August 2019 News

Mega Chambery - Avignon - Cerbere railtour with CC6558 and CC 6570

It was just before 06.00 am at Chambèry in Savoie on July 6th when intrepid travellers boarded a special train organised by APMFS. It would be a long day. Preserved electric CC 6558 in dark green Maurienne livery (1) would haul the train. Departure was at 05.54 and the first stage was a 3 hour non-stop run to Avignon. Here  APCC 6570 association joined the train with preserved electric CC 6570 (2) leading. This double headed operation was never used in regular service. 

The next stop was at Sète where some passengers would spend the day. Our correspondent Georges Turpin photographed the special as it left the Malpas tunnel between Béziers and Narbonne. This tunnel was bored underneath the Canel du Midi which is also in a tunnel at this site. The final destination was Cerbère at the Spanish border. The return special reached Chambèry in the night at 01.40 after CC 6570 was detached at its Home Depot. 

 (1) CC 6558 was built in 1972 specifically for the Maurienne valley route with 3rd rail current collection. The locomotive was withdrawn in 2007 after 5.8 million km. It was restored by APMFS from 2011. 

 (2) CC 6570 was built in 1975 for service between Paris, Lyon and Marseilles hauling the heavy TEE "rapides" (Mistral, Rhodanien, Lyonnais) The locomotive was withdrawn in Dec 2004 after 6 million km. It was chosen for preservation considering its excellent condition.
Bombardier Regio 2N units in the Z55501 series can come in four sizes identified by the set prefix letter. 10 coaches (XL), 8 coaches (L), 7 coaches (M) and six coaches (C). Above, on the evening of June 27th Region Centre liveried set 039L (Z55577/5507578) is the lead unit on TER Rémi service 862431, the 17.39 from Montparnasse to Chartres seen passing Le Perray for a stop at Rambouillet at 18.15. Photo D Michel Costes.

Mystery of the Intercité 100% ECO Trains

Strange name for a mysterious sub-group of SNCF loco hauled passenger trains. This spring some guessed that the low cost 100% ECO trains were close to the end of their short lives. For SNCF suddenly withdrew the  Paris-Austerlitz - Bordeaux ECO services without any particular explanation, while the Paris - Strasbourg service was taken over by Grand Est TER. 

 One can speculate that the introduction of low cost OUiGO TGV's from Paris-Montparnasse to Bordeaux and Paris-Est to Nancy might be a motive, along with the move away from loco hauled corail stock. However, suggestions that all the remaining ECO trains would be quickly withdrawn are premature. On the contrary at the end of May, a new route was opened from Paris-Austerlitz to La Rochelle on Saturdays and Sundays. The Paris - Nantes service has been extended to the seaside at Le Croisic. The Paris-Bercy - Lyon Part-Dieu train has been extended to Grenoble.  

 Tickets for intercité 100% ECO trains are only available on the internet ( They cannot be changed or reimbursed. There is no dedicated intercité 100% ECO timetable, you have to search around on the net. 

Here are the 4 loco-hauled intercité 100% ECO trains currently in service (data for Sat July 20th); 

 Tr 3705/3706 Paris-Austerlitz (08.29) - Toulouse-Matabiau (15.19) (stops; Orléans Les Aubrais, Châteauroux, La Souterraine, Limoges, Brive, Souillac, Gourdon, Cahors, Montauban) 

 Tr 4075/4175 Paris-Austerlitz (08.39) - Nantes (12.27) - Le Croisic (13.35) (stops; Orléans Les Aubrais, Blois, Amboise, Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, Saumur, Angers, Saint Nazaire, La Baule) 

 Tr 4021 Paris-Austerlitz (07.36) - La Rochelle-Ville (11.46) (stops; Orléans Les Aubrais, Blois, Amboise, Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, Futuroscope, Poitiers, Niort ) 

 Tr 5757 Paris-Bercy (09.16) - Lyon Part-Dieu (13.35) - Grenoble (14.59) (stops; Dijon-Ville, Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Mâcon-Ville)  Frequencies; 3705/3706 daily in both directions. 4075/4175 + 4021 Sats/Suns return services, 5757 southbound Sats northbound Suns. 
Consult for departure and arrival times which may be different to those in the example given above.

Above. Low cost OUIGO TGV's started operating to Toulouse from Paris Montparnasse on July 6th, in addition to the Intercité 100% ECO service. On July 7th, OUIGO sets 785 + 784 pass Lacourtensourt with the 09:38 Paris Montparnasse - Toulouse. Photo Georges Turpin.

