March 2020 News

Terminus for TGV SE 01 after 42 years and over 13.5 million km

Arising from the initiative of a small number of TGV drivers at Villeneuve St Georges, the first TGV Sud Est No 01, "Patrick"*, was redecorated during the winter for a farewell visit to different SNCF Technicentres in February 2020. The two motor coaches were painted in orange, and two coaches in the middle of the train-set ( including the bar coach) were decorated with TGV Atlantique vinyls. The other coaches kept their current Carmillon livery. 

 "Patrick" was scheduled to visit the Technicentres at Bischheim, Alsace, then at Paris-Est, Hellemmes (Lille), Conflans (Paris Sud Est), Chatillon (Atlantique) , and Landy (Paris-Nord). It is not known whether Patrick will be preserved in part or complete. The photograph above by Romain Vergnères shows the TGV SE 01 en route to Alsace on LGV Est-Européan at Lhéry PK 95 on 6th February. 

 * The first TGV Sud Est, 01, was unofficially christened "Patrick", the name of the son of its first driver in 1978.

STADLER Diesel Electric CC locomotive Euro 4001 for VFLI,

At the Centre d'Essais Ferrovaire, Nançois-Tronville (Meuse), the first of 12 new Stadler Euro 4001 diesel-electric locomotives was photographed by our correspondent, Romain Vergnères, on February 19th. These powerful diesels were ordered by VFLI, an SNCF subsidiary. 9 will be leased from Angel Trains, and 3 will be purchased directly from Stadler. The locomotive in the photo above had not yet received identification numbers and VFLI livery. It has six axles and weighs 120 tons. It was built at Valencia in Spain. The Euro 4001 has a Caterpillar V16 diesel engine (16C175) with a 4,000 hp / 3,000 KW power rating. The same engine ( at 3,800 hp) is also used in the UK class 68, 4 axle, locomotives delivered by Stadler which designates them Eurolight UK. The 4001 replaces the Euro 4000 loco, production of which has ceased as its EMD diesel motor does not correspond to current emission standards. These diesel locomotives were originally conceived by Vossloh Spain which is now in the Stadler group.

Action Plans for the local lines

In NOVEMBER NEWS last year, we asked what had happened to the report by Prefet Philizot on the subject of the local lines in France, "les petite lignes" or if you prefer "la desserte fine du territoire". Well, on February 20th, the Transport Minister published a press release which described the government's strategy to solve the problems with the local lines. This strategy is based on the Philizot report. Extracts from that report are included in the Minister's dossier for the press. ( We refer you to our NOVEMBER report for background)

Two "actions plans" have now been signed, with Grand Est region and Centre Val-de-Loire. The relevant annotated maps included are published below. The first part of the strategy is to identify three categories of local line:
 - in red, lines which will be included in the core network and financed 100% by SNCF Réseau. 
 - in yellow, the lines which will be co-financed by the State/Regions/SNCF in the current system. 
 - in blue, the lines which will be managed and financed 100% by the Regions. In this category the Regions will have considerable freedom to experiment and innovate.  

 Prefet Philizot has obviously completed his work with all the Regions in France (excluding Ile- de-France which has no "little lines"). However, only his proposals for Grand Est and Centre Val-de-Loire have been published. Negotiations between the State and the other 10 Regions are ongoing. There are no details about financial arrangements arising from these proposals.

Red lines - 100% SNCF Réseau

 Grand Est: 
Blainville - Remirement, Raon - Saint-Dié-des-Vosges (terminal sections of lines from Nancy) 

 Centre Val-de-Loire: 
Bourges - Montluçon. The Montluçon terminal section of the line is in Auvergne. This proposal seems to secure the future of this line to a remote sous-prefecture. 

Blue lines - 100% Region (possibility to experiment) 

 Grand Est 
 - Jarville - Vittel (probable private operator) 
- Epinal - Saint Dié-des-Vosges 
- Molesheim - Saint Dié 
 - Selestat - Molesheim (see photos above)

  Centre Val-de-Seine 
- Tours - Loches,
- Tours - Chinon 
- Salbris - Valençay (Blanc Argent) 

 Obviously there will be more to say once the other Regions have signed up to their Action Plans. At present, we can only conclude that these are not very detailed plans, more a set of intentions, with no financial details and no market studies.

