Tuesday, October 4, 2016

For Alstom, a rescue, and questions – and Release

This is the end supposed to be a psychodrama, social and political, which threatened to rot the last few months of François Hollande at the Elysée. In a hurry to avoid a new Florange, this time with 400 jobs threatened, the State fireman has drawn on Tuesday a rescue plan high-speed to get back on track the historical factory of Alstom in Belfort. The site, which has seen the birth of the TGV and could close as early as 2018, after the group’s decision to transfer the production to Reichshoffen (Alsace). The secretary of State for Industry, Christophe Sirugue, came to announce Tuesday the Belfortains “an alternative plan” in three axes : a flurry of orders from the public sector to give work to Belfort, a local investment programme signed by Alstom and projects for the site. The Prime minister, Manuel Valls, immediately shouted victory on Twitter : “Thanks to the mobilization of the State and the commitment of all, Alstom’s site in Belfort is saved.” Yes, but how, and for how long ?

What gives the government to Alstom ?

To repackage his project of quasi-closure of the site of Belfort, the boss of Alstom, Henri Poupart-Lafarge, has got what he wanted : a public commission to give the work load to his factory in trouble after 2018 and through at least 2020. On behalf of the government, Christophe Sirugue announced or confirmed three contracts : a direct control of the State on fifteen trains TGV the euroduplex (floors) for lines Bordeaux-Marseille and Montpellier-Perpignan for a total of 450 million euros ; the purchase of six trains TGV the SNCF, with 200 million euros, for the connection Paris-Turin-Milan ; and twenty diesel locomotives troubleshooting for 80 million better, always by the SNCF. A manna total of 21 high-speed train, which will “keep on the site of Belfort, a rail business and industrial” while “enforcing” the other factories of Alstom. In fact, at the rate of two motor – specialty of Belfort – by train TGV, “Traction”, as the locals call the inhabitants of the city to the Lion, gets 42 units to build. These new TGV will also provide work to other sites such as La Rochelle (cars), Tarbes and Ornans (traction) or Le Creusot (bogies).

promised by the French manufacturer in exchange ?

Already, the site of Belfort will not be closed, even if nothing is written black on white. There is no longer a question of “redeploy” the activity in Reichshoffen. But as the TGV is not enough to sustain the site, Alstom has promised to invest 30 million euros by 2018, to Belfort, to develop and produce “a platform for shunting locomotive” hybrid electric-diesel “well-suited to the market” : this future Prima H4 would allow Alstom to become competitive in this niche market after the tender of Akiem (a subsidiary of leasing of the SNCF) on 44 locomotives, lost by the French for the benefit of its German competitor Vossloh. Other commitment of Alstom : to make Belfort its european centre of maintenance of locomotives with a 5 million euros investment to the key by 2019 and the target to employ 150 people on this activity. Finally, the group will spend $ 5 million more for “diversify” its factory in the buses electric by 2020. 40 million in total for Belfort in exchange for approximately $ 700 million of orders from the public sector ? Good deal for Alstom, which has tremendously handled in this case. Interviewed by deputies, Henri Poupart-Lafarge has denied vehemently any “blackmail at the close”, but there are questions.

is it a “diy” or a true industrial plan ?

“Diy”, “patchwork”, “band-aid”… the right has used all the adjectives to denounce a rescue operation in the pre-election. In question, the choice is quite baroque of order 15 TGV lines-City : these trains are capable of rolling at speeds of 320 km/h will operate on the regular lanes at a maximum speed of 200 km/h as well as good old Corail trains… But then why buy the TGV ? the “in anticipation of the arrival of high-speed lines” on Bordeaux-Marseille and Montpellier-Perpignan, meets Christophe Sirugue. But given the state of public finances, these HSL to 18 million euros per kilometer are not for tomorrow. In fact, it was necessary to order the TGV to make it work for Belfort. As well as, in contrast to Siemens and Bombardier, Alstom has neither in stock nor in production of train-City able to ride at 200 km/h. Stroke of luck for the French, the direct control of TGV, without opening a new tender, is made possible by the fact that the State is the organising authority for lines-City and the extension of a contract, the euroduplex existing.

At the end of the account, the device will give two to three years of work in Belfort. What to hold out until the arrival of the “TGV of the future”. The State strategist became a firefighter has played its role in helping Belfort to pass the hollow load. But this plan does not solve the basic problem : in order to export its high-speed train, industrial must “relocate” their production, as shown by the recent contract Amtrak won in the United States. However, in order to maintain employment in France, Alstom is “will not be able to live indefinitely in the square brackets of the State,” as the stresses Andre Fages, a trade union delegate CFE-CGC.

Jean-Christophe Féraud


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