France Spent $20 Billion on Trains That Don't Fit Its Stations

France's national railway operator, SNCF, recently ordered 2,000 new trains at a cost of more than $20 billion. Now, it's found out that they're too big for many of the stations they're supposed to pass through. And this isn't the kind of order you can return.

The Guardian reports that the new trains, known as TERs (trains express regionaux), are too wide to properly pass through one in six of the regional stations they should serve. The reason for the mix up? The national rail operator, RFF, only supplied dimensions for stations built in the last 30 years.

Unsurprisingly, older stations are a little more... compact. Indeed, it was found that they were so narrow that two of the new trains—which are already being built ready for use in 2016— would be unable to pass alongside each other on adjacent lines. A spokesperson from the RFF told The Guardian:

"It's as if you have bought a Ferrari that you want to park in your garage, and you realise that your garage isn't exactly the right size to fit a Ferrari because you didn't have a Ferrari before. We discovered the problem a little late … we are making our mea culpa."

Sadly the mistake was discovered so late that the only solution is to embark on a $70 million operation to enlarge the 1,300 platforms across the country that are too small to accommodate the new trains.

That's a fairly hefty proportion of the 8,700 platforms total in France. Add to that the fact that the trains are supposed to enter service in 2016, and it seems that there's no shortage of engineering work to get underway. [Guardian]

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