September 2019 News

Last summer for BB 67400s in Picardy

After over 40 years of hauling Paris trains between Amiens and Boulogne/Calais the reign of the BB 67400s is  over as Alstom Regiolis B84700 series units are scheduled to take over between September and December. This will also bring to an end diesel haulage on Intercite trains. From 9th September the first through Calais - Paris trains via Amiens will be re-introduced after an absence of some years, with more expected in the December timetable change.

Reports elsewhere indicate that  the 67400+RIB/RIO return service Paris-Est - La Ferté Milon (the 18.05, return the following morning) is expected to continue until autumn 2021 when the electrification of Gretz - Longeuville - Provins will be completed. Then some AGC BiBi units will be cascaded to the Ferté Milon line. In Grand Est six 67400s remain at Strasbourg, these are expected to cover two or three rush hour turns to Barr/St Die and Lauterbourg until 2022 when nine additional Regiolis units, recently ordered, will come on stream.

BB 67400s continue to work the Paris - Rodez/Albi sleeper. The introduction of BB 75300s  has been delayed due to restrictions in a tunnel and will be introduced once clearance work has been undertaken. The BB 75000 locos are restricted from many lines in poor condition due to being aggressive on the track. Thus the 67400's which can go everywhere will continue to have work at INFRA and FRET for some time to come.

Above. 67621 slows for the Noyelles stop with the 16:31 Paris - Boulogne on 7th August 2019

Below. During the high summer timetable the 67400+RIB/RIO Paris - La Ferté Milon turn has been suspended providing an opportunity for maintence. On 21st August 67511 passes Isles-les-Meldeuses with an ECS working from Pantin following summer maintenance. Photo Erwan Quintin.
While the number of 67400s allocated to passenger work declines, SNCF's Infra Division (that includes CMR) retains nearly 50 BB 67400s. The Infrastructure pool contains 49 locomotives, 32 for ballast and engineering activities and17 in Materiels (CMR)  for withdrawn stock and equipment movements and railtours. On the 4th July CMR's 67557 and 67556 pass Conflans Fin d'Oise (95) with five vehicles destined to be used to provide extra braking capacity on trains of withdrawn stock. Photo Erwan Quintin.

Summer trains at Le Treport

Although it will be December when normal rail services resume at Le Treport with the re-opening of the line to Beauvais, July saw some train movements. During the last week of July Mers Les Bain held a Victorian Bathing Festival with APPEVA's 600mm gauge train running along the seafront (Photo Christian Huet). Onthe 26th July Colas Vossloh G1000 104 was in the station with a ballast train in connection with the re-laying of the Beauvais line (Photo Philipe Armand). 

The Hauts de France Region have confirmed their intention to re-open the section from Eu to Abbeville by including it in a recent notice in the Official Journal of the European Union of services that it proposes to competitively tender when liberalisation of the French domestic market takes place.


The largest regional cross border rail network in Europe will open in 107 days. This will be LEMAN EXPRESS (LEX), a franco-swiss rail network which will link 45 stations within a radius of 60 km around Geneva, in the départements of Ain (01) and Haute Savoie (74) in France, and the Swiss cantons of Vaud and Geneva, on the banks of Lac Léman. The "LEX" trains will operate over 230 km. It is expected that 50,000 passengers daily will use the new transport system. The LEX network will benefit more than one million residents around Lac Léman. 

 At the centre of the network is the new CEVA rail link (16 km long) which connects Geneva-Cornavin central station with the SNCF station at Annemasse(F), a neighbouring French town with a population of 37,000. Currently, there are 630,000 border crossings daily by road between Geneva and the surrounding French towns and villages. More than 100,000 "frontaliers" cross this border daily. (Residents of France who work in Geneva, but also Swiss nationals who live in nearby France and work in Geneva). LEX should reduce road traffic and resulting pollution in Geneva. It will strengthen the economic and social ties in the area with a frequent cross border public transport system. It is hoped that road traffic within Geneva will decrease by 12% with the opening of LEX. 

 In this report, we describe the background and current status of the LEMAN EXPRESS project.

CEVA (Cornavin - Eaux Vives - Annemasse) 

 The idea of a rail link from Annemasse to Geneva central station is not new. The link was the subject of a Franco-Swiss convention in 1881. A first section from Annemasse(F) to Geneva Eaux-Vives was opened in 1888. The station building was constructed with the expectation that it would be a temporary structure. It survived 123 years (!) and was demolished in 2011.  

