The SNCF weapon to stifle competition leaves the factory

The SNCF weapon to stifle competition leaves the factory

The SNCF weapon to stifle competition leaves the factory

The TGV M begins to take shape. Just over a year after the unveiling of the nose of Alstom’s new high-speed flagship in Belfort, the first assembled train left the factory this Friday in La Rochelle. This is another milestone for the person who must become the spearhead of the SNCF and complete the “Reply” plan intended to cope with the arrival of the competition. The public railway operator will still have to wait another two years and the end of 2024 to be able to start the operational service of its TGV M.

It is more precisely in the Aytré headquarters, Alstom’s center of excellence for high speed, located a few minutes from La Rochelle, that the event took place, intended to celebrate the first regatta of a TGV M (meeting of cars at engine and cars). Under an alternating sky of sun and rain, the immaculate white train came out of the shed with all its headlights on to dynamic music, to reveal its curves to the guest floor, bringing together local elected officials, Alstom and SNCF executives., Local press and national. Only the motor car and the first cars were visible, with no footage, but it was a fully assembled pre-production train that was presented.

An avalanche of figures for a strategic contribution

The podium was followed by Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, Alain Krakovitch, director of TGV-Intercités, Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, president of Alstom France and Bertrand Constensoux, director of the Alstom office in Aytré multiplied the numbers to highlight the contributions of their new toy: -20% energy consumption, -32% CO2 emissions, 97% recyclable components for the ecological dimension. But also 20% more space (divided between more space on board and more seats), a modularity that allows you to vary from 7 to 9 carriages per train and to play on the number of carriages intended for the first or second class , a maximum capacity of 740 seats against the current 634 (in Ouigo configuration) and 5G connectivity for the commercial aspect. Finally, there is a 30% reduction in maintenance costs with the introduction of predictive maintenance using the data provided by the train or new automated maintenance benches (BAM).

Enough to make the TGV M the SNCF “arm” for the development of high speed in France, according to Alain Krakovitch. Or even “the strategic asset of tomorrow” for Christophe Fanichet, who speaks of a “real transformation”, even of a “revolution” through the functioning of this new train. According to him, it should allow us to grasp the growth dynamics of rail traffic that began in recent months, with in particular a record summer for high speed with 10% more passengers than in 2019.

If it wants to contribute to the development of the railway, the TGV M must also block the way against Trenitalia’s competition between Paris-Lyon and Italy, and perhaps one day that of the Spanish operator Renfe. “The TGV-M will be the main weapon with respect to the arrival of the competition, with a design and services that the others will not have,” said Alain Krakovitch last year.

The Southeast, Italy then the rest

The 115 TGV M currently ordered will arrive at the rate of 12 trains per year between the end of 2024 and 2032. They will be deployed as a priority on the south-east axis, Marseille-Lyon-Paris. That is to say the most profitable sector and the most coveted by foreign competitors. Although the two-class configuration (probably with fewer first-class cars than today) will be the most used, a high-density Ouigo-type configuration is also expected.

From 2026 it will also enter into service to Italy, on the Paris-Milan cross-border line, to compensate for the obsolescence of the current equipment that will not go beyond that date. Equipped for the European ERTMS signaling system, the TGV M will also be able to take the Italian high-speed lines, unlike the current trains.

Subsequently the trains will be able to gradually enter on other axes according to the needs, but no plan has yet been communicated by the SNCF. This also applies to the development of the existing 360 TGV fleet. A priori, the TGV M will substantially replace the current trains, in particular the more recent single-storey trains, the growth deriving from their greater capacity in seats.

The train that was worth three billion

If expectations are high, the investment is substantial. Today it is estimated at 3.5 billion euros, a significant figure for the SNCF as Christophe Fanichet declares: “it is an investment that we take despite our fragile economic situation, and which we have kept despite the crisis. and threats. “

This includes the initial order, placed in 2018, for 100 stationary trains for domestic traffic, as well as an additional order for 15 formal trains in August for international service. The original contract also includes options for 100 additional convoys, which could bring the total investment over € 6 billion.

Add to this all the operational preparation required within the SNCF to install the maintenance tool, train drivers, on-board personnel and technicians, or even adapt the stations to the additional 2.6 meters per train when adding a ninth carriage. (whose size is partly offset by shorter motor cars). The latter project, which mainly concerns signage, has already been started in 70 stations on the South-East axis.

As for Alstom, Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud cites an investment of 50 million euros for the Aytré site alone. But with such an order it is secure in business for 10 years, or even until 2040 if all options are exercised.

Place for rehearsals

Passing this symbolic stage of rowing must now take the TGV M to dynamic tests in a few weeks, which will take place in Velim in the Czech Republic. It will then be able to run at a speed of 200 km / h, before returning to France to continue the race. its development. Three pre-series trains will take part in the tests.

At the same time, the development of the on-board elements will continue. Among the ongoing projects, the SNCF cites with the finalization of the seats (with tests by a representative sample of people), the development of the car dedicated to people in wheelchairs – which must allow for the first time full access autonomous – or that of the bar car described by Alain Krakovitch as “the flagship of this TGV”.