The 17km Cannes - Grasse railway line reopened to passengers on the 26th March 2005. This is part of a plan to improve services on the Riviera and to reduce the number of vehicle movements. Grasse has a population of approximately 45,000 people and is still regarded as the capital of the perfume industry. Many of the villages between Cannes and Grasse have developed in recent years, adding to the traffic congestion. The line presently serves four other stations - Mouans-Sartoux, Ranguin, La Frayere and Le Bosquet and there are plans to add two more at Plan de Grasse and Mougins. The line is mainly single track and is electrified.
The line was originally opened on the 13th November 1871 but was closed to passengers by the 30th March 1938 - not long after Lady Fortescue arrived in the area. The station at Grasse was much lower than the town and a funicular railway line linked the two. A limited freight service continued up until 1991. An attempt to re-open the line to passengers was made in 1978 with a locally financed railcar running a limited service between Cannes and Ranguin, the first train ran on the 28th May. The service continued until November 1995 but was withdrawn following the more than three week long rail strike that year.
The only activity in recent years has been the use of a short section of the line near Cannes which has been used by trains of new cars operating to a distribution depot at Mougins. Much of the rest of the line and infrastructure, particularly at Grasse, had fallen into disrepair.
Early share certificate showing some lovely artwork
Completion of the new line was delayed a number of times but it was finally energised in early March to allow testing to begin. The line was officially inaugurated by SNCF president Louis Gallois and Transport Secretary Francois Goulard on the 21st March 2005. Passenger services commenced on the 26th March 2005. The service will be operated by modern double deck EMU's and Grasse will see approximately 19 trains a day on weekdays. The service is roughly hourly. Most of the trains will continue on beyond Cannes along the coastal route to Nice and Ventimiglia in Italy.
SNCF forecast 4700 passengers a day will be carried - there are currently 100,000 car journeys made in the Cannes - Grasse region each day!
To read more about the re-building of the line follow the link here to visit the web site.
(July 2005: Unfortunately the new line suffered its first accident on the 30th June 2005 when the 08.33hrs departure from Mouans-Sartoux collided with a motor scooter on the level crossing close to the station. The rider was seriously injured and scooter destroyed.)
See the links below to the Chemins de Fer de Provence. This narrow gauge line, (still running between Nice & Digne), formerly passed through the olive groves at The Domaine.
An electric tramway also ran between Grasse - Cagnes sur Mer and was the subject of a dreadful accident in 1913.
Pictures - P.Riley