Rail transport in France

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Rail transport in France
TGV Est Paris.jpg
TGV at Paris-Est station
National railway SNCF
Infrastructure company RFF
Major operators Thalys, Lyria, Eurostar, RATP, Elipsos, ECR
Ridership 1,077 million (2010)[1]
Passenger km 99,2 billion (2009)[2]
Freight 32,1 Gt.km (2009)[3]
System length
Total 29,901 kilometres (18,580 mi) [4]
Double track 16,445 km (10,218 mi)
Electrified 15,140 km (9,410 mi)
High-speed 1,876 km (1,166 mi)
Track gauge
Main 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
High-speed 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)
25 kV AC 9,113 km (5,663 mi)
1500 V DC 5,905 km (3,669 mi)
other 122 km (76 mi)
No. tunnels 1,300[5]
Tunnel length 540 km (340 mi)
Longest tunnel 50.5 km (31.4 mi) (Channel Tunnel)
Longest bridge 2.178 km (1.353 mi) (Saint-André-de-Cubzac bridge)
No. stations 3,054 (2009).[6]
Highest elevation 1,593m (Yellow Train)
Carte réseau grandes lignes radiales.svg

Rail transport in France is mostly operated by SNCF, the French national railway company. France has the second largest European railway network, with a total of 29,901 kilometres of railway.[4] However, the railway system is a small portion of total travel, accounting for less than 10% of passenger travel.[7]

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.


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 traffic.[8] The 366 largest stations (12%) make 85% of passenger activity, and the smallest 56% of stations take only 1.7% of traffic.[9]

Freight transport[edit]

Freight transport has declined since the early 1980s.[10] Today the network is predominantly passenger centric.

Since January 1, 2007, the freight market is open to conform to European Union agreements (EU Directive 91/440). New operators had already reached 15% of the market at the end of 2008.[11]

Passenger transport[edit]

Short and middle distance[edit]

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

Long distance[edit]

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 network[edit]

The French railway network, as administered by Réseau Ferré de France (RFF), disposes (June 2007) of a network of commercially usable lines of 29,213 kilometres (18,152 mi), out 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 means.[4]

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

Trains drive on the left, except in Alsace and Moselle.

Rail links to adjacent countries[edit]

  • Same gauge
  • Break-of-gauge, 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)/1,668 mm (5 ft 5 2132 in)
    • Spain (on conventional tracks) — voltage change 1,5 kV DC/3 kV DC
  • No rail link to Andorra


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

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UIC database". Uic.asso.fr. Retrieved 2013-01-23. 
  2. ^ Les comptes des transports en 2009, V - Les transports de voyageurs p46
  3. ^ Les comptes des transports en 2009, M - Les transports de marchandises p31
  4. ^ a b c RFF Website "Network inventory"
  5. ^ http://www.assemblee-nationale.fr/rap-oecst/tunnels/r2388.asp#_Toc483033395
  6. ^ La Gare Contemporaine p94, Fabienne Keller
  7. ^ "Transport in France". International Transport Statistics Database. iRAP. Retrieved 2009-02-17. [dead link]
  8. ^ Audit sur l'état du réseau national français p3, Robert Rivier & Yves Putallaz, 2005 September 7
  9. ^ Gares et Connexion p20
  10. ^ Pourquoi le fret ferroviaire va-t-il si mal en France ? Autour du plan Véron (Fret 2006) Pierre Zembri 2004
  11. ^ http://www.senat.fr/rap/r08-220/r08-2207.html

External links[edit]