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Author Topic: "They don't have major project delays like this in the rest of Europe" ...?  (Read 12699 times)
stuving
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« on: June 25, 2015, 10:47:23 pm »

Some of you may remember my favourite French branch line - well, sort of - Nantes to Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie. It was notable for the dire state of the track, kept going by make do and mend maintenance and severe speed restrictions.

Well, it came down to a choice of either renew it or close it - and it was decided to renew the track completely (really, just from Sainte-Pazanne). Since holiday travel is very important here, it had to stay open in July and August, so the window for work would be September 2014 to the following June. So for ten months the line has been closed completely, with replacement buses. Reopening was promised on July 5th (when July starts as far as French holidays are concerned).

Then yesterday SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) came out with this press release (my translation):

Quote
Delayed reopening of the Nantes-Saint-Gilles/Nantes-Pornic lines.

Press release
Wednesday 24th June 2015

SNCF R^seau has decided to defer the reopening of the Nantes-Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie/Nantes-Pornic lines, initially planned for 5th July, to ensure it will comply from the start with all safety requirements. Alternative travel arrangements will be announced on 1st July.

Following the handover of the completed work by the subcontractors responsible for rebuilding the line, SNCF R^seau proceeded during June with testing and verification. This has shown some areas where more work is needed to ensure the complete safety of traffic.

Refusing to compromise on safety, SNCF R^seau has decided to carry out urgent checks and further work over the summer months. All work on the track itself is complete, but the contractors' work on safety qualification of level crossings and signalling is not acceptable.  Jacques Rapoport, president of SNCF R^seau, immediately warned Jacques Auxiette, the president of the Pays de la Loire Region, and the co-funders of the project to inform them of this situation and to assure them of the mobilization of the company.

All the teams of SNCF R^seau and the partner companies will be mobilized during the summer to allow services on these lines to start from the beginning of September.

An audit overseen by external auditors independent of the SNCF will allow us:
- to fix the timescales for opening each section of the line;
- to propose the most effective methods to accelerate the work without compromising safety;
- to attribute responsibilities for the delay;
- to propose corrective actions to prevent that this type of missed delivery date happening again.

The results will be communicated to the regional Council and will be made public before the end of
 this week.

An exceptional mobilization
The public-sector railway group as a whole has been mobilized to minimize the impact on customers, and has immediately taken several decisions:

For customers:
SNCF Mobilit^s is already working on a reorganisation of the current replacement service, and
will announce by July 1 alternative solutions matched to the needs of its various customers. Exceptional measures will be put in place.

Customers who have already bought their ticket or have made a reservation on the Nantes-Saint-Gilles or the Nantes-Pornic lines will be refunded in full, no matter what type of ticket has been bought. In addition, all TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) customers who have planned travel on these lines will be recontacted to let them know about the new possibilities being made available.

Travellers will be informed on 1st July by the usual channels (personnel in stations, "contact TER Pays de la Loire", paysdelaloire.ter.sncf.com,  SNCF and TER Mobile applications).

For the works programme:
- SNCF R^seau will take back control of work on line.
- Teams from SNCF R^seau are to be mobilized to reinforce those of the subcontractors.
In addition, Jacques Rapoport, President of the SNCF Network, announces that ^while many collaborations with company's partners perform well and make a real contribution to the modernization of the railway, the SNCF will from now on retain the supervisory role on all projects."
 
Note that this project, costing 109 M^, and of a large scale (84 km of lines renovated in ten months, with a level crossing every 700 meters), and starting in September 2014, required the adoption of innovative practices to complete this work of restoration within a very short time. The speed of the trains will be increased to 140 km/h.

A few more figures - that 84 kn is mostly single track, with 22 level crossing upgraded and 9 closed. Six small and one large bridge were replaced in whole or in part, and all stations get higher platforms and some are lengthened.

Oddly, the signalling was modernised five years ago, so presumably it is its recertification that is in question.

