Maintain or regenerate? How operators approach the “catching up” of rail infrastructure in the Île de France region

By Yassine Khelladi

The article analyzes the notion of infrastructure catch-up from a cross between the empirical observation of a railway program and the study of the theoretical field of maintenance & repair studies. It questions the notion of “regeneration”, a specific term used by the French rail infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau in the case of Île-de-France. The objective of this research is to show that the use of the word regeneration encompasses, beyond the technical update, a promise of reorganization of the critical interfaces between infrastructures, territories, and governance, but that this perspective more than technique is struggling to set up. The case study corresponds to the RER C, a long suburban train line subject to pronounced aging of its materials and equipment and to a fairly significant degradation of its “level of service”, i.e. its reliability and punctuality. The research method is based on around thirty semi-directive interviews carried out with line actors (technicians as well as decision-makers), and a corpus of planning documents. The article first introduces the empirical and theoretical framework. It shows in a second part how SCNF Réseau, involved in a very constrained institutional framework, constructs the term regeneration to individualize this area of activity from the field of railway maintenance. Finally, in a third part, it shows that regeneration brings new fragilities and that it struggles to respond to broader socio-territorial issues.

  • rail regeneration
  • urban regeneration
  • infrastructure
  • repair
  • degeneration
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