France - General Information

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Country Name

France (France)

National Railway System

National Railway Operator

SNCF Mobilités, a subsidiary of SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français), is responsible for SNCF Voyageurs (domestic passenger services), SNCF Logistique (freight) and KEOLIS (International operations).

Thalys is operated by two stand-alone companies, one owned by SNCF (60%) and SNCB/NMBS (40%), the other (for services to Germany and the Netherlands) owned by SNCF (62%), SNCB/NMBS (28%) and DB (10%) (NS is not a partner although services extend over that system). Other international services are operated jointly with neighbouring administrations using various concocted trading names such as TGV Lyria (Switzerland). ICE/TGV services between Stuttgart/Frankfurt and Paris are run jointly by DB and SNCF, using the name Alleo;. however, that is not a marketing name, and services are marketed in the partners' own names. Joint operation to Italy ceased from December 2011: Trenitalia operates the Paris <=> Milano night service and the Marseille <=> Milano day train under the marketing name Thello, having bought out former joint owner Veolia-Transdev. SNCF alone operates the Paris <=> Milano day trains. Eurostar is operated by Eurostar International Ltd, owned by SNCF (controlling interest of 55%), private investors (who in 2015 acquired the share previously owned by the UK government) (40%) and SNCB/NMBS (5%).

Various open-access freight operators (particularly ECR, a DB Cargo subsidiary) are starting to appear depite French reluctance to embrace the spirit of the relevant European legislation. Voies Ferrées Locales et Industrielles (VFLI) is a SNCF subsidiary (with more flexibility of staff deployment) which contracts for the operation of certain secondary lines as well as some open access operation.

Languages

French. Breton is spoken in Brittany, but the visitor is likely to be aware of this only in the form of signs as most people speak French. There is limited use of Basque in the Pyrenees and German in Alsace.

Currency

Euro

UIC code

  • SNCF: numeric 87 alpha F.
  • Eurotunnel: numeric 69. This is used only for accounting purposes and does not appear on rolling stock.

Timetable

Only some of this material is available in languages other than French

Journey Planner

SNCF website

Downloadable Timetable

  • InOui (formerly TGV) (long distance high speed services): no downloadable timetable material is published by SNCF - you will need to rely on journey planners or the printed European Rail Timetable
  • OuiGo and iDTGV (long distance low-fare high speed services): no downloadable timetable material is published by SNCF nor do these trains feature in SNCF journey planners - go to the OuiGo and iDTGV websites
  • Intercités (long distance 'classic' services): Fiches horaires
  • Transilien (Île de France, including Paris): Fiches horaires
  • TER (local services elsewhere except Corsica): TER Website > Région > Horaires & Trafic > (Votre) Fiches Horaires or Documents horaires à télécharger
  • Corsica: Horaires

Printed Timetable

None in book form. Individual route leaflets (fiches) are available for local services in some Régions (where available, they mirror those available as downloads - see above). Otherwise, use the European Rail Timetable.

Engineering, Strike (grève) and Current Performance Information

SNCF Info trafic. Alternatively Infolignes website or CFC (Corsica). Espacetrain will give current references in the French media.

Note that it is the practice to close sections of line for electrification or other reconstruction work for periods of several months: potential travellers should check carefully for such temporary closures

There are two options for current performance information:

  • The SNCF Info Trafic site > DÉCOUVREZ AUSSI > RECHERCHE ITINÉRAIRE > No. de train gives a journey planner with added timekeeping information
  • Réseau SNCF En Temps Réel gives a map of the network showing the location of trains. Click on a train symbol to find its location or on a station for real time arrivals and departures.

Bus Information

Bus services tend to be sparse outside large centres of population. Most are run by the Région or Département. See the TER web pages or fiches.

Maps

Printed Maps

  • Nouvelle Géographie Ferroviaire de la France: Tome 2: L'Organisation Régionale du Trafic by Gérard Blier (La Vie du Rail, 1993) (ISBN 2-902808-43-7) contains a large number of maps and track layout diagrams.
  • European Railway Atlas: France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg by M.G. Ball (1991) (ISBN 0-7110-2011-6)
  • European Railway Atlas by M.G. Ball (2008 onwards)
  • Eisenbahnatlas Frankreich, Band 1 Nord (ISBN 978-3-89494-143-7), published by Verlag Schweers + Wall GmbH (website in French, German, English and Italian) shows railways in northern half of France at 1:300.000 scale, with enlargements for Paris and principal cities. Single and double-track lines, electrified and freight-only railways are distinguished. Some tramways are indicated. Tourist lines are identified and named, and the gauge of narrow-gauge lines is stated. Lines out of use and those entirely closed are also shown. Details can be confused in congested areas, particularly because parallel lines are used to show railways with more than two tracks. Rivers, canals and forests are marked.

