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French rail service among best in Europe

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French rail service among best in Europe
Commuters wait for a train in Paris. Photo: AFP
16:03 CEST+02:00
France has been commended for the quality of its rail service, which has been ranked as the fourth best in Europe, a new US study has revealed. It's a result that might leave many regular rail users in the country perplexed.
If you were on the TGV from Nancy to Paris that was delayed by six hours this week then you might not want to read this.
 
And if you are a regular user of the RER commuter service in and around Paris, then you might not believe it.
 
But a global study released on Tuesday has commended the quality of the country's rail service.
 
In fact, the Boston Consulting Group which carried out the study found that France's rail service was ranked fourth best in the continent although it had the same overall score as third-placed Denmark.
 
France's neighbour Switzerland was found to have the best rail service in Europe, with Sweden coming in second.
 
When it came to the "quality of service" category, France performed even better and achieved the second highest score in Europe, behind Spain. This takes into account the speed of the trains, the quality of the travel compared to the price, and even the punctuality of the train.
 
The report noted that only around one in ten TGV trains arrives more than 15 minutes late. While this might be irritating for ten percent of France's commuters, they may take comfort to learn that one in four trains in countries like Portugal, Poland, and Ireland are equally late. 
 
But rail user groups in France doubted the findings of the study and insisted there was a real need for investment in certain services.
 
"If France is ranked among the best in Europe then things must be pretty bad in other countries,' Jean-Claude Delarue from the group SOS Usagers told The Local.
 
"If we are talking about just the TGV service then I am not surprised by the findings, but we should ask those who use the commuter trains in the Paris suburbs everyday, what they think [about the quality of service].
 
"The TGV is generally a good service, although there are some problems, but there is a real need for investment in commuter and regional lines especially when it comes to maintenance," he added.
 
 

(A graph from BCG shows how the rest of Europe fared)
 
Overall France's rail system was ranked in the top tier alongside those of Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Germany.
 
Great Britain, meanwhile, was among the second-tier countries. Despite having the highest safety rating along with Denmark, it recorded a poor quality-of-service rating and a middle range rating for its intensity of use.
 
 

(A graph from BCG shows how the rest of Europe fared in 2015 compared to the last study in 2012)
 
Agnes Audier, another co-author of the report, said the promising results were a result of France investing around €180 per resident into its railways every year. 
 
"The countries that performed very well in our ranking are those where a lot of money is invested," she told Europe 1. 
 
The Boston Consulting Group investigated the most effective model for allocating public subsidies between infrastructure managers and train-operating companies.
 
"Our study indicates that the model for allocating public subsidies correlates with a railway system’s performance," said report co-author Sylvain Duranton. 
 
"Simply put, countries that get the most value from public spending on railway systems also allocate the highest percentage of subsidies."
 
France's SNCF rail operator has no intentions of slipping in the rankings either, with future plans to renew 1,000 kilometres of railway as a priority over renovating the stations, the channel reported. 
 
The third-place ranking may come as a surprise to France's train users, many of whom have been left flummoxed in the past by a slew of problems on the rails. 
 
These include passengers being left inside delayed trains for hours, rail strikes that can last as long as 12 days, and a monumental and costly gaffe that saw hundreds of trains ordered that were too wide for around 1,300 platforms, all of which needed to be adjusted. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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