(Typo in date corrected)
« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 10:25:45 am by stuving » Logged
eightf48544
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« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2015, 09:14:17 am »

Then there's the continuing saga of the Brussells Amsterdamn high speed line.
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Worcester_Passenger
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« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2015, 10:15:41 am »

Is that press release really dated 2014?
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stuving
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« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2015, 10:24:14 am »

Is that press release really dated 2014?
No - just my translation (in the sense of moving from A to B) error.
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Worcester_Passenger
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« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2015, 11:31:26 am »

...or perhaps it's the time warp as you cross the Channel.
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stuving
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« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2015, 07:40:35 am »

I have an update to this story, which I'll get round to posting real soon now, honest.

While you are waiting, here's another bit of news to trigger your d^  vu ganglions (no English source that I can find, but there are some pictures).

From Le Figaro:

Paris-Bordeaux line closed for four hours on one of those busy holiday "criss-cross" weekends, due to an SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) track worker hittting a catenary support mast with his vehicle -


The "quick" fix was to send a crane to hold it upright while they thought of a better idea:


Of course both the incident, and its cure, only happened because there was an access road next to the track (though not so close as to explain how that driver ever got to hit the mast - and at some speed, by the look of it).

PS: there were also a couple of lineside fires to close the diversionary routes near Bordeaux.


(Edit to correct font on the French bit)
« Last Edit: August 15, 2015, 08:06:02 pm by Four Track, Now! » Logged
Chris from Nailsea
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« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2015, 10:36:22 pm »

... due to an SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) track worker hitting a catenary support mast with his vehicle -



... there was an access road next to the track (though not so close as to explain how that driver ever got to hit the mast - and at some speed, by the look of it).

Indeed: he's apparently hit that mast at a good pace, to have caused such damage and overturn his car.  Shocked Roll Eyes Huh
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William Huskisson MP (Member of Parliament) was the first person to be killed by a train while crossing the tracks, in 1830.  Many more have died in the same way since then.  Don't take a chance: stop, look, listen.

"Level crossings are safe, unless they are used in an unsafe manner."  Discuss.
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« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2015, 02:17:41 pm »

For other delayed projects on the continent of Europe one has to look no further than the saga of Berlin Brandenburg Airport - the planned new airport being built next to the existing Sch^nefeld airport to replace it and Tegel.

It was supposed to open in 2010 and now it looks as if it won't be ready before 2019...

For English language summaries see  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Brandenburg_Airport and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/10755543/Berlins-long-delayed-airport-needs-1.1-billion-bailout.html

My brother-in-law lives near Potsdam and it has recently been announced that the flight paths, in spite of previous announcements that they would avoid the area, will be re-routed close by. The natives are very restless...!

Getting back to rail topics another poorly planned project is the on-going saga of the rebuild of Stuttgart's Hauptbahnhof from a terminus to an underground through station, the project being known as Stuttgart 21. Widely exceeds its cost estimates and much later than planned.
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stuving
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« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2015, 08:15:45 pm »

Back, belatedly, to this thread's sheep. The original SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) press notice, on Wednesday 24h June, promised an audit to be published "before the end of the week". And it was - it was carried out from 23rd to 25th and delivered in some form by the Thursday afternoon, though in full written form the following week.

That seems impressive, but really it was just a sanity check on the internal management investigation, performed by SNCF's Director of Audit and Risk and an external consultant engineer. They may have queried some facts, and rewritten some conclusions, but little more.

The story is set out in this presentation, where the management jargon is tricky - you need to know your ma^trise d^ouvrage d^gu^e from you ma^tre d^uvre g^rale. But it does have some familiar features, starting with the use of subcontractors because of the shortage of S&T (Signalling and Telegraph) effort within SNCF.

The main signalling was renewed earlier, so the new elements are mainly for the level crossings. These were either open or AHB and now need to be AHB but for higher line speed. The train detectors were the key item, and a design issue meant they were replaced late on. A few other "normal" delays also arose (asbestos found, that sort of thing).

