoping for a recovery, and we’re mainly aiming at our business travelers. For them, the more trains, the more interesting the offer.”
The loss of revenue for Thalys this year is inevitable; the company calculated an expected loss of 300 million euros. Thalys hopes to survive the crisis by saving on operational costs, reducing investments, and a ban on recruitment. Also, the summer routes to Bordeaux and Marseille will be canceled, and the two shareholders – the French rail (60%), and the Belgian NMBS/SNCB (40%) – will not receive any dividend this year.
Fusion with Eurostar
The earlier announced plans for fusion with Eurostar have been postponed, but, in the meantime, the project is confirmed. The fusion should be effective in 2021.”The main goal is to become one complete entity,” Gosselin says. “The crisis has shown that we’re vulnerable but we’ll be stronger when we scale up.” The CEO expects Thalys to meet the level from before the corona crisis by 2022.
“We want to create a European company that is ready to compete with car traffic and aviation,” said SNCF CEO, Guillaume Pep, said, during a press conference in September.
The high-speed Thalys trains are operational in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. Last year, the company had 600 people on the payroll and transported 7,8 million passengers. Turnover in 2019 was 522 million euros; net profit: 36 million euros.