July 2019 News

X2900 to Paris

Montlucon schoolchildren visited Paris for the day on the 28th May and 4th June. SNCF were approached to provide special trains, but declined, so AAATV stepped in with rolling stock from their fleet of heritage autorails.  On the evening of 4th June ‘Bleu d’Auvergne’ liveried X2900  leads  X2230  with two XR6200 trailers sandwiched between through  Vitry-sur-Seine (94) with the return working to Bourges and Montlucon with 260 school children on board. An incident further down the line resulted in a three hour delay and a 01:30 arrival in Montlucon. Photo Christophe Masse.

BB 16000s moved for breaking up

Class BB 16000 locomotives that have been stored at Sotteville for many years are now been moved elsewhere for disposal, rather than being broken up at Quatre Mares works. On 11th June BB 67596 is seen above hauling BB 16053, 16029, 16111,16112 and 16061 past fields of barley at Saint-Germain-de-la-Grange (78) on the Plaisir Grignon - Epônes Mézières section of the Grande Ceinture Ouest on their way to Baroncourt for breaking up.

 A second batch consisting of 16022, 16051, 16011, 16002, 16021, 16042 and 16033.was moved on the 25th June, seen opposite beside the Seine at Port Villez (78) headed by BB 67615.  Both photos Erwan Quintin

Mixed news for Le Treport re-openings

Good progress is being made on re-building the Beauvais - Le Treport line, due to re-open in December 2019. Above, on the afternoon of 12th June, an Eiffage works train is seen spreading ballast stones near Marseilles-en-Beauvaisis, hauled by a Vossloh G1206. News on the Abbeville - Eu branch is not so good. At a recent public meeting, it was announced that SNCF has not yet started the preparatory planning, although funding is available. It is unlikely that the line will open before 2025 at the earliest. Local politicians are demanding that the line open by 2024. There is concern that if the line is closed for too long different regulations will apply to the existing road crossings, which would all then need to be closed, rendering re-opening unfeasible due to the extra cost.

Uncertain future of Roya Valley Line

Lack of agreement over responsibility for funding maintenance of the French section of the Coni - Ventimiglia line (from Breil-sur-Roya to the Italian border at Col de Tende) continues to cause concern for the future of this spectacular line in the Alpes Maritimes.. Under the 1970 convention, Italy was to pay for maintenance of the Breil - Tende section in France, but it has ceased to make regular payments since 2012. Urgent repairs to improve security were carried out between 2014 - 2017 and negotiations resulted in a one time payment of 29 million euros from Italy. While there is support locally for the line between the regions on both sides of the frontier there is no appetite in Paris at present to negotiate a new international convention. It is an impasse. Diplomatic relations between Italy and the Macron administration are at a low-ebb, due in part to problems with illegal immigrants crossing the border in the area. 

 RFF (now SNCF Réseau) imposed a 40 km/h speed restriction between Nice and Tende in Dec 2013. Despite completion of substantial engineering work between 2014 - 2017 the restrictions remain in place. They make it impossible to maintain the former frequencies on the single line. Ventimiglia - Cuneo Trenitalia services have fallen from twelve to two services each way daily. A position not helped by some clumsy timetabling that sees the 18:02 Nice - Breil-sur-Roya arrive at 19:20, three minutes after the last northbound service, the 18:37 Ventimiglia - Cuneo has departed at 19:17. Through SNCF trains from Nice beyond Breil-sur-Roya to Tende have been reduced to three trains each way, the early morning train now a bus, while this year the tourist " Train des Merveilles" will only run for 109 days compared to 145 days in 2018. Above; the 10:37 Ventimiglia - Cuneo heads away from Tende towards the Italian border in November 2018.

Future of Perpignan - Paris (Rungis) refrigerated vans remains unclear

As reported last month, the overnight service to Paris-Rungis fruit & vegetable market from Perpignan is threatened with closure. 

