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Rail transport in France

railway transport in france, train transport in france
Rail transport in France is operated mostly by SNCF, the French national railway company France has the second largest European railway network, with a total of 29,901 kilometres of railway2 However, the railway system is a small portion of total travel, accounting for less than 10% of passenger travel5

Since 1981, the SNCF has operated the TGV service, a high-speed rail network which has been consistently expanded in subsequent years

France is a member of the International Union of Railways UIC The UIC Country Code for France is 87


  • 1 History
  • 2 Exploitation
    • 21 Freight transport
    • 22 Passenger transport
      • 221 Short and middle distance
      • 222 Long distance
  • 3 Network
    • 31 Rail links to adjacent countries
  • 4 Current status
  • 5 Subsidies
  • 6 Material
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links


Main article: History of rail transport in France

The history of rail transport in France dates from the first French railway in 1832


Since Legrand Star rail plan fr of 1842, French railway is highly polarized by Paris

Traffic is concentrated on the main lines: 78% of activity is done on 30% of the network 8,900 km when the 46% smaller lines 13,600 km only drive 6% of the traffic6 The 366 largest stations 12% make 85% of passenger activity, and the smallest 56% of stations take only 17% of traffic7

Freight transportedit

Freight transport has declined since the early 1980s8 Today the network is predominantly passenger centric

Since 1 January 2007, the freight market has been open to conform to European Union agreements EU Directive 91/440 New operators had already reached 15% of the market at the end of 20089

Passenger transportedit

Short and middle distanceedit

The Transport express régional TER is directed by the administrative Regions of France They contract with the SNCF for lines exploitation

Long distanceedit

The SNCF directly manage this class of trains The TGV is used on the most important destinations, while Intercités carriages are still used for other lines


The French railway network, as administered by SNCF Réseau, as of June 2007, is a network of commercially usable lines of 29,213 kilometres 18,152 mi, of which 15,141 km 9,408 mi is electrified 1,876 km 1,166 mi of those are high speed lines LGV, 16,445 km 10,218 mi dispose of two or more tracks 5,905 km 3,669 mi are supplied with 1,500 V DC, 9,113 km 5,663 mi with 25 kV AC at 50 Hz 122 km 76 mi are electrified by third rail or other means2

1,500 V is used on the south, and HSR lines and the northern part of the country use 25 kV electrification

Trains drive on the left, except in Alsace and Moselle where tracks were first constructed while those regions were part of Germany

Rail links to adjacent countriesedit

  • Same gauge
    • Belgium — voltage change 25 kV AC/3 kV DC except high-speed line to Brussels, same voltage
    • Germany — voltage change 25 kV AC/15 kV AC
    • Great Britain via the Channel Tunnel — voltage change 25 kV AC/750 V DC third rail except high-speed line to London, same voltage
    • Italy — voltage change 25 kV AC/3 kV DC except high-speed line, same voltage
    • Luxembourg — same voltage
    • Monaco — same voltage
    • Spain via the LGV Perpignan-Figueres — same voltage
    • Switzerland — voltage change 25 kV AC or 1,5 kV DC/15 kV AC
  • Break-of-gauge, 1,435 mm 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in/1,668 mm 5 ft 5 21⁄32 in
    • Spain on conventional tracks — voltage change 1,5 kV DC/3 kV DC
  • No rail link to Andorra

Current statusedit

The French non-TGV intercity service TET is in decline, with old infrastructure and trains It is likely to be hit further as the French government is planning to remove the monopoly that rail currently has on long-distance journeys by letting coach operators compete10

Travel to the UK through the Channel Tunnel has grown in recent years, and from May 2015 passengers have been able to travel direct to Marseille, Avignon and Lyon Eurostar is also introducing new Class 374 trains and refurbishing the current Class 373s

The International Transport Forum described the current status of the French railways in their paper "Efficiency indicators of Railways in France":11

  • The success of the TGV is undeniable Crozet 2013 Work started in September 1975 on the first high-speed rail HSR line, between Paris and Lyon, and it was inaugurated in September 1981 New high-speed lines were opened in 1989 towards the south-west, in 1993 towards the north, etc The high-speed network now covers 2,000 km, and will reach over 2,600 km in 2017 with the opening of the four lines currently being built
  • The regionalisation of intercity and local services was tested in 1997 and fully deployed in the early 2000s Since then, TERs regional express trains have seen traffic rise steeply 50% between 2000 and 2013 as, to a lesser extent, have services in the Ile de France region 25%
  • Rail freight has been far less successful The French network carried 55 billion tonne-km in 2001, but this figure scarcely reached 32 billion tonne-km in 2013 This weak performance contrasts sharply with the ambitious public policy of the last fifteen years The Grenelle Environment Forum 2007–2010 oversaw the deployment of a costly freight plan that was no more effective than its predecessors


Like roads, the French railways receive rail subsidies from the state in order to operate Those amounted to €132 billion in 201311

Subsidy per passenger journey for UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and France in Euros


Alstom is the manufacturer of the TGV, and is behind many regional train models Régiolis, SNCF Class Z 26500

See alsoedit

  • Transport in France
  • Narrow gauge railways in France
  • Rail transport in Europe
  • Rail transport by country


  1. ^ a b c "Railway Statistics – 2014 Synopsis" PDF Paris, France: International Union of Railways, IUC 2014 Retrieved 9 September 2015 
  2. ^ a b c RFF Website "Network inventory"
  3. ^ http://wwwassemblee-nationalefr/rap-oecst/tunnels/r2388asp#_Toc483033395
  4. ^ La Gare Contemporaine p94, Fabienne Keller
  5. ^ "Transport in France" International Transport Statistics Database iRAP Archived from the original on 20 December 2008 Retrieved 17 February 2009 
  6. ^ Audit sur l'état du réseau national français p3, Robert Rivier & Yves Putallaz, 2005 September 7
  7. ^ Gares et Connexion p20
  8. ^ Pourquoi le fret ferroviaire va-t-il si mal en France  Autour du plan Véron Fret 2006 Pierre Zembri 2004
  9. ^ http://wwwsenatfr/rap/r08-220/r08-2207html
  10. ^ "France's loss-making inter-city services at a crossroads" 
  11. ^ a b "Efficiency indicators of Railways in France" PDF 

External linksedit

  • RFF – Réseau Ferré de France Updated in June 2007

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