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TGV heads east

01 Mar 2003

Civil works are now well underway on the first 300 km of new line between Paris and Strasbourg, due to open in 2007 when the best journey time between the two cities will be cut by almost half. Jean-Paul Masse reports on progress with the first high speed line project to be directly managed by infrastructure authority RFF

THE STORY of the high speed line that RFF now refers to as LGV Est Européenne starts in the mid-1980s, when a political decision was taken to extend the high speed network to eastern France, the only part of the country that was not due to benefit from the introduction of TGV services over the next 10 years. The problem was to find a way of financing construction of the line to Strasbourg, given that it was not likely to carry as much traffic as other high speed lines planned at that time.

The funding structure adopted for LGV Est Européenne reflects its character as a project undertaken in the longer-term national interest. While SNCF met the cost of building France's first high speed line from Paris to Lyon entirely from its own resources, and the public purse met 20% of the cost of TGV Atlantique, government at European, national, regional and local level is funding LGV Est Européenne to the tune of 75%.

Studies were commissioned by the Ministry of Transport and SNCF with the co-operation of the regions to be served, as well as the governments of Luxembourg and Germany. On April 1 1992 a 406 km route between Vaires-sur-Marne (23 km from Paris) and Vendenheim near Strasbourg was included in the national high speed master plan, and between September 16 and November 16 1994 a public enquiry took place in over 200 communes to be crossed by the new line. The project was granted its formal planning approval on May 14 1996, with the Declaration of Public Utility signed by the Prime Minister, the Minister and Secretary of State for Transport and, for the first time, the Minister of the Environment. One year later, RFF was born and took over from SNCF as the maître d'ouvrage for the project, responsible as the future owner for arranging finance and letting construction contracts.

On January 29 1999 it was decided to go ahead with building the first phase of the project, 300 km of new line from Vaires-sur-Marne to Baudrecourt, plus 44 km of connections to the existing network. There are no less than 327 bridges or viaducts (221 over roads, 20 over railway lines and 57 over rivers or canals), but only five short sections totalling 900m where the route is covered. Tracklaying will require 1288 km of rail as well as 3·1million tonnes of ballast, and materials are already being stocked on the site of a disused marshalling yard at Vaires. Three construction bases are to be established at Ocquerre, Saint Hilaire-au-Temple and Pagny-sur-Moselle.

Serving the regions

Securing funding for the new line was not an easy task. Many local authorities were in favour of the project, but who was going to pay for it was another question, given that the return on investment was going to be much lower than in the case of the Paris - Lyon high speed line. For the first time, new railway construction is being financed by the state, the regions and local authorities, with contributions from the European Union, Luxembourg, RFF and SNCF. Expenditure to date has included the purchase of 2900ha of land.

All being well, in 2007 trains will be running over the new line at 320 km/h to connect Paris with Luxembourg in 2h 15min, and with Strasbourg in 2h 20min. And thanks to a junction at Annet-sur-Marne/ Claye-Souilly where the new line crosses the TGV Interconnexion avoiding Paris, the new Lorraine station near Metz will be 1h 45min from Lille and 3h 50min from Rennes and Nantes.

LGV Est Européenne will have three intermediate stations: Champagne-Ardenne, near Reims; Meuse, on a greenfield site between Verdun and Bar-le-Duc; and at Lorraine, which will be located either at Vandières, where the new line crosses the existing Metz - Nancy route, or near the village of Louvigny. The Vandières site was not examined by the public enquiry, but would be the better choice in terms of traffic. It would provide interchange with conventional trains such as Metz - Nancy Métrolor services.

There will be junctions between LGV Est Européenne and the existing network at Reims for services to Charleville-Mézières, at Vandières for Metz, Thionville, Luxembourg and Nancy, and at Baudrecourt for the existing main line to Strasbourg and to the line towards Saarbrücken, Mannheim and Frankfurt am Main. Alongside the construction of the new line, the existing routes to St-Dié and Remiremont are being electrified (RG 6.00 p380). The line itself will be fed by five 2 x 25 kV 50Hz substations. The existing route from Strasbourg to the bridge across the Rhine will be upgraded to improve connections with the DB network, but the bridge itself will remain single track.

Minimising impact

Compared with the high speed lines to Lyon and Marseille, civil works for the first phase of LGV Est Européenne should present few difficulties, with no bored tunnels as the route traverses hills rather than mountains. The second phase from Baudrecourt to Vendenheim near Strasbourg will be rather different, as the new line will have to cross the Vosges mountains between the Moselle valley and the Alsace plain. The high speed line will take a different route to the existing main line to Strasbourg, which follows the path of the canal between the Marne and the Rhine.

Civil works on the first section were formally launched by the then Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot on January 28 2002. Following the ceremony the archaeologists began their work along the route, with actual construction starting last summer. The 300 km route has been divided into six sections (A to F), each divided in turn into lots. Each section is the responsibility of a different project manager or maître d'oeuvre. Sections G and H cover the second phase from Baudrecourt to Vendenheim.

