July 2017 News

    Heading for Montlucon. 140 C 38 crosses the Creuse Valley at Busseau sur Creuse on its way to Festirail 2017.
 Photo  Alan Allbuary

A GIANT STEP FORWARD FOR RAIL SERVICES IN WESTERN FRANCE

On July 2nd, all TGV services on the routes from Paris-Montparnasse to Bordeaux and to Rennes will be accelerated by 1 hour 8 minutes and 35 minutes respectively. This is due to the simultaneous opening of two extensions to the LGV Atlantique network(*). A total of 484 km of new high speed lines, plus 70 km of links to the standard rail network will be opened, a unique moment that will probably not be repeated in the foreseeable future.

55 Alstom new generation, double deck, TGV 2N2 Euroduplex trains have been ordered. 15 will be in service from July 2nd on the Bordeaux route. 25 more units will be delivered by 2019. The last 15 units (recently ordered) will be delivered in 2019 and 2020. The new TGV's will be numbered 851 - 865, 867 - 891 and the last batch 892 - 906. A group of older TGV duplex units will receive interiors renovated to the same standards as the new generation. 



Opposite. TGV 860 One of the new 2N2 Euroduplex sets arrives at Bordeaux following a non-stop test run from Paris Montparnasse in June 2017. Photo Courtesy Fabien Cottereau

The new infrastructure has cost 11.4 billion euros. The reduction in journey times has required the re-timing of the majority of all trains in the west and south-west of France as far as Toulouse and Hendaye on the Spanish border. For non stop TGV's between Paris-Montparnasse and Bordeaux, the best current journey time will be improved to 2 hours 04 minutes for a distance of 528 km, an average of 260 kph and a saving of 68 minutes. For non stop TGV's to Rennes, the journey time from Paris-Montparnasse will be improved to a best time of 1 hour 25 minutes, a saving of 35 minutes.

The new high speed line from Tours to Bordeaux was designated "L'Océane" by SNCF in April 2016. Later in 2016, the new Euroduplex double-deck units were referred to as "TGV L'Océane", but this trade mark was not materialised. At the end of May 2017, SNCF made a surprise announcement of a new trade mark, "!nOui", for the new premium service to be rolled out, first, on the new Alstom TGV's to be operated on L'Océane route. The presentation "!nOui" (**) caused some negative reactions on social media to the apparent scrapping of a strong trade mark, "TGV", which is familiar around the world. Possibly as a response, the first non-stop test run from Paris-Montparnasse to Bordeaux St Jean arrived with unit 860 bearing the new trade mark "!nOui" on the nose, but also a small "TGV" above it. (see photo above)

For several years, now, SNCF has stopped printing timetables. It is thus difficult to obtain an overview of TGV train services. The SNCF travel site (www.voyages-sncf.com) does not provide timetables. However, we recommend the Swiss SBB travel site (http://fahrplan.sbb.ch/bin/stboard.exe/en ) where, by using the Departure / Arrivals section, it is possible to display all trains on any route with their stops, times, origins and destinations. For those who may be interested, we have analysed the new TGV services to be provided on Monday July 3rd (using the information from the SBB site). This overview can be found at the end of this News page.  
Notes: * The TGV Atlantique opened in 1989-1990 from Paris-Montparnasse to Courtalain (near Chartres), a distance of 124 km. A branch for Britanny was constructed from Courtalain to Conneré (east of Le Mans) a distance of 53 km. Another branch was constructed from Courtalain to Saint Pierre-des-Corps (Tours) a distance of 103 km. The extensions to be opened July 2nd 2017 comprise Conneré to the eastern edge of Rennes (a distance of 182 km) and Saint Pierre-des-Corps to Bordeaux (northern bank of the Gironde) (302 km). On the Brittany extension there are links to serve Lavel and a triangle(Sablé) that will allow trains to bypass Le Mans and also provide services from Nantes/Angers to Rennes. On the Océane route there are links to provide access between the high speed line and the towns of Poitiers, Angoulême and Libourne 

 ** SNCF intends to brand its services using "Oui" as a common element. (Ouigo, !nOui, Oui-Bus, Oui-sncf).

Paris - Cerbère sleeper returns from July 6th

SNCF and OCCITANIE Region have agreed to subsidise the Cerbère intercité de nuit for a trial period of two years. The previous administration had withdrawn most overnight trains in France by the end of 2016 including the Paris - Toulouse - Cerbère. 