Web-based Maps

  • SNCF Réseau system maps are available from their website. Carte complète du réseau ferré français (28MB) is the latest zoomable map of the network, distinguishing passenger lines from freight-only lines. A flip-book version (95MB) as at March 2015 is also available. Note that SNCF Voyages' most recent (undated) on-line passenger network plan is misleading as well as out of date.

Privately produced maps/plans include:

  • OpenRailwayMap for France - a "work in progress"
  • Carto.Metro provides useful track layout plans of various urban areas.
  • Wikipedia's Liste des lignes de chemin de fer de France contains two system maps, as well as much useful information, line by line.
  • Old Railways provides a map showing the route network - including abandoned lines - as an overlay to satellite imaging; it is, alas, weak on details such as triangular junctions, and incorrectly shows some lines as "passenger" which are now freight-only

and three sites which have some interest but seem no longer to be being up-dated:

Ticketing

SNCF does not offer any type of network ticket (apart from Interrail). However, a range of network tickets is available in the Paris (RATP) area and also in some Régions, including - in some cases - cross-border travel into Luxembourg and Germany. The best source of information on these used to be Today's Railways "Railpass Guide Continental Europe" booklet but this does not seem to have been reissued since 2014.

Tickets purchased in France need to be validated before boarding the train by inserting them in a yellow machine (composteur) at the platform entrance. This stamps them with the station name, date and time.

Reservations are obligatory for travel on InOui (formerly TGV), OuiGo, iDTGV, Thalys, ICE and Eurostar services, and on certain trains within the much reduced Intercités brand. However, subject to space being available, it is possible to change reservations up to the time of departure (or check-in time for Eurostar). If travel plans are not definite, it is best to reserve on a later train and change this for an earlier one if desired. Passengers without a reservation on trains for which reservation is obligatory (or on the wrong train) have to pay a penalty charge. It is possible to make reservations up to the time of departure (or check-in), including from intermediate stations, because reserved seats are not labelled; "vacant" seats may be claimed by passengers joining the train later in the journey. On some "high speed" services - particularly Thalys, ICE, Izy, OuiGo, iDTGV and Eurostar - fares are specific and not interavailable with tickets for other trains. Izy, OuiGo and iDTGV are only bookable on the internet.

Passengers boarding a train without a ticket or a valid reservation (when one is required) should advise the conductor immediately and a modest charge will be levied for purchasing a ticket on the train. Waiting until the conductor comes round the train to check tickets will result in a much higher penalty charge being payable. If a passenger has purchased a ticket in advance on line for later collection from a ticket machine and is unable either to print the ticket from the machine or obtain it from a booking office, they must purchase a ticket immediately on boarding the train and reclaim the cost later. Refusal to pay on the grounds that a ticket has already been paid for is not permitted, even if supported by evidence that the ticket machine is out of order, and could render the passenger liable to prosecution.

A large number of local services and connections to LGV stations are operated by buses. Rail tickets are valid on bus services shown in the three regional railway timetables unless there is a note to the contrary.

Regional express (RER) suburban services in the Paris area are operated jointly by SNCF and RATP. Tickets such as InterRail and FIP are not valid on RER lines owned by RATP, but can be used on RATP trains working over SNCF lines. Holders of such tickets can obtain from booking offices free of charge a special pass (contremarque) to open the automatic gates at platform entrances.

Infrastructure

Infrastructure Authority

Since the reorganization of 1 January 2015 infrastructure is owned and managed by SNCF Réseau, a subsidiary of SNCF Groupe, which absorbed Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) on that date.

Network Statement

The Network.

Gauge

Standard. The following SNCF lines are metre gauge: Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains to La Tour-de-Carol-Enveitg, St Gervais-les-Bains-le-Fayet to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc (which the Région are proposing should be taken into their control), and Salbris to Valençay.

Electrification

Main lines from Paris to Le Mans, Hendaye, Toulouse, Marseille and Modane, together with many associated routes are 1500V dc. Other standard gauge lines are 25kV 50Hz. All high speed lines (LGV - Lignes à Grande Vitesse) are 25kV 50Hz, except for the Contournement LGV de Tours (Montlouis to Monts Indre et Loire) which can be used by conventional trains and is, therefore, 1500V dc. Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains to La Tour-de-Carol-Enveitg is 850 volts dc third rail and St Gervais-les-Bains-le-Fayet to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is 750 volts dc third rail. All 750 volts dc third rail operation has been eliminated from the SNCF Paris suburban network.