Further changes to locomotive hauled trains

July has seen a further reduction to locomotive hauled trains, particularly BB 67400 workings. From the 6th July, B84700 series Alstom (Coradia) Regiolis units took over two of the five daily Paris - Boulogne return services. Eight of the ten B 84700 series units for Paris - Amiens - Boulogne services had been delivered by the end of July and they will replace all Corail hauled services between September and December. From the December timetable change the Paris - Boulogne services will be extended to Calais where the Regiolis units will be maintained.

The remaining BB67400 workings at Strasbourg and the Paris - La Ferte Milon are suspended for the summer and it remains to be seen if they will be re-introduced at the end of August. 
The Paris - Rodez sleeper was re-introduced with BB 67400 haulage between Brive and Rodez from the 6th July, following engineering work, but performance has been a serious cause for concern (see News in Brief)

Coradia units were  scheduled to take over the Intercité services between Toulouse and Bayonne from the end of July, with compulsory reservations being introduced from September.

Above. BB 7297 heads the Intercités 14142 Bayonne - Toulouse between Muret and Portet-Saint Simon. Photo Georges Turpin. Right. Set B 84707/08 leads the 0731 Paris - Boulogne past Noyelles on the 17th July.
PACA BB 22200s move to Grand Est

Four Paca push-pull equipped BB 22200s (22235 - 22259 - 22263 - 22282) have moved to Grand Est. They are eventually expected to replace the BB 25500s around Strasbourg, but are initially being used on the Strasbourg - Paris Est TER services in place of the BB 26000s hired in from the Fret sector, having taken over the workings from 22nd July.  Opposite. Making a colourful sight in the Seine-et-Marne countryside 22235 is seen shortly after La Ferte-sous-Jouarre  with the 07:05 Paris - Strasbourg. Photo Christophe Masse 

News in Brief

Perpignan - Rungis saga rumbles on.

As expected the vegetable and fruit traffic between Perpignan and Rungis was transferred to road from the 15th July, although at the insistence of the Minister of Transport the train initially continued to run, though empty. 

 On the 17th July, after a meeting with all parties, the Vice President of the Occitaine Region announced that the train was suspended until the 1st November and will then restart for a period of up to 12 months (subject to availability of the SNCF refrigerated van train) and pending a final solution. A permanent solution would use containers and to make the operation financially viable, other products would have to be added to the train. An additional problem is that the terminal at Rungis would have to be adapted to offload the containers. 

 Roca and Rey, the two agencies who organise the transport for the producers have said that since the rail strikes of spring 2018, 50% of the producers have transferred their business to road transport. The perishable nature of their produce and the need to meet the time constraints of the market make a reliable transport system paramount. 
Petites Lignes

While there is no news of the overdue report on the future of rural lines ordered by the Transport Minister, initiatives by individual regions are producing some positive news.

Grand Est. Agreement has been reached to re-open Epinal - St Die in early 2022 at a cost of €20 million. The state will meet 40% of the cost, SNCF Reseau 8.5% with the balance from Grand Est Region. 

Nancy - Vittel - Merrey line will also reopen to passengers with a private operator between 2022 - 2025 following work by the private operator.

 Hauts de France. The Region has agreed to fund the regeneration of the La Ferte Milon - Fismes section of the Trilport - Reims line, that lost its passenger services in 2016, at a cost of €19m. The line currently sees one or two freight trains a day. The funding will secure 300 jobs at four employers who are dependant on rail transport. The return of passenger services is less certain in view of the low rural population and regional boundary.

The region will also fund a preliminary study for the regeneration of the Hirson - Laon line at a cost of €445,000. Currently there are eight return services a day conveying some 2,000 passengers, but the sleepers are in poor condition and are unlikey to last beyond 2023.
Occitaine Carole Delga, Regional President has announced that their priority will be to restore passenger services on the following lines by 2022:

  - Ales-Bessèges 
  - Rodez-Millau 
  - The perpetuation of the Yellow Train 
  - Carcassonne Quillan 
  - Montréjeau - Comminges 
  - Nîmes-Pont-Saint-Esprit 

 This last line, Carole Delga pointed out was exceptionally open on July 23, at the 16th stage of the Tour de France. 
HL 303 returns to St Jean de Gard

Vicinal tram HL 303 has returned to the workshops at St Jean de Gard for attention to some bodywork damage sustained during transit to the Baie de Somme. Despite the Ligne de Cevennes being standard gauge, there is also a small amount of metre gauge track at the workshop enabling it to undertake work on metre gauge locomotives. The restoration of HL 303 was undertaken here and the boiler of Corpet Louvet TIV 75 is currently being repaired here for MTVS. The boiler received a ten year certificate in late July.

