New French trains ‘too wide’ for stations

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IOL FRANCE-TRAINS-_0521_11 REUTERS A new Regiolis regional train made by power and train-making firm Alstom, is seen next to a platform at Strasbourg's railway station. Picture: Vincent Kessler

Paris - Cash-strapped France will have to trim back some 1 300 rail platforms at a cost of 50 million euros after realising a brand new fleet of trains are too big to fit its stations, rail operators admitted Wednesday.

The problem affects 182 regional trains supplied by French manufacturer Alstom and 159 from Canada's Bombardier, due to come into service by 2016.

Two state rail bodies, the Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer (SNCF) and the Reseau Ferre de France (RFF), acknowledged the embarrassing situation in a joint statement on Wednesday after it was revealed by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

Introducing “wider trains in response to the needs of the public requires us to modernise 1,300 of the 8,700 platforms in the French rail network,” they said.

France's secretary of state for transport, Frederic Cuvillier, called it a “tragically comical”, “mind-boggling” mix-up, blaming a lack of coordination between the SNCF and the RFF.

The two bodies are to be merged into one under reform plans to be unveiled in June.

According to the Canard Enchaine, the SNCF drew up the specifications for the new-generation trains, including the carriage width.

“But the SNCF's clever engineers forgot to check on the reality on the ground,” where the space between platforms varies between stations.

So far, 300 station platforms have been adapted since work began in 2013, with the project set for completion in 2016.

“It can involve chipping a few centimetres off the edge of a platform, or moving an electricity power box located a bit too close to the platform edge,” said RFF.

“It's a bit like buying a Ferrari that you want to fit into your garage, but then realising your garage isn't quite Ferrari-sized, because up until now you didn't own a Ferrari,” it offered by way of analogy. - Sapa-AFP


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