France - report + slideshow

Louis XIV railway carriages take to Paris-Versailles line

Christophe Recoura/SNCF

Possibly the most glamorous local railway carriages in the world started operating on Wednesday between Paris and Versailles. They may look like any old beat-up railway train on the outside but inside they are decorated with reproductions of interiors from the royal château of Versailles.


For the modest price of a local network ticket passengers travelling to Versailles, just outside Paris, will have a décor fit for a king.

Slideshow: Inside the RER C

The first of five carriages decorated with reproductions of the château’s world-famous royal apartments built by Louis XIV, Louis XVI’s library and similar sumptuous scenes started running Wednesday. The others will all be in operation by the end of the year.

The line carries 550,000 passengers every day, 10 per cent of the regional network’s traffic, partly thanks to tourists visiting the Sun King’s palace.

Unfortunately, its confusing layout means that many end up in Versailles’ other station, Versailles-Chantiers, which is some distance from the palace and its gardens, or even in the gritty northern outskirts of Paris, which have no known royal attributes.

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So the local rail network has inserted the word Château into the name of the right station, Versailles Rive gauche and added the extra charm of carriages which are also travelling artistic reproductions.

The decorations are not expected to satisfy complaints about the trains’ punctuality or overcrowding during rush hours but officials hope that their beauty will discourage vandalism. Just in case its doesn’t, their tag resistant and damaged panels should be replaced within two years.

The network’s employees will not be required to wear powdered wigs.

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