Season 9 - Nicolas’ projects

Episode 13 - A conclusion to bring problems and solutions together

Adrien Aumont — We’re drawing this particularly long season to a close. Thirteen episodes in which we reviewed the limitations and challenges we’re facing, and how we overcame, resolved or circumvented them. But of course, that’s a lot of information and data to remember. Before moving onto the rest of the Midnight Trains story – the critical second round of fundraising – we’ll give you a little overview of this season. And to unite all the problems and solutions, who better than Nicolas?

Nicolas Bargelès — So, the time has come to take stock of the balance sheets. But rather than retell each of the stories, we’ve created a list with the reference chapters. If you’ve been reading since the start, this will refresh your memory on the various stages of our adventure. If, on the contrary, you have recently joined us, it’s a chance to catch up.

Roads, networks and infrastructure managers

Problems: a European network that isn’t unified in terms of infrastructure, signaling, track gauge or even safety standards. An almost total disappearance of night passenger trains has made crossing border points difficult. Practices needed for such circulation have almost disappeared in various European countries. This means that infrastructure managers from different European countries don’t always communicate effectively with one another in areas where they’re not (or no longer) accustomed. Worse still, they no longer coordinate their work, which makes certain rail routes impassable for night passenger trains. Some block the main route, while others work on the alternative route. In short, nothing’s being done, so that projects like ours can circulate.

Solutions: The creation of a first network of four lines all leaving from the same station: Paris<>Milan<>Venice, Paris<>Barcelona, ​​Paris<>Nice, Paris<>Florence<>Rome and Paris<>Madrid. Probably in this order, but with deadlines that are quite different from each other. At the same time, go to the Train Europe Forum in Ljubljana and put the three infrastructure managers of our first international line (SNCF Réseaux, Rete ferroviaria italiana and the Swiss Federal Railways) around the same table. Choose one to coordinate everything. And above all, use Time Table Recast, the new work and train path planning tool, within the current framework of a pilot. And take the opportunity to improve it while waiting for other rail players to get started.


Problems: Private maintenance operators are rare in France and there are very few halls suitable for towed cars, rather than self-propelled trains. In addition, the maintenance site at Lyon station — called Villeneuve-Prairie — can’t accommodate us. Or it’s in such bad conditions that it’s better to find another option. The law is on our side, but the reality is that Ile-de-France Mobilités preside over all these facilities.

Solutions: Accept the proposal from SNCF Voyageurs which offers us the opportunity to organise our maintenance on the Masséna site, at Austerlitz station. Therefore we can work to maintain correct timetables for our night trains, despite the slowdowns caused by RER timetables during peak hours. Be flexible and creative.


Problems: Pulling your own trains isn’t easy since it involves being a railway company: the need for significant share capital, obtaining a railway license and a safety certificate. This also generates very significant costs: recruitment and training of numerous personnel, rental or purchase of locomotives, etc. Not towing your trains reduces control over supply and what happens on board the trains.

Solutions: Rely on Nicolas and his skills to give ourselves the means to become a railway company. Scramble around doing everything that needs to be done, knocking on doors and initiating all the complex procedures required. Fighting to obtain a railway license and safety certificate. And then, just in case, keep an alternative plan up your sleeve. In the railway industry, you always need a plan B, C, and even D.


Problems: There are no interoperable locomotives between the three countries on our first lines (France, Switzerland, Italy). It will be necessary to change traction at almost every border crossing, which is a massive waste of time, drivers and staff training.

Solutions: Make it complicated while waiting for simplification. Thinking we’re lucky when we learn that the long-awaited locomotives are arriving very soon at Siemens and Alstom. Get these locomotives which are interoperable between the three countries. Tell yourself that you’re in the right place at the right time.


Problems: There are almost no second-hand night train cars available in Western or Eastern Europe. And when there are, they’re expensive and almost impossible to modify to our needs.

Solutions: Make the decision to purchase new rolling stock. Compare manufacturers and find an experienced one, which makes precisely what we need based on a pre-existing car. Realising that it happens to fit our budget. Work on innovative designs that are in keeping with the times.

Adrien Aumont — There you are - you're up to date and prepped to attack the most crucial part of Confidences: all about the second round of fundraising, which arrives next week.

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