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Rail Fail
2,000 New French Trains Won't Fit in French Stations

France’s state-owned rail network RFF just ordered 2,000 brand new trains as part of an effort to modernize the country’s transit network. There’s just one problem: the new trains are too wide for most of the country’s train platforms.

How did this happen? EU rules required France to split ownership of its railways and the trains that use them. Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) owns and operates the country’s rail infrastructure, while Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) operates the actual trains.

Unfortunately, the two separate state-owned firms don’t seem to know how to talk to one another. SNCF was in charge of ordering the new trains, but it relied on RFF for specs of the stations the trains would be servicing. RFF supplied dimensions for new stations, though most of France’s stations are older and, therefore, a different size. The upshot of all of this: those new trains won’t fit in more than half of the country’s stations, so France is now working to widen old platforms to accommodate the ordering error—repairs which have already cost more than $100 million.

As Reuters reports, French officials are already playing hot potato with the blame for the snafu:

Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed an “absurd rail system” for the problem, referring to changes made by a previous government in 1997. “When you separate the rail operator (RFF) from the user, SNCF, it doesn’t work,” he told BFMTV.

Don’t expect the fact that EU rules are to blame for the bifurcation of railway ownership to escape the attention of politicians looking to score a hit against the trade bloc. This was a colossal mistake that surely should have been caught by any number of people in a long chain of command, but Brussels may find itself an easy culprit for this derailment.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Is it any wonder that the people of Europe are revolting against the EU and their governments?

    • Corlyss

      Wake me when those sheeple rally to the barricades.

  • lukelea

    $100 million!!!

  • Fat_Man


  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    This never would have happened in a free market. But passenger trains are big money losing boondoggles built and run by the Government Monopoly.

    • Andrew Allison

      You’re right that it wouldn’t have happened in a free (as opposed to European Common) market, but probably wrong about passenger trains. They’re inevitable money losers in the US for all kinds of reasons, but in high-density Europe, they stand a chance, especially if one considers the overall cost of the alternative (driving),

    • Corlyss

      In the US, yes, rail can’t compete with the convenience of auto for short distances and air travel for long. But in Europe 1) they didn’t foolishly tear up their rail systems after WW2 2) because car ownership was never as great there as it was here when decisions about rail systems were being made.

  • gabrielsyme

    Brussels may find itself an easy culprit for this derailment.

    Brussels finds itself an easy culprit because it is (partially) to blame. The idea that it is necessary for the French government to have two separate state-owned companies to operate the rail system is quite ridiculous.

    • Andrew Allison

      And an example of why the citizens of the EU are about to send message to the EU.

      • Corlyss

        Won’t do any good because Brussels don’t give a fig what the citizens have to say. Brussels knows best.

  • Breif2

    “France is now working to widen old platforms to accommodate the ordering error—repairs which have already cost more than $100 million.”

    Stimulus! Yay! [/sarcasm]

    (By the way, this sole reason for this post was to inflict its last word on us, amIright?)

  • teapartydoc

    Funny. I never go to France, but I happened to be there when they voted down the EU Constitution, and I was there when the NF won big. Maybe I should go back more often.

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