The story of
French rail

From its beginnings in 1827, the French rail industry has been driven by colourful personalities, cultural revolutions and ingenious solutions to technological challenges. Learn more about the history of French rail and the people behind it.



  1. ...
  2. 1987
  3. 1990
  4. 1994
  5. 1996
  6. 1997
  7. 1999
  8. ...

1997

RÉSEAU FERRÉ DE FRANCE

On 1 January 1997, Réseau Ferré National was created. A state-owned industrial and commercial enterprise (EPIC), it was tasked with developing, expanding and improving the infrastructure of the French rail network. The nature and primary characteristics of the company were defined by the French State.


Working on Réseau Ferré National’s behalf and under its guidelines, SNCF manages trains and circulation and operates and maintains technical and safety facilities within the French rail network.

Réseau Ferré National, now known as Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) was granted full ownership of state-owned infrastructure assets and buildings that are managed by SNCF but are not used in operating transport services.


1999

TRANSILIEN SNCF: QUALITY SERVICE FOR THE PARIS SUBURBS

On 1 September 1999, first-class service was eliminated from the network serving the Paris region. All trains began offering only one class, as the SNCF network—which handles nearly 2 million trips every day—began to adapt to the city’s changing needs.


Responding to demand for updated, high-quality public service, SNCF partnered with transport associations for Paris and the region to launch Transilien SNCF, a brand delivering quality trains and stations to all rail clients.

This new brand reflected three new directions: a radically different atmosphere on trains and in stations, an innovative approach to streamlining travel in the Paris region, and a commitment to building relationships with travellers and local officials in order to meet their expectations more successfully.


2001

NEW TGV LINE REACHES THE MEDITERRANEAN AT 300 KM/H

In 2001, high-speed rail expanded again. With the new Mediterranée TGV line now up and running, the network featured 1,500 km of line operating at 300 km/h. The additional 250 km would change more than 70 TGV connections operated by SNCF, reducing travel times by over an hour.


In 2001 SNCF launched a Calais-Marseille line designed to operate at 300 km/h along its entire length. Before the Mediterranée line began operations, however, SNCF tested the TGV’s endurance on the longest possible non-stop trajectory, linking Calais to Marseille in only four hours. On 26 May, Operation Sardine got under way, and the train made the 1,067.2-km trip in three hours and 29 minutes, averaging 306.67 km/h and setting a new world record.

 


2007

THE PRIDE OF FRENCH RAIL: 574.8 KM/H

At 1.13 p.m. on 3 April 2007, TGV No. V150 set a new world record for rail speed, reaching the incredible speed of 574.8 km/h as it blazed through the town of Éclaires, France on the Est-Européen line. The V150 consisted of two Est-Européen TGV powerheads with three TGV Duplex coaches in between.



At 270 tonnes and 107 m, the train features eight driving axles, a rating of 18 MW, and a distinctive exterior livery. Its coating, which must also withstand the stresses of very high speeds, depicts a stream of chrome—“like liquid metal moving through space”— symbolizing the genius, the inspiration and the labour of the human beings who designed this magnificent machine.
Three companies worked together to achieve the 2007 speed record: SNCF, Alstom and Réseau Ferré de France.


2011

140-KM TGV LINE LINKS RHINE TO RHONE

On Sunday, 11 December 2011, France’s seventh high-speed line began operations. The new Rhine-Rhone TGV line benefits two major traffic flows, reducing travel time and streamlining service between Paris, Franche-Comté, southern Alsace and Switzerland.


The Rhine-Rhone line has also created high-speed links between the Strasbourg and Lyon regions, and between Germany and France.
The 140-km line links Villers-les-Pots, east of Dijon, to Petit-Croix, east of Belfort, and features two new stations: Besançon Franche-Comté TGV and Belfort-Montbéliard TGV.
Operating speed is 320 km/h, and the line is served by new Euroduplex TGVs, manufactured by Alstom for international service. One TGV provides daily service from Frankfurt to Marseille via Mulhouse, France.


2012

RAIL COMMUNITY CELEBRATES SNCF’S 75TH BIRTHDAY

On 30 October, the entire rail community joined SNCF to celebrate its 75th birthday. Rail workers, builders, investors, journalists, and French rail network owner Réseau Ferré de France gathered in Paris at Halle Freyssinet, specially decorated for the event. In all, nearly 3,500 guests participated in the festivities, which included remarks by French Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier.

75th birthday highlights