 From July 6th 2017, a segment of couchette and reclining seat carriages for Toulouse - Cerbère will be included in the 22:12 departure from Paris-Austerlitz. The 22:12 will be the only surviving overnight train to the south-west of France, after the withdrawal of the Palombe (Irun) train at the end of June. From July 6th, the 22:12 will have three segments; 3755 to Rodez (detached at Brive), 3981 to Latour-de-Carol (detached at Toulouse), and 3731 to Port Bou (Espagne) (detached at Toulouse). 

 Reservations were only opened around June 15th for the 3731 Toulouse - Cerbère - Port Bou segment. It will depart from Toulouse at 07:26 and will stop at Castelnaudary, Carcassonne, and all stations along the Mediterranean coast to Port Bou (Espagne) reached at 10:50. 

 The return service will depart from Cerbère at 19:16 as IC 3732. After stops to pick up along the coast, the overnight train will arrive at Toulouse at 22:19 and will depart at 22:50. Arrival at Paris-Austerlitz will be at 06:52. 
This multi-segment sleeper train is scheduled every night. The Cerbère segment (3731/3732) will only run at week-ends after the end of this summer. It may be observed that SNCF has not communicated on the re-introduction of the Cerbère sleeper and so the exact date when it will stop operating every night is unknown. It can be ascertained by consulting the SNCF travel site day by day until the train no longer appears. We resolved not to indulge in that exercise. The original news that the Cerbère sleeper was to return was given in a local newspaper in the South-West spotted by the robot of www.espacetrain.com , an indispensable tool without which we could not report much of the news on these pages. Merci "espacetrain"! 

 Some time in September, the 22:12 from Austerlitz will be diverted via Bordeaux-St-Jean due to the closure of POLT (*) overnight for engineering work for at least three years. The Rodez segment will then be operated from Bordeaux to Brive via Périgueux and onwards. The Latour-de-Carol segment will travel directly from Bordeaux to Toulouse and onwards. 

Photo. The through overnight service from Paris arrives at Cerbere before withdrawal last year.

* POLT = Paris - Orléans - Limoges - Toulouse

Mid-life overhauls for Class 36000

SNCF leasing subsidiary Akiem have awarde Alstom a 
€20 million contract to provide mid-life overhauls to 23 Class 36000 locomotives. Earlier this year three of the seven members of the class (36004-6) on lease in Morocco returned to Belfort for overhaul.

Introduced in 1996 the triple -voltage Class 36000 are a development of the Class 26000 'sybics' that are now starting to be withdrawn. Earlier this year the future of the Class 36000s looked uncertain when Akiem acquired more Bombardier TRAXX Class 186s for cross border freights into Belgium from Somain and the south. 

Akiem expect the overhauls to extend their lives by another 15 years. They will be deployed on cross border traffic to Italy and in Central Europe
Above 36027 passes Chalindrey. Photo Malcolm Braim

Special Offers - Summer 2017


Following discussion on the ERG (European Rail Group) Forum, below are details of some of the special offers available this summer on TERs across France.

Alsace
The Alsa+ plus pass is available for the individual Haut Rhin or Bas Rhin departments, or a combined ticket covering the area from Belfort and Bale up to Sarrebourg. Individual tickets on weekdays, up to five people at weekends. Details

Franche Comte
A one of two day pass available for saturdays, zone A school holidays or weekends covering the Franche Comte TER network. Details

Hauts de France
Le'TER  Tickets to coastal destinations from Dunkirk to Noyelles on selected dates for €2 return. Tickets available 10 working days in advance. Additional trains not expected to be BB 22200 this year. Details

Normandie
Weekend pass for two people (and up to 3 children) across the combined Normandie Region. Details

Langedoc-Roussillon 
TER€ - Limited number (to avoid overcrowding) of €1 tickets on-line or TER ticket machine . Details 

Occitanie Pyrénées-Méditerranée 
Tiki Mouv - Cheap tickets (€2.50 per 40km) on indicated trains in horaires. tickets from TER machines. Details

Pays de la Loire
Forfait Tribu. One day pass Pays de la Loire TER and some adjoining stations (eg La Rochelle) up to five people. Details

PACA
Zou - A one day pass for one or two adjoining departments in the PACA Region. Details

Beauvais - Abancourt - Le Treport -  Funding approved for track renewal

The Regions Hauts-de France and Normandie have agreed to jointly finance urgently required repairs to the (mostly) single track line from Beauvais to Le Tréport. The line is 103 km long. 46 km are situated in Normandie from Aumale to Le Tréport. There are currently speed restrictions at 60 kph between Beauvais and Grandvillers (33 km). The track will be replaced, level crossings will be modernised. The budget approved is 73 million euros. 

 The line from Beauvais to Abancourt will be closed from May 2018 and from Abancourt to Le Tréport in September 2018. A re-opening is expected in 2019. 

