Awkward: France Orders 50 Costly New Trains, And They Don't Fit In The Station
Any commuter knows getting on the wrong train is the worst thing that can happen in the morning, so imagine the headache the French had when they showed up to the station, only to find trains couldn't even reach their platforms. France's national rail company ordered 2,000 trains that turned out to be too wide for hundreds of platforms, which necessitated widespread repairs across the country's stations. The trains, which were supposed to be used for a newly regional network, cost about 15 billion euros ($20.5 billion) altogether. Oops!
"We discovered the problem a bit late, we recognize that, and we accept responsibility," a spokesman for the national railroad told France Info radio. He added that construction, which is estimated to cost another 50 million euros, has already begun on the stations. About 1,300 platforms throughout the country need to be upgraded to accommodate the new, much-too-wide trains.
So, how did the French rail company forget the size of the platforms? Apparently the RFF, which operates the train system, gave the train company SNCF the wrong dimensions. While some of the train platforms were built less than 30 years ago, others were built 50 years ago, and the company failed to account for the slight yet significant differences between the two.
Meanwhile, France's Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier blamed the French rail system in general, telling BBC News: "When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens."
The SNCF, which is equivalent to Amtrak in the U.S., runs about 14,000 trains a day in France, carrying more than 800,000 people. The RFF, which was created by the French government, operates about 20,000 miles of railway tracks throughout France.
SNCF and RFF said in a joint statement on Wednesday:
Putting this network of new generation and larger trains in order to satisfy public demand will require the modernisation of 1,300 platforms out of the 8,700 in the French rail network.
France's train system has come under fire in recent years. In July 2013, the country saw one of its worst train accidents in years when an inter-city train derailed about 20 miles outside of Paris, killing seven people and injuring more than 200 people. Railway investigators said a metal clip that holds together two rails came loose and detached. Officials cited that as the cause of the accident, and SNCF said they would inspect similar equipment along the rail network.