November 2019 News

231 G 558 visits Paris St Lazare

On October 26th, Pacific Vapeur Club operated a special from Rouen to Paris St Lazare. It is over 6 years since 231 G 558 last visited the capital. It is seen above leaving Mantes la Jolie for Gare St Lazare with steam to spare.  

Opposite the train is seen arriving at Mantes la Jolie, mid morning on the Saturday. Behind the locomotive, the building on the central platform will shortly be demolished in connection with the modernisation of the station to become a terminus of the future RER E (West branch.) The steam train stopped about 30 minutes at Mantes. 

Later the Pacific was turned on the Achères triangle with assistance from preserved BB 17016, and returned with the special to Rouen (Sotteville) without incident. 
Both Photos; D Michel Costes.

Opposite is a short video of 231 G 558 arriving at St Lazare, the Stock being removed, departing behind BB17016 for turning at Acheres, returning in the evening, and finally, departing for rouen in the evening.

4th Longueau Fête du Rail 

The 4th Longueau Fête du Rail took place over the weekend of the 5th/6th October at Longueau Depot, organised by Association ARPDO and Rotonde 80. Exhibited around the remaining rotonde were selections of Classes BB 66000, BB 67400 and BB 75000 in a variety of liveries. The main workshops were open with a range of rolling stock on display and stands from a number of preservation societies. Two large marquees housed a number of extensive model railway layouts and retailers.

On Saturday 5th October MFPN operated an excursion from Paris hauled by 231 K 8 with CC 40110 dead in tow, seen above passing through Dommartin Remiencourt on the outward journey. Other visitors included 231 G 558 that travelled from Sotteville with BB 64066 and Capitole liveried BB 67615 on the Friday evening. On the Sunday A1A 68081 added to the line-up

Changes at the top

On November 1st, Guillaume Pepy (62) retires from SNCF group after 10 years as President and 22 years in top management at the group. He will be replaced by Jean-Pierre Farandou (63), President of Keolis since 2012. The president of SNCF group is appointed for a period of 5 years by the French President, in this case by President Macron. 

 Mr Farandou has spent 38 years with SNCF. He started as station master at Rodez. He later directed the opening of the TGV Nord high speed line and then joined Thalys International. In 2006 he became General Manager of SNCF Proximities (TGV, TER, Intercité). In 2012 he became President of Keolis, currently one of the most successful divisions in SNCF group. 

 The new SNCF president will take up his position at a moment of unprecedented turmoil. After decades of re-organisation and "reforms" ( not all complete ) many of the 150,000 staff in France are apparently angry, under-motivated or defensive according to the press.** The numbers of resignations are increasing and recruitment is more difficult. The rail unions are at war with management and with the government on many subjects, in particular the proposed changes to future employment conditions (to have a "level playing field" for competition) and the plan to gradually abandon the special retirement regime for cheminots. In the second half of October many unofficial strike actions paralysed traffic. There were security concerns over driver-only trains following a level crossing collision and derailment in the Ardennes. Management refuted these concerns. Major strikes are planned from Dec 5th. 

 Jean-Pierre Farandou will be faced with all these problems and others from day 1. In another change, there is a new Junior Transport Minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari (37) who has been No 2 to Elisabeth Borne during the last two years. This summer, after 2 1/2 years as Transport Minister, Mrs Borne was promoted to be Cabinet Minister of the Ministry of Ecology and Durable Development. Transport is nested in this ministry so, effectively, J. B. Djebbari remains her No 2. He was formerly an airline pilot.

** On October 22nd, Le Parisien headlned a report; "SNCF, a company on the edge of a nervous breakdown".

Storage of withdrawn locomotives at Sotteville to cease.

SNCF is to discontinue storing withdrawn locomotives in the former Triage Yard at Sotteville. Locomotives first started being stored here in 2010 prior to breaking up at the adjacent Quatre Mare Works. The work will now be undertaken by contractors at Baroncourt in Lorraine.
 At its height the yard contained some 450 locomotives. This had fallen to about 300 in September after convoys of electric locomotives had been moved to Baroncourt during the  summer (see July News). Above; On the 5th September the movement of electric locomotives has allowed a line of A1A 68500s withdrawn in 2010/11 to be pulled from the bottom of the yard. 
Opposite. The last batch of BB 67400s to arrive was a clearout from Longueau including examples withdrawn in June. In the background is the new Normandie Technicentre being built to service the  Bombardier double deck units that will be introduced on Normandie Intercite services from December 2019

Ile De France Mobilities
A summary of current orders for new and renovated trains.


