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Matthew Pennington

Ah, Transilien, the fair copse where the wood elves frolicked with gay merriment in yester year.

Angus Grieve-Smith

Jarrett, I agree that the SNCF/RATP branding war is counterproductive overall. Nobody besides transit geeks really care if their RER train is run by the RATP, the SNCF, the RFF or the RCMP. A couple of things, however:

1. The RER B is in fact jointly operated by the SNCF and the RATP. At the Gare du Nord station, the RATP driver leaves the northbound train and is replaced by an SNCF driver. I'm not quite sure why the RATP developed the original A and B lines, or why they don't turn them over to the SNCF so that they can be run as a single system.

2. You may have seen my translation of an interview that appeared in Le Monde with Roland Castro, where he talks about conceiving of Greater Paris as a single entity. I think that the "Transilien" branding fits with this, and with your discussion of Paris's multicentric structure.

Along these lines, the SNCF has also been extending the RER line letters and route codes to all its commuter rail lines. For example, the H and P lines are commuter trains that stop in one or another of the main stations. So you could argue that getting people to think of the commuter trains as part of the same system as the RER and not just "something for suburbanites" furthers the goals of regionalism and multicentricity.


I'm having flashbacks to the 1999-2004 split of Melbourne's rail and tram networks, which resulted in not just maps which showed only half the lines:
eg http://www.flickr.com/photos/ptua/3831781557/

...but also stupidity such as maps for one company which failed to show some of the stations they served, because those stations were managed by the other company:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ptua/500772829/ - sorry this image isn't very clear, it's off some TV footage.


The bit about the commuter rail lines being added into the letter system is good news, many people dont realize that theres a separate commuter rail system.

And before you say "tourists may not, but locals obviously do" youd be surprised. Here in America, many people in Baltimore dont realize they have a subway/metro line, as the branding is different from the light rail which has less riders but is more visible.

Ed O

Jarrett, the overiding regional transport authority which contracts RATP and SNCF among others in the Ile de France region is STIF, but I'm not sure how much direct control they have over branding. I don't think the Transilien brand introduces unnecessary complexity for locals or tourists but rather promotes and opens up the broader rail regional network of which the RER is a part. It appears that SNCF is retaining the RER logo on route maps and signs, at least for the time being; and both RATP and SNCF show all RER lines A-E on their respective route diagram maps.

The Transilien brand represents the revitalisation of the regional rail network in response to changing travel needs and customer expectations in the region. The RATP/SNCF branding issue doesn't appear to me to be significant and the operators will sort it out one way or another. I'm trying to understand what the real concern is here - that the classic textbook Metro/RER example is being changed? - Yes, but hopefully into something bigger and better.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

More on this soon, but briefly: (a) No objection to the concept of making the commuter rail network more visible and using the Transilien brand for that purpose, but (b) there are tail-wagging-dog problems with obscuring the RER brand and route nomenclature, because RER is such an important part of the Paris's frequent rapid transit network, and (c) the navigational problems I describe at Bibliothèque Francois Mitterrand station, where the agency that owns the station really does seem to be preferring one line over the other, should be cause for concern.

I agree that compared to most urban regions, Paris handles these issues extremely well, but that's why it makes a good parable about the way institutional self-esteem needs get in the way of customer communication.

Re the sign at the top of this post, I think the RER and Transilien brands both make good sense. The problem is actually the SNCF brand, which is what's insisting on an operator distinction that's not relevant to the customer.


Hong Kong has numerous transit providers (though things have consolidated somewhat in recent years), yet provides a mostly uniform route and fare structure.


The original A and (southern half of the) B lines developed from purely suburban railways that were never part of the national rail network. They used to terminate in their own stations near the center of Paris, and I believe the viaduct that was used by the eastern part of the A line is now a park. So it was originally a purely RATP project, connecting existing RATP lines to a central hub at the Chatelet station. The extensions of the A and B lines onto mainline tracks came later, and that's what got SNCF involved. There was also the C line, which I believe used an existing cross-city connection owned by SNCF, and the D and E are entirely SNCF infrastructure and really are just mainline commuter trains extended into tunnels into the city.

Ed O

I see your point about the incorporation of the SNCF logo within the Transilien branding. There are some stations where inadvertently, the 3 logo sign you've shown would make better sense - such as Versailles Chantiers where RER, Transilien and long distance SNCF trains stop.


In fact passenger care a bit if RER are operated by SNCF or RATP. Notoriously RATP is able to provide better service than the SNCF when come the RER, especialy the infamous RER C. It doesn't means SNCF is bad, but just its core product is the TGV, and the company is eventually inclined to neglect this "captive" market.

RER A is also partially operated by the SNCF too, and passengers eventually care with the frequent strike occurring in the transportation network since a strike either at the SNCF or RATP will break the system...

Outside strike, some antic rules seem to prevent RATP driver to drive on SNCF track and vice-versa, so there is some operator change at the network junction, involving lengthy dwelling time...

regarding, the sign, sure SNCF is too much, but also Transilien.
the RER provides a level of service (frequency) superior to most Transilien train...so it seems to be a different service

did you check if in suburb they add also RFF, RFF is the company in charge of the tracks, SNCF is only operating the trains and stations ;)


1. I agree with voomy's first two paragraphs - and with French public perceptions towards strikes and public services becoming increasingly volatile, it is understandable that the organizations may wish to underscore the differences in operation (esp. with regards to their capacity to handle "industrial action").

2. Another nuance regarding differentation between the Métro and RER branding - in fact, the Métro works on the "Ticket T" basis, meaning one ticket for a ride anywhere on the network until you leave. RER tickets are priced according to distance/zone.

eric britton

Thanks for asking for my comments from Paris. Couple of quick comments:

First, the outsider view is not anything like that of those of us who use the system in its many parts day after day. That is not to say that all the pieces of the puzzle are perfect but the perception, and with it the amount of information that is available to the traveler, are both vastly different. Believe me Jarrett, nobody here even looks at the logos.

Second, the system is, for the regular user, completely "unitized" by the fact that the great majority of us use the all bells and whistles Navigo fare card (which covers according to your menu of choice: bus, tram, metro, RER, commuter rail, Vélib public bikes, some commuter boats on the river, a funicular, and soon (if not already, I have not checked recently) carsharing. (And if I can get my way eventually taxis.) So that you really do have something that for most of us is in fact quite a bit better than owning and driving (and parking and finding and insuring and repairing and filling up the gas and wondering about our social-sexual identity ) cars.

Third, the future is grimacing at us, in the form of something called the Greater Paris Region ("Projet Grand Paris"). As you probably know the government has invited a number of propositions. The usual Google, Wikipedia tour will give you a taste of what is "happening", and if French is your tasse de thé http://www.actugrandparis.com/ and http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/portfolio/2009/02/20/dix-projets-pour-le-grand-paris_1158391_3244.html

The point in this last is that all of these actors, logos and all, are looking at a pretty foggy future. But those of us who have to get around here don't really thing about that.

Hope you find some use in all that.

Eric Britton – eric.britton@newmobility.org


Also did you notice that SNCF RER trains run on the left, same as the French national railway, while the RATP RER runs on the right, same as the metro and street running light rail.

This adds a further level of confusion to the visitor on platform assignment for different directions.

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