BLNI Extra 41 June 2018 – France
[D33] - France - Future gets bleaker for branch lines in France
In preparation for the latest reform of the railway system, several reports were submitted to the
French government at the beginning of this year. They included the Spinetta report which
recommended closure of thousands of km of secondary lines. Edouard Philippe, prime minister,
stated on 26 February; "The government will not follow these recommendations. The closure of 9000
km of lines is not decided from Paris on administrative and accounting criteria". The veracity of this
statement can be doubted. In May, we learnt that the new rail reform pact will include provision for
an audit of secondary lines to be organised from "Paris".
For many decades now, secondary lines have not been closed. They have been abandoned. The lines
are no longer staffed and train services are reduced and repositioned so that they do not correspond
to the needs of the travelling public. The lines are given minimum maintenance and then they are
declared dangerous. Speed limits are arbitrarily imposed and, after a few months, SNCF Réseau
(formerly RFF) will suspend all traffic indefinitely for security reasons. This is a well defined procedure
ordered from "Paris" and executed by local offices of SNCF. No independent assessment is ever
Repairs and renewals
Regions operate modern train sets on the ageing rural rail network. They finance repairs when needed
because SNCF says it has no funds to repair lines that carry less than ten trains a day. Even lines that
have been repaired are not safe from closure. A trick which is often used by SNCF Réseau. Repair a
line without making it clear that no improvement in performance will be obtained. Another regular
trick is to budget repairs, obtain agreement from the Region and a few months later double the
budget with no explanation (Bergerac - Libourne).
Limoges - Angoulême (Nouvelle Aquitaine)
Services on the western half of this line were suddenly suspended this spring and no repairs have
been carried out yet.
Guéret - Felletin (Nouvelle Aquitaine)
After a temporary closure during the winter because of the wrong kind of leaves, a new timetable
was introduced to double the train services, from one to two. Before, a TER came from Limoges to
Felletin in the evening and returned to Limoges the following morning. The crew stayed overnight.
Now there are two return services from Guéret to Felletin, one in mid morning, one in mid afternoon.
One would have expected that more passengers on this line would want to travel to the sous-
prefecture of Guéret for shopping, medical, administrative reasons rather than the reverse.
Bergerac - Libourne (Nouvelle Aquitaine)
Nouvelle Aquitaine Region succeeded this spring in closing the financing deal to modernise the
Bergerac - LIbourne line after SNCF Réseau doubled the cost from 40 million euros to 80 million.
Ligne des Cévennes
The line was closed this spring for two months to conduct engineering work between Langeac and
Langogne. However, it was discovered that ARA Region had transferred the budget to Chambéry. So
no work was done in Auvergne but the line remained closed! During the closure, the national rail
strike started on 3 April and no TER trains have operated between Clermont Ferrand and Nîmes since
3 April, strike or no strike day, and no replacement buses are provided. SNCF admits that this is
because drivers have been transferred to the Lyon area. The status of the Cevenol train is unclear.
Previously, the afternoon service between Clermont-Ferrand and Nîmes was intercité. It was
announced that from 2018 Occitanie Region was responsible for the Cevenol and it would receive
new Régiolis stock. But the train service is operated by SNCF Clermont Ferrand depot which is in
Auvergne Rhône Alpes. No-one has yet explained who is in charge of the Ligne des Cevennes.
Meanwhile those wishing to visit or travel on the line are advised caution, any train services are
extremely unreliable or unpredictable if you prefer.
Ligne des Alpes
Only 2 return trains out of 5 normally scheduled have been operated between Grenoble and Gap. In
fact the second train in the evening from Grenoble terminates at Veynes and does not even reach
Gap. This minimum service applies daily since 3 April, strike days or not.
Le Treport - Abbeville and Le Treport - Beavais
Le Treport became the latest location to lose it's rail services when both the lines to Abbeville and
Beauvais were suspended from 28 May, due to the condition of the track through years of neglect.
