This video was made possible by Skillshare.Start learning for free for two months bygoing to skl.sh/hai30.Bonjour everyone and welcome to another episodeof Half as Interesting, the show that’s like if CGP Grey and a bad stand-up comedianhad a kid who read too many Wikipedia articles.
My name is Sam, and I’m going to talk aboutFrench trains in just a moment, but we’re beginning with a note from my writer Adam,because he knows I’ll just read whatever is put in front of me:“Hello audience, this is Adam, Sam’s very funny and extremely good looking writer. I’m here to let you know that Sam speaksFrench, and so in this video I have given him as many French words to say as possiblebecause Sam gets stressed out about pronouncing them perfectly, and I find that funny, oras the French might say, amusante.Au revoir, now mes amis.”
Alright monsiers et mademoiselles, now thatthat’s fini, let’s get started.The good news is, even if you don’t knowFrench, this should be easy to follow because a lot of words sound the same in English andFrench.hong kong hotels kowloon
They call trains les trains, they call railsle rails, and they call what happened to their trains and rails in 2014 stupide. See, it’s all very easy to comprendre. Our story begins in 2009, when les trainsand les rails were getting a bit run down, and so, faster than you could say un, deux,trois, the French government decided to spend $20 billion dollars, or dix-huit milliardsd’euros, to get a new fleet of sleeker, faster, roomier trains. Fantastique, you might think, but in fact,things were far from fantastique. You see, the French rail operator, RéseauFerré de France, is a separate operation from the train company, which is called SociétéNationale des Chemins de Fer.Now normally, I would abbreviate Réseau Ferréde France as RFF and Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer as SNCF, but instead I’mgoing to say their full names each time because Adam thinks that’s funny, I guess.
Back in 1997, the rail operator, whose name,again, is Réseau Ferré de France and the train company—again, Société Nationaledes Chemins de Fer—were all one company,which was also called Société Nationaledes Chemins de Fer.But in 1997, a new EU directive meant thatthe government had to split them up into two different government-run entities—one forles rails and one for les trains—and it was that separation that created the opportunityfor miscommunication.
But still, things should have been easy—itwasn’t like they had to play La Vie En Rose on a croissant; all the rail company, RéseauFerré de France, needed to do was tell the train company, Société Nationale des Cheminsde Fer, how wide to make the trains.The problem was, they took all their measurementsfrom train platforms built within the last 30 years, forgetting that the older platformsin rural areas were built to a different standard, and ran about 8 inches, or vingt centimètresnarrower than the newer ones. They then gave those flawed measurements tothe train company, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer. Fast forward a few years and voila, 2,000new trains had been completed, and the trains were beautiful—sleek, fast, roomy; everythinglooked like it would be magnifique—but that’s when they discovered that getting the newtrains into the older stations was like trying to stuff a baguette into a bottle of sauvignonblanc… they just wouldn’t fit.
To be clear, this wasn’t just a little mistake,it was a full-blown catastrophe.1,300 of the 8,700 stations in France—aboutone in seven—were too narrow for the new trains to fit into.At first the government tried to keep theirmistake a secret—but soon, the news was broken by the magazine Le Canard Enchainé,prompting cries of, “sacrebleu,” from the train makers, and cries of, “why isour government dumber than a bucket of escargot,” from all the French people.
Seeing as, “fitting into stations,” isone of the more important qualifications a train needs to check, alongside, “fittingon train tracks,” and, “not being an airplane,” the French government quickly got to workfixing the problem by shaving off the edges of the older, narrower platforms. It wasn’t a particularly difficult fix,just an expensive one. According to the Société Nationale des Cheminsde Fer, these repairs cost the French about $68.4 million dollars, or soixante millionsd'euros. For context, that’s enough money to buy7.1 million copies of Les Miserables on DVD, or buy 2.5 million plates of foie gras decanard mi-cuit at Au Pied de Cochon in Paris. But, if you’re heading on vacation soonto Paris or Bordeaux or even Montpellier, don’t worry: the platforms have been fixedand everything runs as smooth as a bowl of mousse au chocolate, and this French fauxpas feels as distant as déjà vu .
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