MI84 sets, RATP RER B 
Friday Oct 4th, Mme Valerie Pecresse, President of Ile de France Region visited the Alstom factory at Reichshoffen (Alsace) with the Grand Est president. Their purpose was to inspect the rolling stock on order for their respective regions. In the case of Ile de France, the subject was the status of the order for the renovation of 31 MI84 train-sets ( 25% of the RER B fleet ). This renovation (with a value of nearly 100 million euros) is running 12 months late. The visitors were able to inspect the first completed unit and the IDF president made clear her dismay at the delay. The MI84 sets date from the 1980's. They will be renovated inside with new seats that will increase each coach capacity from 216 to 312. The lighting will be changed to LEDS, forced ventilation will be introduced as well as video-protection. 6 train-sets are being renovated simultaneously at Reichshoffen. 2 renovated sets are forecast to enter service on RER B in December 2019, followed by 15 during 2020 and 14 in 2021.

MI2N double deck train sets, RER A 
An order has been placed with Spanish manufacturer CAF for the renovation of 43 MI2N double-deck train sets for RER A ( for a value of 121 million euros ). The interiors will be renewed with new seats, floor coverings, new LED lighting, video protection and information screens. The work is being carried at the CAF factory in France at Bagnoles-de-Bigorre in the Hautes Pyrénées. 

Z 20500 double deck trains, RER D, RER P 
The last renovation programme is underway for 116 Z 20500 trains operating on RER D and 17 units on RER P ( Paris-Est - Meaux - Marne Valley). This programme is called "Waouh". It is meant to startle you ! It concerns, mainly, the interiors which will have new seats and decoration in shades of light and dark blue. All the small ventilation windows will be modified to open fully in lieu of air conditioning. The windows will have transparent UV filters and anti-laceration vinyls. There will be video protection and new information screens. USB sockets will be installed. The IDF Mobilities livery will be applied to the exterior of the Z 20500's. 

 The purpose of the renovation is to improve standards until the new generation train sets arrive from 2022 (see below). As the new NG trains enter service on RER D, the renovated Z 20500 units will cascade to RER C causing the withdrawal of older Z 5600 units. 

 The "Waouh" programme is being executed at SNCF Nevers and St Pierre-des-Corps, Tours. The prototype Z 20500 No 5D was delivered to Villeneuve St Georges in July. The programme seems to have started a few months later than promised last autumn. Deliveries will continue until the end of 2021 (or into 2022). Two Z 20500 units are decorated inside with cinema posters. This summer one of the newly renovated units was decorated inside with visuals of the National Railway museum at Mulhouse. These 3 trains will keep their specific interior decorations, an objective for visitors to find !! 

Francilien Z 50000 
After a tricky start with many problems, the single deck Z 50000 electric train set has become the most reliable train in Ile de France. 360 units have been ordered from Bombardier (Crespin) in the north of France. At the beginning of September, 256 units are in service. 104 units remain to be delivered ( 81 for Saint Lazare, 8 for Paris-Nord and 18 for Paris-Est / Provins ). Deliveries will continue until 2022. 

 Saint Lazare will become 100% Francilien. Consequently, two older train types will soon disappear; 
 - the Z 6400 (inox) class of which 31 remain currently in service out of 75 originally, and 
 - all the VB2N loco hauled sets with BB 27300 assigned to Saint Lazare.  

Regio 2N IDF 
The order for 42 Bombardier Regio 2N double deck trains for Transilion Line R has been completely delivered since last May. Currently, the order for 19 units for RER D is being delivered. 7 units have been delivered by mid October and all should be delivered by the end of 2019. The deployment on RER D will be on the branches Melun - Corbeil, and Juvisy - Corbeil - Malesherbes. 

 A further order has been placed for 73 Regio 2N units for Transilien line N. Delivery will begin in 2020. This order will ultimately eliminate all the VB2N + BB 27300/BB 7600 train sets.

RER NG (for new generation) 
 An order for a maximum of 255 new train sets was placed in 2017 with a consortium of Alstom/Bombardier after two unsuccessful invitations to bid. The new trains will be allocated to RER E ( 125 units ) and RER D ( 130 units ). The first firm order was for 71 trains of which the first 15 units will be allocated to RER D and the remainder to RER E. 

