September 2020 News

On Saturday August 15th CFTSA (Chemin de Fer Touristique du Sud des Ardennes) held their Fête du Rail operating nine return journeys between  Attigny and Amagne on the Challerange branch.  During the afternoon two of CFTSA's four preserved Picassos with a trailer sandwiched between them (X3838 + XR6241 + X3850) are seen heading towards Attigny shortly after passing Alland'huy et Sausseuil. Photo Christophe Masse. 

 CFTSA will commence their mainline programme on 5th September when they will visit the newly re-opened Abancourt-Le Treport line with one of their modified Caravelles. With the trip over-subscribed, it will be repeated again on the 26th September. More information via this link
Above. On Thursday 23 July  BB7410 has just crossed the Seine at Melun and catches the evening sun as it heads through a deserted Livery sur Seine with the 6:12 pm  Paris Gare de Lyon - Laroche Migennes omnibus service (TER 91021). The first stop is Champagne sur Seine. Entering service in April 1983 BB 7410 is one of the younger members of the class and now part of the Bourgogne Franche-Comte TER MUX (push-pull) fleet. From the original fleet of 240 locomotives, 108 remain in service. Photo Michel Costes
SNCF Fret BB 27005 brings the 43104 Hendaye-Somain under the overall roof at Blois Chambord on the 25th August. Despite being one of the longest freight journeys in France it will pay no network track access charges under the new arrangements announced by the Government. Photo David Haydock

Track access charges waived as part of freight revival

On 14th July, towards the end of a long Fête Nationale interview, President Macron was asked about ecology and CO2 emissions.  In a couple of short sentences the President said that he wanted to  rebuild rail freight, save the little lines and bring back sleeper trains. While not known for being enthusiastic about railways Macron does like to deliver on his promises.
A few days later on 22nd July Jean-Baptiste Djebarri, Minister of Transport, announced that sleeper services would be restored to Tarbes and Nice.

On the 27th July the new Prime Minister, Jean Castex, visited the Valenton intermodal terminal at Bonneuil-sur-Marne. Afterwards he said that the government would be making an announcement about a freight revival plan within a few weeks, and as a first step track access charges for freight trains will be waived for the remainder of the year and halved in 2021. The move is expected to cost the government about €63 million each year, but reduce CO2 emissions by the equivalent of 20,000 lorries. Castex also revealed that the government plans to introduce rolling motorway services from Bayonne to Cherbourg and  Sète to Calais with tenders being issued this year.

Castex described himself as being badly bruised by the withdrawal of the Perpignan - Rungis perishables train and would like to see the service re-introduced and extended from Barcelona to Antwerp using intermodal containers or swap-bodies to reduce the need for the train to return south empty as happened with the refrigerated fruit and vegetable vans. 

Castex has a personal interest in railway history and in 2017  was the author of the book -  La ligne de chemin de fer de Perpignan à Villefranche

On 26th July our photographer travelled to La Ferte Sous Jouarre in anticipation of a PACA liveried BB 22200 on the 10:34 Paris Est - St Dizier. Alas, Grand Est Regiolis (Alstom Coradia) 85025 appeared instead of the Corail set. Under the terms of the  Bombardier acquisition by Alstom they will have to sell off the Coradia and its Reichshoffen assembly plant. Photo Michel Costes

European Commission agrees to Alstom - Bombardier merger

At the end of July the European Commission sanctioned the effective merger of France's two main rolling stock constructors when they agreed to the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation by Alstom. Between them the two companies provide 100% of France's and 70% of Germany's multiple units. The move comes just 18 months after the Commission had blocked a previous merger proposal between Alstom and Siemens.

