FRANCE: The transport ministry has approved routes for high speed lines from Bordeaux to Toulouse and the Spanish border, RFF announced on April 6, enabling the infrastructure manager to prepare for a public enquiry which is expected to start in mid-2013.

Granting of formal approval for the Grand Projet ferroviaire du Sud-Ouest at the end of 2014 would see 410 km of new lines opening in 2020.

The route has been selected following four years of consultation and studies that have seen alterations to over 40% of the original alignment. It would leave the existing Bordeaux - Toulouse line near Saint-Médard-d'Eyrans and run south and then east for 50 km to a triangular junction near Cudos. From here the 210 km Toulouse branch would run southeastwards to rejoin the conventional network at Saint-Jory north of Toulouse, passing to the south of Agen and Montauban.

The 240 km branch to the border would run south and then southwest to pass north of Mont-de-Marsan and Dax, passing south of Bayonne to meet the Spanish high speed network south of Irún. Between Dax and the border the alignment would be designed for mixed passenger and freight operation at up to 220 km/h, the design speed being 320 km/h elsewhere.

Coupled with the Tours - Bordeaux high speed line, GPSO would cut the fastest Paris - Toulouse journey time by 1 h to 3 h 10 min, and offer the prospect of Bordeaux - Madrid in 4 h once new infrastructure is completed in Spain. In France regional high speed services operating at up to 250 km/h are also planned, as well as new stations to serve Agen, Montauban and Mont-de-Marsan.