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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le cadencement : pour l’usager mais pas seulement

by Fanny Doumayrou

Railway Cadencing: for Users, but not Just for Them

Translated Sunday 18 December 2011, by Henry Crapo

Rationalization of the movements of trains permits the RFF better to organize its sale of track-time intervals to private and foreign railway companies.

A term reserved up until now for train lovers, "cadencing" has found its way into the vocabulary of the general public. What does it meant, exactly?

This technique of planning rail traffic consists in rendering the timetables regular. From a certain station, the trains leaving for a given destination depart at regular intervals, say at 7h12, 7h22, 7h32, or at 8h15, 8h30, 8h45, or again at 10h20, 11h20, 12h20. The same pattern repeats every hour.

Already in application in Belgium, in Germany, in Switzerland, and in Holland, it has an evident advantage for the regular user, who no longer needs to consult a timetable in order to find his train or its connections, and can do so "with his eyes closed", especially so if the departure is always on the same track, as in Switzerland or in Belgium.

But cadencing has also an industrial aspect. By rationalizing the rail circulation, it permits the "optimization of the capacity" on the network, that is, permits more trains to circulate, thus to react to the increase in passenger traffic, as emphasized by the RFF (Réseau ferré de France). It is a necessary modification of the rail system in which the RFF is also interested because, as manager of the network, it finances itself by the sale of track time to rail companies. "Cadencing permits the RFF to build a catalog of well organized track time slots for those that buy these track times: the regions, the SNCF, Eurostar, and the freight companies," explains Christophe Piednoel, spokesman for the RFF. It’s at this point that the question of competition rears its head. "That would be skipping a step: we don’t engage in cadencing in order to encourage competition," he argues. "We do it in order to make room for more trains. That has nothing to do with who buys the track time slots."

Nevertheless, the document presenting cadencing on the RFF internet site affirms that the system "permits public actors and railway operators to put in place the next opening of competition in a spirit of transparency and equity", and "to assure new railway operators non-discriminatory access, and to invite them to participate in the elaboration of the timetables."

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