France has recently ordered 2,000 new trains for regional service. They are expected to cost over $20,000,000,000. That’s a lot of money but worth it to maintain France’s reputation as a leader in high speed train travel, I suppose. There’s only one problem: the new trains are too wide to fit through France’s train stations.
The country has about 8,700 railway stations or platforms, and as many as 1300 of them are too narrow to support the newly built trains. It seems that when the engineers were designing the new railcars, they were only given information on stations built within the last 30 years. Older, narrower stations were therefore not included in their calculations.
Not to worry, though. All that is necessary is for France to spend another $70,000,000 (that’s seventy million dollars) to upgrade the older facilities to accommodate the new trains, which almost sounds like a plot to keep French building contractors busy for the next 10 years or so.
While good for contractors, maybe, this could be a big problem for both France and for much of the rest of Europe, because train travel is hugely popular in the region. It’s how most folks get around the Continent, and the trains are clean, fast, comfortable and punctual. France has been a leader in high speed rail for decades, featuring its TGV service. which stands for “train de grand vitesse” or, in English, a train that is wicked fast, and there’s no telling, as yet, how the construction will impact international travel “on the Continent”.
Before we snicker too loudly about our French cousins for their silliness, however, keep in mind that when AMTRAK unveiled its new Acela trains over a decade ago, they also were too wide for existing stations – that seems down to the actual construction of the train cars happening in Canada, which is on the metric system, using design specs provided by American engineers in inches and feet. Somewhere along the line, somebody did the conversion to meters and simply made a mathematical error … all of which just goes to show: stupidity is pretty evenly distributed among Earth’s inhabitants.