Rule of the road

Left, except in Alsace and Lorraine, which were part of Germany between 1871 and 1918, where right hand running is the rule and German-style signalling can still be found. The change from left to right hand running is made on the flat at Mulhouse, but at all other locations there are flyovers. These are west of Molsheim, west of Sarrebourg, north of Ars-sur-Moselle, west of Rombas-Clouange, west of Fontoy, and at the eastern exits from LGV Est at Vendenheim near Strasbourg and at the earlier exit at Baudrecourt. The arrangements at Ars-sur-Moselle, near Metz, are particularly complicated as the railway is quadruple track. Reversible signalling is extensively used.

On the high speed line between Figueres-Vilafant and Perpignan, right-hand running applies for about 10km north of the Perthus tunnel whereupon the northbound line flies over the southbound line to change to left-hand running.

An explanation (in French) of French signalling practice is at the Signaux SNCF webpage.

Distances

The RAIL21 - Le réseau ferré français gives schematic maps with distances for each station.

Wikipedia's Liste des lignes de chemin de fer de France contains much useful information, line by line. Note specially that for each line is a box at the right hand side of the page: follow the link "Schéma de la ligne" at the foot of the box to reveal a schematic plan of the line, including distances of stations and junctions (if the word "afficher" also appears, a schematic plan is not yet available). A full list of all the lines for which schematic plans are available is here.

Other railways

  • Tramway du Mont Blanc (Le Fayet - Nid d'Aigle; 12.4 km, metre gauge, electrified 11kV 50Hz, rack-worked, operated by the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc)
  • Montenvers Mer de Glace (Chamonix - Montenvers; 5 km, metre gauge, electrified 11kV 50Hz, rack-worked, operated by the Compagnie du Mont-Blanc)
  • Chemin de fer de la Corse (metre gauge; from January 2012 operated by a local authority-controlled company, in which SNCF has a minority holding)
  • Chemins de fer de Provence (Nice - Digne; metre gauge; operated by Veolia - see below)
  • Le Petit Train de la Rhune (St Ignace - La Rhune; metre gauge, rack-worked, electrified 3000V 50Hz three-phase; the only surviving line of the Voies Ferrées Départmentales du Midi; now operated by Etablissement Public des Stations d´altitude (EPSA))
  • Houillères du Bassin de Lorraine (network of standard gauge freight lines in the Béning area; operated by VFLI (see above) since 2001) No passenger operations
  • RDT13 (Régie Départmentale des Transports des Bouches-du-Rhône) (several standard gauge freight lines near Arles and Tarascon, as well as the short remaining section of the CF de l'Hérault; owned by La Métropole Aix-Marseille-Provence) No passenger operations
  • various port authorities' standard gauge freight lines No passenger operations

Eurotunnel SA, in partnership with UK company Eurotunnel plc, has a concession to operate the Channel Tunnel between Calais and Folkestone.

Veolia Transport [previously Connex, Vivendi, CGE and affiliate CFTA] operate passenger trains on the branches from Guingamp to Carhaix and Paimpol (including La Vapeur du Trieux) and Chemins de Fer de Provence (see above).

Tourist lines

Two useful lists of tourist lines are provided by the Union des Exploitants de Chemins de Fer Touristiques et de Musées (a grouping of preserved and tourist lines) (UNECTO) and by the magazine Voie Etroite. Similar information is often published in spring issues of French railway magazines. Many lines operate quite infrequently, usually at weekends during the summer season.

A list of tourist lines incorporating links to their websites is available on Wikipedia.

Rail cycling is possible on a number of lines - see the Vélos-rail de France website. These lines are also shown - as Cyclorail, Cyclo-draisine or Vélorail - in the UNECTO list.

Metro

Marseille, Paris. Metro systems at Lille, Lyon, Paris-Orly, Rennes and Toulouse feature rubber tyred VAL systems. Either the UrbanRail or the carto.metro website is probably the best starting point - the former with schematic plans, the latter with track plans. itransports.fr has zoomable geographical maps showing all public transport stations and stops in and around various towns.

Trams

French tram systems are either of recent construction or extensively modernised. Lyon T3 tram route from Part-Dieu and its Rhônexpress eastward extension to Aéroport Saint Exupéry use part of the trackbed of the former Chemin de Fer de l'Est Lyonnais. Part of the Valenciennes system is over the trackbed of the former Chemin de Fer d'Anzin. Clermont Ferrand and Nancy are guided rubber tyred systems, rather than "steel-wheel on steel-rail" tramways, although Nancy have declared their intention of replacing their current system (to close "by 2022") with a "real" tramway. The guided rubber tyred system at Caen closed on 31 December 2017 and is to be replaced by a "real" tramway in September 2019.

