December 2018 News

Pacific 231 G 558 attacks the 1 in 100 bank between Montville and Clères on the Rouen - Dieppe line with the PVC special to visit the Dieppe Festival of the Herring on Saturday November 17th. Photo D Michel Costes

Vossloh E4000s on heavy freight

Le Havre - St Germain au Mont d'Or (Lyon)

On Saturday November 3rd, a Vossloh (now Stadler) Euro 4000 diesel-electric loco, No 4008, rumbled through Cormeillles-en-Parisis in the Seine valley (Ile de France) with a train loaded with new Trafic light utility vans from the Renault factory at Sandouville in the suburbs of Le Havre. The diesel hauled train will travel all the way to St Germain au Mont d'Or near Lyon under electric wires.  This train usually operates every Saturday. Photo D Michel Costes.

The monopoly of DB Cargo Class 66s on aggregates traffic southbound from Caffiers has been broken with a daily service now operated by VFLI utilising E4000 diesels. On 29th October E4048 approaches Ponthoile-Romaine with a late running Caffiers - Mitry Claye service.

Europorte operates 20 and VFLI 12  Euro 4000 diesel locomotives, the most powerful in Europe. They are equiped with a V16 Diesel engine that has an output of 4,250 hp. It drives six electric motors fixed on the 3-axle bogies.

Belfort - Delle to open December 9th

Services on 6 railway lines currently cross the Franco-Swiss border, along the crest of the Jura mountains, at Basel, Le Locle Col des Roches*, Les Verrières**, Vallorbe, La Cure***, Geneva****. In a few days, a 7th border rail crossing will re-open. It will be 26 years since any trains from France crossed into the Swiss Jura canton at Delle. The official inauguration of the new Belfort - Delle line is announced for Dec 6th with attendance by both the French and Swiss Ministers of Transport. Two days later, on Saturday Dec 8th, the line will be open for the local population, free of charge, with celebrations at all the new stations, but we have no details to share. 

 On Sunday Dec 9th, regular trains will start running across the border, 6 years after the opening of the LGV Rhin-Rhône. During the last 3 years, the single track 22 km line has been modernised and electrified and the stations have received new platforms as we reported in the spring of 2018. Between Belfort-Ville and Delle, there are stops at Danjoutin, Meroux TGV, Morvillars, Grandvillars and Jonchery. There are loops at Meroux TGV, Morvillars and Grandvillars. At Delle there are 3 platform tracks. 

 Train services will be operated by Swiss Railways (SBB) between Biel, Delément, Porrentruy and Meroux TGV, and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté TER trains will run between Belfort-Ville and Delle. The Swiss trains will be operated in France by Swiss drivers and they will be Stadler Flirt France bi-voltage units. The TER trains will be ZGC units with equipment for driver only operations(EAS). According to Sud Rail union they will be operated by French drivers of the category CRTT (Tram-train drivers) although the ZGC is not a tram-train but a standard Alstom 4 car emu. It is also reported that the Belfort - Delle line is to be operated seperately from the national network, probably by an independant company though this has not been confirmed officially. 

 There will be 10 return services by the Swiss trains, and 16 return services from Belfort to Meroux TGV of which 6 return services will run on to Delle. However, perusal of the future timetable shows that not all the 26 return services announced will run every day. Regarding the Swiss trains (see NOVEMBER NEWS) 7 out of 10 are scheduled daily for the full timetable of 2019. All the other train services including the French TER service will operate daily but with exceptions that may include; not on Saturdays, Sundays, school holidays in France, Public Holidays. As of Nov 20th, no complete timetables had been published in France for the line. SBB CFF had recorded the new timetable. It showed the French trains as valid until Sept 27th 2019 only.

 Travel times will be as follows; Belfort - Meroux TGV - 9 minutes. Belfort - Delle (direct TER) - 28 minutes, from Meroux TGV (Swiss train) - to Delle 16 mins, to Porrentruy 36 mins, to Délement 68 mins, to Biel/Bienne 2h39m. 

 The short journey between the TGV station and Belfort-Ville (9 mins) suggests that a regular interval shuttle twice an hour would be feasible given that there are about 25 TGV's stopping daily. But the shuttle service proposed is irregular and often less than hourly. Connections with the Swiss trains at Meroux TGV are often poor meaning that the overall service offer along the line to Delle is likely unattractive to local residents. We recall that the Swiss trains are excluded from Belfort-Ville for reasons not explained to the public. We will review the subject further in 2019. 

