The French lose 340 million minutes per year due to avoidable train delays, says consumer group

The French lose 340 million minutes per year due to avoidable train delays, says consumer group
People check for information on delayed trains in Paris in July 2021. Photo: Samantha DUBOIS / AFP.
An old and underfunded railway network directly is responsible for delays which are turning French people off train travel, according to a study from consumer group UFC-Que Choisir published on Tuesday.

People in France lost 340 million minutes in 2018 due to infrastructure failings, according to the study.

And those are only the avoidable delays. In 2017, the Autorité de la qualité de service dans les transports reported that travellers lost 2 billion minutes every year due to train delays. UFC-Que Choisir’s study found that 17 percent of these delays were due to France’s ageing and deteriorating network of tracks, 

Lack of investment

“The investment strategy pursued since the beginning of the 1980s put extending the network above maintaining exististing infrastructure,” its authors wrote. As a consequence, UFC-Que Choisir estimates, 23 percent of France’s railway network had surpassed its optimal lifespan in 2019.

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The group notably pointed towards sections of track where trains are forced to slow down in order to ensure they can circulate safely. The stretches affected by this went from 3,400 km in 2012 to 5,300 km in 2017, according to the report.

The “chronic under-investment” has also had an impact on productivity, according to UFC-Que Choisir, which affirms, “Running a train required 2.8 times more employees and 1.7 times more resources than in neighbouring European countries”. The study claims that the UK is able to run 3.4 times more trains per employee than France.

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It adds that for the same population, France provides travellers with 37 percent fewer trains than its neighbours.

Small lines

The impact of deteriorating infrastructure disproportionately affects the “small lines” which mainly connect people in rural areas and medium-sized towns. According to the association, these lines are responsible for 70 percent of the sections of track which require trains to slow down, or 22 percent of their length.

“The dilapidation of the infrastructure influences the quality of the service, which accelerates users’ disaffection, in favour of the car, and sets in motion of vicious circle of abandoning trains.”

The report concludes that 40 percent of this secondary network, which represents 17 percent of regional train travel, is at risk of being closed due to a lack of passengers.


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