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France's 2,000 new trains are too fat for its stations

Claude Villetaneuse/Wiki Commons

France can rightly boast that its national train system is much faster, newer, and generally more advanced than America's Amtrak network. But then it would have to eat crow for ordering 2,000 new trains that are too wide to fit in many of its stations. The national rail operator RFF acknowledged the error on Tuesday, explaining that it had given national railway company SNCF measurements for stations 30 years old or newer, when most of France's stations are at least 50 years old.

France has already spent about $110 million widening its train platforms, but hundreds more stations have to be retrofitted so the fat trains can pass through. The real problem is France's "absurd rail system," said Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier. In 1997, France spun RFF off from long-time national railway company SNCF. Seventeen years later, they're still apparently working out the kinks.