Beziers to Clermont Ferrand IC

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peteb

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I note that as of today this is running as train Beziers to St Chely D'Apcher, then bus to Massiac, then train onwards to Clermont Ferrand. Train connection at Massiac back to Neussargues and from there onward connection by train to Aurillac and Brive. So viaduct du Garabit section still closed. Anyone know about traction on the route at present? The TER sets are really nice modern units but the IC usually runs as a 2 car 1980s emu covered with graffiti!!
 
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The French Railway Society have a piece in their February News (Scroll Down).

French Rly Soc


The end of the interminable saga of the Aubrac Express ?​


We reported last month that the railway line between Neussargues and Saint Chèly d'Apcher was closed on December 3rd after "faults" were discovered by an SNCF inspection vehicle. These "faults" (dérangements d'installation) have not been further described to the public nor repaired since that date.

Closure of this stretch of single track line (57 km) affects the only daily passenger train, the TET Aubrac express Clermont Ferrand - Bèziers. This train was originally created by SNCF in the summer of 1982 as a Corail express, targeted at tourists. It started at Paris Gare de Lyon combined with the Thermal express which was detached at Clermont-Ferrand for Le Mont Dore. The Aubrac continued to Neussargues with diesel traction. A second change of traction was operated there while passengers remained in their seats. The Corail train continued under 1500 volts to Millau and Béziers.

In 2006, the Aubrac express derailed near St Flour on a 30 km section of bullhead rails. Subsequently, a decision was taken to replace all such rails on the national network. But 15 years later, bullhead rails are still present on the Aubrac line, in particular on the 30 km section near St Flour.

In December 2007, the Corail carriages ( which at least gave substance to the word "express") were removed apparently due to the absence of suitable electric locomotives available on the Aubrac line. The train to Beziers started, thereafter, from Clermont-Ferrand. There followed 13 years of chaos as an incoherent set of different solutions was experimented to operate the Aubrac express. First, some X 73500 diesel railcars were borrowed from Nord Pas de Calais and operated in pairs or triplets all the way from Clermont-Ferrand to Béziers (390 km, about 6 hours in a rural railcar). After a few years, a change of trains was imposed at Neussargues and Z2 electric railcars were used on the Aubrac express. This equipment was the ultimate disgrace. The Z2 dated from 1982, boarding was up several steps and through a narrow door.

In December 2017, Occitanie agreed to share 50% of the costs to operate the daily TET Aubrac service while a permanent solution was sought. This arrangement for 2 years was extended as the solution proved elusive. It was elusive because all solutions reviewed required heavy expenditure on the infrastructure, track, overhead wires, signalling and rolling stock. Thus 3 years later, the Z2 is being withdrawn, and "faults" are widespread along the line. At this date, the Aubrac express is scheduled only until Feb 14th 2021. There is bustitution between Neussargues and Saint Chèly. It is supposed that there are arguments currently about what to do.

Below Left. Closure of the line managed to make the national lunchtime news at the end of January. Note the lovely clean Lio AGC that has arrived for the cameras compared with (right) the final Aubrac express, 21st century style, with Z2 No 7367, grubby and tagged
 

Bletchleyite

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I've thought about doing this, but I understand that as a through service it's normally a single-car DMU, so it's no more IC really than the Heart of Wales Line.
 

hexagon789

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I note that as of today this is running as train Beziers to St Chely D'Apcher, then bus to Massiac, then train onwards to Clermont Ferrand. Train connection at Massiac back to Neussargues and from there onward connection by train to Aurillac and Brive. So viaduct du Garabit section still closed. Anyone know about traction on the route at present? The TER sets are really nice modern units but the IC usually runs as a 2 car 1980s emu covered with graffiti!!
Seems to be mostly AGCs, though certainly Z7500s were common a few years ago but I believe many are now withdrawn though the Languedoc still has 3 allocated.

Bizarrely enough this is a line of have known about for at least 13 years through an article in an issue of Model Rail International which I still have! Back then the line still had some local hauled trains and the night train to/from Paris had only just been withdrawn.

It's a fascinating line, once a moderately important through route which had several double track sections and was electrified by the PLM, now it's gone rather the way of the Settle-Carlisle in its darkest days.

Unsurprisingly the line has apparently the least used station in France with 14 passengers per year - Les Cabrils!
 

eastwestdivide

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Hmph, I too had this on the to-do list, as a scenic way to visit the Millau motorway viaduct. I suppose it'll be the long way round now, fast train south to Béziers and then head north to Millau.
 

