The usual routine is a thing of the past.
The future is autonomous light rail!
While the price of gasoline and the ecological bad conscience of motorists are soaring, new innovations aim to make passenger transport by rail more competitive with the car.
All this while serving small rural stations, hitherto victims of budget cuts.
Taxirail, the Breton alternative to the SNCF
This is the case of the French start-up Taxirail.
Based in the Côtes d'Armor, it has developed a driverless vehicle, which looks like a 6-meter-long glass cube and can carry up to 40 passengers.
The comfort there is certainly spartan, with no toilets and only 7 seats.
But the availability 24 hours a day and the short distances, ranging from 10 to 80 km, should largely compensate for these disadvantages according to its designers.
The machine is more ecological, with a hybrid engine running on electricity as well as natural gas or even hydrogen.
And flexible: users can order their journey on demand or join a convoy made up of several Taxirails at peak times.
Trials should take place from 2023 in Lower Normandy and the Brittany region has also shown interest, which has already invested 50,000 euros in the project with a view to reopening many local lines abandoned by the SNCF, such as Saint-Brieuc -Auray or Rennes-Chateaubriand.
Draisy, the mini TER of the future
A potential market with local authorities which has not escaped the incumbent operator.
The SNCF is also in full development of its own light rail solutions and unveiled two prototypes on February 21 at the European rail summit.
The first named, Draisy, will carry 80 passengers, including 30 seated, and should be tested from 2025. According to the SNCF, "the aim is to build a railcar that is lighter than a usual TER in order to reduce wear and tear on the track, and to use digital technologies to "simplify" traffic management while guaranteeing a very high level of safety".
By using composite materials and an electric motor, this small train will allow substantial savings which could amount to up to 60% of the operating cost of a TER.
What seduce the regions and allow the reopening of lines of less than 100 km, considered so far in deficit.
Flexy, the Uber Van of the train
The other, more futuristic option from SNCF is called Flexy and was developed in partnership with the start-up Milla.
Half train, half car, this funny electric vehicle can travel both on rail and on the road and will carry 9 passengers over about thirty kilometers and at a maximum speed of 60 km/h.
The clearly stated objective is to offer an alternative to the car, knowing that the vehicle will also be able to connect villages not served by rail.
An interesting way to meet the needs of people in rural areas, particularly victims of rising fuel prices.
The first tests should be held on pilot sections from 2024.
A date may still be too far away while a new oil shock threatens France and could relaunch social movements like that of the Yellow Vests.
So while waiting for these futuristic projects to go from the drawing board to reality, the SNCF has decided to put its good old Corail trains from the 1980s back into circulation. Since April 11, you can indeed make a Paris-Nantes or a Paris-Lyon for less than 30 euros with the Ouigo Classic Train offer.
Do not expect WiFi or electrical outlets and count two to three hours more than by TGV.
More than ever, a train is better than two you will have.
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