In 1912, financial arrangements were agreed to complete the link, but a long delay ensued. Between 1939 -1949, a start was made to the rail link with a line from Genève-Cornavin across the Rhône river into "La Praille" district. In 2008, plans were presented for a tunnel between La Praille and Eaux Vives with an underground extension on to Annemasse. Many objections to the costly CEVA project were presented by Geneva residents along the planned route. The residents are, in particular, very hostile to "frontaliers", blaming them (incorrectly) for high unemployment locally (7%). In fact, studies show that the majority of jobs occupied by frontaliers are in the hotels and restaurants, bars and in the hospitals. Jobs that are not filled by the local population. After 3 years of bitter conflicts, all the objections were rejected by the courts, and a local referendum approved the project with a majority of 61%. 

 In November 2011, work at last began on the, delayed, ultimate project to build a strategic rail link at Geneva that will become the foundation of the extensive regional franco-swiss "TER" network. 

 Eight years later, CEVA is complete and the "LEMAN EXPRESS" rail network is scheduled to open on Dec 15th 2019.  

The Infrastructure
The CEVA rail link is 16 km long of which a section of 14 km is Swiss and 2 km French. 80% of the Swiss section is underground. It includes two tunnels bored with machines (Tunnel de Pinchal 2 km, and Tunnel de Champel 1.6 km). The remainder of the underground sections were created by "cut and cover" methods. A bridge was constructed to carry the railway over the Arve river, a tributary of the Rhône. The viaduct over the Rhône (1949) was renovated. LEX trains use platform 1 at Genève-Cornavin station. The CEVA link crosses the Rhône river into the Praille district, The five intermediate stations are listed next (dimensions in metres) All platforms are at a height of 0.55m above the rails (medium height) for direct access to the trains without steps. 
 Lancy-Pont-Rouge, on viaduct, a central platform, 320 m, opened Dec 2017. 
 Lancy-Bachet; underground (-16m), two platforms 220 m. 
 Genève-Champel; underground (-25m) (the deepest station), two platforms 220 m 
 Genève-Eaux-Vives; underground (-7m), a central platform 320 m (see photo above © SNCF)
 Chène-Bourg; underground (-7m), two platforms 220 m long 

 Between Champel and Eaux-Vives, the line emerges from underground sections to cross the Arve river, tributary of the Rhône. Between Eaux-Vives and Annemasse (4 km), the original single track line has been lowered, and widened, to join the double track CEVA line. The section from Eaux-Vives to Annemasse has been covered, providing a cycle and pedestrian way (voie verte).
Annemasse (F) 

 2 km after the border, the CEVA link emerges from the tunnel and reaches Annemasse junction. Electrified single track SNCF branch lines connect Annemasse with Evian-les-Bains, St-Gervais-les-Bains and Annecy (via La-Roche-sur-Foron). These lines are being adapted for LEX trains (platforms, signalling, motorised points, two extra sidings at Evian). There is also an SNCF line from Annemasse to Bellegarde which is not part of the LEX network. All these lines also carry TER Auvergne- Rhône-Alpes trains and TGV's as well as some freight (Evian mineral water, in particular). 

 Traffic at Annemasse SNCF station will expand to 4.5 million passengers in 2020,(six times the volume in 2014). It will become the 4th busiest station in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes after Lyon Part-Dieu, Lyon-Perrache and Grenoble. To prepare for this increase, the site has been entirely transformed. A new Technicentre has been built for maintenance of the fleet of 17 Regiolis emu's. It opened in August 2019. An additional platform (F/G) for the terminus of LEX trains has been constructed. A new pedestrian tunnel has been constructed across the station site. The passenger facilities in the main station building are being enlarged and modernised. A new bus station will be created adjacent to the station. The multi-modal site will be inaugurated in November 2019. 

A control centre for the complete Léman Express network will be opened at Annemasse in September. The CEVA link is electrified at 15 k/V. At Annemasse, the voltage changes to 25 k/V. The dedicated terminus platform (F/G) for Léman Express is electrified at 15 k/V on one side. LEX trains will provided through services from Coppet(CH) and Geneva to Evian, Annecy and St Gervais without change at Annemasse. Other LEX and RE services from the Canton of Geneva and Vaud will terminate at Annemasse.

Current status of the project 
Electricity (15kV) to the CEVA link was switched on in mid July 2019, and test running began immediately with the two types of train that will operate LEMAN EXPRESS services - Stadler FLIRT* (below left at Annemasse 21st July) and Alstom Regiolis emu (below right 27th July). A third type of train, Stadler KISS** double deck unit was tested successfully through CEVA on Sat 17th August (above a unit at Vevey, May 2018 ). These KISS units will operate CFF Regional Express (RE) services to Annemasse from St Maurice, Vevey and Lausanne. 
See OCTOBER NEWS for descriptions of the three types of emu that will use the CEVA link. 
See NOVEMBER NEWS for the Timetables and Tarifs. 
* FLIRT = Fast Light Innovative Regional Train 
 ** KISS = Komfortabler Innovativer Spurtskarcher S-Bahn-Zug


