October 2019 News

CAF selected for Intercité fleet replacement

On Sept 18th, SNCF announced that the order for 28 new EMU train sets would be awarded to Spanish manufacturer CAF which had made the best bid. The order will be confirmed at a board of directors meeting in the next few weeks. The new trains are intended for intercité services between Paris - Clermont Ferrand (12 units) and Paris - Limoges - Brive - Toulouse.(16 units). Deliveries for both lines will take place between 2023 - 2025. 

 The total order value is €700 million. There will be options to order up to 75 additional train sets, and a further order of 15 train sets for Bordeaux -Toulouse - Marseille services is expected. The new articulated train sets will be 200 m long. The capacity will be 406 seats (according to SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy) and the quality of comfort will be comparable to that of the TGV Océane. There will be wifi and power and USB sockets, racks for 10 bicycles, a mobile refreshment service with bar trolley. The top speed of the units will be 200 kph.

 Components will be manufactured in Spain and assembly will take place at the CAF factory in France at Bagnères-de-Bigorre in Hautes Pyrénées. 250 jobs will be created there and 30 million euros will be invested in an extension of the factory.

The new trains will  replace 40 year old Corail stock hauled by Class BB 26000 locomotives, although the principal morning trains between Paris and Toulouse (08:29 Paris - Toulouse and 10:31 Toulouse - Paris) operate as low cost 100% ECO services operated by BB 7200 locomotives. Above the 08:29 Paris - Toulouse crosses the Dordogne near Souillac on the 13th September. The water level is exceptionally low due to drought conditions over much of Southern France this year.

Journées Européennes du Patrimoine 2019

The Journées Européennes du Patrimoine weekend took place over the weekend of the 21st - 22nd of September with both SNCF and most preservation societies participating with additional events. At Lille Flandres SNCF had their latest freight locomotive 186 191-3 on display along with 231 K 8 and CC 40110. The locomotives travelled up from Paris on September the 20th and are seen passing PN 23 at Juilly. Photo Christophe Masse
Blanc Argent. Since August 12th  northbound operations on the preserved section have extended from Lucay le Male to Valencay, enabling it to connect with the TER section to Salbris. Hopefully this will enable it to tap into the tourist market at Valencay. On Sunday 22nd September Train touristique du Bas Berry (SABA) operated an amended timeable that would have enabled continous travel over the remaining sections of the Blanc Argent network. Above left - the 11:40 TER service from Salbris has arrived at Valencay with a cross platform connection to X224 waiting to depart on the 13:10 to Écueille. At Écueille this connected with Corpet Louvet 0-4-0 11 that worked to Argy, seen above right waiting to depart on the return working. 
The line at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand was open during the Patrimoine week end. An official inauguration of the extension to Rotangy was held. Star attraction for the weekend was visiting  Belgian vicinal steam loco 303 that also visited CFBS in June (see JULY NEWS). Two steam trains were operated, alternately, to Rotangy. 303 also double headed some trains with the Sarthe tram. The week end was well attended,  despite rain on the Sunday afternoon. Photo courtesy of ASVI

At Butry-sur-Oise, the TIV 75 is being re-assembled with a newly repaired boiler ticketed for the next 10 years. The museum at Butry will be open, exceptionally, to visitors during the week- end of October 6th/7th during the afternoon.
AJECTA Longueville
During the patrimoine week-end, AJECTA operated two steam trains to Villiers-St-Georges (VSG) on the plateau of Brie. It was sunny and very windy on Sat Sept 21st. The train was well filled. The original "Batiment Voyageur" at VSG (built 1902) has been completely renovated and the ground floor is organised with benches, displays of old objects, posters and a guichet "Chef de Gare" . Let us not overlook the super modern WC cubicles for LADIES and GENTS. The line from Provins to VSG is kept open for occasional grain traffic .(2 or 3 silos). 
Photo opposite Christophe Masse

Leman Express - The Count-down (Part 2)

 76 days to go ! Last month, we described the LEMAN EXPRESS project (abbreviation; LEX) and the CEVA link. This month, we look at the choices made for the rolling stock

LEX Trains. The project specified that a fleet of 40 electric train sets would be needed to operate the Léman Express network. Ideally these train sets would all be the same type. They would need to be multi-voltage, for the network includes 3 different voltages. The Swiss Stadler Flirt emu was an obvious choice. The unit was already in service elsewhere and it possessed the characteristics required. However, for various reasons, the French authorities preferred to order a new version of the Regiolis emu from Alstom using options in the overall contract signed in October 2009 for 1,000 regional train sets. 

