French railway operator SNCF has to spend $68 million on widening platforms after mixing up measurements and ordering hundreds, maybe thousands, of new trains that are simply too big for the stations.
The Guardian reports that while SNCF insists only 341 trains – 182 from Alstom and 159 from Bombardier — are affected, French newspaper Le Canard Enchainé claims the number is in fact 1,860 in total. SNCF admits that at one in six regional stations is affected, where in some cases two trains can no longer pass each other.
The mistake was made after national rail operator RFF sent SNCF the dimensions of stations built in the last three decades, while most regional stations — some of which are more than fifty years old — happen to be a few inches narrower. SNCF did not verify the numbers and ordered a total of 2,000 new Trans Express Regionaux trains from Alstom and Bombardier set to enter service in 2016.
While the press and SNCF argue about the total number of affected rolling stock, the French minister of transport described the situation as "absurd" and a "comic drama," blaming the previous conservative administration of course. National railway company RFF had this to say:
It's as if you have bought a Ferrari that you want to park in your garage, and you realize that your garage isn't exactly the right size to fit a Ferrari because you didn't have a Ferrari before. We discovered the problem a little late … we are making our mea culpa.
What's certain is that SNCF has to spend $68 million on the 'modernization' of 1,300 platforms throughout France, because the bigger trains are certainly there to stay.
French transportation specialist Jean Luc Picard had this to add: