The History of the French High Speed Rail Network and TGV

This is an updated article written by Michael Bunn, who gave a talk to the Society in November 2014. We are grateful for permission to post it here.

On the 26th September 1981 the first Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) in commercial high speed service, left the Gare du Lyon in Paris, for Lyon. Nobody could have imagined that 30 years later nearly 2 billion passengers would have been carried over the high speed network, now totalling almost 2000 kilometres.

The story of the TGV’s success is amazing, one of incredible financial investment by the French state, granted by governments on both sides of the political spectrum and widely supported by the French population. The TGV has, in effect, shrunk the size of France bringing cities such as Marseille to only 3 hours from the French capital. It has also, much to the chagrin of rail enthusiasts, reshaped the railway landscape and method of operation of the SNCF.

In the December 2006 and March 2007 editions of the SNCFS Journal I described the first 25 years of the TGV in service on the Paris Sud Est (PSE) route from the Gare du Lyon to the South of France. Consequently, in describing these 30 years of the developing TGV network I will only refer to the basic facts of the PSE line in chronological order.

The Declaration d’Utilité Publique was granted, by the French Government in 1976, to build the LN1 (PSE) route from Paris to Lyon. In the same year building of the prototype electric TGV was completed, following development by Alsthom and SNCF. The first stage of the PSE line was opened for public service in 1981 between Vergigny, near St Florentin on the existing route, and Sathonay, north of Lyon. The second stage was opened in 1983, adding a further 116 km of high-speed line between Vergigny and Lieusaint (South of Villeneuve-St Georges) and bringing the Ligne à Grande Vitesse  (LGV) to within 22km from the Gare de Lyon Station in Paris. The later opening date for this section enabled the A5 autoroute to be constructed at the same time. The major interchange station of Lyon Part Dieu opened the same year.
1989 saw the 100 millionth passenger carried by the TGV on the PSE line with rail at last beginning to claw back business from air travel.
During the 1980s, the SNCF and French Government had originally intended that the LGV Nord would be the second high speed line (LN 2) but no agreement, with the British Government, to build the Channel Tunnel could be reached so they turned their attention to the LGV Atlantique
This was also to be built in two stages, the first from Paris-Montparnasse to Connerré, near Le Mans opening in 1990 and the second stage from Courtalain junction to St Pierre-des-Corps on the outskirts of Tours opened in 1991.  TGV units would use the LN2 and then continue over classic lines to Brittany and the West of France.
The construction of LN2 was to be more challenging for the engineers than the PSE line, five  tunnels were needed, notably at Villejuste and Vouvray. Elsewhere LN2 would traverse a fairly flat landscape enabling its construction with a ruling gradient of 2.5% and minimum radius curves of 4200m. The line was to penetrate the more prosperous suburbs of south western Paris, so environmental consideration was to be of paramount importance.  The terminus at Paris Montparnasse, having been rebuilt and re-sited in the 1960s, would see further extension and alteration to receive the TGV. The route chosen for the new high speed line out of Paris was to start at Bagneaux, only 4km from Montparnasse, using part of the abandoned Gallardon railway track bed out to Massy, through heavily populated and more affluent areas. This resulted in LN 2 being built, in the outer Paris suburbs, mainly in tunnel, cut and cover and the tunnel Aérien (a tunnel above ground) – where the line is enclosed by concrete sections – known locally as the coulée verte or green corridor.  The change of power supply from 1500 V dc to 25 KV ac would be undertaken in the 827 metre long tunnel of Sceaux, about 9 km from Montparnasse. At Massy an interchange station, with Paris suburban RER lines B & C, would be built in a cut and cover section. This station is only served by a handful of TGV trains emanating from Montparnasse and principally serves inter-regional high speed trains, which were to be introduced from 1996.
Beyond Massy TGV station LN2 passes through the line’s most important civil engineering work of the 4800 metre long Villejuste single bore tunnels and then alongside the A10 autoroute before traversing the wheat fields of the Centre region, to the south of Chartres. At Courtalain, 130 km from Montparnasse, the two branches of LN2 diverge – the western or Brittany branch towards Le Mans and Rennes and the south western or Aquitaine branch towards Tours and Bordeaux. At Villiers sur Loire, a station was built on the south western branch, principally to serve the nearby town of Vendome with about 8 trains a day calling in each direction. From a distance, the station appears to be three red roofs without buildings in a similar style to the Buffalo Grill chain of restaurants.
After passing through the 1496m Vouvray tunnel, LN 2 crosses three viaducts, the last over the River Loire, before the junction and chord line serving St Pierre des Corps and Tours. The south western branch ends to the South of Tours, where TGVs revert to the classic network. The change of power supply back to 1500 Vdc is undertaken on the Tours avoiding line.