There are six LEX routes; 
 L1 Coppet - Genève-Cornavin - Annemasse - Evian-les-Bains 
L2 Coppet - Genève-Cornavin - Annemasse - La Roche-sur-Foron - Annecy 
L3 Coppet - Genève-Cornavin - Annemasse - La Roche-sur-Foron - St Gervais-les-Bains 
L4 Coppet - Annemasse (terminus) (opened between Coppet and Lancy-Pont-Rouge, (Dec 2017) 
L5 Genève-Cornavin - La Plaine (opened) 
L6 Genève-Cornavin - Bellegarde (opened)
There will be two Swiss Regional Express (RE) services every hour; 
These routes are between Vevey - Lausanne - Genève-Cornavin and Annemasse.
 Alternate trains will start at St Maurice. 

 These RE trains will not be badged LEX. They will be part of the Swiss RE network and will use the CEVA link, but only stopping at Lancy-Pont-Rouge and Eaux-Vives. The train sets used are not multi-voltage and the RE trains will not travel beyond Annemasse. 

 More analysis of the train services in NOVEMBER NEWS.

Seine Valley engineering trains

Above. On July 5th, VFLI ballast train from the quarry at Chailloué near Surdon, Orne (61) hauled by 77501, approaches Ménerville, Yvelines (78). The final destination was Vernouillet where track work is taking place in connection with the future extension of the RER E. Photo Romain Vergneres 

 Below. Five days later on July 10th a double headed INFRA train from Sotteville to Longueau passes beneath the churchyard at Meulan. The leading diesel was 75075 with a yellow liveried companion behind. Photo D. Michel Costes

"Petites Lignes" - Engineering work update

RENNES - JANZY - RETIERS re-opened August 31st

After 8 months closed for engineering work , this single track branch line of 32 km in Britanny was re-opened at the end of August. The work comprised replacement of all the rails and ballast. 51,000 new concrete sleepers were installed. Seven station buildings were renovated. 23 level crossings were renewed. This section of the line (constructed in 1881) is reported good for the next 25 years, with a line speed of 90 kph. 

 The train service is oriented for inbound commuting to Rennes with 6 return train services Mondays to Fridays, and 3 return services Saturdays and Sundays. It is perhaps disappointing that the train service after the track work is not more frequent than before. The end of the branch line from Retiers to Chateaubriant is closed for rail traffic at present and a bus service is provided. At Chateaubriant there is the terminus of the tram-train to Nantes. The renewal of the 26 km of track from Retiers to Chateaubriant is scheduled to begin only in 2021. This delay is contested by local residents.
TOURS - LOCHES; line repaired, re-opened but no improvement

Earlier this year, the single track line from Tours to Loches (47 km) was closed for the replacement of 10,000 sleepers at a cost of 3.8 million euros..It opened again in June. The line is situated near the highly touristic Loire Valley. Two associations questioned the Centre Val de Loire Region in mid August regarding the absence of trains. In fact, examination of the current timetable shows the following train services; 

 Mondays - Fridays
 Loches - Tours: 2 trains early in the morning. 
 Tours - Loches: 2 trains at the end of the afternoon. 
A midday train that stops halfway along the line. 

 Saturdays and Sundays
 1 or 2 trains each way 

 It is impossible to travel by train from Tours to Loches early in the morning for the line only caters to season ticket holders inbound to Tours. The needs of the millijons of tourists in the area are ignored. Additional transport services are provided by buses (which do not carry bicycles). The Region defended the lack of trains stating that the track needed to be modernised before additional trains could be operated. The expenditure on the replacement of sleepers was not in any way intended to improve the line (sic) but just to keep it open ! 

More than 35 million euros is required to modernise the line and the Region has offered to pay 50% but the government has not responded yet. In general, we are still awaiting the results of a comprehensive study announced last January for recommendations about the future of each secondary railway line in France, and a method to evaluate such lines. The study was expected to be published last May, but there is still silence on the subject. Here, as also elsewhere, there are lost opportunities. 
In addition to the 14 Class BB 7600 Ile de France Mobilities also has two BB 22200s (22218/22223) assigned to RER lines N/U. On the 30th July BB 22218 is seen passing Veneux-les-Sablons in the western suburbs with an ECS working conveying a VB2N set to Nevers Technicentre for maintenance. Photo Erwan Quintin.

News in Brief

SNCF orders more TGVs

At the end of July SNCF placed an order with Alstom for a further 12 TGVs at a cost of €335 million. The new sets will be similar to the TGV Océane sets introduced for the Paris - Bordeaux LGV. Due for delivery in 2021 the new sets will be deployed between Paris - Rennes/Nantes and Paris - Metz/Nancy to meet increased passenger demand.