Either the UrbanRail or the carto.metro website is probably the best starting point - the former with schematic plans, the latter with track plans - for most or all tram systems in France, supplemented by Trams in France which provides useful comprehensive information until its last up-date in 2014. itransports.fr has zoomable geographical maps showing all public transport stations and stops, including trams, funiculars, etc., and local bus facilities in and around various towns.

See also France - Tram services over obscure routes

Recent and future changes

The French Railways Society (formerly The SNCF Society) provides a useful round-up (in English) of French news each month.

Line closures

Historical and General Background

A significant number of local passenger services, mainly in rural areas, were withdrawn during the late 1930s and again in the 1980s. Since then, local authorities were drawn into the prime role in planning and funding local transport and most (but not all) are keen to promote railways. The exception, alas, is lines crossing local authority boundaries and where extensive deferred track maintenance has been in force (some such services have ceased to be inter-regional with the subsequent introduction of the "super-Régions"). In November 2009 the French Cour des comptes ["Court of Accounts"] delivered a report critical of the value for money of many TER services and recommending bus substitution. Some local authorities adopted a more hard-nosed attitude to SNCF in the provision of their local services with councils funding new rolling stock and requiring SNCF to introduce improved timetables.

A particular threat to "lesser frequented" TER and secondary services was a proposal in section 5.3.5 of the 27 June 2013 report of the Mobilité 21 commission to the Minister of Transport, the Sea and Fishing, with its proposal to experiment "for two to five years" with the replacement by bus of some such services (although bus substitution does not seem to have met general favour with the electorate!). A committee to recommend a policy for the loss making Trains d'Equilibre du Territoire (TET) (mainly Intercité and overnight trains) duly reported - subsequently followed by the abandonment of most overnight routes and the transfer of Intercité daytime routes to sponsorship by the "super-Régions" (alongside their existing TER services) - for details (in French) see January 2017 statement by the transport minister, which contains maps of routes involved.

Services which have been withdrawn permanently (most recent closures at top) or for which firm closure dates have been declared

The following lines are the most recent permanent closures:

  • St-Claude - Oyonnax (December 2017)
  • Monts (near Tours) exit from LGV Atlantique (July 2017).
  • Hayange (Bif. de Florange) - Uckange (Bif. d'Uckange) (December 2016; remaining services from Longuyon line diverted to Thionville)
  • Baudrecourt exit from LGV Est (July 2016)
  • Valenton - Villeneuve-St.Georges (Lille - Brive-la-Gaillarde TGVs last ran May 2016)
  • Laqueuille - Le Mont-Dore (last train November 2015)
  • Thionville - Apach (weekday commuter services replaced by bus December 2013, but a weekend Trier Hbf - Perl - Apach - Thionville - Metz service continues over this line)
  • Verdun - St-Hilaire-au-Temple [ - Châlons-en-Champagne] (December 2013)
  • Gannat - St.Germain-des-Fossés (December 2012)
  • Erquelinnes [BE] - Jeumont [FR] (September 2012: local trains withdrawn by SNCB/NMBS thus severing this international crossing point for passengers)
  • Bordeaux Ravezies (August 2012, for extension of tram system; all trains on the Ligne du Médoc diverted via the Raccordement Bonnaous-Beyreman avoiding line)
  • Raccordement de Vergigny (through TGV services between Melun and Marseille) (apparently by July 2012)

In the "tourist/heritage" sector:

  • Le Train Touristique de l'Auxois (ACTA) (Les Laumes - Epoisses; 27 km) closed after the 2013 season (see Association du Chemin de Fer Touristique de l'Auxois (page 4)).
  • Le Train Touristique des Monts du Lyonnais (CFTB) (Sain-Bel - Saint Foy l'Argentière; 17km) closed after the 2012 season because of track renewal costs demanded by SNCF Réseau

Services which have been or are to be "suspended" but with no sign of reopening (most recent "suspensions" at top)

