June 2017 News

Successful run to Reims for 231 K 8
The snags that affected 231 K 8 following its return to service in 2015 appear to have been resolved with another trouble free run, from Paris Est to Reims and back on April 29th. It is seen above passing through La Ferté sous Jouarre on the outward journey (Photo Michel Costes). Operators MFPN had announced a further excursion from Gare du Nord to Noyelles on July 1st, although this has been deferred due to pathing issues with SNCF . The proposed trip to Le Treport has also been abandoned due to a lack of turning facilities in the 
 Le Treport area, the triangle at Inchville having been lifted some time ago, and the return journey would have involved lengthy slow-speed running tender-first. For the trip to Noyelles the locomotive will need to return to Longeau for turning.  

231 K 8 will  now move to Sotteville for the summer, and undertake a programme of tours to Dieppe and Le Havre in conjunction with Pacific Vapeur Club. (See Events page)

What's in a name? - TGV services becomes !nOui  

For over 30 years the acronym TGV has been synonymous with France's Train Grande Vitesse, providing a clear and unambiguous description. A direct transalation into English produces HST, the British (albeit slower) equivalent. 

 But image and marketing requirements change, and on the 26th May SNCF announced that from the 2nd July normal TGV services would be re-branded !nOui The move is part of a strategy to differentiate between normal TGV services and the low cost no-frills OUIgo service. The strategy includes plans to increase Ouigo services to 25% of high speed travellers from the present 5%, with services using major inner city terminals from 2018

In the last few months, TGV has launched a major transformation with a massive investment in equipment (€ 1.5 billion on the new Océane trainsets), An improvement in customer relations (more than 5,000 staff trained in new customer relations) and a significant investment in digital technology (300 million euros invested in the deployment of WiFi on board). New electronic turnstiles are also being introduced at major stations to combat fraud and replace on-board controls.

 In order to give customers and employees a strong and visible signal of this transformation,  TGV services will become  !nOui
The move is seen as offering more clarity in the choice of offers (OUIgo, !nOui, OUIbus, OUIcar), although the key TGV service does not begin with Oui.Many commentators see the move as high risk in moving away from one of the most clearly recognised brand names in the world. 

In November the travel web site Voyages-sncf.com will become OUI.sncf. Rollout  of the new branding that will be carried on rolling stock will take 30 months beginning with Paris - Bordeaux TGV's from July 2nd and then on to Paris - Lyon and Paris - Strasbourg by the end of 2017. 

Under wraps

Recently photographed at Tonnerre by Allan Parker was shrink-wrapped 67258. Given the external condition of many of these locomotives we're not sure whether the cover is to preserve the bodywork whilst in store, or is it for sale on ebay?

Last summer for the "Petit Gris" of Villeneuve

42 Bombardier Regio 2N units ordered by Ile-de-France Region are currently in production for Transilien Line R (Paris-Lyon - Montereau / Montargis). They will be numbered in the sub-series Z 57000, and will also be identified with numbers "9xx L". Three Regio 2N units have been on test since July 2016. 
Six units are scheduled to enter service in December 2017 on Melun - Montereau via Héricy (Rive Droite) which will eliminate the remaining Z 5300 ("Petit Gris") trains.

Last February, unit 902 L was presented to STIF and to Valerie Pécresse, President of Ile de France ("IDF"). 

A further 26 Regio 2N will be delivered in 2018. They will be allocated first on Paris - Melun - Montereau via Moret from April 2018, and then on Paris - Montargis from September 2018. The last 10 units will be delivered in 2019. 

 A further order for 99 Bombardier Regio 2N for IDF is expected soon, for delivery between 2019 and 2021. 80 of these trains will be for Transilien Line N*, where they will presmably replace the Class BB 7600 and 19 for RER D (Corbeil - Malesherbes - Melun).

* Transilien Line N: Paris-Montparnasse - Rambouillet, Dreux, Mantes-la-Jolie.

Dijon BB 25500 finale

Friday 19th May was the last day of regular passenger service for Dijon's remaining Class BB 25500, latterly employed on Dijon-Besancon-Belfort duties. Once part of the family of SNCF small electrics (BB 8500/16500/17000/25500) the remaining survivors are at Strasbourg where they still operate peak Selestat and Saverne services, and a small number around Rennes. The occasional BB 17000 still operates from St Lazare if there is a shortage of Class BB 27300, although this is expected to finish by the end of the year. 
Opposite 25683 runs alongside the Rhin-Rhone canal at Deluz with the 12:30 Besancon - Belfort in June 2011

CFTV authorised to enter St-Quentin Gare

The train touristique du Vermandois (CFTV) runs from St-Quentin to Origny-Ste-Benoîte (02 - Aisne) along a freight line that is owned by the département 02. A group of Society members visited this line on May 31st 2008. They boarded a special train at a platform in the gare SNCF at St-Quentin (photo). In 2013, due to bureaucratic complications, RFF refused to allow the CFTV tourist train to continue to enter the station. CFTV was obliged to create a departure point next to its depot located in an industrial zone outside the town centre.