Regio 2Ns begin commercial service in Normandy

On the 17th February Normandy TER Regio 2N (Bombardier Omneo 605 XL operated the first commercial service in Normandy, Train 3307 from Paris St Lazare to  Cherbourg. Over the coming months the new units will replace BB 15000s and BB 26000s on services from St Lazare to Cherbourg, Caen, Deaville-Trouville, Le Havre and Rouen. Above: Waiting to depart from St Lazare and passing through Clichy-Levallois. Below: The upper and lower deck seating and refreshment dispenser. All photos; Christophe Masse

OUIGO: 50 million passengers

On February 18th, SNCF announced the 50 millionth passenger on board a OUIGO train. The 14.12 from Toulouse to Paris Montparnasse was the chosen venue. 

 The photo above shows a OUIGO train from Toulouse to Paris alongside the Canal lateral de la Garonne. Photo: Georges Turpin

 OUIGO is the low cost TGV with big ambitions. In 2019, the division operated 60 trains a day and carried 17 million passengers during the year. . The target for 2020 is 25% of all TGV traffic. OUIGO has migrated from remote peripheral stops to main line termini (Paris Gare Montparnasse, Gare de l'Est, Gare de Lyon). 

 A quick reminder; OUIGO tickets are only available on the dedicated web site, check all the conditions ! Tickets are changeable up to 90 minutes before departure (on the web site) for the same journey, with a 10 euro fee plus any difference in price, but tickets are not refundable. Reservations are possible up to 6 months in advance; as in low cost airlines, there are extras and conditions for luggage and check-in is 30 minutes before departure. You must be prepared to print your own ticket or download an e-ticket. 

Unsung heros of the Paris suburbs

Introduced in 1988, the 200 Z 20500's dual voltage, double deck emu's have been a familiar sight on RER lines C and D and Transilien lines P and R for over thirty years. The four or five car units often operate in multiple  providing a capacity for up to 1,600 passengers. 54 similar 4 car Z 20900 units followed in 2001-2004 for RER C.

The last renovation programme called  "Waouh" is underway for 116 Z 20500 trains operating on RER D and 17 units on RER P ( Paris-Est - Meaux - Marne Valley). This will give a short life extension until the RER NG (new generation) units come on stream from 2022. ( See article in November News)

Above Z20957 waits to depart from Versailles-Rive Gauche on 25th January with an RER Line C service towards Invalides
Below Z20549 at Pont-du-Garigliano on 26th January heading towards Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Both photos; Erwan Quintin.



 Deliveries of 42 new Bombardier Régio 2N trains have been completed. They are deployed on all three branches of line R: 
 - Paris Gare de Lyon - Melun - Montereau 
 - Paris Gare de Lyon - Melun - Montargis 
 - Melun - Montereau via Héricy 

 They replace Z 5600 sets and Z 20500 sets which have been transferred to RER C. Some of the Z 5600 sets have been withdrawn. A year ago there were problems of reliability on the new Bombardier trains. Those early "bugs" have apparently been corrected and reliability is reported to be satisfactory now. 7 extra Regio 2N trains have been ordered for Line R. Line R carries 75,000 passengers daily. It suffers from poor punctuality, only 86.4% of trains are on time. This is reported to be due to congestion. 

Line R trains are scheduled non stop on the fast lines of the 4 track section between Paris and Melun. Those lines are shared with Bourgogne Franche Comté TER services to Laroche Migennes, Auxerre, Dijon/ Lyon, Centre Region trains to Nevers, intercité services to Clermont Ferrand, and freight trains.

Photos below. Left: Aa Z 5600 at Chartrettes on Line R. This is the first type of double deck emu for Ile de France. It is mono voltage 1500 v DC. All subsequent types of double deck stock are dual voltage. This is 4 coach set 18C (Z 5635/36) at Chartrettes on Dec 16, 2017 with a Montereau - Melun train. 18C entered service in July 1984. As mentioned above, all the Z5600 units have left Line R and Line D. 18C is currently operating on RER C. Right: A Regio 2N at Fontaine-le-Port (Line R) in May 2018.
RER D, Branches around Corbeil

 Deliveries of 19 new Bombardier Regio 2N trains have been completed at the end of 2019. They are deployed on 2 RER D routes through Corbeil-Essonnes along the Seine valley:
 - Juvisy - Ris-Orangis - Corbeil - Melun (the valley route) 
 - Juvisy - Ris Orangis - Corbeil - Malesherbes 

 The new Bombardier trains replace Z 20500 units which will be transferred to RER C. Passengers on the Malesherbes line to/from Paris and the north have to change at Juvisy or Viry-Chatillon in an unpopular modification ( in December 2018 ) that suppressed through trains to Gare de Lyon and the north. This was designed to make the network more robust. It is not known how successful that has been. 

