August 2017 News

231 K8 heads towards Le Havre on the 8th July with the first of the summer programme of tours from Sotteville to Le Havre and Dieppe. Photo  Jean-Marc Frybourg

SNCF selects Alstom to develop traffic management system

Following a competitive tender exercise launched in 2016 SNCF Reseau has awarded a contract to Alstom to provide and install a new traffic managment system.

The system will be based on Alstom's existing Iconis system, which detects and proposes solutions to manage traffic conflicts, while anticipating the impact of disruptions. Iconis combines the reliability of a standardised solution with the flexibility required for future developments. It is already in use on 15,000 kilometres of track worldwide, notably in Italy and Denmark, and is currently being deployed in Sweden, it will be adapted to the French network by Alstom’s site at Saint-Ouen

SNCF Réseau has launched an extensive programme to modernise operational traffic management with a view to supervising train circulation both in normal conditions and during disruptions. The aim of the programme is to improve traffic regularity, incident management and the information provided by rail companies. 
Operational traffic management is currently organised on three levels: the national centre for traffic operations, the 21 regional operational centres and signal boxes at a local level. 

Initially, the new system will be deployed on the routes connecting Paris, Lyon and Marseille, with commissioning planned for 2019.  Photo Alstom

Summer track replacement between Neuvy-sur-Loire and Nevers

Commencing on the 19th June SNCF Reseau has embarked on completely replacing the track between Neuvy-sur-Loire and Nevers. Costing €78 million the work will be undertaken at night with no disruption to daytime schedules. 

400 personnel and a 750 metre track relaying train (train usine) are being deployed (see diagram below). The work is scheduled to last until 9th September and will involve the relaying of 50 km of double track with 85,000 sleepers and 100,000 tons of ballast.

No longer STIF

In June, STIF (Syndicat des Transports Ile de France) the île de France transport authority decided to change its name to  île de France mobilités

A view of the rotonde at Nevers Depot

Taken in July, with little mainline work for many of the allocated locomotives  the depot contained the following, including 38 Class 67200-400s:

67411/412/416/453/456/457/471/499, 505/529/530/555/557/559/562/593, 600/601/611/615/627. 69275/274/278/279/290/312/318/451/461/476/496 

CC 72100s still continue in service

The remaining class 72100 workings from Paris Est to Chalindrey  were expected to finish at the beginning of July, but have continued operating two return services  on weekdays (16:42 and 1812 Paris Est). Workings are expected to continue until the end of August  At the end of July it was reported that there were four serviceable - 72130/158/186/190.
72130 is the doyen of the class having run 9 million km - the highest for a diesel in Europe.

72186 waits to depart from Paris Est with the 16:42 to Culmont - Chalindrey on the 5th July. Photo Michel Joindot

Last summer for loco hauled passenger trains from Nantes to Bordeaux

The three daily intercité trains from Nantes to Bordeaux continue to be scheduled with ageing BB 67400 locos and rakes of Corail carriages this summer. But the end is in sight. 

 Their replacement by Alstom Coradia Liner dual mode train sets is imminent. Delivery of the first 19 Coradia trains to Grand Est Region is  complete. The remaining 15 units of the first contract for 34 units are for the Technicentre at Nantes, we understand two units have  been delivered and the remainder scheduled for the second half of 2017. These new trains based at Nantes will be deployed on the services to Bordeaux and to Lyon via Tours. New trains, but speed restrictions that will continue until 2021. As we have previously reported trains operate at only a maximum 60 kph between La-Roche-sur-Yon and La Rochelle (100 km). This adds 45 minutes to the journey time between Nantes and Bordeaux. 

The future of the route was decided in March 2016 when a "committee" of representatives from the Pays-de-la-Loire Region, Nouvelle Aquitaine Region, SNCF and the French State finally agreed on a modernisation plan. They chose to keep the option of a double track and to phase the engineering work for financial reasons. The first phase will cost 138 million euros and will comprise the renewal of one of the tracks from La Roche-sur-Yon to La Rochelle while the other track will be used to carry the existing traffic. A crossing will be possible at Luçon. This phase will include resignalling for both tracks. 
The work will start in 2019 and finish at the end of 2020. The second track will then be renewed and financed from the following budget, completion possibly 2023. So after at least 15 years of talking, commissioning studies, arguing, the regional authorities, SNCF and the French State have at last implemented a plan. There are those who remain sceptical. 

Three more years of speed restrictions on the railway while OuiBus and FlixBus will compete along the motorways with journeys 30 - 60 minutes faster than the train (and much cheaper, of course) between Nantes and Bordeaux.