After four years of patient negotiations CFTV has succeeded in lifting the restrictions. Under the terms of a new agreement and, with the financial support of the town of St-Quentin, the tourist train has been authorised to return (in 2018) to its previous terminus in the main line station (for the convenience of visitors) and after some repairs to the platform to be used. The second photo shows 140 C 314 at this platform on August 15th 1998. The locomotive, now back in service after a lengthy overhaul, will celebrate its centenary this year during a fête on July 1st/2nd 

Loco hauled trains should return to Ligne de Cevennes this Summer

Locomotive hauled trains are expected to return to the Ligne de Cevennes during the summer high season. The daily 12:50 Clermont Ferrand - Nimes and 14:13 Nimes - Clermont Ferrand 'Cevenols' should revert to Class 67400 and Corail stock during July and August 

The tourist train from Langeac to Langogne through the Gorges de l'Allier will operate on Wednesdays 19 & 26 July and 2, 9, 16 & 23 August this year. For the second year it is operated in partnership with Train a Vapeur d'Auvergne, who will provide the set of coaches normally used by 141 R 420, with haulage by Class 67400. More information via this link. Opposite is the publicity video filmed when the service was operated with  RRR push-pull stock.

Services over the Ligne de Cevennes are currently operated by bus between Brioude and Ales until 30th June due to engineering work
The three times a week wood train from Langeac to Tarascon  operated by ECR (DB Cargo) ceased to run from the end of May. The service will continue, but will be operated by Regiorail from the beginning of July.

More lines in peril

Lines re-open, but others continue to close. The outlook is bleak for several lines due to the policies of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes Region (ARA). 

 It is reported that ARA has refused to contribute to the funding of essential repairs to Saint-Claude (Jura) - Oyannax(Ain), a line through the gorges of the Bienne river. This short section, in poor condition, crosses the boundary into Bourgogne Franche-Comté (BFC). In the absence of repairs, the line will close in December 2017 thus cutting off rail access to Bourg-en-Bresse and Lyon for the inhabitants of St-Claude and Morez clustered in their deep Jura valleys where the sun never shines.

In 2014, there were seven services daily to Lyon Perrache from St Claude via Bourg. The line was closed from August 2005 until 2010 for the modernisation and electrification of Bourg - Nurieux - Bellegarde for the Paris - Geneva TGV trains. Contrary to promises, when the branch to Oyannax and Saint Claude was re-opened only one TER was introduced by ARA, later reluctantly increased to two return services and currently three on week days. 

 One of the most spectacular railways in France is "La Ligne des Hirondelles", from Saint-Claude to Morez and Andelot (Dôle and Besançon). This is the responsibility of BFC which has not yet agreed essential funding for repairs to the line. It is reported that only 6 million euros has been reserved whereas it is estimated that 40 million is required. 

Meanwhile, ARA is also unwilling to fund repairs to parts of the Grenoble - Gap line (Ligne des Alpes). The solution is to share the cost with PACA Region (It is another example of a line that crosses a regional boundary, Gap being in PACA Region). 

At present, there is no agreement between ARA and PACA, though the subject is on the table. The deadline is 2018. Closure would prevent access by rail from Grenoble to Briançon particularly pertinent in the winter. 

 Above - On July 7th 2015, X2403 pauses at Clelles-Mens on the Ligne des Alpes with a service for photographers.

141 R 568 remains in Switzerland

Preserved, ex-SNCF 141 R locomotive no 568 is currently owned by a British executive (Andrew Cook) and it has been based in eastern Switzerland where it was employed on special trains. For several years, the loco has been up for sale. In the absence of any deals, we learned recently that 568 was moved, 12 months ago, to Vallorbe in Suisse Romande. 

A new association has been given the task of repairing and operating the engine. ( www.trainvapeur.ch ) The first steam trip in Switzerland under the new management is scheduled for June 24th from Vallorbe to Lausanne, Payerne, Romont and return. The composition will include Pullman, 1st class, Confort and 2nd class carriages and lunch will be served on board, except for 2nd class passengers. Details and schedule on the website. 141 R 568 is coal fired. 141 R 420 at Clermont-Ferrand is the only other preserved loco of the class in service that is coal-fired.

Pinguely 103 moved to Chemin de Fer du Bas Berry

For more than 20 years, the Pinguely 0-3-0T No 103 has been displayed in a park at Tournon next to the Rhône. The loco is owned by FACS and was constructed in 1904 (one of a class of four). It is the sister loco of No 101 that is in service at the Baie de Somme railway (see below). They were used in the Morbihan network, on lines around St-Nazaire until 1938. No 103 was removed from its plinth during May and transported to the Chemin de fer du Bas Berry. The tourist railway already received, a few years ago, another steam loco owned by FACS, the Corpet Louvet 0-4-0T No 24 (1923) We assume that the long term plan is to overhaul these two engines for use when the line to Valençay is opened.

Second Modified Caravelle for CFTSA

Amagne (Sud Ardennes) based CFTSA has acquired a second Modified Caravelle, former Franche Comte TER X4647/XR8441. Seen opposite at Amagne Lucquy on 5th May after delivery from Dijon (Photo Nicolas Retel). work will start on bring the unit to working order with the long term aim of bringing the unit to main-line running standard to support CFTSA's main-line certified X4719/XR8716.