TVM 300 signalling system would be used allowing a maximum speed of 300km/h.
To serve the LN2 line a new fleet of 109 ten-coach dual voltage TGVs was built. The new Atlantique units would have visually identical power cars to the PSE trains but benefitting from a new generation of electric traction motors. Each TGV would have only eight 1100 kW motors providing, under 25 KV ac, a power to weight ratio of 26.56 compared with 22.46 for the PSE units. The extra power available meant that there was no longer any need to power the first and last bogies of the coaching set thus providing more space for passenger accommodation. These new trains would wear a new livery of blue and silver grey, the now corporate SNCF colour scheme.
A new world speed record for rail of 482.4 km/h was created in 1989 on the LN2 and even this was surpassed with a new record of 515.3 km/h, on 19 May 1990 – 170 km/h faster than the 1981 record.
An intensive service of TGVs operates over the LN2. All TGVs use the line to Courtalain  Junction where Brittany services take the western branch (opened in 1989), sometimes in multiple with the trains splitting at Le Mans or Rennes. Trains to the Aquitaine region take the south western branch (opened in 1990) at Courtalain with a non-stop service to Bordeaux and stopping service calling at the four or five intermediate stations en route. At Bordeaux multiple TGVs are often split with services continuing to Arcachon, Hendaye, Pau, Tarbes, Toulouse etc. A number of TGVs cross into Spain to serve Irun.
By the late 1980s the French Government had decided to proceed with construction of the third high speed line – the LN3 (Nord). Initially, consideration was given to building it a straight line from Paris to the Channel Tunnel, through Western Picardy near to the towns of Amiens and Boulogne. However, this proposal did not make a strong enough financial case in terms of domestic traffic. LN3 would be considered as part of the European high speed rail network, so it made more sense geographically and financially to route this north to Lille (thus opening up the possibility of through high speed services to Belgium, Germany and Holland) and then westwards to the Channel Tunnel. No major engineering works, other than a number of viaducts, would be required for the construction of LN 3. From the Gare du Nord in Paris high speed trains would use dedicated ‘classic’ tracks, at maximum 160 km/h for the first 16km of their journey.  Between the Gare du Nord and St Denis major track alteration was undertaken to avoid conflicting movements, with local and RER trains. At Vemars a triangular junction would be constructed to connect with the Interconnexion line due to open in 1994, LN3 would then follow the alignment of the A1 motorway for 130 km to the outskirts of Lille, to the Frethin triangular junction. The Paris-Brussels tracks to be considered as the ‘main line’ with chord lines on the Paris-Lille and Lille-Brussels routes.
To the west of Lille LN3 would cross the relatively flat southern Flanders landscape to the Channel Tunnel. LN3 opened one year before the tunnel and its construction brought about the electrification of the local lines from Hazebrouck to Calais and Calais to Boulogne, which would be used in part by TGV services from Paris to Boulogne, Calais and St Omer. The entire route from Paris Gare du Nord to the Channel Tunnel is electrified at 25 kV ac and uses the more advanced TVM 430 signalling system.
Three identically styled stations were built on LN3, at Frethun (about 5 miles from the centre of Calais), Lille Europe and Haute Picardie. Calais Frethun station has an interchange with the ‘classic’ route from Calais Ville to Boulogne, situated at low-level and parallel to the high speed line. In practice there is a far higher usage of the low level station by domestic passengers than those using the international platforms, served by only three Eurostar trains per day, in each direction. Often the SNCF local trains do not even wait for the Eurostar arrivals thus negating the original intention of an interchange there. The SNCF wanted to build the LN3 to the North of Lille, the capital of Northern France, with a park and ride type of station. But due to the campaign led by the Mayor of Lille and local business leaders the line and Lille Europe station were constructed only 400 metres from the town centre. Lille Europe station consists of two similar buildings to that at Calais Frethun with a central linking section, its two island platforms are separated by two central through roads. Non stop trains are required to reduce speed when passing through Lille Europe to avoid creating excess air pressure. Since 1994 (with the opening of the Interconnexion line to the east of Paris) Lille Europe has become the busiest TGV interchange station in France with Eurostar passengers connecting with TGV services. This cannot be said for the third station on LN3, that at Haute Picardie. To appease the folk of Amiens, who had missed out on the TGV, this station was built on the high speed line 30 km to the east of the town. A connecting coach service from Amiens station to Haute Picardie was (and still is) provided for TGV passengers but for those bound for Paris this actually took considerably longer than the direct ‘classic’ service. With an average of only 15 passengers boarding each train for the French capital, Paris services no longer call at this station. From 1994 only TGVs to provincial destinations would stop here. Surrounded by fields, TGV Haute Picardie station has acquired the nickname La gare de betteraves (The beetroot station).
In 1992 a new variant of the TGV appeared, the Reseau (network) unit. These use the more powerful Atlantique power cars enclosing an 8 car articulated trailer rake and intended for long distance journeys within France, they provide more passenger comfort and more luggage space. An even better power to weight ratio of 30.79 would improve timekeeping. Prior to the opening of the Interconnexion line, the Reseau units were used on LGV Nord services to Paris. More recently the less powerful PSE TGVs and the North of London 14 car Eurostar units are to be seen on these services.

