Bus crisis, opening up to competition… Where is the RATP going?

It’s done, there is no longer a driver or rather a driver at the head of the RATP. Catherine Guillouard, the CEO of the transport operator in the Paris region, left her post on September 30 as she announced several weeks ago. A decided departure for ” personal reasons “according to several sources to be able to take care of his parents.

His functions have been taken over on a provisional basis by Pierre-Alain Roche, the representative of the State shareholder, on the board of directors and by Jean-Yves Leclercq, the current financial director, in terms of operational management. It is now up to the State to choose who will have the arduous task of leading the RATP through one of the most troubled periods in its long history.

The Autonomous Paris Transport Authority was created on 1er January 1949 in one of the great waves of post-war nationalizations and will in a few years know the end of all its historical monopolies. Buses in inner Paris and the inner suburbs from 1er January 2025, trams in 2030 and metros and RER between 2030 and 2040.

A “too monolithic mammoth”

This historic transition, Catherine Guillouard had to prepare it since her arrival at the RATP headquarters five years ago, taking over from Elisabeth Borne. This 54-year-old enarque, who worked for the Treasury Department and Air France, had to “moving at a forced march a mammoth that has remained too monolithic to face this opening up to competition”according to a good connoisseur of the sector who points to the few upheavals launched by the predecessors of the starter.

“Catherine Guillouard has greatly transformed the organization chart and structure of RATP, in particular by creating numerous specialized activity entitiesindependent companies for the management of their costs and resources, by accelerating diversification such as in real estate or in the organization of various services for local authorities”, reports for his part Arnaud Aymé, transport specialist at Sia Partners.

The now ex-boss of the Régie also oversaw the development of its subsidiary RATP Dev, dedicated to the operation of transport outside the historic monopoly zone. RATP Dev has thus won numerous contracts in France, particularly in the West, and abroad, leading Catherine Guillouard to say that RATP has become the third largest transport operator in the world.

A jostled social body

This transformation, which some observers considered essential for the RATP to be ready to face the competition, did not go smoothly. “We can say that it has shaken up the social body, including at the highest level of managers, whether by imposing higher productivity by increasing the number of working days of operational staff, or by pushing senior managers to delegate more responsibilities, says Arnaud Ayme.

For the successor of Catherine Guillouard, it will be necessary to manage both the competition from the eager challengers of the Parisian bus networks, but in the even shorter term, the crisis within its workforce. In a letter addressed to Valérie Pécresse, the president of the Île-de-France region and Île-de-France mobilities (the region’s transport organizing authority), Catherine Guillouard acknowledged that“in September, the situation reached a particularly critical level with 25% of the supply (of bus, Editor’s note) not done”.

500 fraudulent work stoppages

This situation could be explained, according to Catherine Guillouard, by “the very significant increase in the level of absenteeism due to illness”, the number of days off having doubled compared to before the Covid-19 crisis. She says she has tightened controls in recent months, which has uncovered “nearly 500 fraudulent work stoppages involving more than 130 employees, who are subject to dismissal procedures”.

Catherine Guillouard also dwells on the recruitment difficulties facing the RATP, like many transport operators, which were still looking for 800 bus drivers at the end of August.

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