Paris - Rodez sleeper woes

The Paris - Rodez (Albi) sleeper was re-introduced on the 6th July with Class BB 67400 haulage between Brive and Rodez, following  completion of engineering work on the POLT mainline. Performance has been poor due to the mechanical condition of the rolling stock with the train cancelled on three occasions an  AGC substituted on others, and delays. Passengers seeking to buy tickets at Rodez on the nights when the hauled stock is not operating have been refused, presumably as there is limited accommodation available on the train from Brive.

Élisabeth Borne,  Minister of Transport, has promised €30 million for new rolling stock but this isn't expected to arrive until 2022. Unlike the Briancon sleeper there has been no attempt to replace the BB 67400s with BB 75300s.
SNCF trials 'remotely controlled train' 

SNCF has successfully operated it's first 'remotely controlled train' using a pair of Class BB 60000 diesels fitted with external cameras and remotely operated from a control centre. 

 The train ran 4 km from Villeneuve-Saint-Georges to Juvisy and was driven from a control centre at Vigneux-sur-Seine. The system uses both satellite and a cellular network similar to 4G. 

 SNCF enviages the technology could be used for moving empty stock between depots and stations, and on trip workings to customer sidings. A video of the remote controlled train is below. 
Engineering blockade at Creil

Work in connection with the inauguration of a new Central Control Centre at Creil will take place from the evening of Friday 30th August until the morning of Sunday 1st September. Trains will terminate at Creil or adjacent stations, while on Saturday 30th August Paris - Maubeuge trains will be diverted via Ormoy Villiers .

Ile De France - Transilien Suburban Network Update

Grande Ceinture Ouest (GCO). On July 7th, the GCO closed after 14 years during which the shuttle service between St Germain GC and Noisy-le-Roi (9 km) carried numerous empty seats back and forth. Opened in December 2004, the creation of this short electrified section of the Grande Ceinture (which had lost all its traffic) was imagined as part of a project to link the west of Ile de France to Versailles Chantiers. But the further extension of the initial section was never constructed. The only apparent purpose of the GCO was to become a feeder to the Transilien line L terminus in the Forest of Marly at St Nom-la-Bretèche. This isolated rail junction provided the only physical connection to the GCO from the Ile de France network. The traffic was only significant in the morning and evening peak periods with commuters to and from Paris Saint Lazare. 

 Three renovated Z 6400 emu's were reserved for the GCO (Nos 6480, 6482, 6484). They were modified inside with a unique arrangement of seats that was never replicated elsewhere. Z6484 was withdrawn in 2014 after fire damage three years earlier. In July 2019, the two remaining units were also withdrawn. 

 The GCO has closed, but the line will re-open at the end of 2021 as "Tram 13 Express". The original project to link the west of Ile de France with Versailles has been resurrected, but in the form of a tram-train. The first stage will run from Saint Cyr l'Ecole to Saint Germain en Laye (RER A terminus) with a branch line in tram mode from Saint Germain en Laye GC. Later, in stage 2, the line will be further extended to Poissy and Achères-Ville. 

 The GCO section will have to be adapted to the standards of the tram-train. In particular the platforms that were raised for the Z 6400 train sets will have to be lowered for the tram-trains. It is also reported that the two lifts and bridge at St Nom-la-Bretêche will be demolished, replaced by pedestrian crossings over the tram-train tracks.

Photos. - Above Z 6482 on one of its last services at St Nom-la-Bretèche in July 2019 under the pedestrian bridge and lifts which are to be demolished. (D Michel Costes)
Bottom right - The GCO at St Nom-la-Bretèche in the forest of Marly, Jan 2005.
 Bottom Left - Z 6484 ultra clean, without graffiti, in Jan 2005 at St Nom-la-Bretèche 
RER D + R Delivery of 42 Bombardier double deck Regio 2N units is complete for Line R. The units operate on Paris - Melun - Montereau , Montereau - Melun via Héricy and Paris - Melun - Montargis services. An additional 19 Regio 2N units have been ordered for the RER D branches; Melun - Corbeil and Juvisy - Ris-Orangis - Malesherbes. They will be rolled out on those lines in the next few months, first on Melun - Corbeil with 2 units in July and 2 units in August.