30907

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Hmph, I too had this on the to-do list, as a scenic way to visit the Millau motorway viaduct. I suppose it'll be the long way round now, fast train south to Béziers and then head north to Millau.
You might be able to go via Langogne and Mende, which is also spectacular, but the chances of finding workable train connections are slim.
 

Polarbear

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This line has been on my “to do” list for some time. I really hope that post pandemic, I will get the opportunity to travel its full length. I had planned to do the run from Beziers the last time I was in southern France, but that was thwarted due to a line closure at the time.
 

peteb

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I missed Garabit in 2019 due to train fail at Chirac and bustitution up the motorway on to Arvant. The usual train until Dec 2020 was the 2 car emu with graffiti as per French Rly Socs article, which is why I queried current motive power for the IC terminating at St Chely.

The line via Mende is well worth a journey: its the highest line at 1200m I think and has several snow shelters. There are some good drivers eye videos on youtube of this and the Clermont to Nimes line but I could not find any of the line south of St Chely towards Beziers. Plenty of Garabit viaduct of course. Lets hope the steel lorries revert to the train soon.

Theres a good webcam site for Millau viaduct, one may show trains running under?https://www.viewsurf.com/univers/tr...idi-pyrenees-millau-a75-viaduc-de-millau-nord
 
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Calthrop

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I had the good fortune to travel Beziers -- Neussargues (service then covered by single diesel railcar hired from Nord-Pas de Calais) -- and then on west, then north-east, from Neussargues -- in September 2012. Magnificent run B. to N. (spectacular throughout; in my opinion, oddly enough more so in the route's less-high-above-sea-level southerly reaches, than its further-north higher ditto); but I experienced overall, sad feelings of a one-time main line dismally come-down in the world, with an uncertain future, and utterly marginalised by the ever-burgeoning road system. Would love to return to those parts and cover Nimes -- Arvant (-- Clermont), and the La Bastide -- Mende -- Marvejols link; but it looks unlikely for various reasons, not solely pandemic-related.
 

peteb

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I agree that the southerly section between Bedarieux and Marvejols is the best scenically, and a pity that connection for Rodez at Severac now a bus. The 2 car electric train in 2019 appeared to have no problems with the gradients and kept up a steady 50 to 70 km/h, being severely checked on descents, all the time to the clickety clack of jointed rails.

Its reassuring that the majority of the line is still in use today, despite town to town journeys being quicker via bus and motorway. Luckily the northern non electrified section at Neussargues serves winter sports resorts and Aurillac so its future is assured. But the Garabit section at risk definitely unless steel coil traffic resumes.
 

Calthrop

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Boast boast -- on my 2012 travels, I managed to cover the Rodez -- Severac line. This struck one then, as having become something of a "ghost" undertaking -- half a dozen return workings daily over the route, were by bus, calling at numerous points en route: only three rail workings each way per day, these in semi-fast mode, calling only at Laissac; and Severac en route to / from Millau. On my Rodez -- Millau working, I made the acquaintance of a charming French railway enthusiast covering the line: he got talking with the railcar's guard -- whose "version" of French was incomprehensible to me; my fellow-gricer told me subsequently, that the guard expected these rail workings to be withdrawn in the very near future. Rather a "why are we not surprised?" situation...
 

peteb

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"Boast boast -- on my 2012 travels, I managed to cover the Rodez -- Severac line"

Lucky you, all buses now......
 

D6130

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I and a friend were lucky enough to be able to cover the whole line from Beziers to Neussargues and on to Clermont Ferrand in October 2005, the three Corail coaches being hauled by a BB 8500 electric as far as Neussargues and then a BB 67400 diesel for the last section. I recall that we had seriously under-provided ourselves with food and drink for the journey and during the sixteen minute stop at Neussargues, I left my somewhat anxious friend in the train to keep an eye on the luggage, while I dashed into the town to purchase a couple of cheese baguettes and a large bottle of mineral water. I made it back with about 30 seconds to spare! The "Ligne des Causses" was definitely the highlight of our French trip that year and the sight of the newly-opened Millau motorway viaduct, with the tops of its pylons hidden in the clouds, was absolutely incredible.
 

