April 2018 News

On 21st February the last surviving Class 68 A1A 68081 crosses the Pont Eiffel over the Oise near Conflans St-Honorine with CC 72186 and BB 63624. Originating at Sotteville the destination was Culmont-Chalindrey via Argenteuil, Grande-Ceinture, Villiers-sur-Marne and Troyes. The working was unusual as most withdrawn CC 72100s have been making the final journey in the other direction to Sotteville for breaking up at Quatre Mares Works.

CEVA (Cornavin - Eaux-Vives - Annemasse) Update

In 22 months time, a new double track electrified line (16 km) will link the rail network at Annemasse in Savoie with the Swiss network at Geneva-Cornavin. The new line will be mostly underground and replaces the Annemasse - Eaux-Vives line that was opened by PLM in 1888, operated later by SNCF and closed in 2011/2013. Between Eaux-Vives and Geneva-Cornavin, a new tunnel has been bored under the city with three new stations. From Eaux-Vives to the French frontier (3.6 km) the original line in a cutting has been covered and a voie verte has been created on top. From the frontier to Annemasse SNCF station (2 km) the "cut and cover" configuration has been extended to the entrance to Annemasse station.

The infrastructure of the tunnels and bridges between Annemasse and Geneva Cornavin is now complete. During 2018, the double track will be laid and the Swiss 15 kV overhead electrification will be installed as well as Swiss signalling for bi-directional running on the two tracks. At Annemasse, the whole station is to be modernised during the year, with creation of a new platform for the terminus of CEVA trains, adaptation of the track layout, signalling and separation of the 15 kV / 25 kV electrification. Platform A will be extended to receive a double TGV. The single track line from Annemasse to La-Roche-sur-Foron (17 km) will be closed until December for modernisation (including BAPR block signalling). 

The future train service is designated "Leman-Express". A new rail authority was created in March 2017 ( a Swiss company, Lemanis SA, owned 60% by CFF and 40% SNCF). Lemanis will organise, co-ordinate and supervise the new international RER service It will operate on 230 km of CFF/SNCF railways serving 45 stations and a population of 240,000. At Annemasse the traffic is expected to climb six-fold to 50,000 passengers a day. One of the principal objectives of CEVA is to reduce the cross-border traffic by road into Geneva.

Two types of train will be used to operate Leman Express: 

 - 23 Stadler Flirt France class 511 bi-voltage train sets ordered by CFF.
 - 17 Alstom Regiolis Z 31500 tri-voltage train sets ordered by SNCF. The Regiolis units will also be used in Savoie and on Geneva - Bellegarde services.
Future Leman Express services - a summary
The Annemasse - Geneva-Cornavin CEVA link will have 5 intermediate stations at Chêne-Bourg, Eaux-Vives, Champel-Hôpital, Carouges-Bachet, Lancy Pont-Rouge. From Cornavin to Coppet there are 9 stops on the CFF line. 

From December 2019, there will be 6 Leman Express RER per hour (each way)on the new CEVA link:

 4 RER per hour will be omnibus between Coppet and Annemasse. 1 RER will continue to Evian-les-Bains, 1 will continue to Saint-Gervais and 1 will continue to Annecy. 1 RER will be terminus Annemasse
 - 2 limited stop CFF Regional Express trains per hour will operate from Romont and Vevey, via Lausanne to Annemasse (terminus) with stops at Coppet, Geneva-Cornavin, Pont-Rouge and Eaux-Vives.

New maintenance depot at Rouen

SNCF is to be build a new maintenance facility in Sotteville Yard for the rolling stock employed on the Normandy Intercités services to Cherbourg and Le Havre . Opening in 2020 the depot will initially cater for the existing corail stock, and then the new Bombardier double deck stock as it is introduced.

The Normandy Region is contributing €500,000 to support improved reliability. At present the rolling stock  is  maintained at Clichy St Lazare depot, alongside  the Francilien units employed on Transilien services. Reliability has been poor during this years winter weather resulting in cancellations and delays.

