A LETTER of Intent setting out terms for the operation of TGV Est Européen was signed in Strasbourg on May 23 by SNCF President Louis Gallois and DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn. Also present at the event were the then French Transport Minister Gilles de Robien and his German counterpart Dr Manfred Stolpe.

The agreement envisages five daily Paris - Saarbrücken - Frankfurt trains and four from Paris to Stuttgart via Strasbourg from the opening of the first section of TGV Est in mid-2007. With journey times of 3h 45min and 3h 40min respectively, the TGV POS and ICE services are expected to carry 1·5 million passengers a year.

The accord also envisages further co-operation on international freight traffic; Mehdorn commented that around 100 trains a day currently pass between the two countries. The plans build on an existing agreement between Railion and Fret SNCF where 40 locos and drivers are allocated to a common pool for cross-border services.

From January 2006 supervision of these services will transfer to a new 50:50 joint venture company, RailEuroConcept, which will be based in Saarbrücken. REC is subsequently expected to take responsibility for operating selected traffic flows.