September 25, 2007

My RER Driver


RER A is one of the busiest train lines in the world. I overheard a woman telling her friend that a few weeks ago, when we were crammed into a carriage at rush-hour, trying not to lean on each other or inadvertantly touch bums or boobs. The RER is the overland rail network that links Paris to its suburbs. The French version of British Rail, if you like (only MUCH faster, far more efficient and reliable!)

I use RER A every Tuesday and Wednesday. I always catch the same train out (12h44) and the same train back (14h24) between Gare de Lyon and La Défense.

Last Tuesday, I was flying down the escalator to catch the 14h24, when the door signal went off and as I ran towards the first carriage, the doors closed. I threw the driver an imploring look, wherupon he opened the door to his driver’s booth and invited me in, saying that he couldn’t open the doors again, or there would be an onslaught of running people storming the doors.

And so it happened that I struck up a casual friendship with this driver, who answered all my questions about the functioning of the trains. He demonstrated the dead man’s handle and the emergency braking system and explained what all the knobs and buttons on the oversized dashboard are for. I also got the inside track on metro versus RER and scheduling details...

On Wednesday, I climbed into his booth again and the adventure continued. Next Tuesday and Wednesday he is off duty, but we have agreed that I shall just keep looking out for him and climb into the driver’s booth when he’s on duty and I’m catching his train, so I can get the best view and catch up on how his farm animals are doing.

In what I have learned is typical french culture, we have not exchanged names yet. That comes later - much later. I will let you know how long it takes me to earn the right to know my driver's name!

4 comments:

Mark said...

I remember catching a train from Brussels to Bruges and it was amazingly fast. What average speed does the RER go?

Is romance in the air, i mean on the rails?

Hollywoodgal said...

LOL! No romance on the rails, I'm afraid.

You probably took the Thalys from Brussels to Bruges, no? The TGV (Train de Grande Vitesse) as the French call it. That does over 220km/h.

The RER (Reseau Express Régional) is the regional express network and it's max speed is 140km/h, but in the Parisian tunnels it gets to between 60 & 100km/h, depending on the distances between stations etc.

And it apparently really is the busiest train line in Europe (the French language Wiki site says 'the world', the English site say's Europe... go figure!

(See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RER_A )

Mark said...

Yeah that must have been it, The TGV. It sure felt like it was going 200km per hour!

Dave said...

Thats insane!!! Some how I don't think this would have happened to a guy ;) pretty cool story though.....haha....

I have seen the trains in India and been on the trains in France and I'm willing to bet that there are different categories for "busiest", like most trains per hour, most number of people transported per hour etc.

The TGV is amazingly fast, been down to Bordeaux before and the countryside went by in a blur. Just checked yesterday and it only takes 3 hours to get to Marseilles from Paris!!