Far-right slams SNCF for ‘unpatriotic’ US contract

France’s far-right National Front party has blasted the country’s state-owned railway company SNCF for a “lack of patriotism” after it struck a deal with the American firm VeriFone for the supply of a portable ticketing system.

Far-right slams SNCF for 'unpatriotic' US contract
An SNCF inspector serves a train customer. A row has erupted over a contract for credit card payment machines going to a US-based company. File photo: m-louis/Flickr

France’s state-owned rail provider SNCF has denied claims that it is “unpatriotic,” following the company’s decision to outsource the supply of ticketing equipment to an American-owned company, despite a bid from a French firm.

The criticisms were made by Florian Philippot, vice president of the country’s far-right National Front party after the SNCF appealed to the California-based company VeriFone Systems for the supply of 12,000 ticket machines to be used by ticket inspectors on the rail network.

Speaking on Europe 1 radio, Philippot denounced the outsourcing as “seriously scandalous,” adding “as a major national company, [SNCF] should equip itself with French products…especially when there are French companies in the running.”

Ingenico, a French firm which provides similar services and products  to banks such as Crédit Mutuel, was overlooked.

In a statement, SNCF denied the claims, saying that the French company Nomadvance, a subsidiary of Aéroports de Paris (ADP), had appealed for offers for a subcontractor to supply its payment software, which brings in €500,000 a year.   

Although VeriFone is an international company, the statement stressed that “All the machine-operators at VeriFone are located in Aubervilliers in Seine Saint-Denis, and all the VeriFone engineers are in Montpellier, adding that all of the company’s employees “are based in France”.

Representatives from neither SNCF nor Nomadvance were available for comment.

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French trains ditch plastic water bottles

French national train operator SNCF has announced it will no longer sell water in plastic bottles on its services, saying the move would reduce the waste from roughly two million drinks.

French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water.
French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water. Photo: BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP.

The plastic packaging will be replaced with recyclable cardboard for still water and aluminium for sparkling.

“Plastic is no longer fantastic,” head of consumer travel operations at the SNCF, Alain Krakovitch, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

France has gradually increased restrictions on single-use packaging to help reduce waste amid growing evidence about the impact of plastic on sea life in particular.

The government announced on Monday that plastic packaging will be banned for nearly all fruit and vegetables from January next year.

The environment ministry said that 37 percent of fruit and vegetables were sold with plastic packaging, and only the most fragile produce such as strawberries will be given an exemption on the ban until 2026.

“We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it was working to cut back “the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging.”

Last year, France passed a wide-ranging “circular economy” law to combat waste that forbids retailers from destroying unsold clothes and will ban all single-use plastic containers by 2040.

Paris city authorities announced this week that they were aiming to eliminate all plastic from state day-care centres, canteens and retirement homes by 2026.