Calthrop

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That motorway viaduct is certainly impressive -- my French companion on the 2012 journey (we travelled together south down the Ligne des Causses till he alighted at Bedarieux; I overnighted at Beziers, then covered the full length of the line the day after, by the morning northbound railcar) -- a less blinkered and more balanced transport-fan than myself -- went into raptures about the viaduct. To be honest, all I could muster were feelings of "grudging respect for the enemy"; while wishing that it could be ninety years previously, with the whole damned idea of motorways still far in the future.
 

dazzler

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I had a trip northbound in the early 90s from Beziers all the way to Paris. Three Corail coaches, hauled by a BB9200** electric as far as Neussargues, where we reversed and a BB67000** diesel took us down to Clermont Ferrand. At Clermont Ferrand, the station pilot shunted our three coaches onto the back of the express to Paris (More Corail coaches and a BB7200 IIRC).

At this distance timewise, I can't really remember much about the journey, except the Viaduc de Garabit (one of the main reasons for doing the line) and that the climb out of Millau took ages. We absolutely crawled for miles/kilometres up this tightly curved climb that seemed to go on for ever.

** or some derivative thereof.
 

peteb

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I travelled on the loco hauled intercity train from Clermont to Neussargues in the late 80s, thence onto Aurillac by railcar, having already done Le Mont Dore route, now closed beyond Volvic. We chose to go via Figeac to Toulouse then onto Carcassone instead of via Neussargues, Beziers and Narbonne, mainly because the latter would have given a very late evening arrival. I regret that decision now of course!!

The Czech republic seems to have a fair few short loco hauled trains on cross country routes, so I'll be heading that way after lockdown.

Maybe we need another thread: "surviving short formation loco hauled services"?
 
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Rodez to Severac closed completely in 1988, and from 1980 had only been served by a single Lyon - Toulouse and return railcar in high summer. Unbelievably now, there had been a Paris - Millau sleeper via Rodez prior to that, whilst Millau was also served by the Beziers sleeper via Neussargues! The line was revived again in the noughties I think, thanks to the support of the region, but succumbed again due to the condition of the track. I attempted to travel on it in April 2013, overnighting in Millau - a miserable 'one-horse' town - only for the morning train to be replaced by a bus. The bus did follow, however, the 'main-line' to Severac and then on to Rodez very closely, so I've sort of done it!
 

185

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Can I reassure everyone, the track is fine, as the Garabit Viaduct is perfectly safe.

I'm sure there may have been a minor pandemic on board but we'll carry on.... :lol:

[image credit, the Cassandra Crossing, 1977]
 

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peteb

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Just googled that film, very prophetic! Good cast so I might look it up......
 

52290

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I traveled on the line in the 1990's a couple of times from Paris to Millau. The day train was at that time called Le Cevenol and was split at Clermont-Ferrand with, if I remember correctly, one portion going to Marseilles and the other to Bezier. I also recall there was concern about the state of the OHLE which was in need of renewal. It was rumoured that it would be de-electrified north of Millau, but the OLHE was renewed.
 

hexagon789

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I traveled on the line in the 1990's a couple of times from Paris to Millau. The day train was at that time called Le Cevenol and was split at Clermont-Ferrand with, if I remember correctly, one portion going to Marseilles and the other to Bezier. I also recall there was concern about the state of the OHLE which was in need of renewal. It was rumoured that it would be de-electrified north of Millau, but the OLHE was renewed.
Not only the OLE was renewed but some of the old continental 'bullhead'-style jointed track was replaced with modern CWR. Allowed a number of 40km/h TSRs to be removed and 75km/h running to be restored on some stretches.
 

30907

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Rodez to Severac closed completely in 1988, and from 1980 had only been served by a single Lyon - Toulouse and return railcar in high summer.
In June 1980 I missed using the amazing Lyon-Toulouse, but by leaving Toulouse at 0550 a friend and I made it via Rodez, Severac, Mende and La Bastide to Clermont, intending next day to do the Causses line to Beziers. Discovered next morning there was a strike, and the next train would be " demain, monsieur" (we went round via Gannat-Lyon instead).
However, sometime in the 90s I managed to do a complete circuit by tourist train from Millau, complete completely ith lunch and viewing stops - via Mende-Langogne-Arvant-St Flour-Garabit. Sadly it only lasted 1-2 seasons.
 
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peteb

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The above web link is a really good drivers eye video on youtube from Beziers to Millau on the Z2 emu (now withdrawn) filmed last autumn. The first 20 minutes are in the dark (!) but it gets light in time to see the hilly stretches. They seem to have invested in a lot of continuous welded rail recently!
 
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