 It was agreed that SNCF would order 17 Regiolis train sets classified Z 31500 for use on Léman Express. They are tri-voltage (1500v - 15kV - 25kV). The prototype unit was produced in 2017 and it was tested for 2 years, covering 40,000 km. A second unit joined the test programme in 2018. SBB ordered 23 Stadler Flirt France(series 2) units classified RABe 522. These are bi-voltage (15 kV - 25kV).These two types of emu will have to be officially approved by the authorities in France and Switzerland. That essential step is scheduled for November 2019. 
A table of specifications (above right) compares the two types of emu. We will review further the Flirt LEX and the Regiolis LEX in a few months, once they have entered service. These trains are broadly similar. Each one can operate in multiple unit up to 3 units which would be a maximum length of 220 m to fit on all the platforms. On the other hand, the FLIRT and the REGIOLIS cannot be coupled together. The FLIRT has an extra door. It is also has a more rapid acceleration rate (from 0 - 40kph) than the REGIOLIS. We have travelled on board the FLIRT and it noticeably accelerates like a metro train. 

 The Stadler Flirt RABe 522 trains have been under delivery since the beginning of 2018. They have been operating on two LEX routes in the Geneva area, Cornavin to La Plaine and Coppet to Lancy Pont Rouge. We assume that most of these new trains have now been delivered. 

The first Regiolis (LEX) set, completed to service standards, was presented to the press at the Alstom factory at Reichshoffen (Alsace) in April 2019. At the end of August, 4 new Regiolis LEX trains had been accepted by SNCF at Annemasse (Z 31505 - 31512) Each unit has two numbers corresponding to the motor carriages. The two prototypes (Z 31501 - 31504) are being retro-fitted to the latest version. 11 more units have to be delivered by the end of November.
STADLER "KISS" RABe 511 Double deck trains. A third type of train will run regularly through the CEVA link. These will be modern double deck trains also made by STADLER. They are assigned to CFF semi-direct regional trains from St Maurice/VeveyLausanne to Geneva. They will be extended through to Annemasse where they will terminate at a dedicated platform, electrified at the Swiss voltage of 15 Kv. 

 The RABe 511 units are principally to be found on the Zurich S-Bahn. These trains are produced in 4 car and 6 car configurations respectively 100 m and 150 m long. They are decorated in standard SBB colours. The 4 car trains have exceptional acceleration of 1.3 metres per second. The 6 car sets use the same motorisation so their acceleration rate is significantly reduced to 0.85 m/s. Capacity is 338 seats (61 1st class) in the 4 car version and 535 seats (120 1st class) in the 6 car version. 

 In NOVEMBER NEWS we will examine the timetables and the latest developments on the LEX network.

New Regiolis trains take over Toulouse - Bayonne intercité services

As reported in August NEWS BB 7200 and corail stock finished operating Toulouse - Bayonne intercité services at the end of July. Nine Regiolis Class Z51500 4-coach EMU's (Z51597/98 - Z51613/14) in Carmillon livery have taken over all the services. Apart from the livery, these units are apparently identical to others in the Occitanie fleet. The photo shows a double set of 51607 + 51609 operating IC 14351 (Toulouse - Bayonne) near Muret on Sept 19th. Photo: Georges Turpin.

Troyes electrification - Poles sprouting along Ligne 4

On September 3rd, a visit to the Paris-Est - Belfort line near Nangis (77 Seine-&-Marne) revealed rows of steel poles stretching along the railway, across the plains of Brie, a tangible demonstration that the long-awaited electrification project was truly underway.

The suburban section of Line 4 from Paris-Est to Gretz-Armainvilliers has been electrified since December 1973. But the rest of the line to Belfort has remained in the domaine of diesel traction. In recent years, bi-mode trains have taken over. First, in 2008, the Alstom BGC (B 82500) was introduced between Provins and Paris Gare de l'Est. These trains replaced an irregular TER service by old EAD "Caravelle" diesel railcars. The line became part of Transilien Line P. From 2018, a fleet of 19 new Coradia Liner, bi-mode, multiple units was introduced between Paris - Troyes - Belfort - Mulhouse. The train service was re-vamped by Grand-Est Region. 

 The town of Troyes (pop 61,000) has long clamoured for electric trains to Paris. In 2009, an agreement was reached among all parties to plan for electrification. Five years later, the Declaration of Public Utility was issued. Since 2014, planning has continued, but, also, successive governments have stalled on commitments. It has required the decisive intervention of the current President of Ile de France Region (Valerie Pecresse) for this project to be financed and started. Two significant changes were made.

 IDF Region wanted to complete electrification of all the Transition network and agreed to contribute more to the project. This would mean that the Francilien (Z50000) EMU trains could be introduced on Provins - Longueville - Paris-Est replacing the BGC units which are not adapted to the growing commuter traffic. Secondly, the project was split into two phases. Phase 1 is underway.  