 The RER NG is designated X'Trapolis Cityduplex by the manufacturers. It will be an articulated EMU of the "boa" type (walk through). For RER D it will be 130 m long with 7 coaches of which 5 will be double deck and the coaches at each end will be single level. For RER E the units will be shorter (112 m) with 6 coaches, including 4 double deck. Other features of the NG train will include fewer seats but extra standing room compared to the Z 20500, extra doors, no step access from 920 mm high platforms, air-conditioning, but no toilets. All the trains will be equipped or pre-equipped for NExTEO automatic train control. 

Bombardier will manufacture the intermediate double deck coaches, and the air conditioning system as well as all the doors. Alstom will make the two single level coaches at the ends and the 8 motor bogies. Alstom will conduct final assembly of the train sets.  

 Delivery is expected to start in 2021. The first 15 (long) units will be delivered to RER D and will be serviced at Joncherolles, Paris-Nord. The remaining 56 units of the first firm order will go to RER E. The first prototype RER NG train was produced in mid October 2019. 
CMR's BB 25236 and five vehicles from the SNCF Orient Express set travelled from Villeneuve St Georges to Lyon and back in September in connection with the Patrimoine week end. Seen above on the 20th September travelling along the ex PLM main line, a few km north of Maçon, at Fleurville in Saône et Loire. Photo Pierre Colson.

News in Brief

Eurostar and Thalys Merger

The Management of SNCF, SNCB and Patina Rail LLP have presented the Green Speed project to their boards that proposes to combine Eurostar and Thalys.
Both operations have similar purpose and vision. Combining their two operations would provide a stronger platform for future growth.

At present their combined operation is over 100 trains a day conveying 18.5 million passengers a year. The Green Speed project will create a sustainable alternative to air travel  that links the UK with the Mediterranean, the North Sea to the Atlantic and the Benelux with the Alps
Hauts de France rebrands TER services

Hauts de France (HdF) is the latest region to rebrand its TER services. Unlike other regions that have chosen a single brand name for both their rail and bus services (e.g. Remi in Centre Val de Loire) HdF has chosen a range of names to distinguish between different types of services. KRONO for fast services between major towns (e.g. Rouen - Amiens and Calais - Paris). KRONO+GV TGV services that operate as TER services between Rang-de-Fliers and Lille. Proxi local services (e.g Arras - Hazebrouck - Calais). Citi stopping services in major conurbations (e.g. Dourges - Lens)

Ouigo to run direct to Lyon from 2020

From June 2020 SNCF will operate low cost Ouigo services direct from Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon Part-Dieu and Lyon Perrache. These will be in addition to the existing trains from Marne-La-Vallée and  Roissy-Charles-De-Gaulle that will run to Lyon St-Exupéry and terminate at Lyon Part-Dieu, providing eight return daily services overall.

SNCF plans that Ouigo will provide 20% of TGV services in 2020.
141 Rs on the mend
Train à Vapeur d’Auvergne report that repairs to the boiler of 141 R 420 have been completed and the locomotive has moved under it's own steam at Clermont Ferrand. Further work has been identified on the axles and axle boxes. 

External contractors will start on overhauling the running gear of the rake of historic coaches to enable re-certification for mainline running. Train à Vapeur d’Auvergne have teamed up with APMFS to enable the work to be done. Below is a video they have produced explaining the work to be undertaken.

Further south at Toulouse  the coupling rod bearing of 141 R 1126 has been repaired. This has continual caused problems  since the major overhaul was completed at the end of 2017. A test run was scheduled for 17th October, but unfortunately had to be cancelled due to a leaking tube.
Heavy rain closes Beziers -  Sète

Major damage was caused by the very severe weather in the south of France on Wednesday, October 23 that washed away lines between  Beziers and Sète and   Neussargues.  Services are suspended until  the end of November

Léman Express - The Count-down (Part 3)

45 days to go ! Léman Express, the new international RER in the area of Geneva is scheduled to open on December 15th. We have described the infrastructure of the CEVA tunnel and the rolling stock which will use it in previous NEWS pages. We provided the route diagrams. 

