Vivarais closure shock


Happier times – Chemin de fer du Vivarais in the 1960s

The Chemin de fer du Vivarais, arguably France’s premier narrow gauge railway, has announced that it is suspending operations. It seems that the line and its steam locomotives have failed to pass strict railway safety criteria. An attempt to keep services going during 2008 by importing a diesel locomotive from Poland came to nothing, because of the costs involved. The line is in deep financial difficulties. A translation of the official press release posted on the Vivarais website appears below.

PRESS RELEASE – April 10, 2008

The fate of the Vivarais Railway – a discussion with all partners.

The Vivarais Railway, a key element of the identity and heritage of the Ardeche region, is currently in real difficulties. Bearing in mind the importance of the railway in the economy of the region and the possible impact of any decision on the railway’s employees, the General Council – the majority shareholder of this private-public partnership company – invited all concerned stakeholders (local and other shareholders) to discuss the fate of the Vivarais Railway during a round table this April 10 at Privas.

Created in 2003, the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais management board faces a difficult situation:

– a recurring annual deficit because of the investment necessary to maintain the track and infrastructure,

– a considerable quantity of equipment under repair or awaiting movement,

– a new station must be built in the medium term in order to free up the aligment owned Reseau Ferre de France, between Tournon Saint-Jean-de-Muzols, that the SEM must return by 2011.

The General Council, a majority shareholder, has invested more than 2 million euros in the structure.

Despite all these efforts, the Vivarais is experiencing a real crisis.

Taking into account the elements of context and the history of the Vivarais, the chairman of the General Council, Pascal Terrace, wanted to analyse the situation along with the other players involved in the Mastrou (mayors of municipalities in Tournon, Saint-Jean – Muzols, Lamastre and Boucieu-le-Roi and other shareholders). Those present at the meeting reached a number of conclusions. These included:

– That safety is not negotiable and that the state of infrastructure and rolling stock is such that we cannot authorise operations,

– That it is technically impossible to resume the season with steam locomotives (which are the attraction of Vivarais). Operating without steam would be inconsistent with the information provided to customers, undermining the attractiveness, identity and the credibility of the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais,

– The 2008 season is heavily compromised.

It was these observations that lead the the partners who me ton April 10 to conclude that it would be impossibile to run the railway safety and, at the same time, meet customer expectations in full.

They agreed that there should be a pause in the railway’s operations. They also pledged to engage in a process of reflection, study and construction to define the conditions suitable for a subsequent resumption. This should be part of a project involving the various public and private stakeholders of the area so that the railway’s long-term viability and sustainability would be secure.

Vivarais Railway website.

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10 Responses to “Vivarais closure shock”

  1. Tony Smedley Says:

    It is a pity that the Vivarais cannot get financial assistance from the EU as did the WHR for its first phase

  2. Russell Hicks Says:

    Sacre Bleu

    Having been a rider on the Vivarais last year I can only say that it was one of the most enjoyable tourist railway rides in the world. The combination of scenery and masonry work that could not be duplicated now is irresistable. If this railway is not resurrected there is a great injustice present in the world.

    The prestige of France is at stake.

    Perhaps Paris Hilton could finally do something worthwile and undress on Boucieu le Roi platform. Heaven knows the bar keeper could do with the trade. I would make a similar offer but I’m not sure that the effect would be the same.

  3. dyspozytor Says:


  4. Dewi Morgan Says:

    It would be very sad to see line close for ever. In Wales we have many good tourist lines even a rebuilt line of over twenty miles. Come and see how the Welsh set up works, and most importantly
    get the E.U on your side. The tourist business is to big to loose for employment in all the towns and
    villages in the area near the line.
    I wish you all the very best of luck and hopefully I will be able to travel on your railway very soon


  5. Christopher Davis Says:

    I heard from a fellow enthusiast yesterday about the sad situation with the the Chemin de Fer du Vivarais. With goodwill and organisation I’m sure the railway can be revived.

    I have not yet visited this railway but have always considered the locomotives, rolling stock and location most attractive and had hoped to visit before I retire.

    May the railway be blessed with providence, good sense on the part of local and national authorities, and some money too!

    Best regards and good fortune in all the CFV’s endeavours


  6. Tony Smedley Says:

    Has anybody any recent news of the situation regarding the vivarais?


    • dyspozytor Says:

      All the telephone numbers that I had for the railway have gone dead. If anybody has any contact details for the support society please write to me – railfan [at] go2 [dot] pl.

  7. Jack Andrews Says:

    I have been a regular visitor and traveller on the railway and my wife and I stop at Tournon each year on our way through France just for this purpose. I am sure that a public appeal for cash would produce some cash for the necessary works and I would be glad to make a contribution.

    Any other participants please?

  8. claude harper Says:

    As a young boy, I travelled on the CFD in the Lozere, the sister railway to the Vivarais. The lines often exchanged stock between them. That line sadly closed in ’68, many parts including tunnels are still walkable.

    I rode the CFV in 2007 on a honeymoon trip, and was the most wonderful experience for both of us, and it’s so sad to know what is happening. The Mallets are unique and should be preserved as working locomotives at all costs, and the line whose construction was a remarkable achievement in itself considering the topography and the machinery that was available in those days, should be be kept up to working standards, as nature would be so quick to invade as it did upon the initial closure.

    I’ts a shame it has to come down to money, there are so many millionaires out there that could easily save this line, and if I had the money needed, I would gladly donate it.

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