In August 2002, construction started at the future junction between the existing Paris - Strasbourg line and the high speed line, 23·7 km from Paris Est. Flyovers will be built here, and a road bridge over the main line will also be rebuilt. The new line then crosses the N34 road and the A104 orbital motorway, which at that point is six lanes wide. This is also a residential area, so noise barriers and other structures will be provided to reduce operational noise.

Structures have been carefully designed to blend in with the landscape and, as with other recent high speed lines, great care is being taken to minimise the impact on local residents and their environment. RFF has five guiding principles which seek to minimise the impact of the new line on water quality, noise levels, landscape and bio-diversity, and to ensure that construction debris and other waste materials are disposed of properly.

Work has started at Claye-Souilly, Annet-sur Marne and Fresnes-sur-Marne on structures for the junction between LGV Est Européenne and TGV Interconnexion. Spurs will enable trains from the east to head north and south. At this point and in rather hilly country, the new line also crosses the four lanes of the N3 highway.

On the next 27 km section between Ocquerre and Verdilly, there are no less than 26 structures, including three of some size. First is a 450m viaduct above the Beuvronne and Ourcq rivers, which will be in steel and concrete. At Ocquerre a cutting will be covered over to minimise the visual impact of the new line, and nearby a construction base will be established. Ballast and other materials for the railway equipment phase will be brought in via a temporary spur from the existing Meaux - Reims route. A 165m viaduct is being built at Orxois over the A4 motorway, which the new railway then follows for some distance. On the next 40 km section, there will be 200m of cut and cover under the A4 at Courmont, and two viaducts of 60m and 80m designed to minimise impact on the Montagne de Reims regional nature park.

Beyond Reims, three main structures are being built, including bridges over the existing lines from Châlons-en-Champagne to Reims and Verdun. To avoid disrupting road traffic, the two concrete beams for the 100m viaduct across the A4 will be poured on site and then launched into position across the motorway over two consecutive nights. On the next section between Tilloy-et-Bellay and Nubécourt, two major structures will be built to cross minor roads. The longest structure will be the 480m Jaulny viaduct, crossing the valley of the Rupt de Mad river south of Metz and close to the junction with the existing Metz - Nancy line. It is expected to cost €20·7m to build.

Earthworks will require 12million tonnes of material to be brought to the work sites, 70% of which will move by rail. Another 49 million m3 must be removed, of which 34 million tonnes will be used to create embankments and 21 million tonnes will be disposed of in tips.

More tracks to Paris Est

Work at Paris Est in preparation for the arrival of high speed services will include the installation of new train departure boards. Platforms will be dedicated to international and domestic high speed services, as well as the proposed CDG-Express airport rail link (RG 7.00 p401). Although a long-term project on which work has yet to start, CDG-Express is expected to generate an additional 6 million passengers a year at Paris Est, compared with the 5 million arriving or departing on high speed services.

Following work for RER Line E, the track layout at Paris Est and on its approaches will require few changes to accommodate the high speed services, although a dive-under 1·5 km from the station, which enables trains to cross from the arrivals side to the eastbound main line, is to have its second track restored. An additional fast line will be laid between the tunnel and the Pantin flyovers built for RER Line E, although this work has yet to start.

Work did begin last October on a 27000m2 TGV maintenance depot within the existing facility for hauled coaching stock at Pantin. It is expected that 95% of the fleet for the new line will be serviced at peak periods, and the depot will accommodate 60 trainsets. Equipped with inspection pits on three tracks, the new depot, funded by SNCF, will cost €194m.

Work is also underway at Chelles, where the embankment is being widened to accommodate six tracks. Two extra slow lines with platforms will be laid, releasing the centre tracks (whch will lose their platforms) for the high speed services. Construction of a new retaining wall began last autumn, and the existing station building has been replaced by a prefabricated ticket office. At Vaires the extra tracks will require the station platforms and footbridge to be rebuilt, as well as a road bridge.


Construction management

Owner (maître d'ouvrage) RFF

Project manager (maître d'oeuvre), railway equipment SNCF

Project managers, civil works:

Section A Vaires - Château-Thierry 63 km SNCF and Simecsol

Section B Château-Thierry - Taissy 56 km ISL

Section C Taissy - Tilloy-et-Bellay 47 km Tractebel and Coyne & Bellier

Section D Tilloy-et-Bellay - Bannoncourt 63 km SNCF and Simecsol

Section E Bannoncourt - Vandières 43 km Scetauroute and Setec

Section F Vandières - Baudrecourt 30 km SNCF and Simecsol

Section G Baudrecourt - Danne-et-Quatre-Vents 71 km SNCF and Simecsol

Section H Danne-et-Quatre-Vents - Vendenheim 35

Financing the first stage, €m at 1997 prices

French government 1219·59

European Union 320·14

Luxembourg 117·39

Ile-de-France region 76·22

Champagne-Ardenne region1 124·25

Lorraine region2 253·83

Alsace region3 282·03

SNCF 48·94

RFF 682·82

Total 3125·21

1. Includes contributions from city of Reims and district plus départements of Ardennes and Marne 2. Includes contributions from départements of Meuse, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle and Vosges.3. Includes contributions from cities of Colmar, Mulhouse and the greater Strasbourg district, plus the départements of Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.