Transilien Line N 

 Line N runs from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers. There are 3 branches thereafter, to Ramboulliet, Dreux and Mantes-la-Jolie. 73 Regio 2N sets are on order for delivery to Line N and they will gradually replace the trains of BB 27300 + double deck coaches ( VB 2N ). The first Regio 2N for line N entered service on January 20th.

Gare de Paris-Saint-Lazare 

 New Bombardier Z 50000 emu's ( "Francilien" ) are being delivered at a rate of 3 - 4 a month in the 7 coach version for the Saint-Lazare network. A total of 127 sets have been delivered out of 194 ordered. They have replaced nearly all the stainless steel Z 6400 emu's (originally a class of 75 units). Those were delivered in 1976 and 1978/79. At present, only 27 or 28 Z 6400 units remain on the books and most are apparently held in reserve and have no regular schedules. Some observers speculate that all the remaining Z 6400 units will be withdrawn in March 2019, but there is no official announcement to confirm or deny that rumour.

Photos below;  Left On Feb 7th, a new Regio 2N train approaches Boigneville (91) with a Juvisy - Malesherbes service. The station is 70 km from Paris Gare de Lyon and is the last stop in Ile de France on this line. The terminus at Malesherbes is 6 km after Boigneville.  Right; On July 16, 2017 a grubby Z 6407/8 was photographed near the district of La Défense at Puteaux, with a St Lazare - St Cloud service. Photo by D Michel Costes

Alstom to take over Bombardier Transport

Alstom have announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire the transport division of Canadian group Bombardier subject to regulatory approval. The move follows the abortive merger with Siemens last year that was refused by the EU. The deal is worth about €6 billion and would take place in 2021 if allowed to proceed. It will allow Bombardier to reduce debt and concentrate on the aircraft side of the business.

From Alstom's perspective, it will give them the capacity to strengthen their global position and compete with the Chinese. In recent years, Bombardier has dominated the French medium speed domestic market with the AGC, Francilien and Regio 2N ranges of multiple units, while Alstom have only produced the Regiolis (Coradia) range in addition to TGVs. However, the two companies are jointly producing the New Generation suburban train for Ile de France. Bombardier's TRAXX series of locomotives has been more popular than the Alstom Prima range (although there is a long term order for 800 Indian built versions). Bombardier has had some production and quality issues with major contracts in Germany and Switzerland. The acquisition will also extend Alstom's activities into monorails and people-movers.

Above. A TER Centre Bombardier Regio 2N (Z55500)  057L passes Gazeran following its Rambouillet stop with a Paris Montparnasse - Chartres service on the 18th January Photo; Erwan Quintin

Measuring the network

Above. Undertaking a series of electrical intensity tests, the LUCIE / VULCAIN duo is sandwiched between BB 69486/69484 as it passes Monfort-l'Amaury heading towards Dreux on 22nd January Photo; Erwan Quintin.

Right. On February 13th BB 37009 was photogrpahed at Saint Jory (31) near Toulouse with an INFRA catenary maintenance train. The tri-voltage electric is now owned by Akiem and leased to SNCF  FRET. A class of loco that rarely visits this part of the network. Photo; Georges Turpin.

Below. Undertaking the last  of a series of track geometry measurements in the Paris-Montparnasse area, the Mauzin 212  passes Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines in the direction of Trappes with Infra BB 22378 and BB22379 on 28th January. Photo; Erwan Quintin

Etoile de Veynes, Hautes Alpes (05), 
 Green light for regeneration of parts of the "Ligne des Alpes"

On Dec 4th 2019, the préfet of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) published confirmation of the decision by the comité de pilotage interregional de l'Etoile de Veynes to proceed with a 1st phase of work to renew the single track railway between Aspres and Vif, part of the line known as the Ligne des Alpes. The subject had been on the table for 5 years.