Network round-up

Ligne des Cévennes

The Auvergne Rhone-Alpes Region that has been reluctant in the past to invest in its rail network, is putting its hand in its pocket for three modest projects. Between Issoire and Langeac the trackwork at the north end of Brioude station is being modernised and replaced, including the renewal of PN 75 at a cost of €2 million, with the region funding 95% of the project. Further south the Crest Tunnel between Langeac and Langogne is being lined with concrete at a cost of €400,000. On the section between St Georges d'Aurac and Puy en Velay 4,000 sleepers are being replaced over the Chazeau Viaduct east of Darsac. The work costing €2.4million will include replacement signal cabling and making the relay cabinets rodent-proof. Again the Region is meeting 95% of the cost.

Maurienne Valley

On the 5th March a €9.3 million project commenced to refurbish the Tunnel Des Grandes Muraiiles between Saint Pierre d'Albigny and Modane. Work is scheduled to last until 26th October with some disruption to Lyon-Chambery-Modane services.


Preparatory work started in January on a major refurbishment of the Poitiers - Limoges line on the 55km section between  Limoges and Le Dorat. All of the track is being replaced involving 44,000 tonnes of ballast and 22,000 sleepers. Services will be suspended between 3rd April  and 22nd June with bus replacements. The refurbishment  will enable temporary speed restrictions to be lifted. 47 level crossings will also be upgraded. The €15 miilion project is being funded: State 73%, SNCF Réseau 17%, Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine 10%.

Elsewhere in the Region the Angoulême to Limoges line was the latest to be hit by closure due to condition of the infrastrucutre. In March SNCF Reseau declared that the platform at Saillat-Chassenon was unsafe and closed the section between Angoulême and Saillat-Chassenon; a bus replacement service was provided. 

Whilst the problems at Saillat-Chassenon were able to be repaired relatively quickly there is wider concern within the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region about the condition of the rural lines that make up two-thirds of its TER network. It is estimated that 300km of track will be subject to temporary restrictions by next year with 725km of track that carry 2.2 miilion passengers a year classified as 'bad' or 'very bad' by SNCF Reseau. The Region is a dynamic supporter of its TER network and saw an increase in traffic of 10% in 2017, but suffers 30% more delays and cancellations due to infrastructure problems than the rest of France. In recent years it has invested over a billion euros in new rolling stock including €485 for 37 Regiolis and 24 Regio 2N units. A network audit, commissioned in 2017 by the Region from SNCF Réseau concluded that more than €3 billion needs to be spent over the next 10 years to to ensure the long-term viability of the regional rail network.
Limoges - Saint-Yrieux - Brive 
This attractive rural line through Haute-Vienne and Corrèze was originally the "main line" between Limoges and Brive until a new route via Uzerche replaced it. Now the rural line is in trouble, a familiar story. Traffic is suspended due to state of the track between Pompadour and Objet. At present, there is an indefinite interruption of traffic with no through trains from Limoges to Brive via Pompadur. 2 trains a day from Brive northwards terminate at Objet. Only 1 train a day runs from Pompadour to Limoges. At Vignols-Saint Solve a tunnel runs under the village. 
Preserved locomotive 140 C 38 storms out of the tunnel on 4th June 2017 with a special from Limoges to Pompadour. Photo Georges Turpin
"Deshuntage" at Sable a permanent problem 

When the LGV Bretagne Pays de la Loire opened on July 3rd 2017, a new TER service was created between Nantes and Rennes via Angers and Laval using a specially constructed connection to the new LGV near Le Mans known as the “Virgule de Sablé”. The service was operated with a small fleet of Z 21700 emu's specially modified to run on the LGV (in fact, for a short distance only). The euphoria created by this useful new train service was short-lived. 

 An unexpected problem occurred when, near Sablé, a Z 21700 unit “disappeared” momentarily from the control panels (“déshuntage”). From Sept 28th to Oct 14th 2017, the “Virgule” was closed for investigation and adjustments. However the problems re-occurred frequently causing regular cancelations of the Nantes – Rennes TER service. 

 On January 16th 2018, SNCF Réseau and Eiffage (contracter for the LGV BPL) submitted a report to Région Pays de la Loire confirming that no permanent solution had been found yet to the "déshuntage" problem. Pays de la Loire resolved to suspend indefinitely the new TER service on the short link. Passengers currently have to take a bus service between Sablé-sur-Sarthe and Laval. Obviously the journey time is increased for passengers between Nantes/Angers and Laval/Rennes. 