 After several round table meetings with all parties at the Ministry of Transport, no solution has been found. The train is operated by SNCF for a privately owned consortium in Perpignan. The loading is seasonal and the train is not fully loaded in the second half of the year. The consortium is apparently unable to accept the terms of the offer of SNCF for a new train in 2020. This conflict has been going on for more than 12 months and unions say that arrangements have already been made for replacement of the train by 20 lorries after July (end of the peak season). 
Photo BB 26063 near Toulouse by Georges Turpin

Flixtrain applies to operate on five domestic routes

German coach and train operator Flixtrain (subsidiary of FlixMobility) has applied to operate four daytime and one overnight service from January 2021. FlixMobility also operates Flixbus across Europe and would want  their future rail services to create synergy with their coach operations. The development of rail services within France is possible as part of the liberalisation of domestic services under EU requirements. The proposed services are:

- Paris Nord - Brussels, seven services  each way daily calling at  Saint-Quentin
- Paris Austerlitz - Bordeaux, two services each way daily calling at Les Aubrais, Blois, St Pierre des Corps, Poitiers and      Angouleme
- Paris Bercy - Lyon Perrache, five trains each way daily calling at Dijon, Chalon-sur-Saône and Mâcon
- Paris Bercy - Toulouse, two trains each way daily calling at Les Aubrais, Vierzon, Châteauroux, Limoges, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Cahors and Montauban.
- Overnight Paris Bercy - Nice calling at Avignon Centre, Arles, Miramas, Vitrolles, Marseille, Toulon, St Raphael-Valescure, Cannes and Antibes.

Flixtrain's proposal is to operate the service with BB 36000s or equivalent locomotives and rolling stock with capacity for 500 to 1,000 passengers depending on demand. Flixtrain have no resources of their own, and in Germany own one bus to qualify as a bus-operator. Their business model is to manage the marketing and promotion and develop good onboard IT facilities, with trains  hired in from other companies. If the application is approved they will need a strategic partner(s) with credentials to operate over the French network and the staff and rolling stock to operate the services. The are currently in discussions with the private freight operators. The proposal to operate Toulouse services from Paris Bercy (instead of Austerlitz) is surprising  given the limited capacity and congestion with RER Line D and at Juvisy, but is to provide easy access to the adjacent coach station.

Formed in 2013, in Germany Flixtrain now operates over four routes (Berlin - Stuttgart, Berlin - Cologne, Hamburg - Cologne and a seasonal Hamburg - Lorrach (Basle) overnight). They have managed to succeed where other open access operators have fallen by the wayside offering comfortable but cheap travel, basically a no frills service in re-furbished hauled stock, although all trains have  wi-fi,  seats with power points and some on-board catering. Ticketing in basically via the internet with a QR code that can be printed off or loaded onto a smart-phone, although tickets can also be bought at bus stations and some supermarkets. Pricing is based on capacity management with Hamburg - Cologne costing between €2.19 to €65 but generally in the €9.99 to €39.99 range. There are no extras or hidden costs but reserved seats are extra at €3.49 or €3.99 for a window. Timings have capacity to recover from unscheduled delays to maintain a good level of timekeeping

FIGEAC station - a headache for all

We reported in DECEMBER NEWS the accidental fire which largely destroyed the graceful station building at Figeac junction in the département of Lot. 

Six months later, the mayor of Figeac is frustrated by the lack of progress. He confided his concerns to "La Dépêche" newspaper in its edition of May 21st. 