Photo. Prior to the 60 kph speed restriction the morning train to Bordeaux departed from Quimper at 07:30. Seen here on 5th June 2012 as 67443 waits to leave La Rochelle

141 R 568 on tour in Switzerland

In the June News we reported that 141 R 568 had recently moved from Eastern Switzerland to Vallorbe. On the 24th June it worked its first tour from Vallorbe to Lausanne and Payerne with the Swiss Classic Train

The return climb to Vallorbe was captured on video at Arnex sur Orbe by Society member Alan Allbuary

Montlucon Festirail - 10th June 2017

Opposite is the link to a second video by Alan of this year's Montlucon Festirail with footage of 140 C 38 on it's outward and return journey from Limoges

Poor weather for CFTV  40th anniversary

An uncharacteristically wet and cool weekend on the 1st-2nd July dampened St-Quentin based CFTV's summer gala with few visitors attending early on to celebrate the 40th anniversary. Afternoons were brighter and saved the event which took place over three sites; Ribemont, Itancourt and Mézières where there were various displays and attractions. Star of the gala was 100 year old 140 C 314 operating trips between Mézières and Ribemont. Ex SNCF BB 66252 operated between Mézières and Itancourt, where APPEVA had laid a 150 metre length of 60 cm track between some standard gauge and were offering free rides behind No 5, Nord Est.

Above. British built 140 C 314 departs from Ribemont with a trip to Mézières. 

Left. Ex SNCF BB 66252 at Itancourt, next to APPEVA's Decauville No. 5 Nord Est (1916 - 60 cm gauge). Photos Graham Skinner

A video of the event is available via this link

CC 40110 certified for mainline operations

Following a considerable amount of work MFPN have announced that CC 40110 has been certified to operate on the French national network.  It is expected to work some railtours in the autumn (see Events page)

CC 40110 was the last of the second batch of four voltage Class CC 40100 locomotives introduced in 1969. At 6,000 bhp they were slightly more powerful than the first batch (40101-04 introduced in 1964) Designed to operate TEE expresses on the French, Belgian, Dutch and German networks the class was equipped with four pantographs. Due to technical and other problems the class never reached their full potential and spent most of their career operating Paris - Brussels TEE and euro City services. All of the class was withdrawn in 1996

Viaduct of Luech, Chamborigaud - 
150th anniversary

Along the Ligne des Cevennes at PK 647, one of the famous railway viaducts of France is located near the village of Chamborigaud. It was opened in April 1867 after construction during 19 months. The stone viaduct crosses a valley on a curve with a radius of 240 metres. It is 409 metres long, with 41 arches that are 46 metres high. During the first week end of July 2017 a festival was held to celebrate the 150 years anniversary of the opening. A Son et Lumière event at the viaduct featured items of rolling stock included 141 R 1298 that was brought from Nîmes where it is being restored. Photo courtesy of Jean-Louis Poggi

CFBS Buffaud Robatel back in service

After an extensive two year overhaul the CFBS's former Seine et Marne Buffaud Robatel 3714 returned to service on the 17th July. Following a successful loaded test run the locomotive was immediately returned to service between St Valery and Le Crotoy.

Looking resplendant in its new light green livery 3714 waits to depart from St Valery depot on its loaded test run.

CFBS Steam to Cayeux

Steam will return to the St Valery - Cayeux line during August for the Fête de la Gare and Fête des Fleurs at Cayeux on the 15th August. It is also planned to operate steam on the afternoon services (12:20 departure from St Valery onwards) on the preceeding three days  !2-14th August.

More details here

Mainline return of 141 R 840 delayed

The return to mainline service of Les Aubrais based 141 R 840 has been delayed. A planned 100 km/h steam test scheduled for early June had to be cancelled due to a brake system component not having been returned from the supplier in Canada. 

 The trip to Paris scheduled for 22nd July was cancelled. It now remains to be seen if the loco will receive mainline certification before the planned trip to Loches in September. The association reports that the locomotive is now ready for the test run and it is a matter of setting a rendezvous with the SNCF inspectors and obtaining a path. 