POLT (Paris-Orleans-Limoges-Toulouse)
The Toulouse - Brive section of the POLT was closed near Cahors, at Caussade, for a month from 23rd February due an embankment becoming unstable. Trains from the north were terminated at Brive though the line was clear to Cahors. TER services from Toulouse to Brive were suspended during the period of repairs and replaced by autocars. Both tracks were re-opened by March 23rd with speed limits at 40 kph. 

Le Petit Train Jaune 

 Engineering work continues on this unique electrified 3rd rail line in the Pyrénées-Orientales from Villefranche to La Tour de Carol. The line is closed from 19th March until 11th May. 

 The SNCF line from Perpignan to Villefranche is currently closed indefinitely since 15th December 2017 following a tragic level crossing accident involving a school bus. 6 children died and others were injured when the bus apparently failed to stop at the barriers and was hit by a local train. The fatal accident was covered by national media for a week while they tried to make sense of conflicting accounts. The bus driver who survived with serious injuries insists that the barriers were raised but direct eye witnesses (drivers stopped by the barrier on the opposite side of the road and the train driver) are emphatic that the barriers were down and the bus did not stop and broke the barrier. An SNCF investigation concluded that the level crossing had functionied correctly. Official independent accident reports have not yet been published and the line remains closed. 

X2100/2200 close to extinction

At the end of 2017, this fleet of, originally,105 single (X 2201 + 2200) diesel railcars was close to extinction. The last four            X 2200 units were withdrawn at Limoges last December. Eleven X 2100 units were withdrawn during 2017 leaving 5 units in Britanny at the beginning of 2018 (X2124/2135/2139/2141/2145).  They are currently used on the Rennes - Chateaubriant line that is closed north of Retiers until August for engineering work. It is expected that all will be withdrawn when the line re-opens. In view of the less than intensive usage of these railcars (none exceeds 3 million km) a certain number have been snapped up by preservation associations. It is reported that four X 2100's and ten X 2200's have been reserved for preservation. These railcars were built between 1980 – 1988. They were often used with trailers. Above a view of grubby          X 2101 with a typical TER train of 2 trailers and X 2138 in green livery at La Roche-sur-Yon in April 2008.

2018 Programme of engineering work on Transilien network

SNCF Réseau will spend 1.8 billion euros in 2018 on the rail network in Ile de France. 145 km of track will be replaced including 80 km on RER C, D and the Saint Lazare network. Grinding of rails on 100 km of track will be carried out to correct the profiles. 

 The overhead catenary system will be replaced on sections of RER B and C as part of a renewal of the oldest parts of the infrastructure that will last for the next ten years. The catenary will be replaced this year between Aulnay and Le Bourget (RER B) and between Bretigny and Ivry-sur-Seine (RER C). 

 Work will be started on modernising 30 more stations in IDF for impaired mobility access (ramps, lifts, platform heights). Work on access at 17 stations will be completed. The tunneling machine for RER E will be delivered in the summer. It will excavate the new tunnel for the double track RER E extension west from Haussman Saint Lazare to La Défense including a new station to be created under Porte Maillot. 

A new control centre for RER A (all branches) will be opened at Vincennes at the end of the year. For the first time SNCF and RATP staff will be together in the same premises. (the branch Nanterre - Poissy/Cergy is controlled by SNCF). On July 21st/22nd Paris Gare du Nord will be partly closed for the start-up of a new area of control for the signal box at Saint-Denis. This centre already manages (since Aug 2017) the route from Paris-Nord to Aulnay/Mitry Claye and CDG Airport. In July the underground RER platforms and the ground level platforms 20 - 36 at Paris-Nord will be connected to the control centre at Saint-Denis.  This will benefit RER B and D, Transilien Line K and TER Hauts de France trains.  

Between May 5th-13th and May 19th-21st, Paris Gare Montparnasse will be drastically reduced in capacity while 150 points are replaced. 