Photos. Above On Sept 3rd, a single bi-mode Coradia Liner train speeds across the fields of Seine & Marne with the 12.42 from Paris-Est to Troyes.  Below: Later, a mid-day Provins - Paris-Est service is seen near Maisons-Rouge formed with two BGC units. The leading BGC 82785/6 is in Alsace livery. This is one of two units leased temporarily by Grand-Est to Ile de France.
Phase 1. The double track line from Gretz to Nogent-sur-Seine is 72 km. At Longueville, the single track branch line to Provins is 7 km. These two sections will be electrified at 25 Kv. That requires approximately 3,000 steel poles and 230 km of wires for the overhead catenary. 20 over-bridges will have to be rebuilt to provide clearance over the electrified wires. A short tunnel (Tunnel des Bouchets, 105m) near Longueville was demolished in the summer of 2019, during a 6 weeks closure of the line. A cutting has replaced the tunnel, with a new bridge for animals to cross the line safely. 

 Phase 1 is budgeted at 176 million euros. It is scheduled to be completed in 2021. Phase 2 from Nogent to Troyes will follow.

Summer of 2019

On 23rd August the VSOE made it's annual trip from Paris to Istanbul via Budapest and Bucharest. It is seen above on the start of it's six day journey in the Marne Valley near Citry (77) hauled by BB 26004. Photo Erwan Quintin
The last Rungis - Perpignan refrigerated train. Some two weeks after the final shutdown, the last wagons stored at Rungis were returned to Perpignan.  BB 26063, one of the last two in Fret livery heads through Brétigny (91) on the 31st July. Photo Erwan Quintin
Summer morning on the PO. BB 26048 passes Boisseaux on the 19th August with Train 3904 the 06:52 Bourges - Paris Austerlitz 'Rémi Express' Photo Erwan Quintin
On 24th August BB  15043 heads through Villennes-sur-Seine towards Paris with BB15029 and a VO2N set, the latter having failed at Serquigny a few days previously. Photo Erwan Quintin

Ligne de Cevennes

The Ligne de Cevennes has seen both freight and passenger locomotive hauled traffic this summer. The Langeac - Tarascon-sur-Rhône wood train is now operated by VFLI with locomotives hired from SNCF Fret (formerly the traffic was handled by ECR - DB Cargo). The loaded train runs southbound on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the northbound empties on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. BB 75071 is seen above waiting to leave the yard at Langeac with a loaded train. During the high season the  Train Touristique Gorges d'Allierhas operated between Langeac and Langogne using Train à Vapeur d'Auvergne's two RRR sets and a BB 67400 provided by CMR. BB 67577 and the  empty stock is seen waiting to leave Langeac for Clermont Ferrand. Both photos by Roger Allen on 12th August.

Navigo Easy - Paperless ticketing when visiting Paris

Introduced in June the 'Navigo Easy' enables tickets for travel in Paris and the Ile de France to be stored on a smart card rather than using conventional paper tickets. A useful alternative, especially when buying carnets of single tickets, that can get damaged or lost. The  aim is that the card will replace paper tickets next summer. It has been announced that carnets of 10 paper tickets will increase to €16.90 but remain at €14.90 for the Navigo Easy

The rechargeable card costs €2 from ticket offices. No need for a form or photo ID and you don’t need to live in France. Once bought you just top up as required at ticket machine or office. Valid on buses, trams , metro and SNCF within Isle de France. A Navigo Day Pass (former Mobilis) can also be loaded onto the card.
Further information from the Transilien  and 

Photo and initial report by Colin Brazier

Preservation round-up

Above; a former Five-Lille engine, 0-3-0T No 6, hauls a tourist train on the Chemin de fer de Vendée in August 2019. The loco was built in 1948 for shunting at the coal mines of northern France. It was retired to the preserved railway in the Vendée in 1985. Photo by Georges Turpin.

Le Train Touristique de Guîtres à Marcenais

This preserved standard gauge branch line is located in the Gironde. It is part of a line from Cavignac to Coutras opened by the Compagnie des chemins de fer des Charentes in 1874 and taken over by the newly created Chemins de fer de l'Etat in 1878. The line was closed for passengers in 1938 and freight in 1965. In 1972, part of the line (14 km) from the village of Guîtres was preserved. The track is owned by the département of Gironde. The original station building (1875) at Guîtres is owned by the commune. 

 In 2019, the preservation association operated a train on Sunday afternoons, and Wednesdays (in July/August). Our regular correspondent, Georges Turpin, visited the railway in August and he provided the photos and details of the situation at this rural site for NEWS page

Diesel loco D4033 (above) was built in the USA in 1944. It operates the tourist train in the current absence of the steam engines. 

De Dion Bouton railcar M 104  
This little railcar, magnificently restored and in working order, is a Monument Historique since 1997. It does not operate regularly. There are two axles and driving controls at each end of the vehicle. M 104 was built in 1939 by De Dion Bouton at Puteaux in the Paris region. It was operated in Franche-Comté by CFTA and later in the Landes at Sabres. 