  • Abbeville - Eu [- Le Tréport] (27 May 2018)
  • Pompadour - Objet (condition of track)
  • Virgule de Sablé-sur-Sarthe: Laval (SEI 75 Auvers) - Sablé-sur-Sarthe (22 January 2018 - until at least September 2018; signalling problems)
  • Perpignan - Villefranche-Vernet-les-Bains (December 2017; following level crossing accident)
  • Rodez - Sévérac-le-Château (December 2017; notionally temporary for four years until 2021 pending relaying work but for which financing is not yet in place....)
  • Meyrargues - Pertuis (December 2017; notionally temporary for four years until 2021....)
  • Limoux - Quillan (December 2017; awaiting financing for relaying....)
  • [Nancy - ] Pont-St.Vincent - Mirecourt - Merrey [- Culmont-Chalindrey] (December 2016; notionally temporary pending relaying work, although Grand Est Région are contributing to renewal works on the Pont St.Vincent - Mirecourt section which should result in resumption of passenger service over that section.)
  • La Ferté Milon - Fismes (April 2016)
  • Thionville - Bouzonville (April 2016 - although notionally replaced by bus temporarily, there has been no restoration of train service, which can only be presumed to have been definitively withdrawn)
  • Volvic - Laqueuille (November 2015)
  • Boën-sur-Lignon - Thiers (November 2015; unlike Montbrison - Boën-sur-Lignon there is no sign of local government financial support for reopening)
  • Ascq - Orchies (June 2015; no funding yet agreed)
  • Laqueuille - Eygurande-Merlines - Ussel (July 2014)
  • Alès - Bessèges (July 2012; Occitanie région has announced their intention of financing track renewal but with no target date)

In the "tourist/heritage" sector:

  • Chemins de Fer du Centre-Bretagne (CFCB) operations from Loudéac, over an SNCF freight line to Saint-Brieuc which currently sees neither traffic nor maintenance, were suspended from spring 2017 having last operated in October 2016

Services which have been or are to be "suspended" but do have some firm reopening date (earliest reopenings at top):

The following lines are (or are to be) temporarily closed but with good expectations of reopening:

  • Breil-sur-Roya - Tende [ - Vievola - Limone [IT]] until 28 April 2018 for re-signalling and other works, including rock-slide protection Reopening delayed - no revised date yet known.
  • Limoges - Le Dorat until 22 June 2018 for track relaying
  • Thionville - Bettembourg [LU] from 14 July 2018 until 24 August 2018 and also for other shorter periods during 2018
  • Paris: La Défense - Nation (line RER A) from 28 July until 26 August 2018
  • Retiers - Châteaubriant until the end of August 2018
  • Annemasse - La Roche-sur-Foron until December 2018 for track work
  • Gisors - Serqueux until late 2019 for electrification works
  • Beauvais - Abancourt - Le Tréport Mers-les-Bains from June 2018 until December 2019
  • Annemasse - Genève Eaux Vives: the portion within Switzerland is now closed permanently but the section between Annemasse and Chêne-Bourg is forecast to be reopened in spring 2019 - partly diverted, wholly re-engineered, and linked to Genève Cornavin station - follow link
  • Charleville-Mézières - Givet for extended periods during summers of 2019, 2020 and 2021 for engineering work
  • Montbrison - Boën-sur-Lignon local government funding for renewal work is expected to lead to reopening in 2019
  • St. Pol-sur-Ternoise - Etaples for work which should be completed during 2020
  • Montréjeau - Luchon for track renewal which should be completed by December 2020
  • [Béthune - ] Fouquereuil - St. Pol-sur-Ternoise from late 2018 for work which should be completed by summer 2021
  • Arras - St. Pol-sur-Ternoise from late 2019 for work which should be completed by early 2022

Services which are particularly threatened (earliest threatened closures at top)

There are no publicly declared plans for permanent closures as at January 2018, but "local reports" suggest the following lines may be under threat - mainly because of deferred maintenance, poor passenger numbers, or from their crossing Regional boundaries - or all three causes.

A number of lines are at risk of "suspension" from the date shown owing to the poor state of the infrastructure. Until funding is obtained from local or central government such "suspension" would prove fatal:

  • Grenoble - Aspres-sur-Buech [ - Veynes-Dévoluy] (2018)
  • The Neussargues - Sévérac-le-Château – Millau – Béziers line had been considered likely to close (in part or in whole) but a two year experimental agreement between central government and the Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée Région has secured the line until the end of 2018. Similarly threatened were Rodez - Sévérac-le-Château (closed from December 2017) and [Marvejols – ] Le Monastier – Mende; it remains to be seen how the pro-public transport Occitanie Région deals with these lines.
  • Épinal - Bains-les-Bains - Lure (December 2018)
  • Arches - Bruyères - St.Dié-des-Vosges (December 2018)
  • Plans to construct a significant deviation involving closure of part of the existing line between Nantes and St.Nazaire, and a relocated Donges station, to avoid the refinery there, have received a "déclaration d'utilité publique" so work should start in 2019 for completion in 2021 - see press report.
  • Lille - Comines (2019)
  • Valenciennes - Lourches (2019)
  • St.Georges-d'Aurac - Le Puy (2019)
  • Chartres - Courtalain (2019)
  • [Aurillac - ] Viescamp-sous-Jallès - Saint-Denis-près-Martel (by 2021)
  • Laon - Hirson (2022)
  • Crépy-en-Valois - Laon (2024)
  • Calvi station [Corsica] had been threatened with re-location on the other side of the last level crossing, thus shortening the line by approximately the length of the current station - see webpage (no specific threat date)
  • Lamballe - Dinan (an on-going speed reduction, on account of condition of infrastructure, will turn into a threat of closure if expenditure is not authorised)(no specific threat date)

