New French Trains Too Wide For Platforms
New trains ordered in a £2.43bn deal to expand the network in regional France have been found to be too wide for many of the platforms.
A total of 1,300 platforms out of a total of 8,700 will need to be modified to accommodate the new trains, it has been confirmed.
A spokesman for national operator RFF told French radio: "We discovered the problem a bit late, we recognise that and we accept responsibility on that score."
Work has already started to modify hundreds of stations and move trackside equipment to accommodate the new trains.
The mistake was first reported by a French satirical magazine.
It said SNCF was given dimensions for platforms built since the 1980s. However, platforms in more than 1,000 locations built decades beforehand were said to be a different size.
An SNCF spokesman confirmed the technical issue to Sky News and said: "The problem is not with the rolling stock but with the platforms."
It said 182 new TER train carriages ordered from train maker Alstom were too wide for stations in 12 French regions, along with 159 carriages from Bombardier for nine regions.
Remedial work totalling ?50m (£40m) has already been spent to get the procurement back on track, SNCF said.
It added the trains "were wider to meet public expectations" and that the alterations would cost just 1.25% of its annual maintenance and infrastructure budget.
More than 300 platforms have been altered to date, with another 600 expected to be completed by the end of the year.
French transport minister Frederic Cuvillier said an "absurd rail system" caused the error.
"When you separate the rail operator from the train company ... this is what happens."
Work will be finished by 2016 to coincide with full delivery of the multi-billion contract.
The decade-long expansion plan comes as the rail system has seen a 50% rise in passenger numbers around the French capital, and a 40% rise in regional travel.
France's biggest rail worker union denounced the mistaken order as proof of the dangers of deregulation, seizing on the costly error on the eve of an anti-liberalisation protest in Paris.
The CGT said the order would never have happened if the state railway company had not been split in two in a preliminary step towards privatisation.
"This saga would be just a vaudeville farce if it were not for the fact that it results from the split," the union said in a statement.
It referred to a decision back in 1997 to break the railways into two entities - the SNCF train service operator and RFF, which is in charge of rail infrastructure.