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High speed: TGV Est set to hit the headlines in June

01 Dec 2006

THE STAGE has been set for another chapter to be written in the 25-year history of France's TGV network. When the first 300 km of TGV Est between Vaires-sur-Marne and Baudrecourt opens on June 10, Strasbourg and around 20 other major towns and cities in eastern France will be connected to the high speed network. Paris will be just 2 h 20 min from Strasbourg with 25 services a day in each direction, while trips between the capital and Nancy or Metz will take just 1 h 30 min.

Built at a cost of €3·5bn, TGV Est will bring equally dramatic acceleration to services between Paris and Luxembourg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Basel and Zürich (Table II). Frankfurt services will be worked by German ICE3 trainsets, which will carry passengers in commercial service for the first time on French metals at 300 km/h. The planned timing for the one through train a day between Paris and Frankfurt will be 4 h 4 min.

By 2010 SNCF expects to carry 11 million passengers a year on TGV Est services, 3·5 million more than at present. Mireille Faugère, Director, Voyages France-Europe, believes the impact of the new line will be immediate, with a 40% increase in traffic after just 12 months.

This is partly because a broad swathe of new services will be launched right at the start - in marked contrast to the gradual build-up on TGV Méditerranée, for example. A Paris - München service worked by TGV POS trainsets will be added in December 2007, together with two more through services a day to Frankfurt, and the 2008 timetable will bring further additions.

Marketing targets will include those who have be en lured by the low-cost airlines, and to this end SNCF plans to launch its low-cost iDTGV services from Paris to Mulhouse and Strasbourg during 2007.

The French government has also committed to making a start on the second section between Baudrecourt and Strasbourg by 2010. This will add another 106 km to the high speed network and probably cut the Paris - Strasbourg timing below 2 h. Cost of the second section will be €1·5bn.

Perpignan - Figueres

Currently, two other high speed lines are under construction in France at the same time as TGV Est. One is the 44·4 km international route from Perpignan to Figueres in Spain, due for completion in February 2009. The alignment includes the 8·3 km Perthus tunnel which takes the line across the frontier. Once in Spain, the line connects with the final section of the high speed standard gauge route from Madrid, which will allow trains from Perpignan to reach Barcelona in just 50 min. The line is different from all other TGV lines in France as it is being built under a concession and is also designed to handle freight traffic.

TGV Rhine-Rhône

The other high speed line now under construction is TGV Rhine-Rhône. Studies for this line date back to 1992, leading ultimately to a Declaration of Public Utility 10 years later. Negotiations continued until December 2003, when the government gave a commitment to start work in 2006.

This is the first TGV route to be built that does not serve Paris, and it is set to play a key role in inter-regional and international travel. Running on a northeast-southwest axis roughly parallel with the Swiss border, it will accelerate domestic trips between eastern France and the Mediterranean and also from southern Germany and eastern Switzerland to Dijon, Lyon and the south of France.

A Lyon - Mulhouse trip will be cut from 3 h 45 min to 2 h 25 min in 2012, with Besançon - Marseille coming down from 4 h 15 min to 3 h 35 min. More dramatic would be a Dijon - Strasbourg journey where 2 h will be shorn from the current timing of 3 h 35 min. Similarly, SNCF cites a Dijon - Frankfurt journey where a full 3 h will be sliced off the present 6 h 30 min trip.

A complex package of funding arrangements that includes a k66m contribution from Switzerland (Table IV) was signed and sealed on July 3, permitting Transport Minister Dominique Perben and RFF President Michel Boyon to stage a start of work ceremony immediately afterwards at Les Magny, near Villersexel in the Haute-Saône region.

The first of three stages is now under construction. Linking Villers-les-Pots near Dijon with Petit-Croix near Mulhouse, the 140 km route carries a €2·3bn price tag. Civil work is scheduled to be sufficiently advanced to allow installation of railway equipment to commence early in January 2009 with a view to completion at the end of 2011.

Stations will be built at Auxon-Dessus, 10 km from Besançon, and at Meroux, 15 km from Montbéliard and 10 km from Belfort each station is forecast to handle 1·1 million passengers a year.

Apart from the connections to the existing network at Villers-les-Pots and Petit-Croix, a junction will be built near Besançon, with the Bescançon - Devecey line electrified and upgraded. A chord is to be constructed at Perrigny near Dijon to permit trains from Alsace, Lorraine or Franche-Comté to continue towards Lyon without calling at Dijon. Civil works include 160 bridges and 12 viaducts and one tunnel.