Gare Saint Lazare is the last terminus station in Paris to be equipped with automatic ticket barriers. With 1,600 trains a day and 450,000 passengers it is the busiest terminus. From July 15th 140 ticket "gates" were.activated, initially at off peak periods (10.00 - 16.00). The system is designed for 35 validations a minute at each "gate". A majority of travellers on the suburban trains will have "no-contact" passes (Navigo) and will speed through, it is hoped.  

Summer closures. 

July and August are prime months for SNCF Réseau to accelerate engineering closures as traffic is lighter. Here are some of the most important closures this summer: 

 RER A Between Auber and Vincennes inclusive; closed every week end until Sept 1st, closed between Aug 10th - 18th inclusive, closed from 21.00 weekdays between Aug 5th - 30th. 

 RER B The southern terminal section from Orsay to St Rémy closed with replacement buses. 

 RER C The section between Javel / Ave Henri Martin and Austerlitz is closed until August 24th. 

 RER E The stations at Haussmann Saint Lazare and Magenta are closed until August 25th inclusive. Trains diverted to Gare de l'Est. 
Transilien line P and TER Grand Est (Paris - Troyes - Belfort). The line between Nangis and Longueville is closed until August 25th in order to demolish a short tunnel in connection with the electrification of the line. The Transilien trains to Provins will terminate at Nangis. The TER Grand Est services on the main line from Paris to Nogent, Romilly, Troyes, Chaumont and all stops to Belfort and Mulhouse are seriously affected. The solutions are varied and include cancelations, diversions via Chalons-en-Champagne, terminus/departure Longueville with bus transport to/from Paris. Long distance journey times are severely impacted. 

 There are many other short term closures in Ile de France, too many to mention. Be prepared for surprises and diversions if travelling in or around Paris this summer.  

Preservation News

231 G 558 heading home

Pacific Vapeur Club operated another return trip from Sotteville to Dieppe on the 21st July with 231 G 558. The return working was captured passing Saint Victor l'Abbaye in this superbly panned shot by Jean-Marc Frybourg. The photo was taken with an ISO of 31 and a shutter speed of 1/25th second. Brings back memories of Kodachrome 25!

Train Thur Dollar Alsace celebrates 150 years of Cernay - Sentheim

TTDA have been celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Cernay - Sentheim line with a series of special events.  On the 10th July Meuse 0-6-0 No. 51 approaches  Guewenheim with a train of vintage stock. The first coach has been decorated for the event. Photo Christophe Masse

MTVS operating to Rotangy

This summer MTVS have extended their operations from their Crevecoeur-le-Grand base to the loop just past Rotangy Station, a distance of 3.2 km. Work will soon begin on extending the line to Saint-Omer-en-Chaussée extending the line to 12 km in length. Above, on 21st July, former Tramways de Sarthe Blanc-Misseron 0-6-0 No 60, built in 1898, heads a rake of 1890's stock across the D149 with the 15:30 service from Crevecoeur to Rotangy.  More information via this link

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during  July 2019

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during July 2019 

-  AFAC “Chemins de Fer” index of articles (1957 thru to 1979, 1981 thru to 1989, 1991/1992) 
-  Peter Halton gallery SNCF mainline 1970’s 
-  Peter Halton gallery Pithiviers/Toury 1970’s 
-  Peter Halton gallery Secondary & Industrial railways France 1970’s 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF Region 1 Est 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF Region 2 Nord 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF Region 3 Ouest 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF Region 4 Sud-Ouest 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF region 5 Sud-Est 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery SNCF Region 6 Mediterranee 
-  Geoffrey Nickson gallery Secondaires (CFV & CP)

