FRENCH National Railways (SNCF) has announced a new programme known as Project Botox, under which the railway will extend the lives of TGV sets that were expected to be withdrawn when the new TGV M fleet enters service from 2025.

The project will involve close inspection of 104 TGV trains to ensure they are in good enough condition. They will then be separated in three categories:

  • those that a in good condition and can continue operate, which will be refurbished
  • those that require more extensive repair work to remain in service, which will be repaired and renovated, and
  • those that have become obsolete, which will be removed from service and used for spare parts.

Three-quarters of the trains are single-deck sets, which will have their service life extended by two to four years, while Duplex trains, which make up the remainder, will continue operating for another 10 years.

The first renovated trains, which will have their lifecycle extended by up to four years will re-enter service on the Atlantic route from early 2026. The programme for those trains requiring more extensive work, which will extend their lifecycle by up to 10 years, will be completed by 2033.

The first of SNCF’s now 156-strong Duplex fleet entered service in 1995 and none have been withdrawn to date, meaning some of these trains could remain in service for more than 40 years.

SNCF has been having problems coping with burgeoning passenger traffic but has so far refused to increase TGV services on routes such as Paris - Bordeaux. One of the reasons for this has been the slow but sure reduction in the size of the TGV fleet. As new double-deck sets have been introduced, a larger number of single-deck trains has been withdrawn resulting in a reduction of the overall TGV fleet from 410 to 363 sets since July 2018, although the number of seats has risen by 10%.

SNCF has ordered 115 new TGV M sets to enter service from 2025 and these were expected to directly replace 28 single-deck TGV Réseau trains built from 1992, 18 TGV POS sets consisting of power cars that were introduced in 2005 and trailers in 1992, and 28 TGV Atlantique trains introduced in 1988. At present SNCF is swapping power cars used with the POS and Réseau Duplex fleets during overhaul, resulting in the formation of Duplex and Réseau sets.

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