Why SNCF ordered wrong-sized trains

Joint SNCF and RFF report concludes that a lack of communication and co-ordination is to blame for embarrassing scandal

25 May 2014

A JOINT SNCF and Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) investigation into how and why trains were ordered that are too large for 1,300 railway stations in France has concluded there are no major failures in the French rail system.

Instead, a report ordered last week by transport minister Frédéric Cuvillier blamed the scandal on a lack of communication and coordination between the train operator and the rail network, Le Parisien has said.

The newspaper reports that SNCF said that the TER trains ordered from Alstom and Bombardier are fully compliant with international standards and have been approved for use on the French rail network.

When the trains were ordered in 2009, SNCF requested station width figures from RFF, but complete accounts of platform sizes did not exist - only those for stations dating back less than 30 years.

RFF only belatedly realised that its figures on platform width across its network of 8,700 stations in France were not accurate or up to date, and that platforms at 1,300 stations needed to be adapted to allow the new trains to enter.

As a result, RFF has to foot the estimated €50m bill to ‘shave’ platforms. Work, the report said, has already started, and 300 stations have been adapted. All 1,300 affected stations should be properly adapted once the new trains are fully in service in 2016.

The bosses of both companies, SNCF’s Guillaume Pepy and RFF’s Jacques Rapoport, will appear before a National Assembly committee to explain what the minister of transport has described as an “incredible” error, "as soon as possible".

Photo: Jean-Louis Zimmermann

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