With these delays, and the shortage of key staff being even worse than expected, an extra package of work was transferred to a subcontractor, covering test and certification of the new signals systems. Of course the required additonal specialists, who need to be familiar with SNCF paperwork, didn't actually exist for anyone to employ. So the work was done with a few experts trying to train up novices on the job. Error number one - if you are the only end-user of a kind of labour, you should know how much of it is out there.

The work had to be done in ten months, since the line has to be open during July and August for the French holiday season. So the reopening date on 5th July was very fixed - making it impossible to suggest any delay. When work fell behind, the remaining programme was adjusted to become more and more a fantasy, while the parties stopped talking to each other except for the formal minimum via official channels. And the overall project director (or owner) didn't spot that and intervene. Error number two - well, several, really - such as don't believe a completion date (or any other promise) just becasue it's what you wanted to hear.

The "get better" programme involves enforced cooperation via joint working groups, and the pooling of expertise to make sure the contractors know how the documentation has to be done. Also, SNCF's maintainers, who are the real "customer", are to be fully involved where they were left out until too late before.
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stuving
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2015, 04:49:28 pm »

I did say I'd report how this work was going, as I've got the notes and pictures, so here - in the interests of comparative ferrology - it is.

In their apologetic announcement of the overrun, SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) promised "exceptional measures" to minimise the impact of not opening the line. So what does that mean? Not much, as far as I can see.

This is a single line with passing possible only at stations, and these are spaced at roughly 20/20/12/12/12 km, so this does not severely restrict service frequency. The line speed is being raised from 90 to 140 km/h in December, and timings should improve a lot then. Bus replacement to St Pazanne increases the 90 minutes journey time to around two hours. A direct bus would be quicker, but was not on offer even though there were plenty hired in.

The service was almost the same as before August, and that was much the same as before the closure and from September (ignoring the usual changes between in (July-August) and out of season timetables). There are about nine services a day (midweek, with a few more Monday or Friday). With three for commuters into Nantes, the rest are unevenly spaced with some big gaps between them. Some of those services have always been SNCF buses, but with similar timings as the line was so slow.

Confusingly, in addition to the rail replacement buses there are two other kinds, which are in the normal timetable. Some are the SNCF buses, i.e. train services run by buses. However, one of these - the last train from Nantes on Friday - is now a train (with bus). This is not, however, good news as this normal bus took 90 minutes like the train (with a few fewer strops).

The other buses are "regional", and serve railway stops on the way to other places. As the region pays 2/3 of the cost of the trains, they are in a sense the owners of both.
There are also special buses from the railhead to the coast and back, just once a day (but these may be a normal summer season addition). Cost - only ^2. Some of them seem to connect with the curtailed trains - some don't fit at all. They were not much publicised, that I could see.

So how did it all work out? Well, they did hire in a lot of buses. Most were old, and came from Transdev or local coach companies including the scarily-named Sovetours. There were not, on the whole, a lot of passengers. The buses ran fairly well to time, though the one I was on wasn't very well to start with. The driver thought it was having trouble getting its air pressure up - which is taking its train imitation a bit too far.

There were, if not Ribena girls, some "filles grenadine", whose T-shirts said "Effia synergies" (but the boss (SNCF) was, indeed, a "gars cassis"). Effia are a big transport consultancy/outsourcing company that help run the buses, and customer phone lines, and probably much besides. At the railhead at St Pazanne, there were at least six of these Effia helpers (not all female), which was more than enough to shepherd twenty people.

Actually, France has always been big in outsourcing - that may seem odd, given the protected nature of government jobs in particular. However, that is one of the main reasons; if flexibility is important it can be impossible to use standard labour contracts. Recently they have even been doing big infrastructure projects on a PPP basis, starting with "Atlantique 2017" (LGVs (Large Goods Vehicle) to Bordeaux and Rennes).

So the rail replacement was adequate but tedious, much as here. It did run smoothly, but with a year's practice and few takers so it should. As well as the bus/train service, I also went to Nantes by car and tram, which was quicker (but only slightly, as the "P+R" I wanted was full), and of course allowed much more flexible timings.
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stuving
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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2015, 04:54:52 pm »

What did this rebuild involve?

