French trains? They're worse than ours.

Britain gave the world railways. And our trains have been the butt of jokes in recent years as they have been notorious for being older, more old-fashioned, slower and much dirtier than traines on the European Continent.

But now Britain has surpassed France in terms of the quality of the trains and railways. France was always regarded as having one of the best railway networks in the world.

Britain now spends around 4 times as much on its trains and railways as France, and more than Italy and Spain. With our new Pendolino high-speed tilting trains, our railways are now the envy of the French.

French trains? They're worse than ours
By Henry Samuel in Paris
(Filed: 25/05/2006)

"City of Stoke-on-Trent" Pendolino train at Birmingham New Street Station.

France's railways, traditionally a source of national pride, are falling into a ruinous state, according to a leading expert.

Britain has saved most of its network through an "enormous catch-up effort," but vast tracts of the French system are being ruined by a short-sighted repair policy, said Robert Rivier, a Swiss professor.

Mr Rivier, the author of a damning audit on the railway ordered by the French government, said track needed to be renewed and ageing or underused lines closed, rather than patching up infrastructure.

While the TGV network remained the envy of the world, the high-speed system only ran on 1,000 miles of track from a total of 19,000 miles. The smaller regional lines have been left by the wayside, Mr Rivier said.

He estimated that two thirds of the national network would be unusable by 2025.

The amount of track on which trains are forced to slow down due to security concerns has doubled in the past year to 900 miles. A recent series of derailments has been blamed on ageing and faulty infrastructure. More serious accidents could follow, he said.

"In Great Britain, it took dozens of deaths, after which the British took remarkable action," he said.

"They made choices, set out a long-term strategy and chose to scrap parts of the network. The French have that ahead of them."

Britain spends 140,000 per kilometre of track on maintenance and renovation compared with France's 35,000. Italy, Spain and Switzerland spend somewhere in between.

The French transport minister, Dominique Perben launched a rail rescue package on Monday but ruled out closing any lines.

Mr Rivier said it focused more on repair than renewal and would not be enough.

"Zut alors! Ze Breeteesh are beating us again!"
"FOG In Channel,Continent Cut Off"
Yes. Britain has lovely Italian trains.

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