WITH civil works including several major structures now complete, the latest addition to the French high speed network is due to open on June 1 2001. Tracklaying on the 250 km TGV Méditerranée to Marseille and Nîmes (RG 1.99 p43) began in May 1999, involving some 150 locomotives and 1600 wagons deployed at the construction bases at Eurre southeast of Valence and Cheval-Blanc south of Cavaillon. Between 5 km and 7 km of track is completed in a week, and the last stages of fitting out the line are due for completion in March 2001.

TGV Méditerranée is being laid with 1000 km of UIC 60 rail, supplied in 80m sections welded into 400m lengths by the SNCF plant at Saulon. Each construction base is home to an LWR train capable of carrying a maximum of 42 sections. Up to 1·62 km of sleepers can be laid from each base in one day. Twin-bloc U41 concrete sleepers are used on plain line, U41 monobloc on transitions between plain line and switches, and U413 monobloc sleepers on bridges and viaducts over 50m in length where guard rails are fitted.

Once the rails are attached, ballast is delivered by six trains to provide the 4·7 tonnes required for each metre of track with a minimum depth of 350mm below the sleeper. Of crushed volcanic rock meeting the specific hardness requirements of high speed lines, ballast is sourced from a dozen quarries around France.

Each construction base is allocated four levelling and lining tampers, two ballast profilers and two dynamic stabilisers. Levelling is undertaken by at least six passes with a tamper, followed by dynamic stabilisation and a final tamping operation before work to install catenary can begin. Some 14500 masts and 620 km of contact and hanger wire will be installed along the route, plus 2300 km cabling for signalling (installed before tracklaying began) and power supplies.

CAPTION: Above: The 1·51 km viaduct carrying the Marseilles branch (left) over the Rh