In 1993 the line from Poitiers to La Rochelle was electrified bringing TGVs direct from Paris.

Back on the PSE, the 121km long extension of LN4 (LGV Rhone Alpes) to Valence was completed, in two stages, in 1992 and 1994.This included a new station at Satolas (Lyon Airport) later renamed as Lyon St Exupéry and the major rail intersection at St Quentin-Fallavier where the Lyon to Grenoble classic line crosses the high speed line.

1994 saw the opening of the first stage of the LGV Interconnexion, which would provide a direct link between the high speed lines to the north, south and west of Paris and from 2007 to the LGV Est. The Interconnexion was completed two years later with the opening of a branch from the newly formed Coubert triangle to Creteil Junction bringing the high speed line to 9 kms from the Gare de Lyon. It also allowed inter regional TGV services to operate to and from the west of France. Part of the route used for the new branch was built on the former Vincennes line (from Bastille) partly in cut and cover construction. At the western end of the new branch a connection was made to the Grand Ceinture line at Les Saules, where TGVs still have to take their turn, as far as Massy, with RER line C services and Freight trains

1995 to 1998 saw the introduction of the TGV Duplex double deck train to meet the re-emerging problem of capacity shortage. These incredible units use a completely new design and construction concept. With an extruded aluminium bodyshell, lighter weight seats and technical equipment the TGV Duplex weighs in at 380 tonnes, 5 tonnes lighter than the original single deck PSE units. Fully loaded, the TGV Duplex remains within the 17 tonnes axle loading requirement. At an extra cost of 24%, the TGV Duplex provides 40 % more capacity than the PSE train. The driver of a Duplex power car is seated at a central driving position, as opposed to the traditional left hand on earlier units.

Following the signing of an agreement between the French, Belgian, Dutch and German railway authorities in 1993, to jointly operate an international high speed rail service over the new LGV Nord (LN3) the first train left the Gard du Nord, Paris on 4th June 1996, for Brussels and Amsterdam.  Marketed under the branding of the THALYS, the TGVs wore a distinctive maroon and grey livery. In spite of the fact that this service is operated by four different national railway companies, it has been an outstanding success and in 2011 has a much greater share than air transport of the Paris Brussels travel market.

The period of 1996 to 2000 saw the construction of the 244 km long LN5 (LGV Mediterranée ), the most complex and difficult so far. With 31 major civil engineering sites, including 17 kms of viaducts, 13 kms of tunnels and the construction of 3 new TGV Stations – Valence TGV, Avignon TGV and Aix en Provence TGV. Cost of construction of the LN 5 is estimated at 4 billion Euros.

Even before the completion of the LN5 the French Government was ready to go ahead with the next high speed line – the LGV Est (LN6), to serve the only part of France yet to see any high speed line construction. Following the decision to proceed in 1999, the Declaration d’Utilité Publique was made in 1999 and construction work started in 2000.

In the same year the one billionth passenger was carried on the TGV network.

Also in 2000 the branch line from Plouaret to Lannion, in Brittany, was electrified, at the latter the existing station was replaced with a new combined batiment voyageurs/ gare routier and a single island platform long enough to handle a TGV Atlantique set. Still on the Atlantique, a new station was opened at Futuroscope, North of Poitiers, to serve the adjacent multi-media theme park. Although built with a voluminous batiment voyageurs, to handle groups, this station has a very poor service and upon completion of the LGV Aquitaine will no longer be served by TGVs.