 At present, there are 3 trains a day each way between Abancourt and Le Tréport and 4 or 5 trains, daily, each way between Abancourt and Beauvais. Traffic is reported to be 600 passengers a day, mostly school children. The line is operated by TER Hauts-de-France. During July/August, the Sunday mornings arrival at Le Tréport (11:09) originates from Paris-Nord. On Sunday evenings, there are two departures from Le Touquet to Paris-Nord via Beauvais. 
The line runs through the picturesque valley of the Bresle. Mechanical semaphore signals and telegraph poles and wires are still present, particularly between Blangy and Eu. 

 Above a single Picardie TER X 73500 departs fromMilly-sur-Thérain towards Abancourt and Le Treport

Carhaix (29-Finistère) - Return of Mallet E 415

After a year or so of absence, ex Réseau Breton Mallet E 415 has been returned for display in the garden next to Carhaix station. 
1,000 hours of work have been performed to replace rusty panels and repaint the historic locomotive built in 1913. The town of Carhaix paid for the job. On June 15th, two cranes lowered the engine on to a short section of track in the garden. Soon, a special canopy will be installed over E 415 to protect it from the elements. 
 Photo copyright "Ouest France".

Mohon Depot (Charleville-Mézières) to close


In May 2017, La Vie du Rail reported that Mohon depot was to be closed and converted for commercial use. There has been no official announcement concerning the fate of many historical locomotives that have been stored for many years in the "rotonde" which is, in fact, a listed building. 

 The Mohon depot has been used as a "reserve" site for the French National Railway Museum at Mulhouse. It is believed that there is no space available at Mulhouse. On can speculate that the depot at Villeneuve-St-Georges is a possibility. At present all the collection of preserved rolling stock of RATP is kept in a large hanger on this site. There may still be space there.

Rescued after all -  Repairs planned for Montbrison - Boën (Loire)


In July 2016, SNCF suspended traffic between Montbrison and Boën on an 18 km section of the Clermont-Ferrand - St-Etienne route via Thiers. They cited urgent repairs needed on the line, but no finance was available. A familiar scenario on secondary routes with less than ten trains a day. However, once again, locals rallied around and it is now reported ("Le Progrès" Loire edition, 27/05/17) that agreement has been reached to spend 8 million euros to replace rails, sleepers, ballast and repair the level crossing at Boën. SNCF will contribute 10% (!), Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region 50%, département Loire 24% and the agglomération Loire-Forez 16%.

 It is hoped that the line can be re-opened in 2018. This will allow trains to operate again between two large metropoles, and will restore rail services to the small villages of Noirétable (pop: 1,700) and Boën-sur-Lignon (pop: 3,100) in the rural département of the Loire, 50 km north of St-Etienne.

Belfort - Delle update

Here is a further report on the work to re-open this line (see APRIL News). 

"Est Republican" newspaper reported, on June 18th, the following information: 

Opening date: The title of the "Est Republican" article refers to completion in the second half of 2018. In the first paragraph, the journalist reports that work should be completed in the second quarter of 2018. The SNCF Réseau director states that the project is on time and on budget. On time ? Not really, the current project was scheduled for completion in December 2017. But the original project was planned in 2008/2009 with work to be completed in 2011 (year when the LGV Rhin-Rhône was opened).  
Rolling stock: We know that Swiss "Flirt France" emu's will cross the border and terminate at Belfort TGV (a strange decision. Obviously a terminus at Belfort Ville with connections to Chaumont, Troyes would be more logical.). Two other services have to be organised; a shuttle between Belfort TGV and Belfort Ville and some additional trains between Delle and Belfort Ville. The proposed timetables are still unknown. It is reported that SNCF wants to operate the shuttle services with diesel railcars along the electrified line. (That is the way they operate between Besançon TGV station and Besançon Viotte) A vice-president (VP) of the Territoire de Belfort region objects and insists that electric trains were planned and must be used. No new trains have yet been ordered. The VP is reported to want them to be built at Alstom Belfort. It is surprising that this situation has not yet been resolved, at such a late stage. 

Infrastructure: Track laying is in progress, concrete sleepers are being laid out, rails are being welded into 600 metre lengths, catenary poles have been positioned. New platforms are nearing completion. At Grandvillars (a village of 2,900 inhabitants) two high footbridges (40 steps) over the future overhead electric wires have been constructed next to a pair of new lifts ( the same arrangement can be found at Delle).

 
 More news in the autumn. 

Tram ride across the Rhine

As promised last month, here is our report on travelling to Kehl, Germany on board an Alstom Citadis tram. 