A number of unexpected problems were quickly revealed after the fire;

- insurance cover of the building and installations included a franchise of 6 million euros 
 - the building belongs to SNCF Gares et Connexions, whereas the equipment for controlling signals and points belongs to SNCF Réseau. The control panel was destroyed in the fire. SNCF Réseau has decided to order a new automated control system for the junction that would not require any agent at the station. The new system would cost 12 million euros and take 5 years to install, according to the mayor. 
- There have been 5 meetings at the prefecture in the six months since the fire. The only decision has been to order a study of the state of the building (38,000 euros). 
- No dates have been fixed for any work to begin to rebuild the structure. 
 - There is no news regarding provision of a temporary control panel.    
Since the fire, no trains have operated through the junction between Aurillac and Capdenac. The line from Brive to Capdenac through FIgeac was quickly re-opened, but has been closed since March 25th due to track replacement between Brive and St Denis près Martel. The line is due to re-open on July 5th (some 3 weeks late) but there seems to be no firm date for re-opening the line from Aurillac. A temporary ticket office was opened in mid June. 

 Occitanie Region has indicated a willingness to purchase the damaged station building in order to speed up the reconstruction.

SNCF Events and Exhibitions Train, a sighting !

It is rare to see an SNCF Events and Exhibition train en route in daylight. Usually they move overnight. However,  the special "SNCF au féminin" train was photographed near Castelnaudary on June 24th. It is an internal SNCF event devoted to exploring and eventually improving staff relationships where jobs historically occupied by male employees are occupied by women.

Hauled by BB 22348, the train comprised a decorated van, some converted ex TEE Mistral inox coaches, a conference coach and couchette coaches for the staff. The ex TEE coaches have had their identification changed from TRANS EUROP EXPRESS to TRAINS EXPO EVENEMENTS. Both photos and report by Georges Turpin

What's in a name ?

On May 19th, Occitanie Region formally launched a new Regional Public Transport Network and named it "lio" (for "lien entre les territoires d'Occitanie" otherwise "linking Occitanie"). 

 "lio" includes regional rail services, bus services, school buses and multi-modal centres. A new name means a new visual identity. The full decoration will be applied to new buses and new train sets. The rest of the fleet will receive the "lio" logo. Red is the colour of choice. 

 The latest Régio2N train set was delivered to Occitanie on June 12th in the new "lio" decoration. The photo (by Georges Turpin) shows the new Bombardier unit at Pompignan between Montauban and Toulouse.
Occitanie has a population of 5.8 million in an area (72,000 sq km) that is larger than the Republic of Ireland. The map of the transport network can be viewed here; lio (click to enlarge)
The BB 7600 sub class are soon likely to disappear as more Francilien units are delivered to Ile de France Mobilities. Normally confined to Paris Montparnasse - Rambouillet services  BB 7614 in Transilien leaf livery and a set of  VB2N 7 stock heads towards Rambouillet with service RIPI on the 24th May 2019. Photo Erwan Quintin.

News in brief

241 P 30 returns to France 

241 P 30 returned to France in June when it was transferred (in three sections; tender, boiler and frame and wheels) by road to AJECTA at Longueville. 

Withdrawn in 1969 it was initially a static display in Vallorbe, Switzerland. In 1997 it was transferred to the Vapeur Val-de-Travrts group at nearby Saint-Sulpice, Neuchâtel, with the hope of eventual restoration. This proved to be beyond their resources and it was agreed in principle that it would be transferred to AJECTA about three years ago. 

Testing to Start for Milan - Paris service

Trenitalia will start testing modified ETR 1000 units in France next month in readiness for their new Milan - Paris service. Five units have been modified with a wider pantograph, TVM cab signalling and KVB train protection. (photo Wikipedia Commons)
Chemin de Fer Provence 

 Trains continue to only operate between Nice and La Mure due to the tunnel collapse earlier this year. Travel over the final section from La Mure to Digne les Bains is by coach

Aubrac closed for summer

SNCF have announced that the through service from Clermont Ferrand to Beziers will be suspended south of Neussargues from 8th July to 30 August due to engineering work between Severac and Millau. Bus replacements will be available.

Nightmare  to Clermont Ferrand

The heatwave during the last week of June caused disruption with reduced speed limits and cancellations due to extended journey times. Passengers were warned to expect disruptions and carry water to keep themselves hydrated.

