In what has to be a major embarrassment for France, the country’s leading train operator, SNCF, is in the news after brand new trains that were delivered to it by train maker Bombardier ended up being simply too wide to be used on many existing train routes. According to BBC News, the trainsets in question belong to SNCF’s “Regio 2N” double decker model that had been developed for SNCF by Bombardier. SNCF had ordered for as many as 2000 new trains for a total order value of $20.4 billion.
The embarrassing blunder is likely to cost the SNCF over $68.4 million as it would have to redesign existing platforms on the routes where these new trains were supposed to have been put on service. This is because the new trains being wider, would scrape the edges of the platforms when they enter some stations. The BBC report adds that the cost of fixing the blunder could rise even further in the near future. Meanwhile, SNCF has already commenced work in order to redesign the platforms to suit the new trains. In all, over 1,000 platforms edges would have to be redesigned.
According to France24, the error was caused by the mistake of the country’s national rail operator RFF who calculated and gave the wrong dimensions for the new trains to SNCF. The SNCF in turn gave the dimensions and requirements to Bombardier, who eventually made the new trains. In the calculation, the RFF only accounted for platforms that were built less than 30 years ago while forgetting that many SNCF platforms were older than 50 years. Back then, trains were slimmer.
A spokesman for the RFF confirmed that the problem exists and that they had “discovered the problem a bit late.” Meanwhile, French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier called the country’s rail system “absurd” and blamed it entirely for the mess up. “When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens,” he said.
France, and especially SNCF is known for its advanced high speed trains and excellent railway network which includes the TGV series of trains that hold the world record for being the fastest on the planet. While there have been accidents in the past, it is still widely considered among the worlds best. It is therefore even more perplexing to see a country that is known to have set high standards for itself in the past managing to goof up on something very basic.
[Image via Bombardier]