Guillaume Bibi: 7 things to know about the former SNCF chief

If 64-year-old Guillaume Pepy did not have a passion for the train, this did not stop him from running one of France’s most beloved and criticized companies with a firm hand.

Entering the age of competition and digital, TGV deployment and low-cost proposition, freight boosting, not to mention storms like fixing the situation for railroad workers or the drama of the accident at Brétigny-sur- Barley, Guillaume Pepy fired all the timber during his tenure, coming close to landing on several occasions.

Recently appointed chairman of the board of Orpea, a private French group of nursing homes in turmoil, the manager has set himself a tough new challenge. In Seven Points, here we draw the highlights and…the least salient features of his career.

1. Childhood in a bourgeois family, well versed in psychoanalysis

Guillaume Pepe, father of a lawyer and mother of an executive secretary, grew up in the “70s” bourgeois intellectual environment, according to a book by “Le Monde” journalist Raphael Paquet. Psychoanalysis is one of the educational values ​​transmitted within the family circle.

This discipline also helped the future leader to cope with the shock: he discovered, at the age of 18, a brother with Down syndrome, who died a year before his birth.

2. Train in elite classes

Like many great French presidents, Guillaume Pepy was trained in elite institutions: the Ecole alsacienne in Paris for his primary and secondary courses, Sciences Po Paris, then ENA, from which he graduated in 1984 at the Council of State.

3. The beginnings in the State Council and in the ministerial ministries

Upon leaving ENA, he began his career as an auditor in the State Council. Between 1987 and 1993, he worked in several left-wing ministerial offices. In particular, he will be the Chief of Staff of Michel Derafor, Minister of Civil Service, and then Martin Aubry, Minister of Labour.

4. Several management positions within SNCF

His first contact with the French railway giant was in 1988 when he was chief of staff for Jacques Fournier, its boss at the time. Then between 1993 and 2008, he held various positions within SNCF: Director of Investments and Strategy, TGV Management, Managing Director of SNCF Clients, until SNCF General Management under Louis Gallois and then Anne-Marie Edraak.

5. The turning point in his career: his appointment as head of SNCF

On February 27, 2008, Nicolas Sarkozy appointed him head of the SNCF for a five-year term. In his message, he was set as a priority to develop and modernize the collection, by introducing it into the age of competition. He was also asked to initiate a “social modernization pact”, supposed to reduce conflict in the group.

6. His main successes within the railway giant

The first SNCF site

A few years before he took the helm of the company, he launched the website on April 18, 2000. Google arrived in France in the same year and considers this initiative to be disruptive, even risky, at a time when the majority of tickets are sold through 3000 counters French station.

Along the same lines, Guillaume Pepy is developing a flexible pricing policy, which makes it possible to increase train occupancy rates. For this procedure, he was inspired by the aviation sector.

I immediately said that the SNCF is responsible, morally and humanely, for the incident in Brétigny-sur-Orge

Guillaume Pepy, former president of SNCF

Grab the Geodes

Since the beginning of his tenure, Guillaume Pepy intends to strengthen the cargo branch of the company so that it will be his “second stop” along with the passenger transport sector. In 2008, an offer to acquire French logistics company Geodis was launched, followed, a few months later, by the acquisition of IBM Global Logisticien, a global platform for managing logistics activities.

Ouigo created in 2013

On April 2, 2013, a low-cost SNCF offering was launched. According to the director, the idea is to find the “social role of the train”. The goal above all is to counter the competition from car use in France, which was reinforced by the arrival of BlaBlaCar, and to respond to critics who consider train tickets to be expensive. In “Echos”, the former head of SNCF will confide in this topic: “In the long run, low cost undoubtedly saved TGV growth.”

SNCF Publishing International

International is the other location where the former Tricolor Railroad Chief is active. A stark example of his career: In December 2017, French-Quebec transport company Keolis (70% a subsidiary of SNCF) and RATP won a major contract against Germany’s Deutsche Bahn, to build the automated Doha Metro in Qatar. An opportunity to showcase the expertise of French railways internationally.

7. turmoil and criticism

The trauma of the Bretagne sur Orge accident…

At 5:13 p.m. on July 12, 2013, Intercités train number 3657, departing from Paris Austerlitz for Limoges, derailed at Brétigny-sur-Orge, in the southern suburbs of Paris. The outcome is seven dead and 61 wounded. A human tragedy and earthquake for the former railway chief, summoned to explain himself. In “Echos”, he will share: “It is as if the world is collapsing around you, it is the unspeakable, the unimaginable. Thinking about families (…) I immediately said that the SNCF is responsible, morally and humanely. »

An investigation by the investigative judges will conclude that it was the breakage of the fish plate between the bars that caused the accident. The final verdict will be delivered at trial on October 26.

Shortly after the accident, Guillaume Pepy launched a “Vigirail” program aimed at doubling up on key replacement. Another metric: trains that scan tracks are now running day and night to spot anomalies.

Night trains disappear

On February 19, 2016, the French executive ratified the actual disappearance of night trains, which according to his analysis are financial obstacles. Only two lines, out of the current eight, will remain operated by SNCF. A decision that rail unions and user associations also blamed on Guillaume Pepy.

This criticism fuels the resentment of its critics: they accuse it of favoring the marketing and infrastructure of TGV trains, to the detriment of regional and suburban trains. A few years later, the government of Jean Castix will finally relaunch the night railways under the new CEO, Jean-Pierre Varandou.

The end of the state of the railway worker that does not pass …

On February 26, 2018, the government announced the main lines of the new “Charter Rail”. The scheduled end of SNCF’s new hires with railroad worker status is the most deplorable point of the reform. Despite a historically long strike (36 days total), the text was adopted by Parliament.

He often criticizes his fondness for flying

That’s a shame that has stuck with him throughout his tenure: the fact that he’s not passionate about trains but rather well versed in aviation. On the subject, he answered to Echos: “Indeed, I was accused of not playing with the monorail when I was young, which is an offense of insult to the royal ego in SNCF. I often say that I am a second language railroad worker. With regard to aircraft, Louis Galois was , my boss for ten years, who went to EADS, is a huge fan of aviation (…). Suppose he transmitted the virus to me. »

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