These will be the last sets before delivery of the TGV du Futur begins in 2023

Thello record late running

The Venice - Paris Thello service is regularly reported late and can often be seen rolling into Gare de Lyon as mid-day approaches. The southbound service set a new record recently when it left Paris at 19:15 on the 9th August with 480 passengers onboard. It arrived in Venice on the 10th August just before midnight 14 hours late. The huge delay was started by the breakdown of the locomotive between Dijon and Dôle.
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes orders more Regiolis units

In a deal worth €70 million Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region has ordered a further ten Regiolis units from Alstom. The units will be similar to the 17 Regiolis units which are scheduled to enter service on the cross-border Léman Express route to Switzerland in mid-December 2019. 

The new units will be delivered between December 2020 and May 2021. They will operate mainly in the northeast of the region, creating a homogeneous fleet with the Leman Express units..
Car trains to finish in December

SNCF's Autotrain services from Paris to Avignon, Marseille, Fréjus, Toulon and Nice will finish on the 14th December. In recent years, car trains have travelled overnight with passengers travelling separately on normal TGV services. SNCF state that the services are now losing €6 million a year with loadings having dropped from 200,000 to 33,500 vehicles annually.

Picasso suffers major transmission failure.

Dijon based X4039, the only Picasso certified to operate on the mainline, suffered a  transmission seizure, due to an oil pump failing, on the 21st July at Volvic whilst on a railtour to La Bourboule. With assistance from Train à Vapeur d'Auvergne the transmission was dismantled to allow X4039 to be towed. On the 14th August CMR provided A1A 68081 to tow x 4039 to Vierzon, continuing to Le Mans the following day. Another society has donated a spare gearbox that will be fitted at TRANSVAP over the coming weeks


 A summer Sunday afternoon on 18 August sees trains from both the Chemin de Fer du Haut Forez (CFHF) and Agrivap meet up at La Chaise Dieu. In the foreground is CFHF BB63705 with remorque and X2807 en queue, while in the background is Agrivap X2856 and remorque. Both services set off at 17:15, CFHF for Estivareilles and Agrivap for Ambert. The furthest vehicle is an unattached Agrivap green and cream remorque on the goods loop. Photo Roger Allen.

Chemin de fer Forestier d’Abreschviller (ACFA) celebrates 50 years of preservation.

The ACFA celebrated their 50th anniversary over the weekend of the 10th/11th August. 

Located in the Red Saar Valley some 40km west of Strasbourg, the 70cm gauge line was opened in 1888 to remove timber from the Saar Mountains. The line was initially 13km but had increased to a network of 73km by 1939. In the late 1950s annual traffic was in the range of 35 to 40 000 m3 with trains of 50 to 70 tons. 

In 1966 the network was closed, re-opening in 1969 as a  tourist line that today sees 25-30,000 visitors a year. Currently there are two operational steam locomotives; HF 110 an 0-6-0 constructed by Jung and Henschel in 1944 for the German Army on the Russian Front (top photo), and Mallet 0-4-0 0-4-0 476 constructed by  Maschienenfabrik Heilbronn in 1906 for the network (lower photo). Photos and original text by Christophe Masse

More information from the ACFA website

Journées Européennes du Patrimoine 2019

This year's Journées du Patrimoine will take place over the weekend of 21st/22nd September. Most preservation societies will be open or holding a special event.

MTVS at Crèvecoeur will be visited by ASVI's steam tram HL 303 providing an opportunity for it to work alongside the Sarthe Tramway loco (see poster opposite)

On the 22nd September, Train Touristique du Centre-Var will be operating a tour with their Caravelle from Carnoules to Nice, Breil sur Roya and Tende. The tour will be repeated in October (details)

SNCF will be undertaking a wide range of events with  buildings and installations open and items on display. Further details are available via this link with a full list available from the 2nd September

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during August

2019 Graham Clark gallery - SNCF mainline 1984/1990 

Additions to the FRS Yahoo site during August 2019

Photographic index for Graham Clark gallery

Exhibitions and Presentations

As summer draws to a close the exhibition season opens. The Society Sales and Membership stand will be attending a number of events along with members layouts.

The Woking event on the 14th/15th September will feature the Society's enlarged Sales and Membership with Tim Hills Tenac one of the featured layouts.
Further details of forthcoming exhibitions on the Events Page

Details of some of the current sales items can be found on the Sales Page. Items can be delivered by post or collected at exhibitions

© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to Erwan Quintin, Christophe Masse,  D Michel Costes, Romain Vergneres, Christian Huet, Phillipe Armand and Roger Allen
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2020 All Rights Reserved
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