De Dion Bouton railcar M 7 The second railcar (MH 1997) is awaiting restoration. It is shown under the hangar where 241 P 9 was stored for many years before being transferred to Toulouse. 

Steam engines The two steam engines on the line are out of service awaiting funds for repairs. 0-2-0T Meuse No 3107 was built in 1924 and classified Monument Historique in 1990. 0-3-0T Fives Lille 501 was built in 1949. 

Carriages. The line has 5 carriages formerly operated on the Montpellier - Palavas section of the chemin de fer de l'Hérault. They were built in 1909 and are classified Monument Historique since 1990. 

 This line (40 years in preservation) is little known outside Vendée. It has a lot of rural charm and historical credentials. It is believed to receive about 7,000 visitors annually. There are numerous other items of historical stock in addition to those listed above. The site is 15 km north of Libourne for those passing through the area on a summer Sunday or Wednesday. 

Velay Express

This autumn, major renewals of the track will be carried out. 4,500 sleepers will be changed along the 27 km of line. Between Tence and Le Chambon numerous sections will be completely renewed (rails, sleepers, ballast) particularly on curves. The total cost will be €350,000  shared by the Auvergne Rhône-Alpes region (€240,000), Ardèche and Haute Loire (€10,000 each) and the State with €20,000. Similar work will be carried out in 2020 and 2021. The total investment of over one million euros will guarantee the perenity of the line during the next few decades.

Viaduc des Fades (Puy-de-Dôme)

The Fades railway viaduct was built across the Sioule valley in the Combrailles region of the Puy-de-Dôme. It was opened in 1909. Construction lasted 8 years. The viaduct was the highest in the world (130 m) when it was completed. The steel and iron deck (for a single track) is supported, principally, on two granite pillars of 92 m ( the highest pillars of this type ever constructed). The viaduct is approximately 470 m long. It became a tourist destination with four hotels nearby, all closed now.  

The viaduct completed the line between Lapeyrouse and Volvic which was built and operated by the PO (Compagnie des chemins de fer de Paris-Orléans). The PO wanted to operate between Montluçon and Clermont-Ferrand without travelling on the PLM tracks via Gannat. In fact, the first section had been opened in 1866 to transport coal from Saint Eloy les Mines (The mine closed in 1977). The line was 57 km long and served Saint Gervais-Chateauneuf and Les Ancizes (metallurgical industry). 

In April 2007, preserved railcar X 2403 (1951) operated a photo train along the lines of the Cantal and Puy-de-Dôme. It crossed the Fades viaduct (photo). 8 months later the line closed due to lack of maintenance. It is reported that the viaduct has not received adequate attention and regular re-painting since 1981. After closure of the line in December 2007, no work has been carried out on the historical structure. 

 The viaduct is currently in a dangerous state of corrosion. A local preservation society has done its best to alert and raise money. In March 2019, the Loto of the Patrimoine selected the viaduct of Fades to be included in the 2nd year campaign. A plan for repairs with a budget of 1.3 million euros has been drawn up of which 543,000 euros is very urgently needed. The Loto money will be critical to the survival of this famous viaduct.

Tramway News

Besançon The authorities have agreed to boost the capacity of the 19 short CAF trams.  They will receive an extra segment to extend their length from 24 m to 32 m and the capacity from 150 to 200. The order will be placed at the beginning of 2020. The tram stops were originally constructed to accept 32 m trams, a wise decision not always seen.
Caen. In AUGUST NEWS we reported news of the new tramway which opened at the end of July. Two photos of the new trams in the centre of Caen near the chateau and cathedral taken in September by Michael Bunn. 

Independent observers have alluded to a number of operational matters that arose in the early weeks of the new network. These include an absence of co-ordination of traffic lights with the trams, the numerous stops and sharp curves which result in a slow average speed, single line termini which may prove problematic in degraded operations. No doubt as time passes these matters will evolve.
Nantes The 12 CAF trams at Nantes have been withdrawn from service for 6 months due to mysterious technical difficulties with the braking systems which proved complicated to explain and to repair. At the beginning of September, the trams were returned to service. Photo (opposite) of a CAF Urbos tram on the Nantes network in June 2014.

Nice The newly extended tram line 2 into the centre of Nice, opened in July (AUGUST NEWS). It is an immediate success, carrying already more than 46,000 passengers daily. Many are tourists using Nice Côte d'Azur airport.
Saint Etienne The Chateaucreux station square where the tramway will shortly change from the configuration of a terminus to a through line that will be an extension of Route 3 to the northern part of the metropole. The change will take place at the end of November. Photo in September 2019 with a modernised TFS tram by Michael Bunn.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to Erwan Quintin, Christophe Masse, Georges Turpin, Roger Allen, Michael Bunn and Colin Brazier
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