Notes: * Morteau - La Chaux de Fonds(CH) ** Frasne, Pontarlier - Neuchatel(CH) *** La Cure - St Cergue, Nyon(CH) NStCM **** Bellegarde - Geneva Meroux TGV is also named Belfort Montbéliard TGV

TGV-PSE Sud-Est Finale

SNCF has announced that the last of the TGV-PSE stock will be withdrawn from the Sud-Est network at the timetable change on December 9th. The oldest have now seen a venerable 37 years in service. 15 rakes are still in use, all in post-Renov-1 (1994-2001) condition, ie uprated to 300 kph.They are being succeeded by new deliveries of Euro-duplex TGV's. 19 of the original TGVs in post Renov-2 condition are still running on Nord routes for the time being. Opposite Set 64, in its heyday hurtling southwards through le Creusot on 16 August 1988. Chris Gwilliam
On November 18th the annual special "Train de la Mémoire" from Paris-Est to Auschwitz was formed with a German rake, Allemand Bahn Touristik Express that had arrived empty earlier in the day. The train hauled by Sybic BB 26161 is seen in the Marne valley at Reuilly-Sauvigny between Mézy and Dormans, en route for Strasbourg, Basel and Germany. It would return 4 days later Photo by Romain Vergneres

Still looking for Christmas Presents?

Still looking for christmas presents? Perhaps something that you wouldn't mind looking at first, or could share with a loved one! The Society  Sales Page has a wide range of rolling stock, publications, models and other gifts. Latest in stock is the Le Train 2018/19 Atlas at £18.50 including UK postage and packing

Figeac station destroyed by fire

The elegant Midi station building at Figeac has been destroyed by fire. The fire broke out at about 4:00 am on the morning of Thursday 22nd November and the alarm was raised at 4:20 am by a member of staff who was sleeping in the building.

Over 40 firefighters fought the fire but were unable to save it. It is believed that the upper floor was used to store archives. Situated in the Y between the Brive and Aurillac lines the building also contained the signalling equipment for the junction and section down to Capdenac. As a result services between Brive and Rodez and from Capdenac to Aurillac were replaced by buses

Photos. Top the scene soon after the fire brigade arrived (Pompiers du Lot) and a Brive - Rodez service waits to depart from Figeac on 24th September 2018

Z 5300 - the final days

It is expected that the last few Z 5300 emu's will be withdrawn at the end of December. At the end of November, just 7 units remained in operation; 5304, 5317, 5323, 5353, 5362, 5363, 5368. 5304 is the oldest (Dec 1965) 
Their final service is at peak periods between Juvisy and Melun via Corbeil-Essonnes. That regular service is expected to end on Dec 8th when we believe a triple 'train d'adieu' will run. Thereafter, they will be in reserve and it is thought that they will all be withdrawn by the end of December. Opposite  Z 5353, aged 50 years , operating a Melun - Juvisy train in the Seine valley at Vosves in July 2018. 

News in Brief

New services in 2019 

 Grand Est Region has created two return TER trains from Paris-Est to Strasbourg along the main line through the Marne Valley via Nancy Ville. They will be Sybic hauled with reversible Corail rakes. 6 additional Sybics locos (26158-163) are scheduled to be converted for reversibility, and are also expected to replace the BB 15000s on the Marne La Vallee services. 

 The 12 stops will be at Chateau Thierry, Dormans, Epernay, Chalons-en-Champagne, Vitry-le-François, Bar-le-Duc, Commercy, Toul, Nancy, Luneville, Sarrebourg, Saverne, Strasbourg-Ville. 

