Rail journey times in France 1914-2014

Rail journey times in France 1914-2014

Temps de parcours ferroviaires en France

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This book, published in 2018, is a sequel to a study which appeared in 1998 in the VOIES FERRES magazine, covering at 5-year intervals the 1978-1998 time span. This 1998 edition can be downloaded here, at no charge.

The 2018 edition is similar, but... :

  • covering the whole of the network : virtually all RFN (Réseau Ferré National) lines, no matter what kind of service they have today (including lines which are now closed and possibly dismantled),

  • over 9 years spread along a whole century, instead of 5 over 20 years (3 of which have been kept here) : (1) 1914 (just before "10 lost years" because of WW1) (2) one year between 1920 and 1939, in fact 1933 (both because of how things had evolved by then and because of high data availability that particular year) (3) 1950 (4) 1963 (5) 1978 (6) 1988 (7) 1998 (8) 2003 (9) 2014,

  • with average speed computation for each individual travel time, whereas the 1978-1998 study only did it for 1998,

  • with much greater accuracy as regards distances, because these often varied with time, not just in the recent past because of high speed lines (for instance, Paris - Clermont-Ferrand via Bourges or Moret... and either Gannat or Vichy towards the end of the journey),

  • with accompanying text (or specific comments) describing many curious facts for selected years, particularly about routes. Does one remember today that a few decades ago, there still was a Nantes > Limoges express service, via Bressuire and Poitiers ? Or Paris > Alençon services by means of a connection at Ste-Gauburge...

So, quite a substantial task (probably 1,000 working hours overall, including 200 for just computing distances and average speeds...), for an effective publication at the beginning of 2018, after handling practical matters related to publication (ISBN number, legal registration, printing, fiscal matters...).

The list of long distance journeys (classified by networks i.e. E/N/W/SW/SE and then in alphabetical order within each network), together with the list of all the elementary sections which have been studied (classified by line numbers), is available here.

The final number of individual journey times is 11,215 : an average of 1,200 per year studied, but with major variations because of the growth and decline of the network and, correspondingly, the number of passenger services using it : from a low of 1,038 in 1988 to a high of 1,738 in 1933.

The updating process should occur in 2024-2025 with the creation of a PDF file (either in digital or printed format : not yet decided) incorporating an extra year i.e. 2024, with some comments on major changes. The complete set (1914-2024) will only be reprinted if the current edition is close to being out of print. This 10-years interval between 2014 and 2024 is not really a problem, because the continuous improvement of performance on the french network has virtually ground to a halt today, mainly because no new high speed lines can be expected soon, but also because significant speed improvements on the conventional network are now a very rare event. One may also hope that by then (2024), the currently high rate of track renewal on the network will have gone down a bit, thereby bringing back some stability to both timetables and fastest times... Finally, it is by no means impossible that by then a new regional operator will be in action somewhere, and this may of course have an impact on timetables on corresponding lines.