In recent years the Abbeville line has only seen two trains a day each way, while the Beauvais line has
had four trains each way. There are plans to rebuild the Beauvais line and re-open it in 18 months
time, although cynics are pessimistic about this happening. The future of Abbeville - Le Treport is even
less secure, although regional representatives are meeting the Minister of Transport in July in an
attempt to save it. Courtesy of the French Railways Society
[D34] France - Goats to control lineside vegetation
SNCF Réseau has acquired six goats that are being used in a trial to control lineside vegetation. Goats
are seen as being particularly effective against invasive and vigorous growing species such as Asian
Knotweed. The trial is taking place on 4,000 square metres of lineside near Belleville on the Metz -
Nancy line. If successful will this create a demand for HO and N gauge goats amongst modellers?
Courtesy of the French Railways Society
[D35] France – The Infrastructure of the Ligne à Grande Vitesse Sud Europe Atlantique
On 2 July 2017 two major extensions of the Y-shaped Ligne à Grande Vitesse Atlantique were opened.
The northern leg of the LGV-Atlantique was extended 182 kilometres westward with the opening of
the Ligne à Grande Vitesse Bretagne-Pays de la Loire (LGV-BPL) to the perimeter of Rennes.
Concurrently the Ligne à Grande Vitesse Sud Europe Atlantique (LGV-SEA) was created by a 302
kilometres extension of the southern leg of the LGV-Atlantique, reaching Bordeaux via the final twelve
kilometres of the classic line from Paris Austerlitz.
The first section of the LGV-Atlantique opened in September 1989 from Paris-Montparnasse to its
junction with the classic Paris-Brest line at Connerré, east of Le Mans. A year later the second leg
opened from a junction with this section at Courtalain (Km 130) to Monts (Km 231.5) on the classic
Paris-Austerlitz via Orléans to Bordeaux mainline. The Courtalain to Connerré line was known as the
Branche Bretagne, the Monts route being the Branche Aquitaine; the latter has the only intermediate
station on any of the legs of the LGV-Atlantique, at Vendôme-TGV.
The initial stretch of the LGV-Atlantique from Paris-Montparnasse is electrified at 1500v DC, the
changeover to 25kv AC taking place at Km 7.7. On the Connerré leg, 1500v DC resumed just before
joining the classic Brest line. The new LGV-BPL diverges before the original Connerré junction,
continuing under 25kv AC towards Rennes. Just before crossing the Loire and the classic Bordeaux
line, the Branche Aquitaine reverted to 1500v DC at Km 216.9. The single-track Raccordement de
Montlouis, joining at Km 217.7, enabled conventional passenger and freight trains to join the final leg
of the Branche Aquitaine, the Contournement de Tours (Tours bypass), avoiding the congested St-
The Ligne à Grande Vitesse Sud Europe Atlantique commences at the Bifurcation de St-Avertin, Km
222.9 on the Branche Aquitaine, marking the zero-point of the LGV-SEA. The extension of the high-
speed route resulted in some significant changes to the original infrastructure. The Raccordement de
Montlouis has been lifted and the initial section of the Monts route south of St-Avertin has been
singled, making it a connection of limited capacity between the LGV to the north and the classic line
to the south. The section south of the Loire is now 25kv AC. Although not in regular active use, the
transition to 1500v DC now takes place on the singled section of the Monts spur.
A particular feature of the new LGV-SEA is the absence of any intermediate stations. There is a limited
number of parkway-style stations on other LGV routes, provided more for political than for
commercial reasons, where the lines passed close to, but not through cities such as Amiens and
Macon on the old main lines. The classic Bordeaux line south of St-Pierre-des-Corps serves some
major towns and cities, particularly Poitiers and Angoulême, and these are served not by out-of-town
calls but via new links to the LGV-SEA, giving the city centre stations TGV services. Consequently, there
are eight intermediate raccordements linking the LGV-SEA with the classic route before the two routes
converge at La Gorp, as already mentioned twelve kilometres north of Bordeaux-Saint-Jean. Six of
these raccordements have double-track non-conflicting junctions with the LGV-SEA, the remaining
two being single-track spurs, basically used uni-directionally. Together, they form three loops from
the LGV to the classic route and back again as well as branch junctions, of which the most important
is to/from La Rochelle.
