ON FEBRUARY 2 SNCF announced details of services planned over the TGV Est Européen line when it opens on June 15 2007.

In contrast to other French high speed lines where there has been a gradual build-up, TGV Est Européen will offer frequent services from day one with 85% of the full service in operation. Around 95% will be running by the end of 2007, with a few trains added during 2008 to complete the package.

SNCF has agreed the level of services following a detailed nine-month study commissioned from civil engineer Claude Liebermann by a project steering committee of RFF, SNCF and local government representatives. The study analysed traffic potential, journey times and the benefits to passengers.

Using a fleet of 51 trainsets able to run at 320 km/h, TGV Est Européen will provide direct services to 32 destinations, one-third of which are outside France. Headline timings for domestic services will see Strasbourg brought within 2h 20min of Paris, with 25 services a day in each direction. Metz and Nancy will be reached in 1h 30min, and a Paris - Reims trip will take just 45min.

Luxembourg will be 2h 15min from Paris, with Paris - Frankfurt-am-Main trains taking 3h 45min. Saarbrücken will be just 1h 50min from the French capital, with Paris - Basel trains taking 3h 30min. A Paris - München service will take 6h, with a call at Stuttgart, which will be 3h 50min from Paris.

Inter-regional services

While most services will run to and from Paris Est, SNCF plans a number of inter-regional trains offering direct links to other destinations around the capital: Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, Marne-la-Vallée and Massy. Lille - Strasbourg services will complete the trip in 3h 30min, while direct trains will also run from Alsace to Nantes and Rennes, with timings from Strasbourg of around 5h. There will also be a direct Bordeaux - Strasbourg service.

Regional authorities in eastern France have been keen to ensure that a large number of destinations are given good connections in and out of the high speed services. Assuming a connecting time of 15min, Paris - Sélestat will take 2h 55min with a change in Strasbourg, Paris - Givet 3h with a change at Reims, and Paris - Pont-à-Mousson 2h 07min with a change at Nancy.

SNCF expects the new line to carry 11 million passengers a year, around 65% more than current traffic to and from the areas served by the line. Shorter journey times are expected to be a major draw, and 21 out of the 32 locations served will have timings cut by at least one-third compared with present schedules.

Three tracklaying depots

The line has been designed for a maximum line speed of 350 km/h, although when it opens the highest permitted speed will be 320 km/h. Overspeed testing at 360 km/h is envisaged.

Tracklaying and installation of railway equipment is being carried out from three bases, at Ocquerre, Vadenay-Saint Hilaire-au-Temple and Pagny-sur-Moselle. Each is handling work over a 100 km section, and the timescale calls for the line to be handed over for test running by the end of 2006.

The site at Vadenay opened last October, and February saw the other two sites come into use. Tracklaying from Vadenay has been progressing at around 1200m a day, with four ballast trains every working day delivering about 5000 tonnes; these are hauled by Class 56 and 58 locomotives hired from English Welsh & Scottish Railway in the UK. A total of 3·2 million tonnes of ballast will be required, together with 1300 km of 60 kg/m rail. About one million twin-block sleepers are needed; Nabla fastenings are being used over most of the line, the exception being a 40 km section near Vadenay where Pandrol Fastclips are being installed. Around 12000 catenary masts are being erected.


The line will have three new stations. The first is located at Bezannes, 5 km south of Reims, and this will be known as Champagne-Ardenne TGV. A short link is under construction between Reims and the new station so that local trains can connect in and out of the high speed services. A second station called Meuse TGV will be built at Trois-Domaines, about halfway between Verdun and Bar-le-Duc. Around 40000 passengers a year are expected to use this station.

Controversy surrounds the third station, named Lorraine TGV. According to RFF, this is to be built at Louvigny near Metz-Nancy regional airport, is 27 km from Metz and 37 km from Nancy, and the station is forecast to handle 600000 passengers a year. In fact, preparations for the station are already in progress at Vandières, where the first phase of the new line joins the existing network. However, the contractors are providing for platforms and a basic station building at the Louvigny site.

CAPTION: Construction work is nearing completion at Vaires, where TGV Est Européen will diverge from the existing main line from Paris Est Photos:Jean-Paul Masse

CAPTION: Tracklaying work on the first phase of TGVEst Européen has been underway at Vadenay since October 2004. Ballast and materials trains are being worked by a fleet of Class 58 diesel locos hired from EWS (inset)