 We travelled on tram route D from Strasbourg-Ville SNCF station to Kehl, across the Rhine. Trams A and D pass through a deep tunnel under the station. We descend three escalators to reach the simple, low level platform. A brisk struggle with an automat finally produces a 24 hour pass for 4,20 euros, which we hurry to validate in the adjacent "composteur". Trams pass every 3-4 minutes. Line D has a frequency of 7 minutes this Friday morning. One tram D in two will cross the Rhine to the German commune of Kehl (since April 29th 2017). We are ready to test the ride.

 The tram operator provides a wealth of details on its web site so we know that the ride to Kehl should take 23 minutes with 10 stops. The trams rumbling through the tram station are all full, most passengers are standing. We will see during our visit that the Strasbourg tramway is busy, busy busy all day. Any incident speedily saturates the system. 

 We choose a tram for Kehl and hop on board. A quick and steep climb out of the tunnel is followed by a sharp curve across a canal and then a ride through the city centre. We stand all the way and the first surprise is that the tram does not empty as the end of the line approaches. In fact, when we arrive at Kehl our tram is still 70% full. 

 The last stop before the new extension is "Aristide Briand". Then we pass along a new twin arch bridge over part of the river port, an area planned for redevelopment. There are two new tram stops which are not used since construction of the future buildings has not begun yet. The last stop in France is at Port du Rhin, a tree lined street where one tram D in two terminates and shuttles into a siding from where it will later return to the city centre.
 We climb a steep gradient onto the Rhine bridge constructed for the tram with a pedestrian/cycle track next to the tracks. This is the third bridge over the river, inserted between the road bridge up stream and the railway bridge (also recent) down stream.  

The current terminus of the French tram is at Kehl Bahnhof, a couple of low platforms inserted in the centre of a noisy dual carriageway. It is only about 300 metres from the Rhine bridge. Passengers from Strasbourg wander away apparently for shopping and cheap cigarettes. In a year or so the tramway will be extended to a permanent terminus at Kehl town hall (Rathaus). Dozens of passengers are waiting to board the return service to Strasbourg. Initially, a tram arrived every 15 minutes, but then there was a gap of 30 minutes. The environment is modern but hardly appealing. It is a place of transit. And this is the Schengen area, so no passport control, no customs officials visible, no police officers either during our visit this Friday morning. 

 This was our tram ride in June 2017, across the Rhine, once a border, but now an example of a certain vision of Europe. 

TIMETABLE OVERVIEW (TGV Atlantique and L'Océane) Monday July 3rd 2017

This overview will present the new services of TGV Atlantique trains to Brittany, Pays de la Loire, and TGV Océane trains to Bordeaux, Toulouse and Hendaye. 

For simplicity, we will examine, as an example, the TGV's departing from Paris-Montparnasse on the first Monday of the new services, July 3rd 2017, the second day of the new services. Obviously, in-bound TGV's to the capital will balance those leaving Paris in the same frequencies and journey times.

Non-stops from Paris-Montparnasse to Bordeaux-St-Jean (L'Océane) and beyond.

  There will be 13 non-stop TGV's, Paris - Bordeaux, in 2 hours 4 minutes. They will depart at +52 or +50 between 06:52 and 18:52 inclusive (except 12:52), and 20:50 (the last one). 

 The 06:52, 09:52, 15:50 and 17:50 will continue south of Bordeaux to Dax, Pau, Lourdes and Tarbes. 
The 07:52, 15:50 and 17:50 will continue south of Bordeaux to Dax, Bayonne, Biarritz, St-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye (the 15:50 will terminate at Irun). The 10:50 will terminate at Archachon. 
The 11:52, 16:52 and 18:52 will continue south of Bordeaux to Toulouse (stops at Agen and at Montauban(the last 2 trains) Four non-stops to Bordeaux will terminate there (08:52, 13:52, 14:50, 20:50) 
Journey times from Paris: Bordeaux (2h04m), Pau (4h09m / 4h24m), Tarbes (5h02m / 5h15m), Toulouse (4h17m), Hendaye (4h43m)

TGV's from Paris to Bordeaux with multiple stops 

 Seven TGV's to Bordeaux will each stop 3 times among St-Pierre-des-Corps, Poitiers, Angoulême, Libourne (06:10 (all 4 stations), 08:27, 10:24, 12:27, 14:01, 16:01, 20;54). 
 The journey time to Bordeaux with 3 stops will be 2h51m 
 One TGV at 18:19 will stop only at Angoulême.
Other TGV's using L'Océane 

 There will be seven TGV's from Paris-Montparnasse to La Rochelle. They will depart at 07:27, 08:27, 09:12, 12:27, 15:27, 18:27, 19:27. All but the 09:12 will be non stop to Poitiers. Then, they will stop at Niort and several other stations. The journey time to La Rochelle: 2h43m / 2h49m. 

