Make it easy

FRENCH National Railways has made much play recently of the introduction of regular-interval timetables on TGV routes to Lille, Lyon and western France. How nice to see that good ideas eventually win their converts, even if it is a decade or two after everyone else.

Not of course that the principle extends to services off the main lines. Many routes in France have long been renowned for their over-complex timetables, which the French journal Chemins de Fer suggests could just possibly deter potential passengers from using rail.

The editorial staff of Chemins de Fer have recently been doing a little research. And they have discovered some interesting schedules in SNCF’s latest timetable. Take, for example, Train 6646/6632 from Nice and Cerbère to the Lorraine and Sarre. This particular service occupies a mere 29 timetable columns spread over three pages. Not only that, but it has 46 separate footnotes, ranging from ’runs on October 24 only’ to ’on July 15 only picks up passengers at Neufchâteau and Toul if they are travelling to Metz’. Quite how intending passengers are expected to cope with this little challenge is not known.

Perhaps the regular-interval concept should be swiftly extended to SNCF’s rural and cross-country routes before all the remaining customers are driven away by overcomplexity, service withdrawals and irregular timings. And by regular interval we do not mean once a day or once a week.