 Theoretical schedules from Dec 9th (times may vary) ; 

TER 39161 Paris Est 07:06. Strasbourg 12:04 
TER 39171. Paris Est 16:36. Strasbourg 21:11 
TER 39172 Strasbourg 16:19. Paris Est 21:28 
TER 39162. Sarrebourg 05:25. Paris Est 09:54 

 We are unable to confirm which days these trains will run. For example, in mid November on the Swiss railways web site, the 39161 was listed only until Jan 18th, 2019, Mondays - Fridays but not Dec 24th - Jan 4th. However, we checked for Dec 27th and 39161 was shown as operating that day but arriving 5 minutes earlier ! Very confusing ! Good luck dear readers !
Paris tramway T3b - extension opens 

 On Nov 24, the 4 km extension of tramway T3b was opened to the public. This new section from Porte de la Chapelle to Porte d'Asnières runs along the centre of the Boulevard des Maréchaux through densely populated zones on the northern edges of the 18th and 17th arrondissements. It is expected that 90,000 additional passengers daily will join the 130,000 who already use the T3b between Porte de Vincennes and Porte de la Chapelle. 

 14 more Alstom Citadis 402 trams have joined the T3 fleet of 49 on both branches (a + b). 80 drivers have been recruited to join the existing 120 drivers on T3b. THe new recruits are already qualified to drive RATP buses. 20 days of testing preceded the opening date.
Ouibus sold to BlaBlaCar

After 6 years and losses exceeding 165 million euros SNCF is to sell Ouibus to BlaBlaCar, an international carsharing enterprise, also loss making. The deal has yet to be finalised but will involve SNCF taking an equity share in BlaBlaCar.

SNCF's strategy is to be able to include ride-sharing on its online booking platform, so that it can offer customers door to door travel combining rail, bus and car travel with different price options

Akiem to buy Bombardier TRAXX

Akiem, SNCF's leasing arm has placed an order valued at €112m for 33 Bombardier TRAXX electric locomotives. The orders include more MS2 multi-system and AC3 locomotives, as well as Akiem’s first DC3 locomotives.  Deliveries are scheduled between 2019 and 2021 and will increase Akiem's TRAXX fleet to 180 locomotives..

X 2403 - new wheels

After a long silence, we learn with satisfaction on the Facebook page of the railcar that the new wheels ordered more than a year ago have been delivered. Once fitted, the work on the bogies will be complete. 2403 has been under general overhaul for several years first at Nevers and currently at Clermont-Ferrand. It is reported that in the final stages of this project subsidies will be solicited to repair corroded parts of the body followed by painting. 2403 should then be ready to return to main line service as the doyen of French railcars in operation, aged nearly 70.
Hauts de France Intercite replacements

SNCF have announced the formal order for 19 Bombardier Omneo units to replace the corail hauled stock on Paris - Maubeuge, Cambrai and Amiens services. Due for delivery in 2022 the units are part of the agreement whereby Hauts de France TER will take over the Gare du Nord Intercite services from 1st January, when 1st Class will disappear. Ten bi-mode Alstom Coradia units are due to be delivered in 2019 for Paris - Amiens/Bolougne services

 Transilien network - RER D, a line in crisis

The busiest SNCF line in France is in Ile de France region. It is RER D with an average of 615,000 passengers daily in 2017(*). Traffic has grown 20% in the last 10 years and it continues to climb. Every day 450 trains operate on RER D across the northern and south eastern suburbs of Paris via the tunnel between Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon. There are 59 stations along a route diagram of 197 km. Lets break that down; 

 In the south east division from Paris Gare de Lyon, the RER D network is arranged as follows: 
- Gare de Lyon > Villeneuve-St-Georges (VSG) - 15 km / 4 intermediate stops 
 - VSG > Melun via Combs-la-Ville Quincy - 30 km / 9 intermediate stops 
- VSG > Viry-Chatillon - 8 km / 2 intermediate stops incl. Juvisy 
- Viry-Chatllon > Corbeil-Essonnes via Ris-Orangis (called the "Vallée" route) - 9 km / 3 stops 
- Viry-Chatillon > Corbeil via Evry Centre (called the "Plateau" route) - 9 km / 4 stops 
- Corbeil > Malesherbes (outer suburban line) - 45 km / 8 intermediate stops 
 - Corbeil > Melun (outer suburban line along Seine valley called "Littoral") - 25 km / 8 stops 
TOTAL 141 km / 44 stations including the termini at Melun, Corbeil and Melesherbes

After the tunnel (5 km) via Chatelet, partly shared with RER B, the RER D line extends north from Paris Nord underground station to Creil - 51 km / 13 stops including intermediate termini at Villiers-le-Bel, Goussainville and Orry-la-Ville. 