Discussions are currently underway between CFTSA, Grand Est Region,  Ardennes Department, local communities, silo operators and SNCF Reseau to develop a plan to deal with the maintenance back-log and secure the future of the line from Amagne to Challerange

Flying start for CFBS

The late Easter and cool, dry weather has produced record numbers of visitors to the CFBS. During April 25,458 passengers were carried, 16% more than 2015 and slightly ahead of the 2016 figure that included the Fete de la Vapeur. By the end of the first week in May two days had seen more than 2,000 passengers, with more than 1,000 passengers  on another 12 days. 

So far this year passenger numbers on the Cayeux line have doubled compared to 2016 (excluding the Fete). This follows increased marketing of the section particularly for cyclists and ornithologists. 

On the 19th April passengers returning from St Valery to Cayeux on the lunch-time service exceeded the capacity of the Verney railcar and additional vehicles needed to be added (see photo)

MTVS begins Crèvecoeur operations

MTVS commenced public operations on its new line at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand, near Beauvais on a rainy Sunday afternoon, May 14th. Former Côtes-du-Nord 0-6-0T No 36 'Lulu' made eight return trips, two more than originally planned, conveying over 400 passengers of whom 267 were paying members of the public. 

 Steam trains will operate at Crèvecoeur on the second Sunday of each month until September. Special event: trains will run all day on Saturday/Sunday Sept 16th/17th. The museum at Butry (Valmondois) will be open as usual with steam trains on the first Sunday of each month until October. Further information via this link

Light Rail T11 Express (Ile-de-France) opening in one month

T11 Express is scheduled to open on July 1st. This double track light rail line has been constructed alongside the Grande Ceinture Nord between Epinay-sur-Seine (RER C) and Le Bourget (RER D), a distance of 11 km. There are 5 intermediate stops at Villetaneuse (T8), Pierrefitte-Stains (RER D), Stains-Cerisaie and Dugny La Courneuve. 

 The rolling stock consists of 15 Alstom Dualis tram-train units. The frequency is expected to be every 5 minutes at peak periods and every 10 minutes off-peak. The journey time from Epinay to Le Bourget will be 15 minutes. A daily traffic of 40,000 passengers is projected initially and strong growth is expected in a dense urban area where there is a lack of good public transport systems, and congested roads.  
A dedicated company has been created to operate the line. It is called Transkéo
The company is owned 51% Keolis and 49% SNCF. It will employ 90 staff including 70 to drive the tram-trains. Drivers will also regularly perform commercial duties, one day in five. 

 Employees will not have the same benefits and salaries as SNCF "cheminots". Unions claim that this low cost organisation is "social dumping", but SNCF deny that. The new line will have cost more than 700 million euros. This can be explained in part by the difficulties experienced to insert the double track in a confined space including construction of bridges, embankments, cuttings. The line has no level crossings. All the stations are new or annexed to existing stations. 

 The depot is new, opened in 2016 at Noisy-le-Sec and shared with T4 tram-trains. r.

Strasbourg - Inauguration of Tram Line D to Kehl

On April 29th, the extension of Strasbourg tram line D across the Rhine to Kehl was opened. The Strasbourg eurometropole area contains one of the busiest urban tram networks in France. The first line was opened in 1994. There are now six lines with a total route length of over 50 km. More than 300,000 passengers ride the network daily. The extension of 2.7km to Kehl required erection of a new bridge across the river. The line stops at Kehl DB railway station. In 2018, the line will be opened 2 km further to Kehl town hall.
Three new stops have been created in the area of Rhine port, planned for urban renewal. 12 new Alstom Citadis 403 trams have been delivered for the cross border service. They have been adapted to comply with standards applicable to tram lines in Germany. The total fleet includes 106 trams and 10 more are on order. 

We will report more in JULY NEWS after visiting the Kehl extension ( the first cross border line used by a French tramway).

New trams for St Etienne

4 new "Urbos 3" trams entered service in St Etienne on May 3rd. They were constructed by the Spanish group CAF in their French factory at Bagnères de Bigorre in the Pyrénees. The total order was for 16 units and so far 8 have been delivered since July 2016. The remaining 8 units are expected by September 2017.  The St Etienne tram network is metre gauge and the new trams mark a significant step forward in the modernisation of the system. The tram line through the narrow main street of the city dates from 1882 and it has never closed. The existing fleet comprises 35 Alstom Vevey trams that were delivered in 1997. 20 of these trams have been modernised so far The new CAF trams are 33m long x 2.20m wide and have a capacity of 180 passengers. They are equipped with wifi, air conditioning, information screens and video cameras. The new trams are bi-directional whereas the Alstom trams are uni-directional. We will report further on this tram network in the autumn.
© Peter Lovell & Graham Skinner. The French Railways Society 2017. Thanks to Michel Costes, Nicolas Retel and Allan Parker. Photos by authors unless credited.
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