 The new network will be operated by CFF and SNCF jointly. In order to co-ordinate the project, and matters arising, a Swiss company called "Lémanis" was formed. It is owned 60% by CFF and 40% by SNCF. The purpose of Lémanis SA is to coordinate the introduction, promotion and operation of Léman Express. Lémanis SA is not a railway operating company. According to a press release from SNCF in July, a number of key steps have to be completed before the opening. These are as follows;
Testing the electrical supply in the tunnel. ( This seems to have been completed satisfactorily. All three types of train have passed through the tunnel ) 

 Beginning of deliveries of Regiolis LEX Z 31500 units. 17 units are needed by the end of November. 8 units had been delivered by the end of October. Driver training started in the second half of August.

 Opposite. On September 4, the Z31511  enters  Bellegarde-sur-Valserine from Annemasse. Photo Christophe Masse
Opening of the Annemasse control centre for Léman Express. 
Simulation of an accident in the tunnel with 1000 participants. This did take place. 
Inauguration of the Technicentre at Annemasse, the maintenance centre for the Regiolis LEX units. This centre is now operational.

October - objectives 
Completion of homologation of the 17 Regiolis LEX and the 23 Flirt France units respectively in Switzerland and France. This process will include approval of the ETCS signalling system on board the trains. In mid-October, the Flirt France LEX type has been homologated to operate in France. 4 Flirt France trains were allocated to Annemasse in the second half of October for driver training and test running to Evian, St Gervais and Annecy.
Finalisation and publication of the timetables. 
Clients testing the system

November - objectives 
Inauguration of the new station at Annemasse. 
Completion of delivery of the Regiolis LEX trains 
Tickets on sale 
Test running 

 In DECEMBER NEWS we will describe the timetables and ticketing systems.

RATP celebrates 50 years of RER A

On  the 12th/13th of October, RATP celebrated the 50th anniversary of the commissioning of the southern section of the RER A linking Vincennes to Boissy-Saint Léger. AJECTA's 140 C 231 participated in the event, traveling with a short train of historic coaches between  Boissy and Joinville-le-Pont stations.  Seen above passing through Sucy-Bonneuil station. Photo Christophe Masse. There is also a six minute video via this link

Where is the report by Préfet François Philizot about the 
local lines in France ?

Last January, Mrs Elisabeth Borne (then Transport minister) commissioned Préfet François Philizot to investigate all the local railway lines in France and make a report. It was expected that the report would be issued in April/May. However, it.has not yet been released to the public. At the beginning of October, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, the new transport minister, admitted that the Philizot report was on his desk and that it was comprehensive and thorough. But it has still not been published as of the end of October. So what is the problem ?

First, a few words about the subject. The national rail network is divided into "main lines" and "local /regional lines". SNCF uses a classification established by UIC (Union International des Chemin de fer) to identify the different railway lines.  Main lines are usually classified UIC 2 - 6, while local regional lines are generally classified UIC 7 - 9. But what does this mean ?
The UIC classification was designed to evaluate railway lines for a policy of maintenance based on tonnage of trains and speeds. Thus the classification is not indicative of the frequency of trains or the profitability, or potential usefulness (or not) of the lines. 

Approximately one third of the passenger rail network (9,250 km) is classified UIC 7 - 9 and is known colloquially as "les petites lignes", though, recently, the term was replaced by a "desserte fine du territoire" . It is often assumed that the "little lines" are loss making and should be closed, whereas the main lines should be kept open. This assumption needs to be examined. Finally, the lines classified UIC 7 - 9 are not maintained by SNCF Réseau unless the Regions pay to keep them open.

The "little lines" contain a wide variety of rail links many of which are not little at all. For example the following lines are categorised UIC 7 : 

 Archachon - Facture (electrified) 
Deauville - Lisieux (electrified) 
Arbresle - Le Coteau (between Lyon and Roanne) 

 In fact, traffic varies on local lines between less than 10 trains a day to more than 50 trains a day.  

The purpose of Prefet Philizot's report was to clarify the issue of what to do with the "little lines". Essentially, he had to identify each line and evaluate with the Region the potential benefit to the community of developing the railway or replacing it with an offer by road. 

 Now that the report has been finished, the government is faced with the need to decide on solutions with the Regions. This is problematic because the government has chosen to budget improvements to roads rather than railways. 

It wants the Regions to pay for the maintenance and regeneration of local lines although it is the French State which owns the rail network and Regions have no financial resources to keep all their railway lines in service. Thus starting to discuss the solutions arising from the new report can only be controversial for the government. Furthermore, there are reports that budget contributions from the French State are frequently not being paid on time or at all.                
A new National Audit report on TER services recommends (among other matters) that where Regions are effectively funding all repairs to infrastructure and paying for new trains they should acquire the ownership of those assets. 

