INTRO: With geophysical surveys and detailed design now in progress, utility diversions and other preliminary works for France’s next high speed line are due to begin in the second half of this year. RFF Project Director Pierre Cerisier spoke to Robert Preston, outlining the programme that should see civil works beginning in the second half of 2001

TGV EST Européen, the 405 km high speed route from Paris to Strasbourg, is the first new line project that infrastructure authority Réseau Ferré de France is directly managing as maître d’ouvrage, the future owner which lets contracts and assembles finance. With the last details of the funding package expected to be agreed by the end of June, preliminary works on the first 300 km from Vaires-sur-Marne to Baudrecourt are due to begin in the second half of this year. Tender specifications should be ready around the end of 2000, and major civil works are due get under way in the second half of 2001. Tracklaying is expected to begin in the second half of 2003, and with trials scheduled to start in the second half of 2005, the first section of TGV Est européen is expected to open in February 2006.

RFF Project Director Pierre Cerisier describes this schedule as ’tight’, but is confident that it will be met. Room for manoeuvre has largely disappeared, he says, due to delays in agreeing the funding package that was originally expected to be in place by the end of March. Geophysical survey work - crucial to a project involving 50million m3 of earthworks - began some three months behind schedule in December 1999 as the prices produced by the first call for tenders were too high.

Cost has also been a major driver in the structure of the project. For the detailed design of civil works, the new line to Strasbourg has been divided into eight sections (Table I). Each section has its own maître d’oeuvre, appointed in April 1999 following a call for tenders, and assisted by an office dealing with property acquisition that is due to begin in the second half of this year. Providing prices for seven of the eight route sections, bidders were assessed on the cost of building the design they proposed. Devising the structure of the civils contracts awarded by RFF and responsible for supervising the contractors, the maître d’oeuvre will be incentivised to meet the price in its bid by a system of penalties and bonuses.

This structure is something of a first in French high speed line construction. Cerisier says that it requires close monitoring to ensure that the design of one section does not have an undue impact on its neighbours, and that there are no organisational problems at section boundaries. RFF also has to ensure that the civil, electrical and mechanical design for the project are co-ordinated - SNCF has been appointed maître d’oeuvre for track, signalling and catenary throughout.

Two stages

Although civil works are due to begin next year on just the first phase of TGV Est Européen from Vaires to Baudrecourt, detailed design and property acquisition are in progress on all eight sections of the route. Cerisier expects each section between Vaires and Baudrecourt to be divided into two or three lots for civil works. With only four major structures along the route, the most important being a 500m viaduct across the River Rupt de Mad west of Vandières, the major technical challenges are likely to be the earthworks themselves and the mix of cut and fill to make the best use of excavated material. As regards geology, gypsum deposits at the Paris end and schist which swells with moisture are the principal issues.

The total cost of the first phase is Fr20·5bn at 1997 prices, of which Fr15·7bn is being provided by a combination of public sources including the European Union, Luxembourg and government at national, regional and local level within France (Table II). RFF and SNCF are providing the remainder. The Fr20·5bn excludes rolling stock, but includes Fr1·25bn that SNCF will be spending (as maître d’ouvrage) on a TGV depot near Paris and on buildings at the route’s three intermediate stations.

Work to increase capacity between Paris Gare de l’Est and Vaires costing around Fr1bn will be undertaken as part of the first phase, along with upgrading of the existing line between Strasbourg and Kehl in Germany which includes doubling the existing crossing of the Rhine. Journey times between Metz and Luxembourg are also to be improved. The branches to St-Dié and Remiremont are to be electrified in time for the opening of the new line to Baudrecourt in 2006, but this work is being funded under the contract-plan between central government and the Lorraine region rather than from within the TGV Est européen project.

Cerisier estimates the cost of the second phase of the new line, the 106 km between Baudrecourt and Vendenheim outside Strasbourg, to be between Fr6bn and Fr8bn. The final figure will depend on the outcome of detailed design including the only tunnelling on the project. No date has been set for starting civil works on the second phase.

For each of the seven départements crossed by the new line (including those on the second phase), a statement of environmental commitments has been published, outlining the measures to be undertaken during design and construction to minimise the impact of the new line on the landscape, watercourses, flora and fauna. Other measures concern agricultural land, historic sites and noise, which is not to exceed an LAeq8-20 of 62dB(A) measured at the nearest houses upon opening. Compliance with these undertakings will be monitored by committees already set up in each département.

Operating characteristics

TGV Est européen is being designed for operation at up to 350 km/h, but will be used at first by conventional, non-tilting TGVs running at up to 320 km/h. The route will be equipped with TVM 430 signalling and what is likely to be the first French installation of ERTMS Level 2. The route will have a maximum gradient of 3·5%, a minimum curve radius of 6250m and a maximum axleload of 17 tonnes.

As far as RFF is concerned, operation of the route is the responsibility of SNCF. In practice, the line will be run by a Thalys-style joint management company, known as Rhealys. This is being formed under the terms of an agreement signed in Brussels on May 8 by SNCF, DB, CFL and SBB. Between now and 2006, Rhealys must select rolling stock, develop the service patterns, and form a separate operating company to run the trains.

Within the domestic market, services between Paris and major centres such as Reims, Metz and Nancy will be complemented by inter-regional services avoiding Paris and calling at the intermediate stations of Champagne-Ardenne, Meuse and Lorraine. The first two have been sited to serve major roads, and at the request of Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot RFF is looking at the cost implications of building Lorraine where the new line crosses the existing Metz - Nancy railway, rather than further east to serve Metz-Nancy-Lorraine Airport as originally intended. Building a twin-level station would add around Fr300m to the cost of the first phase, but it is not clear at present who would pay.

TABLE: Table I. TGV Est européen route sections for design and construction supervision of civil works

Length Maître d’oeuvre Property km acquisitionPhase 1 assistant

A Vaires-sur-Marne - Château-Thierry 63 SNCF, Simecsol SNCF

B Château-Thierry - Taissy 56 Ingérop-Sogelerg SNCF

-Luxconsult (ISL)

C Taissy - Tilloy-et-Bellay 47 Tractebel, Coyne & Bellier SNCF

D Tilloy-et-Bellay - Bannoncourt 63 SNCF, Simecsol SCET

E Bannoncourt - Vandières 40 Scetauroute SCET

F Vandières - Baudrecourt 30 SNCF, Simecsol SCET

Phase 2

G Baudrecourt - Danne-et-Quatre-Vents 71 SNCF, Simecsol SCET

H Danne-et-Quatre-Vents - Vendenheim 35 SETEC SCET

TABLE: Table II. Public funding for TGVEst européen Fr m*

French government 8000

European Union 2100

Luxembourg government 770

Ile-de-France region 500

Champagne-Ardenne region,

including départements of Ardennes

and Marne, commune of Reims 815

Lorraine region 1332

Meuse département 27

Meurthe-et-Moselle département 103

Moselle département 147

Vosges département 56

Lorraine region total 1665

Alsace region 925

Bas-Rhin département 463

Strasbourg metropolitan government 232

Haut-Rhin département, communes

of Colmar and Mulhouse 230

Alsace region total 1850

Total public funding 15700

* at June 1997 prices

CAPTION: TGV Est is divided into eight sections for design and supervision of construction. There are six in Phase 1 and two in Phase 2