The net result is an infrastructure which is challenging for track gricers to cover in totality! In his initial
travels on the LGV-SEA, your writer has merely skimmed the intricacies of the full network.
To simplify presentation, the links are described in accordance with travel in a southbound direction.
The track designations are V1 (the normal southbound track on the east) and V2 (the normal
northbound track on the west). The designations for tracks on the links are R1 (southbound) and R2
(northbound). For each junction an assessment of the TGVs using each link is indicated by an analysis
of the current weekday southbound timetable. Some spurs, for example that to/from La Rochelle will
have a higher use during the peak summer season.
The first link, trailing from the north-west, is the Raccordement de Monts Sud, the southbound R1
track joining after a fly-over at Km 16.8, the northbound inner R2 chord facing at Km 16.0. This link
enables TGVs to serve St-Pierre-des-Corps. The link is roughly 5.5 kilometres in length, with non-
conflicting junctions at its northern joining point with the classic line at Monts Sud. Fourteen
southbound TGVs take this route.
The Raccordement de La Celle-Saint-Avant heads south-east to Châtellerault, five southbound TGVs
from Paris taking this link, continuing along the classic line to serve Poitiers. Two of these also call at
Futuroscope, 23 kms south of Châtellerault. The facing inner R1 chord is at Km 36.3, with the
northbound R2 diving under the LGV-SEA and joining at Km 36.4. The connection with the classic line
at the south end is via a single lead. As with on all the links, there is an intermediate changeover from
25kv AC to 1500v DC.
The Raccordement de Migné-Auxances diverges south-east for six kilometres to join the classic line
just north of Poitiers. Chord R1 leaves the LGV-SEA at Km 86.0, with R2 flying over and joining the
LGV-SEA at Km 85.4. The busiest of all the links, used by eighteen southbound TGVs, calling or
terminating at Poitiers.
The Raccordement de Fontaine-le-Comte Nord is the link between the LGV-SEA and the westbound
Poitiers-La Rochelle main line. Outside the holiday season, only one southbound TGV takes this 4-kms
link. Eight other Paris to La Rochelle TGVs call at Poitiers, reached via the Raccordement de Migné-
Auxances, then passing under the LGV-SEA at Fontaine-le-Comte. R2 is the inner chord, joining the
LGV-SEA at Km 105.2. R1 leaves at Km 103.5, passing under the LGV route. As with the Châtellerault
link, the connection with the La Rochelle line is via single leads.
South of the crossing of the La Rochelle line, the 8-kms Raccordement de Fontaine-le-Comte Sud
enables TGVs calling at Poitiers to rejoin the LGV-SEA and vice versa. R1 joins at Km 108.1. R2 diverges
at Km 109.5, diving under LGV-SEA, later flying over the La Rochelle line. Eleven southbound TGVs
traverse the link.
The Raccordement de Juillé is a single-track 2.5-kms chord trailing from the southwest, enabling
northbound trains calling at Angoulême to rejoin the LGV-SEA at Km 172.1. Cross-overs on the classic
and the LGV-SEA allow running in the opposite direction, albeit the southbound move would involve
blocking the northbound LGV for a few minutes.
Leaving the LGV-SEA at Km 179.4 and heading southeast, the 4.4-kms Raccordement de Villognon is
the twin of the Raccordement de Juillé, permitting southbound TGVs calling at Angoulême to access
the classic line. Thirteen TGVs make this move. As with Juillé, if necessary, facing crossovers enable
northbound services to rejoin the LGV-SEA.