 Meanwhile time is out for many "little lines" which lack essential maintenance and renewal while Regions confront the Government about the future of the railway system.

Bordeaux - Sarlat services resume after modernisation of Libourne - Bergerac

On September 30th, the line from Libourne to Bergerac was re-opened after closure for 9 months. The line was re-built with new rails, sleepers, ballast and the maximum line speed is now 120 kph. From December 2019 train services from Bordeaux to Sarlat will be 25 minutes quicker and from Bordeaux to Bergerac the journey time will be 6 minutes less than before the closure. Above the 17:10 Sarlat - Bordeaux crosses the Dordogne at Beynac in September 2017

Tramway News

A modern tramway in Avignon

Originally, trams were operated at Avignon from 1898 until 1932. Eighty seven years later, on October 19th, a 21st century tramway was opened. As we have previously reported, this is a short and simple suburban line of 5 km between Saint Roch and St Chamand with 8 intermediate stops including a stop in front of the SNCF Avignon Centre station. The journey along the line will take 17 minutes. At peak periods, the trams will pass every 6 minutes and otherwise every 7 - 9 minutes and every 15 minutes on Sundays. 

On the opening day, the public transport system in the Avignon area also received a new name; "ORIZO". This meaningless name was apparently invented by deleting the first and last letters of 'horizon". The designation replaces "TCRA" (Transport en Commun Région Avignon) that belongs to Transdev, the current operator.  

The 14, short, new generation trams ( 24 m x 2.40 m ) were supplied by Alstom and are designated Citadis 205 Compact. They have a capacity of 140 passengers. The population did not originally choose a white tram. In the context of a much bigger project, they chose, in 2013, an original design with arched doors and windows and 4 different colours for a fleet of 24 trams (photo top). But that project was abandoned as too expensive and ambitious. And the people's choice was abandoned too. The order for 24 trams was converted to a "framework" order with options to be used as plans for a phased development progress. 

The white trams of Avignon received( at the last minute) a set of vinyls with the new "ORIZO" regional logo. Also, each tram now has the face of a celebrity associated with Avignon ( a feature that has already been used at Besançon ). The tramway was opened by national star Mireille Mathieu who was born at Avignon in 1946, and delighted to have her own tram !!  Future extensions are already planned.


 The 9th tram line will open in October 2020.

The next new tram line is under construction from Paris Porte de Choisy to Orly Ville (not the airport). It will be 10 km long and will replace Bus line 183 which is one of the busiest bus lines in Ile de France. Tram 9 will run mostly in a straight line through the southern suburbs of the Paris area and there will be 17 stops between each terminus ( a stop every 550 mètres). 

At Porte de Choisy, the storage sidings of the terminus will be adjacent to tramway 3a making it (apparently) a simple matter to physically connect the two tram lines. The dimensions of the trams on the two lines are also identical (44 m x 2.65 m). However, we have not seen any plans to connect 3a to tram 9. There has never been any strategy in Ile de France for an interconnected tramway such as can be found elsewhere in continental Europe. 

 In December 2016, 22 Alstom Citadis X05 long trams were ordered. The first will be delivered in the next few weeks. Their capacity is 315 passengers. Tram 9 will be operated by Keolis, a "first" for the Paris region where RATP operates all the other tram lines. 

 Photo above (Alstom) of the new X05 tram for line 9.

Eastern extension of Tram 1 to Val de Fontenay

After more than a decade of delays*, construction of the eastern extension of Tram 1 from Noisy-le-Sec to Montreuil and Val-de-Fontenay has finally started according to the latest newsletter dated June/July 2019. We discover that some major civil engineering work is now underway. This involves the deconstruction of a motorway stub ( A186) that leaves the A3 motorway and cuts across the suburban town of Montreuil on a viaduct. This motorway was opened in 1969 but never completed. It will now be removed and replaced by a ground level avenue with trees and the new tramway. A new bridge for the tram, pedestrians and bicycles will be built across the A3 motorway ( Porte de Bagnolet - A1 north) between Noisy and Montreuil. 

 It will be no surprise that the trams are not expected to run before 2023. But good that there is now a firm target. 

 * delayed by the successive mayors of Noisy-le-Sec as previously reported.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2019. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to  Christophe Masse,  D Michel Costes and Pierre Colson.
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