  • CAPTION: Above: The junction with TGVInterconnexion takes shape at Claye-Souilly
  • CAPTION: Work proceeds in the Vallée de l'Ardre
  • CAPTION: Above: Widening of the cutting at Vaires where the new line will diverge from the existing main line
  • CAPTION: Above right:Earthworks will require the removal of 49 million m3 of material

Three-system power cars ordered

On January 29 SNCF notified Alstom of a €188m order for 30 power cars for LGV Est Européenne. To be married up with 15 eight-car sets of renovated TGV Réseau trailers, they will incorporate a new traction package with IGBT technology and asynchronous motors. They will accept power at 25 kV 50Hz, 15 kV 162/3Hz and 1·5 kV DC.

The trains will be equipped with signalling and train protection equipment currently used in France, Germany and Switzerland, as well as with ERTMS - through services from Paris via LGV Est Européenne will reach München and Zürich. Maximum speed in France will be 320 km/h. Construction will be shared between Alstom's factories in Aytré, Belfort, Le Creusot, Ornans, Tarbes and Villeurbanne, with deliveries starting in October 2006 for completion by the end of 2007. A pre-production trainset will carry out performance and certification tests on the French, German, Swiss and Luxembourg networks - the test programme is expected to last more than 12 months.

The order forms part of a master agreement allowing SNCF to exercise options for up to 31 more power cars.


TGV heads east

Civil works are now well underway on the first 300 km of new line between Paris and Strasbourg, due to open in 2007 when the best journey time between the two cities will be cut by almost half. A year after the formal start of construction, Jean-Paul Masse reports on progress with the first high speed line project to be directly managed by infrastructure authority RFF. Projected to carry 5 million passengers a year, the line offers a lower rate of return than earlier schemes, but its strategic importance means that government bodies at European, national, regional and local level are providing around 75% of the anticipated €3·1bn cost

Cap à l'Est pour le TGV

Les travaux de génie civil vont maintenant bon train sur la première section de 300 km de ligne nouvelle entre Paris et Strasbourg, qui doit être mise en service en 2007, date à laquelle le meilleur temps de parcours entre les deux villes sera pratiquement divisé par deux. Une année après le démarrage formel de la construction, Jean-Paul Masse fait le point sur la progression du chantier de la première ligne nouvelle à être directement sous la responsabilité du gérant de l'infrastructure RFF. Conçue pour transporter 5millions de voyageurs par an, la ligne offre un retour sur investissements inférieur a celui des projets précédents, mais son importance stratégique signifie que les instances dirigeantes aux niveaux européen, nationaux, régionaux et locaux couvrent environ 75% du coût estimé à 3·1 milliards d'euros

Der TGV geht nach Osten

Die Arbeiten an den Kunstbauten der ersten 300 km der neuen Linie zwischen Paris und Strasbourg, welche 2007 er?€?ffnet werden soll, und die schnellsten Fahrzeiten zwischen diesen Städten halbieren wird, sind gut fortgeschritten. Ein Jahr nach dem offiziellen Spatenstich berichtet Jean-Paul Masse über den Fortschritt der ersten Hochgeschwindigkeitsstrecke, welche direkt durch die Infrastrukturbeh?€?rde RFF abgewickelt wird. Die für 5 Millionen Reisende jährlich geplante Strecke wird einen geringeren Ertrag aufweisen, als frühere Projekte, aber deren strategische Bedeutung hat zur Folge, dass der Staat, auf europäischer, nationaler, regionaler und lokaler Ebene für rund 75% der auf 3·1 Milliarden Euro geschätzten Kosten aufkommen werden

El TGV mira hacia el este

Actualmente, los trabajos de ingeniería civil progresan a buen ritmo en los primeros 300 km de nueva línea entre Paris y Strasbourg, con apertura prevista para 2007, fecha en la que se recortar? casi a la mitad el mejor tiempo de viaje entre las dos ciudades. Un año después del comienzo formal de las obras, Jean-Paul Masse informa del progreso del proyecto de la primera línea de alta velocidad que ser? gestionada directamente por la sociedad de infraestructuras RFF. Proyectada para transportar 5millones de pasajeros al año, la línea ofrece una tasa de retorno menor que en los primeros planes, pero su importancia estratégica ha hecho que los organismos públicos de ? mbito europeo, nacional, regional y local proporcionen alrededor de un 75% del coste previsto de 3100millones de euros