The French government is red-faced and furious as news emerges that 2,000 new trains purchased by French national train operator, SNCF, at a cost of €15 billion are too large to enter 1,300 regional stations. As the UK’s Independent newspaper puts it, “The country that brought the TGV high-speed train to Europe has accidentally created another first – the TFT, or the Too Fat Train.”
It appears the problem has arisen because national rail operator, RFF, provided SNCF with measurements taken from platforms built less than 30 years ago, overlooking the fact that many of rural France’s platforms were built over 50 years ago when trains were smaller.
According to a report in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, SNCF has however admitted that it failed to verify the measurements itself before ordering the new stock from train engineering companies, Alstom and Bombardier.
To rectify the situation, the 1,300 stations in question will now be modified to fit the new rolling stock. These adaptations will cost RFF in the region of €50 million to complete, representing about 1 per cent of its annual budget for modernisation and repairs.
According to the BBC New Europe website, French Transport Minister, Frederic Cuvillier blamed an “absurd rail system” for the problems. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens.”
Interestingly, the Independent draws attention to the fact that “a draft law is due to come before the French parliament next month to merge, or re-merge, the two state-owned bodies from next year. Both SNCF and RFF support the plan.”