“We all have this feeling that our future, like our history, is linked to this train”

The Paris-Limoges line seems to concentrate all the grievances. Friday, December 2, the derailment of a freight train in Issoudun (Indre) led to the interruption of traffic between Vierzon and Châteauroux. Initially scheduled for Monday, the resumption of traffic on the Brive-Limoges-Paris line was finally postponed to Thursday. A situation that never ceases to overwhelm users and elected officials, who are already very upset about the recurring problems observed on this axis.

“In one week, the SNCF canceled trains to Paris, [l’entreprise] Legrand threatens to leave Limoges, finally, a freight train derails and blocks traffic. All the elements do not merge, but the under-investment on the line is not tenable. We need a real plan for the train”thundered, in a tweetDamien Maudet, La France insoumise (LFI) deputy for Haute-Vienne. “This type of incident only reinforces the fact that we must invest in this line”outbids, with the Monde, François Avisseau (left), deputy mayor of Chantôme and departmental councilor of Indre, where he sits, among other things, on the commission for education and transport.

Modification of timetables without prior notice, difficult connection with Paris, trains canceled without explanation… this, according to Mr. Avisseau, is the daily life of users trying to travel between the capital and the prefecture of Haute-Vienne. And he’s not the only one to think so.

On November 28, the Legrand group, a giant in the manufacture of electrical equipment, based in Limoges, sent a letter to the SNCF – distributed in the pages of the Popular of the Center – and local politicians. Benoît Coquart, its managing director, explains that he learned there, “with surprise and exasperation”the modification of the schedules of Intercités trains on the line linking Limoges to Paris in three hours and fifteen minutes.

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An “unacceptable isolation”

The company, which employs 1,200 people, recalls being “the only CAC 40 company in New Aquitaine to have maintained its headquarters outside the Paris region” and indicates “to wonder (…) on the interest of continuing to locate in Limoges [leurs] teams »lamenting a rail link “deteriorating”. According to a Legrand representative contacted by AFP, this letter is similar to “a push” pour “bringing together public and private authorities on this issue of opening up” and denounce the suppression, in the morning, “6 hour trains”, leaving an empty slot from 5:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. to reach or come from Paris.

For Martine Irzenski, president of the Argenton-sur-Creuse station defense committee (Indre), the accident, Friday, December 2, in Issoudun came ” to crown it all ” : “Since Friday evening, we cannot go to Paris. This is a totally unacceptable situation for the people who are going to work, especially since no means of substitution have been put in place”she assures Monde.

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“We suffer from an unacceptable isolation to support ambitious policies of economic modernization”, explains the mayor of Limoges, Emile Roger Lombertie

Like the Legrand group, she castigates the lack of train in the morning in normal times: “It’s difficult to arrive in Paris before 9:30 a.m. On Saturdays, we don’t have a service that arrives before 3 p.m., and to go down to the South, users are forced to change at Limoges or Brive and wait a correspondence. “We suffer from an unacceptable isolation to support ambitious policies of economic modernization”reacted, for his part to AFP, the mayor Les Républicains (LR) of Limoges, Emile Roger Lombertie, who said “associate with the recriminations of Legrand”.

Mr. Avisseau says he fears that this isolation threatens, in the long term, “all local policies” supposed “improve attractiveness” territories served by the Paris-Limoges axis. “For a rural area like ours, the issue of the relationship with the capital is essential. Being two hours from Paris is an asset at a time when there is a movement of attraction for rural areas and when many city dwellers wish to settle in the countryside.he explains. If people cannot live here while continuing to go to work in the metropolises, Indre, which is already seeing its population decline and age, will continue on this dangerous slope. »

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Users attached to this historic axis

On Saturday, nearly three hundred demonstrators gathered in front of La Souterraine station, a town of five thousand inhabitants in the north of Creuse, served by the same line, to denounce the abolition, between November 2022 and March 2023, of the stop at 7:35 in the direction of Paris. Reason given by the SNCF: “de-icing operations”. “It is more certainly a question of setting up anti-icing devices to limit the unavailability of the line in the event of bad weather. This is very useful work in the long term”analyzes Cloé Chevron, infrastructure and mobility director for Egis Conseil, according to whom the public transport works programs are “planned three years in advance”.

Until the end of the 1980s, the Paris-Limoges-Toulouse was reputed to be the fastest train in France

“We are here in a classic case: the work is planned by SNCF Réseau, then notified to SNCF Voyageurs, which does not necessarily inform users”, she continues. Hence the mobilization of these users to obtain the preservation of this historic line and the stations it serves. Until the end of the 1980s, the Paris-Limoges-Toulouse was reputed to be the fastest train in France, linking Limoges to the capital in two hours and fifty-four minutes, before suffering a slow deterioration and becoming the target, locally, of recurring criticism.

“Historically, the train arrived quite early on our territories. We were lucky to be on the Paris-Toulouse route, an axis considered to be major. The train represented for us an opening up which contributed to the development of our tourist economy, to the reputation of the territory, to our cultural life »explains François Avisseau, who recalls the transition to the 19e century of “great artists”as “Monet, who came to paint the Creuse valley”. “We all have this feeling that our future, like our history, is linked to this train, and that it will be even more so in a XXIe century where the train is a transport of the future”he continues, citing in particular the issue of ecological transition.

The management of Intercités has indicated that it is “in continuous contact with the Legrand company and keeps them informed of the progress of the work in progress”. The common carrier “finishing studies” to allow stopping ” in the morning ” of two trains of the Brive-Paris line in the Creuse station of La Souterraine, he promised on December 4, without specifying the timetables, at this stage. A proposal worth “bandage on a wooden leg” and that “does not solve the basic problem”, denounced to AFP the LFI deputy for Creuse, Catherine Couturier, present at the demonstration on Saturday. She “calls for the restoration of the trains that have been removed for fifteen years”.

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Rural municipalities feel “removed”

In fact, local actors regret an insufficient investment with regard to the needs and ambitions of their territories. Martine Irzenski shares her ” Fed up “ to see the rural communities “completely ruled out” for the benefit of large cities. “There is a withdrawal of the State from all lines that are not high-speed. The POLT line [Paris-Orléans-Limoges-Toulouse] was not part of the improvement projects. »

“The Intercités lines are lines that don’t bring in a lot of money, unlike the TGV. There is a lack of interest in a financial question”believes François Avisseau, also pointing to a desire, on the POLT line, to reduce travel time “essentially for metropolitan areas”. For this, he explains, “We limit stops at intermediate stations. Which is hard for us to hear. We also want to take advantage of this progress.”

In 2016, a high-speed line project (LGV) Poitiers-Limoges, which planned to rally the two cities in two hours, was finally abandoned after a decision by the Council of State annulling the decree of declaration of public utility.

“At a minimum, we want the commitments made to be maintained. We are not fooled. We know that we will not have a high-speed line. Let us already be given a secure line”concludes Mr. Avisseau, invoking the still vivid memory of the train accident in Brétigny-sur-Orge (Essonne), in July 2013, which killed seven people.

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