On Thursday 27th June, (temperature in high 30°C's) the 17:57 Paris Bercy - Clermont-Ferrand left Paris 2h30m late due to a person having been hit by a train near Vert-de-Maisons. En route at 22.00, the intercité brought the catenary down near Montargis. After six hours with no air-conditioning, the passengers were evacuated at 04:30 eventually arriving in Clermont Ferrand at 08:00.

Apparently SNCF did not have a diesel available at Nevers to rescue the train. However, it was reported on ERG that the 0551 Nevers - Paris Bercy was CMR maroon liveried 67613 due to overhead line problems!

HL 303 visits Baie de Somme

Over the weekend of 15th/16th June the CFBS held their Vapeur Au Crotoy event. Star of the event was visiting Belgian Vicinal HL 303 from the ASVI museum. After delivery by road transport to St Valery depot for adaptations to the brakes and buffers, and inspection by the French authorities it was cautiously moved over the dual gauge section to Noyelles and on to Le Crotoy. Over the two days of the event the 131 year old locomotive operated the main Le Crotoy - St Valery services between Le Crotoy and Noyelles faultlessly, putting in some sprightly running with heavy trains. A great credit to the ASVI team who operated the locomotive over the weekend and  those who undertook the €500,000 rebuild completed last year. Above it is seen entering Noyelles with the 18:00 Le Crotoy - Noyelles additional service on the evening of Sunday 16th June.

No luck for CC 40110

 Electric CC 40110 preserved by MFPN was scheduled to haul it's first train in preservation on 16th June from Paris Nord to Amiens. A last minute failure saw the electric replaced by CMR's A1A 68081 and BB 67615. A suicide at Pierrefitte caused a 90 minute delay to the departure from Gare du Nord. Limited to 120 km/h the special ran wrong line near Faloise (seen above) where it was overtaken by the VSOE with a 140 km/h limit. MFPN had scheduled CC 40110 to operate a special to Bar le Duc on 6th July but have cancelled it due to lack of support. Photo Erwan Quintin

Picasso in the Marne

In the June News we reported on the commencement of services using preserved Picasso X 3926 between Montmirail and Artonges by TFBCO (Association Tourisme Ferroviaire de la Brie Champenoise à l'Omois)

On 2nd June X 3926 heads through the bucolic Marne countryside with the afternoon trip. Photo Erwan Quintin.

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during June 2019

- AFAC “Chemins de Fer” index of articles (Jan1937-Dec1971)

 L'Autorail X 2816 du Haut Doubs back in Service

Ten years ago, the last commercial service of an X 2800 railcar was operated by SNCF from Besançon to Valdahon. The event was widely covered in the media and enthusiasts flocked in from all over France to record the moment. A small local preservation group was quickly formed and became the last one to obtain an X 2800 from SNCF. It was No 2816 and the ( less than 10 ) members of the group built a siding for the railcar at Hôpital du Gros Bois station on the Besançon - Morteau line in the Haut Doubs. For the following six years, the preservation group dismantled the MGO motor and learned all about the components of X 2816. Then they re-assembled everything and were able to shunt up and down the short siding. 

 But four years ago, silence fell over the project. The railcar disappeared from Hôpital du Gros Bois and the website was no longer updated. We feared that the project had failed. 

 But no ! In mid May 2019, the attached poster was distributed locally and the announced special trains on June 1st and 2nd were quickly sold out. And on the appointed days, X 2816 plus trailer operated successfully along the SNCF line to Morteau with its new certificate. More trips are planned around the Jura. Congratulations can be expressed to the (really small) Association x2800 Autorail du Haut Doubs for achieving their objectives which often must have seemed overwhelming.  
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to Erwan Quintin, Christophe Masse, Georges Turpin and D Michel Costes
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2021 All Rights Reserved
Hit counter: 437094