SNCF is to experiment with sliding plexiglass doors along platform edges. This system is used already in Paris metro line 14 and 1 (automatic trains). The purpose would be to prevent accidents and suicides. There are some 200 such fatal incidents each year in Ile de France. In addition, there are several thousand incursions on to the tracks annually. These incidents cause significant delays. The first test will be at Vanves-Malakoff (sector of Montparnasse). It will be followed by installation at 10 of the stations known to represent high risk. The doors will open vertically for different types of train, whereas the doors open horizontally on Metro lines 1 and 14 where the automatic trains can stop very accurately.

Transilien Line R -  New trains in service

Two months after the official inauguration of the Bombardier Régio 2N IDF at Melun, a total 7 units has been delivered to SNCF. At the end of February, the new Régio 2N was observed on 3 out of 4 services on Mondays – Fridays replacing the Z 5300 units. It is expected that all Transilien services between Montereau and Melun via Héricy will be operated with the new Bombardier double deck train sets by May 2018.
Opposite Régio 2N No 001 R at Fontaine-le-Port on March 5th

Carcassonne - Limoux re-opens

Engineering work in the Vallée de l'Aude was completed in March and the branch line re-opened between Carcassonne and Limoux. There are six return services by rail except on Sundays when there are no trains. The line from Limoux to Quillan in the attractive upper valley has not been repaired and only bus services are provided. Occitanie Region has indicated a willingness to finance the repairs but this has not yet been organised. 

 The photos (all Georges Turpin) show a ballast train at Verzeille among the vineyards of Blanquette de Limoux in Feb 2017, a special train with BB 66304 at Limoux for the carnival in March 2017 and a Picasso special at the terminus at Quiillan with X 4039 (ABFC) and 3943 (CFTSA). 

News in Brief

Investment Opportunity 
 SNCF Reseau has issued a revised prospectus for investors purchasing medium term notes and bonds to underwrite its debt. The main change is an increase from €50 to €55 billion, more than eight times SNCF Reseau's annual income of €6.5 billion. The revised prospectus is available via this link

Toulouse - Barcelona seasonal service starts 
 From March 24th, the TGV Euroduplex to Barcelona began its daily service from Toulouse. It will operate until Sept 25th 2018. Departure is at 08.06 and the journey time is 3h14m with four stops at Carcassonne, Perpignan, Figueras and Gérone. The return journey from Barcelona is at 18.06 with arrival at Toulouse at 21.44. The timetable allows 7 hours in Barcelona for day-trippers.

Alsace Control Centre inaugurated
On the 20th March the inauguration of the new Alsace Control Centre at Strasbourg took place. Initially it will control the section grom Haguenau to Bollwiller, this will be extend to Belfort and Basle once the re-modelling of Mulhouse has been completed. Employing ten staff during the day and five at night the Centre will control over 700 trains a day. Eventually it will be one of sixteen control centres controlling the whole network. At this stage, 8 control centres are operational: Bordeaux (Aquitaine), Dijon (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté), Lyon (Rhône-Alpes), Pagny-sur-Moselle (Lorraine), Rennes (Grand Ouest), Saint-Denis (Île-de-France), Strasbourg (Alsace) and Vigneux-sur-Seine (Ile-de-France).

Transdev gain safety certificate
Transdev, part owner of open access operator Thello has obtained a safety certificate through its subsidiary CFTA. This gives it the status of an independant operator and will enable it to bid for contracts or operate its own services when the French domestic market is opened up in 2023. Transdev is currently bidding to operate CDG Express shuttle services between Paris-Est and Charles-de-Gaulle Airport.

 CFTA currently operate the Carhaix-Guingamp and Guingamp-Paimpol lines under an arrangement with SNCF using SNCF rolling stock, something of an anomaly going back to pre SNCF days.
Dreams of cycle tracks. 
 In 2003, a popular tourist railway in the Lot, "Quercy Rail" from Cahors to Capdenac, closed as a result of a landslide in a cutting near Capdenac. All the local councils promised to help to restart the tourist trains but none did so in the end. 
15 years later, a local council met to consider converting the former railway line to a voie verte, a recurrent dream of local councils in France. The budget for this one ? just 21 million euros ! The meeting ended in deadlock, but the subject would certainly leave an unpleasant taste for those volunteers who worked for many years at Quercy Rail attracting visitors to the area for no cost to the community.
Planned Industrial Action 
The response by Trade Unions to the Spinetta Report (and the subsequent package of planned reforms of SNCF presented by the prime minister) has been to call a series of two day strikes beginning on April 3rd. Rather than the usual practice of having strikes renewable for an indefinite continuous period, these will follow a pattern of two days of strikes followed by three working days. Planned strike dates are: April 3, 4, 8, 9, 13, 14, 18, 19, 23, 24, 28, 29. May - same dates as April. June 2, 3, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 22, 23, 27,28. Services are likely to be cancelled from the evenings prior to strike days.

