A SNCF Regional Express Train is seen at Hazebrouck’s train station in northern France on Thursday. France’s train operators admit they made a mistake in ordering new trains that will require millions of dollars to modify station platforms. Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images
Some 2,000 new trains that were meant to help France expand its regional rail network are instead causing headaches and embarrassment, as officials have been forced to explain why the trains aren’t compatible with hundreds of station platforms. The new trains are just a few centimeters too wide to fit.
The country’s rail operators say they’re spending millions of dollars to modify platforms to accommodate the new trains, which cost billions of dollars. A French newspaper reported on the mix-up Tuesday, saying the platforms were too narrow for the trains to pass through.
The story emerged in Le Canard Enchaîné, a satirical newspaper that blends humor with investigative pieces. As The Wall Street Journal has reported, the paper is both profitable and only minimally available on the Internet.
The train platform episode is a black eye for a French rail system that’s often cited as a success, with fast trains serving a wide network. But officials say there was a disconnect between RFF, France’s rail operator, and SNCF, the company that runs its trains, and that now some 1,300 platforms must be modified.
France 24 explains:
“The mix-up arose when the RFF transmitted faulty dimensions for its train platforms to the SNCF, which was in charge of ordering trains as part of a broad modernization effort, the Canard Enchaîné reported.”
The news agency says the RFF’s data only included platforms built less than 30 years ago and that many others had been built more than 50 years ago. “Repair work has already cost 80 million euros ($110 million),” France 24 reports.
Both RFF and SNCF say the new trains were built to international standards and that the platforms will now observe those same standards.