 Right. 141 R 840 departs from Commentry during a Montlucon Festirail

Setback for 141 R 420

The Association that operates Clermont Ferrand based 141 R 420, the only operating coal fired 141 R in France, have reported that they have found weaknesses in the articulated struts. These are the rivets that hold two of the major parts of the boiler together and absorb much of the expansion. The boiler is now 71 years old, and the struts need to be  drilled out and replaced with the boier in situ. The planned trip to Murat on September 17th will now be diesel hauled, although it is hoped that work will have been completed for the trip to Lyon in December

Left 141 R 420 moves onto the turntable at Montlucon during Festirail, in preparation for an afternoon trip to Commentry (see photo above)

Map of old and closed lines

Trevor Evans has discovered a web site that superimposes existing and closed lines onto google earth. There are clearly many lines missing but it is still an interesting site to visit, and will hopefully develop further in the future 

Attention au Depart

Visitors to the Baie de Somme area during the summer, may wish to visit a photographic exhibition 'Attention au Depart' covering the standard and metre gauge lines of Abbeville and the surrounding area at the Hall Exposition de Garapole (The recently converted former Sernam building next to Abbeville Station). Finishes 8th September

Discovering Tram 11 Express in 
Seine-Saint-Denis (93)

On July 1st, a new passenger railway was opened in the northern suburbs of the Paris region. It is designated as a Tram but it does not run along any road and there are no level crossings. This is a short "Light Rail" line of 11 km inserted next to the Grande Ceinture Nord (GCN). We described the principal characteristics of the new line in JUNE NEWS. 

 Now for the guided visit ! 

 We start at Le Bourget RER B (10 minutes from Paris Gare du Nord). The booking hall for the T 11 Express as at the Paris end of the platform. The construction is in steel, glass and wood. The roof contains solar panels. There are lifts at all the new stations on tramway 11 but none was working on the day of our visit (July 11th). Escalators and steps complete the access. 

On the photo opposite, an RER B on the left is leaving for Paris and, on the bridge, the new "tram-train" awaits. Noisy-le-Sec is to the left along the Grande Ceinture. That is where the new depot is situated. In a future phase, travellers may be able to reach Noisy-le-Sec but for now the only direction is west to Epinay-sur-Seine with seven stops.  
Le Bourget - Villetaneuse University 

 The service off peak is every 10 minutes. The acceleration is strong, every 2-3 minutes there is a stop. There were few passengers on board that morning. The first two stops are at Dugny-la-Courneuve and Stains-Cerisaie. These new stations are at ground level and there are connections for local buses. 

 At the third stop, we reach Pierrefitte-Stains on a bridge over the RER D. This is a major "correspondance" between the "tram-train" and the busy RER D. 

 The Alstom Dualis unit rapidly reaches its top speed of 100 kph. But quickly stops again at Villetaneuse University. Entry and exit to/from the ground level platforms at this station is complicated. There are lifts, escalators and steps to the booking office and turnstiles which are situated in a small building perched high above the station. This high level structure is connected to the ground by two long enclosed ramps covered with wooden scales giving the appearance of the tail of a slug. 

 The Tram T8 terminus is on the south side of the line. The T8 goes to Saint-Denis Stade de France where there is a connection to Metro 13. 


After a 6th stop at Epinay-Villetaneuse, we reach the terminus at Epinay-sur-Seine just 15 minutes after leaving Le Bourget. This terminus must have presented many challenges for the architect. There are interchanges to the RER C (Pontoise - Invalides - Austerlitz), and the Tram 8. 

The charming, historic, original, station building is at the same level as the T 11 Express terminus but it is separated by the GC freight line. The Tram 8 is some 100 - 200 metres away out of sight. The RER C is adjacent to the original station building but at a lower level ! 

The photo opposite shows the situation with the Tram 11 terminus in the distance at the top and the GC freight line tracks closer on the bridge with the RER C bottom left. 

The "solution" of stairways, lifts, subways, ramps and bridges will challenge travellers at peak hours.  

 The present new Light Rail line is the middle section of a project that initially proposed a line of 28 km from Sartrouville in the western suburbs to Noisy-le-Sec in the east. Due to lack of funding, work on the two extensions necessary to complete the original plan is stalled. Some observers doubt that the western extension will ever be completed. 

 The brand new T11 Express provides an obvious improvement in suburban public transport in this area. Travel between Epinay and Le Bourget took 45 minutes before, it now takes 15 minutes. 


The T11 seems to be a useful local link. The constraints involved in building the line alongside the GCN have made physical access to the platforms difficult and complicated at some of the stations. Future success for the line will be particularly dependant on the reliability of lifts and escalators. 

Initially, some 40,000 passengers a day are expected but this level of usage will no doubt only be reached after the summer. The ultimate target is 60,000 a day, with 20% coming from current road users. 

Inner northern suburbs of Paris - July 2017  
  Tram 11 Express = dashed orange line
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2017. Thanks to Allan Allbuary, Michel Joindot, Jean Mark Frybourg, Jean-Louis Poggi and Trevor Evans. Photos by authors unless credited.
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