The initial proposal from Alstom did not satisfy EU Merger Regulations and raised concerns in the areas of  (i) very high speed rolling stock, (ii) mainline rolling stock and (iii) signalling. The acquisition was  agreed by the EU on condition that the following commitments are met by Alstom:

(i) The divestment of Bombardier’s assets currently contributing to its joint very high-speed platform with Hitachi, the “Zefiro V300”. Alstom also committed to a series of measures aimed at preserving the joint bid offered in consortium by Bombardier and Hitachi to HS2, the current largest opportunity for the production of very high-speed rolling stock in Europe.

(ii) The divestment of (a) Alstom’s mainline Coradia Polyvalent platform, (b) Alstom’s production facility located in Reichshoffen* in France, (c) Bombardier’s mainline Talent 3 platform, and (d) part of Bombardier’s production facility located in Hennigsdorf in Germany;

 (iii) The supply of legacy OBUs (on board units) and necessary interfacing information and support, in favour of signalling competitors; and (iv) The supply of legacy OBUs to the Dutch infrastructure manager, ProRail, in favour of all interested operators

The acquisition is expected to be completed during the first half of 2021. Alstom's desire to merge with one of it's European competitors has been driven by a desire to create a European company that has the capacity to compete with the Chinese in the world market. When the acquisition is complete Alstom will be the largest manufacturer of rolling stock in Europe and the second largest in the world after Chinese manufacturer CRRC. 

*Over 300 of the Coradia/Regiolis ordered by SNCF on behalf of the regions have now been delivered with about 30 outstanding. A further 12 may be ordered for the forthcoming Paris - CDG link. Although assembled at Reichshoffen major components are constructed at Alstom sites at Ornans, Le Creusot, Tarbes and Villeurbanne.

Le Treport re-opens

Beauvais - Le Treport eventually re-opened on the 1st August  following the rebuilding of the line since it was closed in May 2018. 
The first train from Beauvais included a Jazz band and was met at Le Treport with celebrations and civic dignatories (properly attired with masks and socially distanced).
Initially only two trains have been running each way daily during August with the remaining four services each way operated by buses. From 31st August this  increases to three trains each way daily with the remaining services provided by buses.

Nantes - Bordeaux: Summer 2020

Since the beginning of the year the  103 km La Roche-sur-Yon to La Rochelle section of the  Nantes - Bordeaux line has been closed for rebuilding, after the track was allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that a 60km/h speed restriction was imposed. The closure has left two of France's largest cities without a direct rail link.

It had been hoped that services would be restored in May 2021 and that a return to normal speeds would clip an hour off the journey times, but work was suspended during the Coronavirus lockdown and the re-opening may be further delayed. Although the double trackbed is being restored, to reduce costs only one track will be relaid initially, with crossing loops at Luçon and Marans. Prior to closure the line was only seeing four daily passenger trains in each direction and a weekly freight.

Above. A view of "PN 73" between the old stations of Nesmy and Champ-Sait Père (Vendée) on 4th August with the ballast laid for just a single track. Photo Georges Turpin.

Hauts de France TER offers routes for competitive tender

Hauts de France Region has formally announced details of the first batch of routes that it will offer to competitive tender. The routes concerned are the three lines from Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise to Étaples, Béthune and Arras, while the other is the Beauvais - Paris Gare du Nord urban route. In both cases the Region will provide rolling stock and may provide funding if further investment is required. The successful operator would  be responsible for marketing, issuing and checking tickets and also operate complementary bus services, while the St Pol contract includes a further option for the maintenance of stations and infrastructure. This aspect is similar to that being offered in the Grand Est contracts if ownership of the infrastructure passes from SNCF to the Region. The Beauvais - Paris contract also invites an option to reduce journey times to below one hour for certain services.

Expressions of interest are requested by 21st October with contracts expected to be awarded by mid 2022. This would allow a two year transition period before the nine year contracts begin in July 2024.

