New French trains ‘too high’ to get to Italy

First it was the calamity of the French trains too fat for platforms. Now French rail chiefs have been left embarrassed by a new fleet of regional trains that are too high to get through the tunnels into Italy.

New French trains 'too high' to get to Italy
New TER trains are just a little too tall to make it through the tunnels to Italy. Photo: Julian Ghein1/flickr

French rail operator SNCF had ordered the new trains to absorb the increased passenger numbers on the line between France and Italy, but they may have used a dodgy measuring tape. 

According to a report in Nice Matin newspaper, the new regional TER trains are just too high to pass through the tunnels between the two countries.

The bungle echoed a similar gaffe last year when French rail operators admitted they had to adjust 1,300 platforms after ordering hundreds of new trains that were too fat for stations, costing them €50 million.
The latest mishap came about after French rail operator SNCF ordered new and Regio 2N trains from Bombardier to serve the TER line that serves the Riviera coastline between Les Arcs – Draguignan and Vintimille around the French-Italian border.
The trains have a greater capacity than those that are used currently and were ordered to help cope with the rising numbers of passengers who use the line – around 130,000 daily.
They were delivered last November, but have not made it out of the yard, because they are a few millimetres too high.
The gaffe was revealed by former railway workers group, ironically named “The shipwrecks of the TER”, in reference to France's problem-hit regional train service.
“The SNCF has confirmed to us that the Regio 2N trains that were to be finally delivered in July would not go further than the town of Menton because they did not pass under the tunnels,” Eric Sauri, president of “The shipwrecks of the TER”, told Nice Matin.
But the chief executive of the French national railway company SNCF Guillaume Pepy played down the concerns.
“When you put something into service, sometimes it's necessary to take a look at it, there may be a signal problem here, or the start of a platform that is troublesome. But it can all be easily dealt with,” said Pepy, noting that the new trains are set to roll out from July 5th.
The new trains will indeed roll out in July but they will only go so far as Menton, on the French border, after which it will be necessary for many passengers to change trains.
It might not be until November that the trains come into use across the entire line, as work to shave a few millimetres off the tunnels is not due to begin until the autumn.

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Italy’s Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report

Ex-PM Matteo Renzi would like to see former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi become prime minister of Italy, a party source told Reuters on Sunday.

Italy's Renzi wants ex-ECB boss Draghi to become prime minister: report
Matteo Renzi. Image: Andreas Solaro/ POOL / AFP

“I would say that is one of our proposals,” confirmed the source, who declined to be named.

The Italian government collapsed last week when PM Giuseppe Conte resigned. The former coalition allies are currently trying to come to an agreement and sort out their differences.

The centre-left government had been in turmoil ever since former premier Matteo Renzi withdrew his Italia Viva party earlier this month, a move that forced Conte to step down this week.

During the past year, Renzi frequently criticised Conte’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper also reported on Sunday that President Sergio Mattarella was considering Draghi for the prime ministerial role. However, Mattarella’s office promptly denied this, saying there had been no contact between them.

So far, there has been no comment from Draghi, who hasn't been seen much in the public eye since 2019.

Italy's president, Sergio Mattarella, gave ruling parties more time on Friday to form a new government, after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. 

Coalition parties Italia Viva, the centre-left Democratic Party (PD) and anti-establishment 5-Star Movement must come to an agreement to allow the government to heal. 

Renzi, a former prime minister himself, has pubilcly stated that he does not want to talk about who should lead the next government at this stage, reasoning that the parties need to agree on a way forward first.

“Any effort today to fuel a discussion about Draghi is offensive to Draghi and above all to the president of the republic,” Renzi said in an interview published on Sunday with Corriere della Sera.

A senior Italia Viva lawmaker also told Reuters that “If the president gives a mandate to Draghi, we would certainly support this”. 

Renzi, whose party is not even registering three percent support in opinion polls, quit the coalition over Conte’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and his plans for spending more than 200 billion euros from a European Union fund to help Italy’s damaged economy.

READ ALSO: Why do Italy's governments collapse so often?