Wonderful Engineering

A Simple Measurement Mistake Makes French Railway Company Buy $20.5 billion Of Unusable Trains

Have you have ever wondered what’s the perfect situation to explain the proverb; ‘better safe than sorry’? If yes, Then you are at the right place my friend. Let’s go to France where SNCF, a leading train operator, is wondering why they didn’t play it safe? The train operator had ordered 2,000 new trains, which cost around $20.5 billion and have now realized, after the trains have been delivered, that the trains are kind of wide for the regional platforms (time to panic, most definitely!).

Speculations over the cost that this blunder is incurring to the train operator exceed $68.4 million and it is rising. Although construction work is already underway to reconfigure the train platforms to cater for the width of new trains, according to officials, there are still about 1,000 platforms, which need to be adjusted to the dimensions of new trains.

Why did this happen?! The national rail operator apparently gave the SNCF the dimensions of platforms that have been built less than 30 years ago while they forgot the fact that majority of platforms (regional France) were built more than 50 years ago and therefore, are unable to cater to the new wide trains.

The platform edges, as it turns out, are too close to the tracks in a number of stations, which restrict the entry of new trains. According to a spokesman for the RFF; they ‘discovered the problem a bit late.’ Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier opted to take the frustration out on the ‘absurd rail system’ for this particular issue. He says; ‘When you separate the rail operator from the train company, this is what happens.’

We are more interested, however, in how SNCF takes mitigatory  measures and how will the cost be distributed among the train operator and French Railway Authorities.