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.