A bit more about trains

17th August 2018

South of Boresse et Martron, Department of Charente Maritime, SW France

Yet another great location to overnight in, yesterday, near Barbezieux Saint Hilaire and having come away from that area today I am reminded just what a great area it was, in general, for quiet place to pull over into. Turn down any side road and you are literally spoilt for choice. However, the use of the word ‘was’ is deliberate as I think there can only be a small window of opportunity for such tranquility is in the relatively brief period of time that falls between the end of the cereal harvest and the start of the hunting season.

We dropped further south this morning, after our customary walks and food shop. and it wasn’t before long that we found ourselves back in the type of rural France that has a house or farm dotted about seemingly every few hundred metres - making a bit of unobserved seclusion to pull over into hard to find.

Consequently, we have travelled a bit further than I imagined we would today and have finally stopped here:

Google Maps
Latitude : 45.26397 (45° 15′ 50.3″ N)
: -0.11736 (0° 7′ 2.49″ W)
accuracy of signal : 4 m

We seem to be well away from any significant areas of conurbation but probably south of Boresse et Martron and definitely northeast of Bordeaux.

It was an unlikely choice of place to stop, but I found myself getting ratty from driving through indifferent countryside on crappy roads for too long so took what looked at first sight to be a new service road up to a very new and shiny pair of mainline railway lines with overhead electrics. There was a decent place to park the Jeep just off the actual service road, which we initially utilised, but a bit of walkabout revealed the new service road discretely feeds into an old granite surfaced road through farmland and bits of forest.

It’s a pretty decent location once immediately away from the service road the only drawback being a large, new and very hard to miss sign at it’s entrance proclaiming ‘Sauf Riverains’ or Residents Only - the residents, as far as I can tell, being a few rural/farm dwellings some distance from where we are with other small roads nearer to them to access the main road from which we emerged.

So, I have taken a chance and so far so good. An old, yellow ex post office van went by at the start of lunch but didn’t stop to bend my ear and I’m inclined to try our luck here tonight if we don’t get moved on before dark.

The railway is interesting. It all looks very new and my suspicions of that fact are confirmed by the complete absence of it on my 2011 edition of the Michelin Atlas Routier.

From what I can make out from google maps it certainly runs arrow straight southwest from here into Bordeaux and northwest of here, possibly towards Paris - but I can’t be certain of that as google maps only bothers to show the railway line at quite a close resolution and to swipe enough screens to find out exactly where it does go to the north is just too exasperating.

It’s an impressive railway line and certainly must have cost a good few million Euros to build and, presumably, it’s not cheap to run and maintain. It strikes me, therefore, that it could be utilised so much more than it is currently. Certainly, trains are going back and forth at reasonably regular intervals but it must only be working at a fraction of it’s potential capacity. From where I am I can only hear the trains not see them but my initial observations was that passenger trains predominate and I come back, again, to the question in my mind why more freight isn’t carried by rail.

In the UK I can kind of understand why, there is no bloody railway to speak of - and where it does exist it seems to creak and groan with the strain of even it’s current utilisation. Here in France, however, its a very different scenario. There appears to be a real 21st century rail infrastructure and the will to keep developing it - so why the poor utilisation particularly in respect of freight?

Perhaps I’m wrong - and I hope I am - and maybe a lot of freight is moved by rail in France but I just haven’t happened to see it, possibly because it’s peak vacation time and/or I haven’t been looking at the right railway lines?

But if I’m right in my observations that far too little freight is moved over a such world class railway network, preference instead being given to road haulage, then what hope is there for the UK of ever decongesting it’s roads?

Presumably, it’s simpler for powerful people to claw their cut of the cash from privately run road haulage firms than a national railway network and bugger the consequences for the poor old planet?

Or is just that railways are very bad at fulfilling their potential due to lack of commercial acumen?

A charmed life

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