Also considered threatened with closure because of poor traffic or local authority disinterest (but with no specific threat dates):

  • Morlaix - Roscoff
  • Livron - Veynes-Dévoluy
  • [Limoges - ] St-Yrieix-la-Perche - Pompadour - Objat [ -Brive la Gaillarde] or even the whole line south of St-Yrieix-la-Perche
  • Montluçon - Guéret [ - Saint-Sulpice-Laurière]
  • Busseau-sur-Creuse - Felletin although service doubled from July 2017
  • Gap - Briançon has even been floated as a possibility by the Région
  • Oyonnax - Brion-Montréal-La Cluse (viability at risk after closure of St-Claude - Oyonnax from December 2017)

Readers should also take particular notice of lines listed as Other sparse services.

The Cuneo [IT] - Limone [IT] - Tende [FR] - Breil-sur-Roya [FR] - Ventimiglia [IT] line had seen services reduced to two Trenitalia round trips (but with more trains over the French section Tende - Breil-sur-Roya [- Nice]); the two "cross-border" sections, the subject of high level disagreement between the two administrations, are threatened although funding has been agreed by Italy, and the Limone [IT] - Breil-sur-Roya [FR] section is closed for re-signalling and other works, including rock-slide protection, until 28 April 2018 (see suspended services, above).

The cross-border section of the Saarbrücken - Sarreguemines Saarbahn rapid transit system has been subject to some uncertainty about funding with increased French infrastructure costs threatening its sustainability.

The speed permitted by SNCF Réseau over the lines used by CFT du Sud des Ardennes was severely reduced from 2014, with the result that the section Vouziers - Challerange has since been used only during their Fête du Rail weekend (see Obscure lines entry) and remains under continuing threat of complete closure. Indeed, the threat of a general reduction in permitted speeds - or even withdrawal of permission to run trains - hangs over all "preserved / heritage" operations on track owned by SNCF Réseau.

Line openings

LGV (Ligne á Grande Vitesse) related developments (latest developments at top)

An overall schematic of LGV lines is here while a more detailed plan identifying the lines also used by TGV trains (brand names InOui or OuiGo) beyond the LGV system is here. Or refer to Wikipedia page (in French).

  • Nîmes to Montpellier (Contournement Nîmes - Montpellier ("CNM")) (opened 10 December 2017 for freight, due to open 8 July 2018 for passengers - follow link). This is 60 km long, with 20 km of connecting lines and is accessible to "classic" traffic rather than restricted to TGVs. The line should eventually extend to Perpignan to connect with the line to Figueres/Figueras [ES] (- Barcelona) - follow link and a later link)
  • Two extensions of LGV Atlantique both opened on 2 July 2017: from near Tours to Bordeaux (follow Sud-Europe-Atlantique SEA link) and from Le Mans to Rennes (follow Bretagne-Pays de la Loire BPL link) - the latter (apparently deferred from a May 2017 target date, although trial running did start at the end of November 2016) also includes a line avoiding Le Mans. From the July date, the existing southern exit from LGV Atlantique, at Monts near Tours, ceased to be regularly used. A schematic plan of the new lines is at this page. For LGV SEA, this webpage contains a schematic plan at Annexe 6.
  • The phase 2 extension of LGV Est between Baudrecourt and Vendenheim (- Strasbourg) - deferred owing to the serious accident near Vendenheim in November 2015 - opened on 3 July 2016; at the same time, the original eastern exit at Baudrecourt ceased to have regular use.
  • A direct curve to the west of Mulhouse between the Colmar line near Mulhouse-Dornach and the Belfort line near Brunstatt opened for passengers in December 2013, being used by those TGVs between Strasbourg and Belfort-Montbéliard TGV without a Mulhouse call. A new higher speed connection (Raccordement de Perrigny) between the Chagny and Belfort main lines, just south of Dijon, opened (apparently on the same date) for use by TGVs between Strasbourg and Lyon or beyond - except, of course, those booked to call at Lons-le-Saunier.
  • The first phase of the LGV Rhin-Rhône, between Villers-Le-Pots (Dijon) and Petit Croix (Mulhouse) opened in December 2011. This included reopening to passengers of much of the Besançon - Devecey line (closed 11 May 1959), as a link to Besançon-Franche-Comté TGV station, and construction of an east-facing curve to the LGV. Subsequent phases of LGV Rhin-Rhône will extend west to avoid Dijon and south towards Lyon, although these are now in doubt.
  • A connection between the stations of Avignon TGV and Avignon Centre also opened in December 2013.
  • An isolated, international section of LGV between Perpignan and a new station 2 km west of Figueres/Figueras [ES] also opened in December 2010, and was extended to Barcelona in January 2013. Through services to Barcelona started at the December 2013 timetable change. However, the consortium operating the line has gone into administration and the line passes to the French and Spanish governments, and thence to the two countries' railway infrastructure authorities.