Well, all those scary old rotten sleepers have gone, and most of the rail is new (though of course it's hard to tell as it's as rusty as old rail). The before and after pictures are the same bit of track.

At St Gilles the switches have been either kept or replaced in situ, and mounted on new wooden sleepers (for length), and they are still manually operated. The point levers are old, though the operating linkages have bee reconditioned with new parts and things like railings added.

What looks really odd to me is that they have retained the crossover at the station end of platforms 1 & 2 (the loco escape). They also have put in a stainless steel sentry box thing, apparently for someone to shelter in - maybe to operate the level crossing, or the points? In the past the point motor cycled from the station along the platform, and I can't imagine he'd want to be sitting out there all day.

The other stations have essentially just passing loops, so I wonder if they would have some automatic or self-acting switch at each end rather than levers, if they can't afford electricity.
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stuving
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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2015, 05:04:39 pm »

It was reported that the two aspects of signalling that were disastrously late were certification documentation and the control and activiation of level crossings. Here are some S&T (Signalling and Telegraph) types working on PN 26, which involved setting off the warning bell from time to time while lots of "tabardiers" stand around and watch. One of these two was logoed "Saferail", that being a local rail engineering contractor - they say they were solely responsible for S&C (Settle and Carlisle ) on the tram-train to Chateaubriant.

Just to the right is this signal, controlling the crossing and exit from the station. It is, of course, one of those funny French things, complete with mystic Pictish symbols.
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Thatcham Crossing
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« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2015, 07:49:14 pm »

Quote
with 22 level crossing upgraded and 9 closed

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I was holidaying by car (with caravan) in this part of France. It is a fantastic area for this type of holiday, by the way.

Whilst navigating by satnav (we had a map aswell, but it didn't help much in this case), we came across one of the above-mentioned closed crossings (as far as I can recall, there were no road signs warning us in advance of this), with an earth bank where the road and crossing used to be and an OHLE'd single-track railway beyond.

There was no space to manouver out with the caravan still attached, so no option but to un-hitch, turn the car around, turn the caravan around, re-hitch and proceed back the way we had come.

It wasn't too far, but I was not a happy bunny (it was a hot day, and I'd been driving for about 10 hours by this point), and neither were the wife and kids, who saw it as my fault that we had ended up at a dead end!
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TonyK
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2015, 08:07:46 pm »


Indeed: he's apparently hit that mast at a good pace, to have caused such damage and overturn his car.  Shocked Roll Eyes Huh

Formidable! He sounds more Italian to me.
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Now, please!
stuving
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« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2015, 10:40:28 pm »

Quote
with 22 level crossing upgraded and 9 closed

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I was holidaying by car (with caravan) in this part of France. It is a fantastic area for this type of holiday, by the way.

Whilst navigating by satnav (we had a map aswell, but it didn't help much in this case), we came across one of the above-mentioned closed crossings (as far as I can recall, there were no road signs warning us in advance of this), with an earth bank where the road and crossing used to be and an OHLE'd single-track railway beyond.

There was no space to manouver out with the caravan still attached, so no option but to un-hitch, turn the car around, turn the caravan around, re-hitch and proceed back the way we had come.

It wasn't too far, but I was not a happy bunny (it was a hot day, and I'd been driving for about 10 hours by this point), and neither were the wife and kids, who saw it as my fault that we had ended up at a dead end!

That wasn't this line, which is entirely OHLE-free. The main line south to La Roche sur Yon is electrified, but double track, and the nearest single line that is must be one from there to Les Sables d'Olonne.

What is true is that SNCF (Societe Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais - French National Railways) are pursuing their programme of level crossing closure much more actively than NR» (Network Rail - home page) (quelle surprise!). The next two crossing from PN16 at St Gilles were closed about five years ago, and replaced by a bridge, though the traffic (even in the holiday season) hardly makes that vital. Note that there are still barriers, even for the bridge...
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