The final link is via the 5.8-kms Raccordement de La Couronne where, from the northeast, R1 joins
the LGV-SEA at Km 214.2, in line with R2 leaving to fly over the LGV. R1 has left the classic route via a
fly-over. It is used by seven southbound trains. The disparity with thirteen taking the Raccordement
de Villognon is the consequence of six TGVs continuing along the classic line to serve Libourne.
Finally, via the Saut-de-mouton d'Ambarès-et-Lagrave, the LGV-SEA southbound track flies over the
northbound classic track, joining the corresponding southbound track at LGV Km 301.8 (= Km 571.1
on the classic line). Northbound the divergence is at Km 300.7 (= Km 570.1).
On each ‘jour ouvrable de base’, the “average weekday”, basically Tue, Wed and Thu, which structure
SNCF long-distance timetables (with their many additional trains on Fridays and Mondays, and a few
omitted at weekends), forty TGVs depart from Paris Montparnasse heading over all or part of the
LGV-SEA. Additionally, there are four TGVs from Lille/Strasbourg, which are routed via the TGV
Jonction, joining the LGV-Atlantique at Massy-TGV, then continuing to Bordeaux.
Aside from the infrastructure used by public services, there are engineering depots at Nouâtre-Maillé
(Km 40), Poitiers (km 92), Villognon (Km 178) and Clérac (Km 266). The Base de maintenance infra de
Poitiers is on the main LGV-SEA route to the west of the city, not in the city itself on the classic line.
In mid-March your writer set off for his first exploration of the LGV-SEA. Outward the non-stop TGV
8573 09.52 ex-Montparnasse had an initial dash along the LGV-Atlantique, nearing the end of which
it was switched to the normally northbound V2. On entering the LGV-SEA, TGV 8573 continued along
V2 at good speed, with no sign of any engineering occupation on V1. Suddenly a northbound TGV
sped past, also on the wrong track. At the SEI Maillé interlocking (Km 38.5), V1 was regained and
speed soon rose close to the maximum-permitted 320 kph. At one stage it looked unlikely that the
two hours four minutes schedule would be achieved but, lo-and-behold, Bordeaux-St-Jean was
reached in precisely 124-minutes zero-seconds!
The down side of travelling on a non-stopper is that infrastructure-watching is a challenging task at
320 kph. To make amends, the return journey the next day was made on a service calling at
Angoulême and Poitiers. A fittingly-suitable train was TGV 5266, the 11.08 Bordeaux to Aeroport
Paris-Charles de Gaulle. Calling at Massy-TGV, this somewhat oddball service (most continue to
Lille/Strasbourg) yielded the opportunity of changing at Massy to reach Paris via the Sceaux Line (RER
B), a route not traversed by your writer for decades.
Definitely a more interesting journey, taking the Raccordement de La Couronne to reach Angoulême.
After leaving Angoulême, based on an informative article in the September 2016 issue of Today’s
Railways Europe, the expectation was that the LGV-SEA would be regained via the Raccordement de
Villognon. The Raccordement de Juillé was described as “mainly for service purposes”. Immediately
after leaving Angoulême, TGV 5266 crossed wrong-line to V1, passing a few engineering activities on
V2. Although on the track with direct access onto the Villognon chord, TGV 5266 continued along V1,
crossing back to V2 immediately after Luxé, two kilometres beyond which the Raccordement de Juillé
was taken. Still not clarified as to which is the normal booked northbound chord, Villognon or Juillé.
With non-conflicting junctions at each end of the Fontaine-le-Comte Sud and Migné-Auxances links,
the diversion through Poitiers was quite absorbing. Future intentions will aim at travelling on a TGV,
which calls at St-Pierre-des-Corps, Châtellerault and Poitiers, thereby traversing three further
raccordements. The sparse service via the Raccordement de Fontaine-le-Comte Nord presents quite a
A route map for the LGV-SEA, together with a track-plan can be found via:
Go to Page 120. The first page is a route map, the next page has the track plans.
Map used with permission of LISEA