The 27 June 2013 report of the Mobilité 21 commission (mentioned above) envisaged the abandonment of LGV schemes which are not already building or committed, in favour of improvement of the existing "classic" network (for example, the plan to link Poitiers and Limoges has been abandoned in consequence). However, the State Council unexpectedly approved the construction of the Bordeaux - Toulouse (planned for 2024) and Bordeaux - Dax (planned for 2027) lines - follow link. Details of projects are at the SNCF Réseau website.

Other developments - Implemented (latest developments at top)

  • Virgule de Sablé-sur-Sarthe: Laval (SEI 75 Auvers) - Sablé-sur-Sarthe: opened in conjunction with the LGV Atlantique Bretagne-Pays de la Loire (BPL) extension (see above) on 2 July 2017, this west <=> south link with the "classic" line from Le Mans to Nantes enables TER trains to run direct [Rennes - ] Laval - Angers [ - Nantes]. This has been "temporarily" suspended since 22 January 2018 - see "Services which have been or are to be "suspended" but with no sign of reopening section", above.
  • Le Bourget - Epinay-sur-Seine: first phase (6.5km) of Tangentielle Nord tram-train T11 opened 1 July 2017, alongside Grande Ceinture, operated by SNCF subsidiary Transkeo
  • Chartres - Voves (closed as long ago as February 1942) reopened 12 December 2016, as the first stage of reopening through to Orléans (see plan).
  • A curve linking Mérignac-Arlac (on the Ceinture de Bordeaux) with Pessac opened on 11 December 2016.
  • Oloron Ste. Marie - Bedous reopened on 26 June 2016.
  • [Avignon -] Sorgues - Carpentras reopened on 25 April 2015.
  • The Thionville - Bif de Florange [- Hayange] curve regained a train from 3 April 2016 after a long period with no service, and from December 2016 all trains from the Longuyon line used this curve instead of that facing Metz.
  • The line from Calais to Dunkerque was electrified in 2014.
  • Nantes - Nort-sur-Erdre - Châteaubriant opened February 2014, as a tram-train.
  • Gisors - Serqueux reopened December 2013.
  • A north - west curve at Folligny, allowing direct running between Caen and Granville, came into service in July 2013 - but only for limited summer seasonal use.
  • A new west-facing curve off the Alès line at Nîmes, enabling trains to avoid reversal at Courbessac yard, opened in March 2013.
  • Mulhouse - Neuenburg (Germany) increased to a full service (in place of seasonal service) from December 2012.
  • An east - south curve avoiding Tassin (Lyon) opened in December 2012, providing direct service between Lyon St.Paul and Brignais.
  • Trains on the Ligne du Médoc which had previously served Bordeaux Ravezies were all diverted via the Raccordement Bonnaous-Beyreman from August 2012.

In the "tourist/heritage" sector:

  • CFT Vermandois resumed occasional excursions into Saint-Quentin SNCF station from 28 May 2017, after being debarred from using this short section from their depot in the town since 2013 (but check locally as some excursions are advertised from their depot instead).
  • MTVS commenced operating Le Train à Vapeur du Beauvaisis on a 1.7km section of metre-gauge track at Crèvecoeur-le-Grand from 14 May 2017. This is laid on the track bed of the standard gauge line to St.-Omer-en-Chaussée, abandoned in 1990. Their longer-established short museum line adjacent to Valmondois SNCF station also continues to run - but only one of the two lines operates on any given date.
  • AJECTA resumed occasional excursions over the 15 km section of SNCF freight line between Provins and Villiers-St.Georges on 15 April 2017, after last having used this section in 2004
  • Train Touristique du Pays de Puisaye-Forterre operated by l’Association des Autorails Touristiques de l’Yonne reopened the 3 km section [Toucy - ] Moutiers - Les Étangs de Moutiers from 14 July 2016, and hope to extend further towards St. Fargeau.
  • MTVS (L'association du Musée des tramways à vapeur et des chemins de fer secondaires français) moved equipment to Crèvecoeur-le- Grand and has started operations on 1.6 km of the former line to St-Omer-en-Chaussée; the next phase is to extend a further 1.3 km to Rotangy.
  • Train Touristique l'Albrèt (Nérac - Mézin; 15 km), which closed in 2012 because of "bureaucratic" problems, resumed operations in the guise of the Chemin de Fer Touristique du Pays de l'Albret on 15 March 2015.

Other developments - Projected

There are no other relevant passenger opening or reopening developments with imminent implementation dates but the following projects are actually under construction:

  • Belfort - Delle (closed to passengers in September 1992 - will reopen 9 December 2018, to restore connection with the Swiss network)
  • Voves - Orléans (closed to passengers in February 1942 - targeted to restore the through route Chartres - Voves - Orléans in 2020)

In the "tourist/heritage" sector:

  • CF Historique de la Voie Sacrée have (re-)constructed 4.2km of metre gauge line through the forest of Massonge between Bar-le-Duc Fédération and Saint-Christophe (Vavincourt). The line (but not terminal station) is complete and trains have run over it; the society hope to start public services in 2018.
  • CF Touristique de Pontarlier à Vallorbe's (Coni'Fer) line from Les Hôpitaux-Neufs to La Fontaine-Ronde is being extended 2.5 km northwards to Combe-Motta with possibility of reopening in 2018
  • Rail52 plan to reopen the section Veuxhaulles - Bricon of the line between Gray and Vesoul in 2019 or 2020
  • CF Touristique de la Mure (St.Georges de Commiers - La Mure; 33 km; metre gauge) was closed by a major rock fall after the 2010 season. In July 2017 the local authority declared that work was to start to enable reopening of the section between a new station at La Mure and Le Grand Balcon - a site overlooking the lake of Monteynard (presumably short of the major rock fall at La Clapisse) - see press report (in French). The work is scheduled to take 3 years so reopening seems unlikely before the 2021 season.


Older Changes

For details of older changes see France - Older General Information.

Special notes

Until relatively recent decades, the only regular interval services operated by SNCF were on Paris suburban lines. The introduction of a regular interval service on the LGV lines from Paris to Lyon, Lille and Nantes resulted in increased traffic, and - at SNCF Réseau prompting (for line capacity reasons) - schedules to standard clock-face pattern (cadencé) - although by no means necessarily every hour everywhere! - were widely introduced from December 2011 in the first total overhaul of French timetables other than for opening of LGVs. It had been the practice for many main lines to be closed for several hours each day, usually during the morning, for maintenance. The new cadencé schedule should minimise these blancs travaux which caused long gaps between trains. There had been a growing tendency - in an endeavour to catch up with deferred track maintenance - for services on secondary and local lines to be replaced by buses for exstensive periods without this being shown in the timetable; however, much of such work should now be completed. The infrequent services on many secondary or tertiary lines reflects the sparse population in much of France, and the relatively small size of many cities - or perhaps reflect the demand for travel to work fifty or more years ago, rather than the current needs of people working more flexibly or travelling for leisure. Certainly, the traveller on cross-country and local routes will hanker for the frequency of service found on just about all other European systems while concluding that the travel writers who lavish their praise on the LGV network never tangle with the more backward parts of the SNCF system!

Strikes (Grèves) are not uncommon on French railways. These may be localised and information about them may not be widely circulated elsewhere. It is the practice to close sections of line for electrification or other reconstruction work for periods of several months: potential travellers should check carefully for such temporary closures. See Engineering and strike (grève) Information above.

If a station name begins 'La' or 'Le', this is ignored in alphabetic indices; for example La Bastide-St Laurent-les-Bains is listed under B, and Le Havre under H. Treatment of places named after saints, of which there are a large number in France, varies. SNCF disregards gender, so Ste Gemme (female) comes between St Gely and St Genest (male) in the station index. However, in indices to Michelin guides and maps, female saints (Ste) all follow the male ones (St).

Monaco

SNCF operates the 1.7 km of railway through Monaco, which does not have its own railway administration. Journeys between French stations and Monaco-Monte Carlo are regarded as domestic and are subject to SNCF conditions of carriage, not CIV.

See also