France Spent $20 Billion for Trains Only to Realise Stations Can’t Fit the Coaches

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | May 23, 2014 11:36 AM EST

France spent around $20 billion on ordering a fleet of new trains only to find out that the trains are so big that they would not fit hundreds of stations all over the country.

REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
A new Regiolis regional train (L) made by power and train-making firm Alstom, is seen next to a platform at Strasbourg's railway station, May, 21, 2014. France's national rail company SNCF said on Tuesday it had ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that are too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs.

France normally takes pride in SNCF which is known for its efficiency. However, this time there was a major blunder as it had spent 15 billion euro before measuring the practicality of it. CNN reported that it was Le Canard Enchaine, the investigative newspaper, which exposed the deal that backfired. Now the entire French media is widely talking about it.

RFF, responsible for operating the rail network in the country, had provided SNCF with station dimensions before it placed the order. The mix-up took place as the measurements RFF provided were mostly from more up-to-date stations. The stations with older facilities were neglected. Now, it turns out that those regional platforms are too narrow to fit the modern trains.

According to the statement released by SNCF and RFF, the order of new trains was supposed to upgrade the rail network in France. A 40 per cent increase of number of passenger is expected in the coming decade. 1,300 platforms are going to be upgraded to accommodate the modern trains. The statement said that around 50 million euro had been being spent for the upgrade.

According to Christian Fraser of BBC, the "embarrassing blunder" has cost $68.4 million so far. According to reports, the cost is going to rise even further. There will be around a thousand platforms which need to be adjusted to fit the trains. The modern platforms which were measured by RFF were made in the past 30 years or so. However, there are several regional platforms in France that were built over 50 years ago. During those days, trains used to be slimmer.

An RFF spokesman said that the problem had been discovered "a bit late." Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, on the other hand, blamed it all on an "absurd rail system." This is what happens ""when you separate the rail operator from the train company," Mr Cuvillier said.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler / )
A new Regiolis regional train (L) made by power and train-making firm Alstom, is seen next to a platform at Strasbourg's railway station, May, 21, 2014. France's national rail company SNCF said on Tuesday it had ordered 2,000 trains for an expanded regional network that are too wide for many station platforms, entailing costly repairs.
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