Trains, complaints and passenger woes

If you work in Monaco, the chances are that you'll be living in one of the cities or towns in the surrounding region. About 20% of the Principality's 45000 make the journey every day from Nice, and I used to be one of them. It was no surprise to me then, to read in the local Monaco Matin newspaper that the regional assembly are thinking of taking the French railway company SNCF to court over their inability to provide a reliable service.

Last year, 14000 trains were reported canceled, in other words, 8% of the service, and this wasn't just due to the strike action of railway employees. Lack of personnel and "technical problems" were also to blame. As a regular commuter, I used to share knowing looks with my traveling companions every time a train was canceled just before or after a public holiday, or when there were a couple of days of rainy weather. I got so fed up of the delays myself that two years ago I started using the bus to get to work. Even if the journey time is longer, I always got a seat, and I could use the extra time to read or work. The buses are regular, reliable, and cheaper for a single journey. This year prices have been reduced further so that it costs 1 euro from Nice to Monaco, compared to 3.70 euros with the train. Even a 34.70 euros monthly season ticket for the rail journey is not necessarily better value than the daily cost on the bus (and there are season tickets available for the bus too). Every week when I used the railway, at least one of my trains was canceled or delayed, resulting in what should be a 20 minute journey taking 2 hours. If you think I'm exaggerating, just take a look at the passenger blog set up by Eric Sauri.

Monaco's business leaders are fully aware of the problem. The government of the Principality has financed a further 5 trains, just so that its workforce can get into the office. There's a proposal to increase the regularity of the trains during rush hour to one every 15 minutes, something the buses have been doing for years. It's something that Monaco needs to actively support if residents and workers are to be encouraged to use public transport rather than cars, and to further the environmental initiatives of Prince Albert II.