 So, in total, 197 km (141+5+51), with 5 junctions (**) at Gare du Nord with RER B, at Chatelet with RER B, at Villeneuve St Georges :- Melun branch/Corbeil branch, Viry-Chatillon :- branch "Vallée"/branch "Plateau", Corbeil :- 4 way junction. 


 RER D services rotate via the tunnel between the termini in the south and in the north. 4 letter train codes identify the services. Typical services: 

 FACA : Melun - Goussainville, 87 minutes, 21 stops, 3 junctions
 VUPE : Malesherbes - Villiers-le-Bel, 118 minutes, 25 stops, 5 junctions 
SOVA : Corbeil - Creil, 111 minutes, 27 stops, 4 junctions 

 Punctuality on RER D is poor.The target of 92% on time has never been reached . In 2015, average punctuality was 86.3% but is much worse during the evening peak periods. In 2016, the result was 85.2%. Trains cancelled are not included in these statistics. Numerous trains are cancelled for technical failures, operating reasons ( a favourite excuse), accidents. One of the reasons for the poor results is the physical configuration of the network (lines are shared with other traffic, there are five junctions, the tunnel is a bottle neck). Delays from incidents cascade rapidly across the whole network. Incidents occur daily and severe disruptions arise several times a week. Delays are caused frequently by passengers (illness, suicides, vandalism, alarm signals pulled unecessarily, suspicious abandonned luggage). Incidents with the infrastructure can disrupt traffic for many hours - signal failures, overhead catenary, power failures. For more than 10 year an RER D blog (organised by users) catalogues travel problems on line as they happen.

2019 Re-organisation Project

In a few days, from December 9th, a radical change will be implemented to try to solve some of the problems of RER D. It has taken two years to devise this plan and it is fiercely opposed by some commuters even at this late stage. 

 The plan is to seperate services on 3 out of 4 branches at Corbeil-Essonnes ("Malesherbes", "Vallée", "Littoral") from the rest of the RER D network. Through trains to Paris and the north of the network will in future operate only on the "Plateau" route starting from Corbeil

Trains from Malesherbes which currently travel to Paris and terminate at Villiers-le-Bel will (from Dec 9th) terminate at Juvisy and they will operate on the "Vallée" route (currently they operate on the "Plateau" via Evry Centre). Passengers for Paris and the north will have to change at Corbeil, or Viry-Chatillon or Juvisy. Trains from Melun on the "Littoral" route will terminate at Corbeil. (Currently they terminate at Juvisy in peak periods). Some 9,000 - 12,000 passengers daily will be affected by the suppression of the through trains to Paris and the north from Malesherbes and the "Vallée". They are furious. Mostly about the necessity to change trains, sometimes via subway or bridge. 

On the positive side, there will be extra services, on the "Vallée" and "Malesherbes" branches. From the end of 2019, new Régio 2N trains will be assigned to the Malesherbes line.

Will it work ? 

 SNCF says that the plan will eliminate delays at Corbeil and improve punctuality overall. However, the tunnel between Chatelet and Paris-Nord shared by RER B and D remains a major cause of delays. In a year or so we will learn if the radical plan worked. 

 * RER A, operated mainly by RATP, has over a million passengers daily. 

 ** A few years ago the University of Lausanne (department of transport) conducted an audit of the Transilien network. The Swiss experts (among many recommendations) commented that a suburban rail network will sustain poor reliability if it has more than 3 junctions. Illustrations: 

Two diagrams are worth a thousand words ! Above A Z 20500 emu at Le Coudray in the Seine valley on the "Littoral" route heads towards Melun on Sept 26th. The Transilien livery will soon be history when replaced with the IDF Mobilities livery. Photo by D Michel Costes.

Péchot-Bourdon 0-2-0 + 0-2-0T on display 

This strange Fairlie type (*) locomotive was invented by two French engineers (Capt Prosper Péchot and Charles-Alexandre Bourdon) in 1887. It has two boilers with two fireboxes and a single central steam dome. It was built for 600mm gauge. It weighed 14 tons loaded with 500 kilos of coal and 1,750 litres of water. Boiler pressure was 12 bars. Maximum speed was 20 kph. The loco had to be reloaded with coal and water every hour or so when in service
The Péchot-Bourdon was designed for the French Army and was widely used in WW1. Atogether, 356 locos were built; 66 in France before the Great War and the remainder were constructed mostly by the American company, Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1915/1916. It is believed that 75 Péchot's were built by North British in Glasgow.