 SNCF has responded by suspending all reservations on planned strike days until 24 hours before those dates (TGV, intercités). Consequently, demand for reservations on non-strike dates is inflating ticket prices and many trains are already full on those days. Railtours on non-strike days are at risk of being cancelled. Talks are on-going between unions and the transport minister about the many aspects of the proposed reforms. Their outcome is uncertain.

Last diesel from Paris

Since the demise of Class CC 72100 working last August the only regular diesel hauled turns from Paris have been the two rush hour services  from Paris Est to La Ferté Milon. Two AGC units have recently been transferred from Strasbourg to operate the 17:05, leaving the 18:05 as the final remaining diesel hauled service

On the evening of 21st March 67406 approaches Bondy with the 18:05 from Gare de l'Est to La Ferté Milon. Photo Michael Bunn.

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during March 2018

MTVS issues - these are copies of the magazine, long since out of print, dealing largely with secondary railways in France. The latest issues uploaded are No. 1 “CdF Valmondois/Marines”, No. 2 “Tramway de Viliers-le-Bel”, No. 3 “Societe Centrale de Chemins de Fer et d’Entreprises et ses Automotrices”, No. 4 “Autorails des Ateliers Montmirail”, No. 5 “CdF Corses”, No. 8 “Blanc Argent” and No. 10 “CdF du Jura”.

HMP postcards
- a series of 750+ images of locomotives & trains from the origin of French railways through to the early days of the SNCF, published by Henri Marie Petiet in the 1940’s; the quality of the images reflects the poor materials and printing available during the WW2 years.

SLS Library drawings - these come from the library of the Stephenson Locomotive Society and are a combination of line drawings by a Belgian engineer Albert Jacquet and railway company drawings, mostly of locomotives used in the various French railway companies prior to the formation of the SNCF. So far, drawings of the CdF de l’Est, CdF du Nord and Cdf de l’Etat & de l’Ouest have been uploaded.

Additions to the FRS Yahoo site during March

 - HMP postcards Index 
 - MTVS magazines Index SLS Library - 
 - Drawings Est Index 

- SLS Library 
- Drawings Nord Index SLS Library 
- Drawings Etat/Ouest Index LR Fiches Documentaires     Index

Z2 Units - An update

The class Z 7300 2-car emu was introduced from 1980. 75 units were delivered followed by 15 more designated Z 7500. These 2-car train sets were used on 1500v lines around France on omnibus services. They had good acceleration and braking and were much more comfortable than the pre-war rolling stock that they replaced.

Further batches of the Z2 were delivered between 1982 - 1988: 

Class Z 9500 bi-voltage 1500v / 25000v. 
20 units were built. 
 Class Z 9600 bi-voltage 1500v / 25000v 
 36 units were built 
Class Z 11500 mono-voltage 25000v 
 22 units were built

Opposite. Z 11514 at Chalons en Champagne

The Z2 emu no longer corresponds to modern expectations; difficult access through narrow doors with several steps, no air-conditioning. 
In total 168 units were built and at the beginning of this year, 92 remained in service. Several regions have now withdrawn all their Z2 train-sets. Aquitaine withdrew its last five Z 7300 units in December 2017. Rhône-Alpes also withdrew all its remaining Z 7500 units last December.
Opposite Z 9517 at Cruet, Savoie (24th September2017) A Bourgogne unit between Chambèry and Modane

Centre Val-de-Loire Region expects to withdraw 15 Z 7300 unis and 4 Z 9600 units by 2021. 
 In Occitanie, there are currently 26 Z 7300 units and the last remaining 3 Z 7500 units. All are expected to be withdrawn in 2019. By 2021, just 13 Z2 units are forecast to be in service. 