 Four cross country TGV's connect Lille with Bordeaux-St-Jean and three from Strasbourg. They use the interconnexion line around Ile-de-France (CDG airport, Marne-la-Vallée TGV, Massy TGV) These trains have been accelerated approximately 40 minutes. 

 The 06:05 from Lille-Europe leaves Massy TGV at 08:08 and reaches Bordeaux at 10:52. 
The 10:58 from Lille Flandres and the 10:06 from Strasbourg Ville join at Massy TGV, departing at 13:04 and reaching Bordeaux at 15:52 
The 14:49 from Lille Flandres and the 14:31 from Strasbourg join at Massy TGV and depart at 17:04 reaching Bordeaux at 19:52. 
 The 16:59 from Lille Flandres and the 16:31 from Strasbourg join at Massy TGV and depart at 19:04. They arrive at Bordeaux at 21:52. 

 These cross country TGV's are little known because not well advertised and some observers believe that SNCF would like to withdraw them. They stop at the majority of TGV stations along their routes ( 7 or 8 stops). 

 Ouigo low cost TGV services will start to operate between CDG airport, Massy TGV and Bordeaux. A Ouigo departing 07:38 from Massy TGV will stop at Angoulême and reach Bordeaux at 09:52. A Ouigo will depart CDG airport TGV at 15:16, Massy TGV 16:13 and non stop to Bordeaux 18:15. These workings are balanced by a Ouigo Bordeaux - CDG TGV departing in the morning and a service back to Massy TGV in the evening from Bordeaux. 
Non-stops from Paris-Montparnasse to Rennes and beyond 

 There will be 10 non-stop services to Rennes in 1 hour 28 minutes. Departures will be at +56 from 09:56 to 19:56 (except 13:56). The 17:56 will take 1h25m. 

 The 09:56, 12:56, 14:56, 16:56, 17:56, 18:56 will continue west from Rennes to Brest (stops at Saint-Brieuc, Guingamp, Morlaix). The 09:56 and 18:56 also stop at Lamballe. The 09:56 will be a double TGV with one unit terminating at Lannion. The 11:56 continues from Rennes to Saint Malo. 

 The 10:56, 16:56, 18:56, 19:56 will continue from Rennes to Quimper (stops at Vannes, Auray, Lorient). 

 Journey times from Paris: Rennes (1h28m), Saint Malo (2h17m), Saint-Brieuc (2h11m), Brest (best times: 3h33m, 3h25 Fridays), Lorient (3h04m), Quimper (3h40m). 

 TGV's from Paris to Rennes with multiple stops 

 Eight TGV's will each stop twice among Le Mans, Laval, Vitré (07:14, 07:40, 08:14, 12:14, 14:14, 18:14, 19:14, 21:14). The 07:40 stops once at Le Mans and continues after Rennes to Brest.   The journey time to Rennes with 2 stops will be 1h53m 

 The 08:14, 14:14 and 18:14 will continue from Rennes to St Malo.

New route 

 West of Le Mans, a triangular junction ("Virgule de Sablé")has been created on the high speed line with a link to the main line at Sablé-sur-Sarthe. This allows non stop TGV's to/from Nantes to by-pass Le Mans. It also provides the opportunity to create rail services between Angers, Laval and Rennes. 

 For the first time in France, TER trains will be operated on a high speed line. Five TER 200 Pays-de-la-Loire services will be scheduled from Nantes to Rennes, stopping at Acenis, Angers St-Laud, Sablé-sur-Sarthe, Laval, Vitré. Between Sablé and Laval the trains will use the Ligne à Grande Vitesse (LGV) during 15 minutes. There is no other direct railway line between Sablé and Laval. The only alternative is to travel via Le Mans and reverse there. 

 Eight Z 21500 emu's have been modified to receive TVM cab signalling equipment obligatory on the LGV. They operate at 200 kph. The eight Z TER emu's have been re-numbered in the series Z 21700. 

 The new rail services from July 2nd will provide significant time savings (over 60 minutes) for those travelling between Angers, Sablé, Laval and Rennes. Departures from Nantes will be at 05:47, 09:47, 11:47, 15:44, 17:47. 
Journey times to Angers (42 mins), Sablé (71 minutes), Laval (1h33mins) Rennes (2h13mins).
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2017. Thanks to Allan Albuary, Malcolm Braim and Fabien Cottereau. Photos by authors unless credited.
© The French Railways Society 2018, All Rights Reserved
Hit counter: 56720