Wednesday, June 26, 2019
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How SNCF plans to get trains on time

A TER train in Marseille station. – PATRICK VALASSERIS

  • Trains in the Provence-Alpes Côte d'Azur region are the least punctual in France.
  • SNCF launches a series of measures to remedy this
  • This is one of its commitments to the region, which provides for heavy financial penalties if necessary.

This is one of the key points of the new agreement between SNCF and the region
 Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. In this new contract, which runs from 2019 to 2023, SNCF is committed to significantly reducing
delays of its TER and the number of trains removed, under penalty of heavy penalties up to four million euros.

It must be said that, by the admission of the SNCF itself, the situation is far from satisfactory in the region. In 2018, 18% of all trains were not on time. In some areas, such as between Miramas and Marseille, three out of ten trains are late. Certainly, for three years, according to the statistics of the region, the number of trains per hour is up. But we are still far from the target set by the region, which requires 9 trains out of 10 arrive at the schedule announced by 2020 "This is the region that still has the lowest regularity rate", recognizes Jean-Aimé Mougenot, Paca regional director at SNCF Mobilités.

Avoid the "snowball effect"

To change the situation, SNCF claims to have launched several projects aimed at achieving maximum punctuality on the network. Starting with a complete redesign of some schedules, to better streamline the use of the tracks. Several different routes connect some cities. The idea is to use these different routes at best, ensuring that they are all borrowed, not that the trains are directed to the same routes at the same time.

"We reviewed the train schedules in relation to the tracks," says Jean-Aimé Mougenot. Indeed, a problem of operation on a track causes delays on all lines behind. The network is harder to exploit when it is denser. The more trains you have, the longer a two to three minute delay can have a snowball effect on all traffic. A redesign that requires time, however. "To redo the schedule between Miramas and Marseille, it took us three years! "Says Jean-Aimé Mougenot.

To leave "to the nearest second"

SNCF also relies on the work of these agents to achieve its goal of punctuality. "It is necessary that the trains leave really on time, to the nearest second, estimates Jean-Aimé Mougenot. Thirty seconds late can create traffic conflicts. A protocol has therefore been provided to SNCF employees so that they know exactly when they must start their work before the train starts.

Remain to settle the fires and other falls of stones on the ways which can paralyze the traffic. "There are twice as many external events in our region as elsewhere," says Jean-Aimé Mougenot. Our job is to set up different traffic recovery scenarios, based on different situations, so that traffic can recover faster. "

Announcements greeted with caution by Gilles Marcel, president of the NosTerPaca user association. "With the years, we see that the number of trains is decreasing," he says. We must hope that they can be punctual with a reduced number of trains. And users also note that travel times are increased by several minutes, to take into account any delays. So either we do less, or we do longer … "Last year, nearly 560 TER circulated daily on the network of the Paca region.

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