Z 7317 at Portet Saint-Simon (11th June 2017) Text and photos by Georges Turpin

Preservation Events - Summer 2018

A round up of some of the events on preserved lines and sites in France during 2018
La Vapeur de Trieux
Services from Paimpol to Pontrieux will start this year on the 29th April and run until 17th September. No services most Fridays or Mondays. Assume that 141 TB XXX will be operating again this year. Link to website.   

APPEVA (P'tit Train de Haut Somme)
Steam train on Sundays from 1st May until September 30th with diesels most weekdays in July and August. Special events on 20th May, 16th and 30th September.

AAATV (Montlucon)
As indicated last month there will not be a Festirail this year, and it will now be a bi-annual event with an open day alternate years. This years open day will be on Sunday 17th June. Link to website   

L'Amitram (Lille)
50 years celebrations on 12/13th May. 
Chemin de Fer Touristique Haut Quercy
Season runs from 1st April until 2nd november. Steam on Sundays until end September with mix of steam or diesel most days during summer. Link to website

Association Musée de Transport de Pithiviers (AMTP)
The museum is open every Sunday afternoon from April 1st until Sept 30th. There are two or three round trips along the line taking about 60 minutes altogether. Generally there is one engine in steam though in July and August, if there is a fire risk, then a diesel tractor will replace the steam engine. 
 There are two special events in 2018; the annual steam festival June 9th/10th ( 2 or 3 steam engines in service, extra trains all day) and the week-end of Patrimoine Sept 15/16th. Link to website  

 Chemin de Fer Baie de Somme (CFBS)
Services between Le Crotoy and St Valery commenced on the 31st March and will continue until 4th November.  Cayeux trains will operate on specified dates between 15th April and 30th September. Special events will include the inaguaration ceremony of the newly laid track between Noyelles and Le Crotoy  over the weekend of 8/9th June and steam to Cayeux for the fete on 15th August.  In addition to the advertised evening 'diner a bord' trains a diesel hauled lunchtime dining train will operate for coach parties on thursdays from 16th April - 30th June and during September.

MTVS Crèvecoeur-le-Grand
MTVS will open on the following dates in 2018 at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand. 4 trains in the afternoon (14h, 15h,16h,17h) except special events.  Diesel loco in May, Sarthe steam tram from June 
 May 6th, 10th, 20th 
June 3rd, 17th, 
July 1st, 15th 
Aug 5th, 19th 
Sept 2nd, 15th + 16th (Jours de Patrimoine timetable ) 
Oct 6th+7th (Festival special event, timetable) 
Dec 8th + 9th (Santa trains )
Butry will open only to groups on reservation.

Train De L'Ardeche (Vivarais)
Trains starting running on the 25th March and the season will finish on the 25th November with trains most days between April and September. 

Chemin de Fer Touristique de la Vallée de l'Aa
Services between Arques and Lumbres operate most weekends from 2nd April to 28th October using a mix of Steam, Picasso or Caravelle. Details on Facebook  
Special event on 13th-15th April to celebrate 20th anniversary
Velay Express
Sunday services between Racoules and St Agreve operate between 29th April and 28th October 2018 with a return steam trip from Racoules and an autorail from St Agreve. On Wednesdays and Thursday in July and August and Fetes two return steam trips between Racoules and Le Chambon. Link to website  
Photo above Roger Allen

Vivarais track re-laying

Over the winter Train de L'Ardeche has undertaken track replacement and repairs on the former Vivarais line. This has ranged from replacement of individusl sleepers to replacement of complete sections at Empurany and Boucleu-le-Roi.
At Le Monteil, about 1.5km from Lamastre, the section has been renewed and the opportunity taken to install a passing loop. This can be seen beyond the undergrowth in the photo opposite taken from the Lamastre - Tournon road.
Photo and research by Andy Hayter
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2018. Thanks to Georges Turpin, D Michel Costes, Jean-Louis Poggi, Michael Bunn, Andy Hayter, Bram van der Velden and Roger Allen. Photos by authors unless credited.
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2019 All Rights Reserved
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