Indexes to these galleries have ben added to the FRS Yahoo group site


As we have previously mentioned, 2019 is a year when several new tram lines are due to open in France. Here is some information about these new lines and network extensions.
AVIGNON. The first modern tram line in the urban area is 5.2 km long. It runs from the SNCF station into the suburbs. Originally, there had been a more ambitious and expensive plan but, after elections, the new team wanted to abandon that project. They then discovered that orders had been placed and it would be complicated to withdraw commitments. As a compromise, the new idea was to phase construction so that after the first line a branch will be constructed and gradually the network will grow. It is hoped that the mayor of Avignon will get used to the tram and ultimately allow it inside the walls that encircle the town centre. At present, he is opposed to the tram being inside the historic centre. The new line will be opened on October 19th. Trams are operating (without passengers) on the short line, from July 20th, for driver training. 10 Alstom Citadis Compact trams have been delivered. These are 23m long. They are white with orange coloured seats. See details; Avignon tram
CAEN. On July 27th, the inauguration of a completely new tramway network took place. This is the project which has replaced the unsatisfactory guided trolley bus system (TVR) which was abandonned in December 2017. In just 18 months, the original elements of the TVR system have been removed and a double track tramway system has been installed, mostly along the original 2 routes, plus an additional third route. The three lines all pass through the city centre (900 m) and then split into two branches on each side of the urban area. Two lines pass the SNCF station. The network extends over 16 km with 37 stops. It is expected to carry 64,000 passengers daily. The operator is Keolis. 23 Alstom Citadis 305 trams have been delivered. These trams are 33m long and have 210 seats compared to the TVR which had 128 seats. The population at Caen chose the colour scheme that readers may see in the  photo below .
SAINT ETIENNE. The tramway network is metre gauge and it has operated continuously since 1881. There are three routes (T1,T2,T3). T1 crosses the city centre north-south. The streets are very narrow in the centre, and single tracks are laid in two parallel streets. A branch to the SNCF Châteaucreux station was opened in 2005. It provides the opportunity for T2 and T3 routes which link the station with the northern and southern termini of T1. The network totals approximately 12 km with 37 stops. Over 80,000 passengers a day use the tramway. A new tram line of 4.3 km is under construction from Châteaucreux directly to La Terrasse on the northern end of T1 (avoiding the city centre). There will be 8 stops and a travel time of 15 minutes. Testing the new line starts in August and the inauguration is expected in November.  

There are two types of tram in service. Originally, 15 Alstom-Vevey trams( 23 m x 2,1 m) were delivered in 1991-92 and 20 similar trams were delivered in 1998 - see below. Many have been renovated. It is unclear how many of the first batch (1991/92) are in service. Photo Georges Turpin.
The most recent trams are 16 CAF Urbos 3 trams ( 33 m x 2.15 m) delivered in 2016 - 2017 - see below. These new trams are bi-directional unlike the Alstom-Vevey trams which are uni-directional. Photo Georges Turpin
NICE. On June 27th, an extension of the new east-west tramway (T 2) was opened. Three new stops have been created and the line now penetrates into the city centre in a tunnel. The new temporary (underground) terminus is now at "Jean Médecin" where it is possible to change between T2 and the first tramway (T1) in the street above. 

The journey by tram from Nice airport to the centre of Nice is now possible in 30 minutes. The final extension of the east-west line (two more stops in the tunnel) will bring the line to a terminus at the Port of Nice. This extension is due to open in the autumn of 2019. 
Above. Alstom Citadis XO5 tram on Nice east-west tramway Line 2 , February 2nd 2019.


 T1 Noisy-le-Sec - Saint-Denis - Les Courtilles. The western extension of 900 m from Les Courtilles that was due to open this year has been delayed by 12 months. At Noisy-le-Sec, it is reported that work will resume in August on constructing the extension to Montreuil and ultimately to Val de Fontenay (RER A). This project has been delayed by the Mairie of Noisy-le-Sec for more than ten years. 

 The 35 TFS trams on T1 date from 1992. At the beginning of July, RATP invited bids for the supply of 120 new trams for T1, of which 37 in a first batch to replace the TFS trams, and 83 options. The dimensions of the new trams will be 33m long by 2.40m wide with probably 6 doors and a capacity of 220 passengers. The TFS trams are 29m x 2.30m with a capacity of 178. More information later.
Above. TFS 101, One of the inadequately small TFS trams that will soon be replaced.

Another tram line blocked by political obstruction. T7 was opened from Villejuif to Athis-Mons via Orly airport and Rungis market in 2013. It carries about 30,000 passengers daily 

A project to extend the line 3.7 km from Athis-Mons to Juvisy (SNCF station) was approved in November 2013. This extension is expected to double the traffic on the line. Juvisy is the busiest Transilien station outside Paris. 

However, numerous objections to the project have delayed it considerably. The current mayor of Juvisy opposes the construction of a tunnel under the town to reach the SNCF station. Many are impatient with the delay. The original plan was to complete the line by the end of this year. But work on the ground has not started and a period of 3 years is needed to complete.
T7 Tram 703

T9 This is a 10 km tram line under construction from Porte de Choisy to Orly Ville (not the airport) It is due to open in 2020. The operator will be Keolis chosen in preference to RATP, a first !
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to Christophe Masse, Georges Turpin,  D Michel Costes and Jean-Marc Frybourg
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