The line from Veynes to Grenoble is 110 km long and it crosses a summit of 1 167 m at Col-de-la-Croix-Haute. The line carries 1 000 passengers daily between Grenoble and Gap when adequate train services are provided. In recent years, services have been disrupted by strikes and speed limits imposed by SNCF on certain stretches. Nominal speeds of 80 kph have been reduced to 50 kph and 40 kph in places. Active user groups and the Grenoble Metropole have called for repairs and regeneration to be effected. The Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region demanded that the French State finance the renewal of the line. The State did nothing and stalemate ensued for several years
SNCF finally set a deadline for closure in December 2020, in the absence of any funding to renew the line. In the autumn of 2019, the President of Rhône-Alpes finally noticed that there was strong local interest to keep the railway open and that elections were fast approaching. The battle was intense, for in these times public money is scarce. The budget for the job is 28 million euros. The State will contribute 38%, Rhône-Alpes, PACA, Grenoble Metropole, Isère, SNCF Réseau and Drome will contribute also. 
The exact scope of the work is not known. User Group Collectif de l'Etoile Ferroviaire de Veynes has studied the condition of the line and they conclude that only 15% of the line requires regeneration (based on SNCF data). It is thought that only short sections between Clelles-Mens and Aspres require attention. The tunnels and viaducts are in good condition. Grenoble Metropole has provide 230,000 euros for a study to be carried out by SNCF Réseau in the summer of 2020.
The line will close in December 2020 between Clelles-Mens and Aspres, but work will only start in November 2021 for a period of less than 12 months.The problem is that during 2021 the line from Veynes to Livron will also be closed for repairs. This is the line used by the overnight train to Briançon. With the Ligne des Alpes cut, the sleeper will be diverted to Modane with the final stage to Briançon by motor coach. Not ideal.

The User group is furious and believes that closure for 9 months in 2021 without any work being done should be challenged. At least there is agreement among all the signatories to keep the Ligne des Alpes open, which was not so a few months ago. 

 Photos taken in July 2008 

Storm Denis creates havoc across France 

On the Sunday, Feb 16th, a Nantes - Paris double TGV train with 750 passengers aboard departed 50 minutes late at 15:00. It was scheduled for a journey of 2h30m to Paris-Montparnasse. At Le Mans, it was diverted on to the old main line via Chartres instead of the high speed line. Storm Denis was at its height, a tree fell onto the catenary and blocked the train. It took 9 hours before the passengers were rescued at 02:00 and taken back to Le Mans, then on to another TGV to Paris, finally arriving 15 hours late at 05:30.
Land slip closes St Cloud - Versailles and Line U

A landslip at Ville d'Avray has closed the St Cloud - Versailles section. Initial clearance work was hampered when more of the slope collapsed onto the line. The Cutting remains very unstable and may take up to two months to resolve
AAATV 2020 Tour Programme

Les Aubrais based AAATV operators of 141 R 840 and A1A 68540 have produced their tour programme for 2020. Tours will visit Paris, Clermont Ferrand, Saumur and Burgundy. All are scheduled to be hauled by 55 year old A1A 68540. Presumably 141 R 840 is still undergoing boiler repairs. Details on their Facebook site via this link
CFHVS* Bar-le-Duc (Meuse), patience rewarded !

Some readers may remember that we reported 4 years ago on a project to create a railway museum near Bar-le-Duc (Meuse), inspired by the narrow gauge railway that supplied the French troops in the Battle of Verdun. The association and the local "communauté des communes" had planned to open this museum in May 2016, on the centenary of the Battle of Verdun. 

 In 2016, a 4 km metre gauge line through the forest had been completed, and the association could operate their historic Corpet-Louvet 1890 locomotive ("La Suzanne") with some old carriages but without authorisation to carry members of the public. It seems that the problem was that facilities (see below) at the terminus in the forest had not been completed. It was the responsibility of the local council to do that work and, in fact, nothing had been done. 

 It has been a frustrating period for CFHVS and they eventually created a short vélo rail on the line to create an income stream. It was 3 years before the council finally began to obtain bids for the work to complete the project. 

 In February 2020, it has been reported in the local press that contractors are on site to start the work. It includes stabilisation and draining of the ground, erection of two hangars, one for the rolling stock and one for the association, creation of a visitor centre (ticket hall, boutique), platforms, small parking for 10 vehicles and 2 buses. It is expected the work will take 10 months and the railway should open in 2021 (some 5 years later than expected). Such are the tribulations of public/private projects. 

 * Chemin de fer historique de la Voie Sacrée
Montlucon Festirail

There will not be a Montlucon Festirail in 2020. The next Festival will be in 2021.

 Society Photo Archive &    Sales

Additions to FRS Photographic Archive during February 2020 

 - Andy Hart colour slides - 1970 thru to 2000 ( approx 380 images) 

 - Additional Geoffrey Nickson B&W images added to SNCF Regions 1 & 2 as well as Steam Special galleries (just under 200 images)

Additions to the FRS public folder during February 2020 

- Photographic index for Andy Hart colour slides 

 - Updated photo indexes for GN SNCF Regions 1 & 2 + Steam Specials galleries 


We have a range of 1/43 scale large commercial vehicles available, details on the sales page. Can be posted or collected at Alexandra Palace Exhibtion.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2020. Photos by authors unless credited. Thanks to Christophe Masse, D Michel Costes, Erwan Quintin, Georges Turpin and Romain Vergneres 
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