Following an initial trip on 26 March (SNCF transported some thirty intensive care patients on behalf of the French Ministry for Solidarity and Health), two further medical TGVs transported 36 patients affected by Covid-19 from Nancy and Mulhouse to Nouvelle Aquitaine on Sunday 29 March. See details of the first trip below.
Preparations and travel
Healthcare personnel boarded the train and medical equipment was loaded onboard at Paris Est station on the afternoon of Wednesday 25 March.
The patients were transported to the TGV from 6 am on Thursday 26 March for departure at around 11 am. A first group of patients were taken to Angers, where the train was expected to arrive at around 3.30 pm. The other patients travelled in the direction of Nantes, with an expected arrival time of around 6.30 pm.
Team effort at SNCF
The entire SNCF team mobilised efforts after receiving a formal request from the authorities on Monday 23 March.
SNCF Réseau worked to define the specific train paths the train needed to run on the Est and Atlantique railway axes.
At the Gare de l’Est in Paris, the trains were loaded with provisions by station agents, while security personnel supervised set-up procedures for healthcare staff and loading of medical equipment. The supervision team also ensured that the train was secure overnight and that patients and healthcare personnel were transferred in the station, with signposting put in place with the help of Gares & Connexions staff. The train had to reverse direction in Angers, with a shunter in charge of stabling it.
The train had a driver, relayed at Massy, a traction manager and two train managers on board. They were supported by two drivers from the TGV driver support centre. The patients were given respirators, and an electrical service engineer from SNCF’s “Technicentre Est Européen (TEE)” maintenance workshop was on board to manage the train’s electrical power supply. These personnel travelled as a unit in the non-medical carriage of the TGV in order to keep contact with healthcare workers and patients to a minimum. The agents had all of the protective equipment (masks, suits, goggles, etc) required in the event of an emergency. The train was fully decontaminated upon its return from Nantes.
Christophe Fanichet, Chairman and CEO of SNCF Voyageurs:
“As a large public service company, SNCF rallies to give the best of itself and answer the call when it is needed, both in good and in difficult times. SNCF teams are once again demonstrating their sense of duty and their ability to work together to enable this train to run. My deepest thanks to them”.
In addition, 12 coronavirus patients were transferred by French military helicopters from hospitals in eastern France to healthcare facilities in Auvergne Rhône-Alpes and Germany during the weekend of 28 to 30 March.