Above. The scene at Etaples on the 4th August as Duplex TGV 224 departs south on the mainline with a Paris - Rang de Fliers service. On the left the newly relaid line to Saint Pol can be seen while Meccoli V212 "Arnaud" and an Eiffage Rail Vossloh DE18 are stabled with an engineers train in connection with the work on the Saint Pol line. Photo Philippe Armand

Summer's over at Vapeur de Trieux

This year's season for the Vapeur de Trieux finished on Saturday 22nd August. In the evening TB 141 TB 424 and the rolling stock returned to Carhaix for winter maintence and storage. Hauled by CFTA's BB 4817 and BB 4811 the ensemble is seen above shortly after passing Penity en route to Carhaix. Photo Jocelyne Bourneuf

Paris - Venice overnight - 45 years apart

Above. On a wet January evening in 1969  2D2 9116 waits to leave Gare de Lyon with the Simplon Express overnight service to Venice.  The  2D2 will work as far as Dole, the extent of the 1.5kv dc network, where a pair of BB 16500 or BB 25500 will take over for the 25kv ac section to Vallorbe. The train includes restaurant facilities (as far as Dole), wagon lits and  seated accommodation for those spending 24 hours on the through coaches to Belgrade.
Below. Forty five years later in February 2014 Thello BB 36015 waits to leave Gare de Lyon for Venice. The Simplon Express was discontinued in 1977, but in December 2011 open access operator Thello re-introduced an overnight service to Venice. The Venice service has been suspended since March because of the Coronavirus pandemic and it's future is unclear.

Opposite. On 10th September 1976 a pair of BB 16500 or 25500 pass Vaux et Chantegrue between Vallorbe and Frasnes with the 8.12 Geneva - Paris via Lausanne (rapid 228) .Calling at Lausanne between 8:46 and 8:51, it then stopped at Vallorbe, Frasne Dole and Dijon, arriving in Paris at 13:55 .  Photos - all Michel Costes

Special Events

The 'Journees Europeennes du Patrimoine'  will take place over the weekend of the 19th/20th September this year with most preservation societys open to the public, many putting on special events with an opportunity to recover some of the income lost earlier in the year. However, these may be cancelled at short notice. The event at Paris Bercy that would have included
231 K 8, CC 40110, TGV PSE 16, CC 72064 and preserved rolling stock has now been cancelled.  This appears to follow a decision by SNCF not to hold any Patrimoine events at stations or on SNCF property this year due to increased cases of Coronavirus.

On the Cote d'Azur ATT du Centre Var plan to operate shuttles with preserved autorails between Nice - Monaco - Menton on the 19th, and a trip from Nice to Breil sur Roya and Tende on the 20th.

Le Train Historique de Toulouse are operating a trip from Toulouse to Arcachon on the 19th with either BB 7338 or BB 7398. The planned trip to Auch on the 10th October with 141 R 1126 has now been cancelled as there is corrosion in the smokebox and 175 small tubes need replacing. Instead there will be  an electric hauled trip to Avignon.
PVC's planned trip from Rouen to Paris on 24th October with 231 G 558 has been cancelled due to engineering work at Mantes le Jolie. Another destination is sought before the boiler certificate expires.

Other events in September include on the 8th  the Tour de France will be crossing the Train des Mouettes at Fontbedeau and they will be running special trains to view the caravan and the Tour.

On 13th September ABFC will be running a tour with preserved Picasso X4039 from Le Mans to St Malo and Granville. During the layover at St Malo their will be a fill-in trip to Dol for €10

Readers  who still have flared trousers and platform shoes in their wardrobes will be welcome at the Velay Express on the 27th September, when L’association VOIES FERREES DU VELAY will be celebrating 50 years of preservation and 1970s costume will be the order of the day. 

Finally below are two videos of the Velay Express taken in May 2018 and May 2019 when there was heavy snow in the Haute Loire.
© Peter Lovell. The French Railways Society 2020. With thanks to Michel Costes, Christophe Masse, Georges Turpin, David Haydock, Jocelyne Bourneuf and Philippe Armand
© The French Railways Society 2018, - 2020 All Rights Reserved
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