Wednesday 2 March 2016

Feeling Blue About The Blue Train

Sad News for Sleepers
The french newspaper "Le Monde" reported, and a reporter blogged on-line.

On n’y dort pas toujours très bien. Le crissement des roues sur les rails, le tintamarre des aiguillages enfilés à vive allure, conjugués aux ronflements des voisins de couchette, perturbent le sommeil. Mais le brinquebalement régulier et la magie consistant à s’endormir dans une ville pour se réveiller dans une autre, font de ce voyage une expérience toujours unique. Le train de nuit rend bien des services. Pour arriver tôt à destination, par exemple. Pour profiter pleinement d’une dernière journée de vacances. Pour économiser une nuit d’hôtel. Ou simplement pour le plaisir.

crissement - screech
tintamarre - clattering
aiguillages - pointwork
ronflement - snoring
briquebalement - swaying

In simple terms, the sounds of the journey may disturb sleep, but the gentle swaying and the magic of going to sleep in one town and waking up in another make a journey by "night trains" a special experience.

The most famous "Sleeper" in France was the luxurious "Train Bleu" running in its priginal foprm from Calais to Nice.
Pre WW1 and between the wars this train carried wealthy Brits in astounding opulence to their winter retreat in the south of France.
As air travel took over, the train became two coaches on the Golden Arrow which joined the Blue Train in Paris.

But the days of the luxury sleeping car express were over and SNCF replaced luxury with capacity as all overnight trains became "couchette" only.

The car is divided into a number of compartments (typically 8 to 10) accessed from the side corridor of the car, which in daytime are configured with a bench seat along each long side of the compartment. At an appropriate time in the journey, the attendant who travels in the car (or by agreement the passengers booked in the compartment) converts the compartment into its night-time configuration with two (1st class) or three (2nd class) bunks on each long side of the compartment, creating a total of four bunks in first class and six in second class.
The attendant provides a sheet, blanket, and pillow for each passenger. Unlike in sleeping cars, couchette compartments are not segregated by sex, and it is normal not to undress except for removing footwear.

The various trains, originally under the brand ...
... but now more prosaically dubbed "Trains de Nuit", still porvide overnight services mainly to the south of  France, a distance similar to London to Inverness.

The trains were popular ...
... but not popular enough. On 19th February, French Transport Minister Alain Vidalies ...
... as part of a review of SNCF's longer distance trains that are not TGVs, announced the end of overnight trains from July 2016.

100€ de subventions par passager. Ce désengagement s’explique évidemment par des raisons budgétaires. Les trains de nuit représentent 25% du déficit des "trains d’équilibre du territoire" (i.e. non-TGV) alors qu’ils ne transportent que 3% des voyageurs.

Despite the obvious economic argument, this has not gone down well with campaigners and regular passengers. There have been protests on environmental grounds ...
... but the decision is unlikely to change. With the growth of fast TGV services, the demand is insufficient to justify the subsidy, say the politicos. Two overnigh runs will remain where the is not suitabvle fast daytime link, but sleeper enthuisats will have to limit their experience to literature ...
... or a meal in the opulent "Train Bleu" restaurant at Paris' Gare de Lyon.
Were you thinking of popping in to try it out, here is a small selection from the menu.

Petit gris snails - Caracoles Petit gris

Fillet of beef, potato pancake
with cep mushrooms, Roquefort sauce

Rum baba - Baba al ron

Tea / Té Ceylan, Darjeeling or/o Earl Grey

Bon appetit!

fbb would use the station sarnie bar in the bowels of the earth below the platforms and thst is pricey enough.
Sheffield "Crunch" Meeting
This meeting took place last Monday, 29th February (see Monday's blog - read again). One of fbb's Sheffield correspondents attended the meeting. A report will appear in this blog as soon as possible, but fbb's various meetings in Sheffield may add to the mix. Please be patient.
 Next bus blog : Thursday 3rd March 


  1. Referring to an earlier FBB post, I was in Brackley yesterday and saw the 09:39 and 11:39 departures to Bicester.

    The total number of passengers across both departures/arrivals across the two journeys was a derisory 5. Tells you all you need to know

  2. Those prices are fairly standard for eating out in Paris.

  3. The lavish dining room in trains are quite incredible. I would love to travel like that.
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