WITH French Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot at the controls, TGV Réseau set No 531 achieved 354 km/h during a test run between Aix-en-Provence TGV and Valence TGV on January 17. SNCF President Louis Gallois and RFF Director General Jean-François Bénard were also present to mark the start of commissioning trials on the TGV Méditeranée, which is expected to be approved for passenger service before May 3. After a period of driver training, the 250 km line is due enter commercial service on June 10 with a top speed of 300 km/h.

With airline competition in mind, SNCF Managing Director, Passenger Services, Guillaume Pepy said that final timings, frequencies and fares for services over the new line to Marseille and Nîmes would not be announced until shortly before seat reservations open on April 10. The base scenario submitted to the government during the TGV Méditerranée planning process has fastest journey times from Paris of 3h to Marseille, 5h 33min to Nice and 3h 15min to Montpellier, with 16, six and 11 trains a day respectively. Services using TGV Méditerranée will serve a total of 140 destinations, and SNCF expects a 30% increase in passenger traffic or between 5 and 6million extra passengers from within the new line’s immediate catchment area, rising eventually to 23million.

Due to an ’unexpected’ 25% increase in TGV traffic over the last 12 years, Pepy said that there would not be ’enough trains to run all the services we would liked to have offered’. With 65 trainsets completed as of January 17, the entire fleet of 107 TGV Sud Est units should be refurbished in time for June 10, and 12 TGV Duplex sets are due to be delivered from December 2001. A further 22 will follow from December 2002 (RG 11.00 p695). n

CAPTION: Inset: Jean-Claude Gayssot (left), Jean-François Bénard and Louis Gallois at Valence TGV on January 17