ON December 16 German Railway and French National Railways signed an agreement in Strasbourg to co-operate on several joint projects. The accord was initialled by SNCF President Louis Gallois and DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn, on his first day in office.

Among rolling stock proposals were plans to draw up a common specification for a 320 km/h European high speed train to be available from 2010; this would allow joint orders to be placed to achieve economies of scale.

The meeting confirmed that studies are in hand to determine if German ICE3 trains can run to Paris. This may be over TGV Nord and ultimately on the planned TGV-Est route, for which the two railways are examining rolling stock, service levels and fares structures. Financial arrangements for TGV-Est have now been finalised, and the Ministry of Transport would like a symbolic start of work later this year although major civil engineering work will not begin until autumn 2001. Opening is currently targeted for 2006.

From this summer overnight services between Paris, Dortmund, Hamburg, Hannover and Berlin are to be revamped using refurbished stock with showers; a statement from DB said that new stock would be available from 2001.

Also in the accord was agreement to institute common management of freight services between Germany and the Iberian peninsula in close co-operation with Spanish National Railways and Portuguese Railways.

H DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn said in January that it would be more economic for DB to upgrade the existing Berlin - Hamburg railway than to operate the proposed Transrapid maglev route. The upgrade would allow journey times to be cut to just 20min less than those forecast for the maglev service, but without the DM12bn cost.