It emerged in May that the 2,000 new trains ordered by French train operator SNCF are too wide for many regional platforms. The bill for this blunder, including modifications to platforms, is 50 million euros and rising.
It transpires that the information given to SNCF by the infrastructure agency RFF failed to recognise that many French regional platforms were built half a century ago, when trains were narrower. Consequently the new trains will not fit.
This farce is a direct consequence of EU directive 91/440, issued in 1997, which compels the separation of tracks and signalling from train operation to enable private operators to enter the market. Few have yet appeared in France, unlike Britain, but the underlying damage is done.
RFF had to make the shame-faced admission that they had “•discovered the problem a bit late”. French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier pointed to an “absurd rail system” for the problems. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens.” ■