AS PART of the preparations for the launch of commercial services on TGV Est on June 10, SNCF and DB AG signed a joint venture agreement on May 25 setting up a new subsidiary to manage the international services between France and Germany. Known as Alleo, the company will have its offices in Saarbrücken.

Marking the signing of the accord by SNCF President Anne-Marie Idrac and DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn, a TGV from Stuttgart and an ICE from Frankfurt staged a simultaneous arrival at Paris Est. 'There is no doubt that European rail has a brilliant future', claimed Mehdorn. He confirmed that the ICE3MF sets - which received full certification to run in France in March - will operate at 320 km/h on LGV Est Européen.

The Alleo co-operation accord is due to run until 2012, although this may be reviewed when the EU rules opening up international passenger services to competition comes into effect in 2010. Meanwhile, Idrac revealed on June 10 that the two railways were also looking at a possible partnership to strengthen their co-operation in the international freight market (p418).