Around 40% of the line runs through forested areas, requiring special attention to minimise disturbance to wildlife and habitats environmental protection measures are costed at k4·6m.

Progress with the southern and western arms of the project is much less advanced, and funding has not been agreed. The western branch would run from Genlis near Dijon through the centre of Dijon with high speed infrastructure built from a point north of Dijon to Turcey, where there would be a junction with the former PLM main line. Only at a later stage would a further westward extension be built to connect with the TGV Sud-Est line.

Agreement has been reached with the town of Dijon that a new station will be built at Porte Neuve, and the project was approved by RFF on May 11 this year, after which the dossier was to be submitted to the Ministry of Transport.

No alignment has been agreed for the southern branch, which is likely to be built to carry both passenger and freight traffic. Initial plans call for it to be linked to both the eastern and western arms between Dole and Dijon, then passing between Louhans and Lons-le-Saunier to allow Bourg-en-Bresse to be served. At its southern end the route would feed into the Paris - Sud-Est line. Studies into traffic forecasts and links to existing lines began early this year.

Further extensions

The present French government has given a commitment to build 900 km of line over the next 10 years. Despite the existence of a first class main line that already permits 200 km/h over long sections, plans are firming up for a TGV line from Tours to Poitiers, Angoulême and Bordeaux (Table III). Beyond Bordeaux branches are envisaged running southeast to Toulouse and south to the Spanish border. The attraction for Toulouse is a timing of around 3 h to Paris compared with 5 h at the moment, with Toulouse - Bordeaux services taking just 1 h. The branch to the Spanish border is intended partly to make rail more attractive for international freight services and options include laying two extra tracks next to the existing route. Of special interest is the French government's intention to award the Sud-Europe-Atlantique project to a concessionaire - the government indicated in September that tenders could be called before the end of the year.

The present gap between TGV Méditerranée and the line being built from Perpignan to Figueres will be partly bridged by the Nîmes - Montpellier bypass, and a package of upgrading measures costing €150m would provide some improvements between Montpellier and Perpignan, where a complete new line is envisaged in the long term. This would allow the 200 km between the two towns to be covered in around 45 min, at the same time opening up the possibility of a 4 h 30 min timing from Paris to Barcelona.

In the northwest plans are moving steadily ahead to build an extension of the TGV Atlantique line from Connerré near Le Mans to Laval and Rennes, with a branch west of Le Mans linking into the line to Angers and Nantes. RFF is at present discussing financing options with the government, SNCF and the regions of Bretagne and Pays-de-la-Loire with a view to work starting in 2009.

In the far south the Marseille - Nice TGV route has generated considerable controversy, with debate focusing on inland and coastal routes and a possible branch to Toulon. The multiple objectives of improving transport links within the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, providing better access to other parts of France and accelerating international services from Italy towards Spain are proving difficult to reconcile.

  • CAPTION: Test running on a 200 km section of TGV Est began on November 13
    Photo: J P Masse

Table III. TGV projects planned



Tours - Angoulême - Bordeaux

302 km, €4·9bn

DUP for Angoulême - Bordeaux expected shortly

Public enquiry for Tours - Angoulême in 2007

Envisaged as a concession project, with tenders due to be called late 2006


Sud-Europe-Atlantique extension to Toulouse


Bordeaux - Toulouse

250 km, €2·8bn to €3·3bn

Studies in hand


Sud-Europe-Atlantique extension to Spanish frontier


Bordeaux - Dax - Hendaye

225 km, €3·5bn to k4bn

Public consultation began August 30 2006


Bypass round Nîmes and Montpellier


80 km, €1bn

DUP received May 16 2005 tenders may be called by the end of 2006


Montpellier - Perpignan link


200 km, no cost available

Initial studies with public consultation planned for 2008


Bretagne - Pays-de-la-Loire


Connerré - Laval - Rennes

180 km, €2·2bn

Public enquiry carried out from May to July 2006 work to start in 2009


Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur


Marseille - Nice

185 km, €5·6bn

Initial studies of several possible routes completed more studies planned


Poitiers - Limoges


100 km, no cost available

Public consultation began September 1 2006


Lyon - Torino


Lyon - Bussoleno

200 km, including 52 km base tunnel on frontier section. €13·7bn, of which €6·7bn for base tunnel.

French access route agreed February 2006. Public enquiry for section from St-André-le-Gaz to border undertaken in May to June 2006 and DUP expected in 2007. An agreement between the French and Italian governments provides for work to start by 2010