The Péchot-Bourdon was used by the French army on the eastern defence line. Only two have been preserved, They are at Dresden railway museum in Germany and in Serbia, at Pozega Railway Museum. It is the latter engine (built by Baldwin) which has been displayed at Hotel des Invalides in Paris during November in connection with the centenary of the end of the Great War. It is believed that this particular engine was transferred by the invader from France to Serbia, in 1941, to work in a lignite mine It worked at the mine until 1951. The Serbian museum has nicely restored the historic locomotive. Photo by Jean-Louis Poggi 

 * The Fairlie locomotive was invented in 1864 by a Scot, Robert Francis Fairlie. His engine had two boilers back to back and two steam domes.

Farewell RB E332

The bolier certificate on the CFBS's Reseau Breton E332 expired on the 12th November and it has now been withdrawn for a major overhaul. It re-entered service following its last overhaul at the Fete de Vapeur in April 2009 and has since run 30,000 km.

It's place in the CFBS operational fleet will be taken by Haine St Pierre 1-3-0T No 15. whose overhaul at St Valery is nearing completion.

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during November 2018

 FRS Industrials (France) gallery - A new gallery comprising some 225 French “Industrials” images from across the FRS photo archive. 
FRS SNCF Region 1 gallery - A new gallery comprising some 325 images of Region 1 (Est) from across the FRS photo archive 
FRS SNCF Region 2 gallery - A new gallery comprising some 500+ images of Region 2 (Nord) from across the FRS photo archive 
FRS SNCF Region 3 gallery - A new gallery comprising some 500 images of Region 3 (Ouest) from across the FRS photo archive 
FRS. SNCF Region 4 gallery - A new gallery comprising some 240 images of Region 4 (Sud-Ouest) from across the FRS photo archive 
FRS SNCF Region 5 & 6 gallery - A new gallery comprising some 300 images of Regions 5 & 6 (Sud-Est) from across the FRS photo archive 

Ecole Centrale Paris - Cours de Chemins de Fer 1927/1928 - Illustrations 
MTVS 32 - CdF de la Corse 
 MTVS 36 - Automotrices Crochat & Brissonneau-Lotz MTVS 48 - Les locomotives CFD (1) 
 MTVS 49 - Les locomotives CFD (2) & Les locotracteurs .

Au revoir "TVR" !

Between 2000 and 2002, Nancy and Caen chose the Bombardier TVR (Guided Light Transport) system to modernise their urban transport routes. The TVR is a rubber tyred guided articulated vehicle. The choice proved disastrous. TVR was prone to failures of all kinds particularly in Nancy where the initail opening was delayed for a year after several days of operations. TVR never improved and several times burst into flames spontaneously. Repairs were continually required. Bombardier long ago removed the product from the catalogue. First Caen and now Nancy have given up. 

The last TVR at Caen ran in December 2017 and a classical tramway on rails network is being built to replace the unreliable TVR. The new tramway is scheduled to open in October 2019. There will be 23 Alstom Citadis 305 trams of the latest generation. 

At Nancy, after several years of discusions, consultations and hesitations, the metropole has finally decided to replace the troublesome TVR with an ambitious, classical tramway on rails; a network of 15 km for an estimated 400 million euros.
Above. Bombardier TVRs in Nancy showing the centre (Scalextric type centre guide rail) 

The trams will be approximately 40m long. The TVR will be abandonned by 2021 when construction will start for the new project. It was announced in November 2018 that the new tramway would open by 2025. Three years of preparations now begin (detailed plans, financing, administrative chores, tenders).

Avignon - new tramway to open 2019

The original plans for a new tramway network at Avignon were cancelled by a change of administration. However after consideration they decided that it would be more costly to cancel the project than to modify and re-schedule it. So the suburbs of Avignon outside the city walls will get a tramway after all ! Phase 1 will open in the summer of 2019. 5.2 km long it will start near the SNCF central station. The trams will be short units, 25 metres long; Alstom Citadis Compacts. Phase 2 will concern extensions to each end of the new line.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2018. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to D Michel Costes, Chris Gwilliam, Romain Vergneres and Jean-Louis Poggi.
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2019 All Rights Reserved
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