LN5 opened for public service on 6th June 2001, thus completing the 20 year project of a high speed link from Paris to the Grande Bleue. The new service was an outstanding success, far exceeding anticipated passenger numbers. The French Capital could now be reached in 2h 40m from Avignon, 3h from Marseille and 3h 15 from Montpellier. Ten years later there are no scheduled services Paris- Marseille with a non-stop time of 3h the fastest being 3h03m but generally around the 3h 12m mark. A new TGV logo was introduced with the opening of LN5, the G & V being joined to give the impression of a snail, earning it the nickname l’escargot !

LN6 (LGV Est) would be the first high speed line project to be completely overseen, developed and construction supervised by Reseau Ferré de France (RFF) formed in 1997. There was also a different financing regime. Hitherto, the SNCF had virtually had a blank cheque to construct the high speed lines but the 3.125 billion Euro cost of the LN Est was financed by contributions ranging from 1.22 billion Euros from the French State, 320 million Euros from the European Union (the line also serves Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland) to 3.6 million Euros from the Town of Colmar. The total financing package involved the French state, the EU, the Duchy of Luxembourg, the 3 regions and 8 départments traversed, the towns of Colmar, Mulhouse, Reims, Strasbourg. The SNCF contributed 48 million Euros and RFF 682 million Euros. Consultation and public meetings were held with over 100 communes and pouvoir publiques. 6, at 406 km, is the longest section of high speed line to be built as one contract.

The first three LGVs had been built before the ‘environmental lobby’ had found its feet but the later lines to be constructed were going to face some opposition. The LN6 was opposed by viticulteurs, in the Champagne region, who claimed that excessive air pressure caused by the high speed of the passing trains would affect the growth of their grapes.

The new line was built to a higher speed specification than the previous LGVs and would see TGVs operating at a maximum 320 kpH (200 mph), Starting at Vaires, 22km from the Gare de l’Est, the first stage of the line is 302km long and ends at Baudrecourt. There is a connection (from the East) to both Northbound and Southbound tracks of the LGV Interconnexion line, enabling inter-secteur TGVs from the north, south west and west of France to join LN6. There are also 4 connections with the ‘classic’ network enabling TGVs to continue off the high speed line to towns such as Reims, Metz, Nancy, Strasbourg etc. The line to St Dié des Vosges was electrified to enable a direct TGV service to Paris.  At Baudrecourt, the end of stage 1 of the LN6, there is a saut de mouton (flyover) to enable TGVs to change between left and right hand running before joining the classic line – the railway system in Alsace and Lorraine being rebuilt by the Germans between 1871 and 1918, during their occupation. Three new stations on the line have been built – Champagne Ardennes TGV, Meuse TGV and Lorraine TGV. The Meuse TGV station has been a monumental flop in terms of passenger usage, situated in the middle of nowhere it has a very poor service, with only two trains each day to and from Paris plus a handful of inter-secteur trains.

Since 1997 TGV services over the PSE to Switzerland had been marketed under the branding of Ligne de Couer with TGVs on these services displaying a special logo and modified livery, From 2002 the branding TGV Lyria was gradually applied to all Swiss bound services. A similar branding has been applied to trains, including TGVs, between France and Italy under the name of Artesia.

2005 saw the electrification of the branch line from Rennes to St Malo, enabling a direct TGV service from Paris Montparnasse to be operated. As in most cases of these branch line electrifications the TGV service is basically an extension of a previously terminating train – in this case from Rennes. Apart from the electrification, the line was re-signalled and the stations of Dol and Saint Malo rebuilt. At the former resulting in the fine mechanical signal gantry being demolished and at the latter the abandonment of the existing station, with a new 4 platform terminus being constructed about 400 metres to the South and the most rudimentary of passenger facilities provided.

To launch LN6 a consortium of Alsthom, SNCF and RFF with a budget of 20,000,000 Euros, was to attempt a new world speed record – project V150 (150 metres/ second). A downhill section of the Eastbound line was chosen, near to TGV Meuse station. The track suitably ballasted and tamped, the TGV Infra unit Iris 320 making several track recording runs over the section followed by 3200km of test runs at speeds over 450 kp/h. The record breaking run was made by a specially adapted unit of two POS (Paris-Ostfrankreich-Süddeutschland) power cars and three trailers (one powered), overhead electric supply was 32,000 volts at 800 amps and all the vehicles being fitted with larger diameter wheels – 1092mm in lieu of 920mm. A new world record was created, on 3rd April 2007, of 574.8 kpH (359.4 mph) only 6kmH slower than the MAGLEV (non rail) unit.

The public opening of the LN6 was on 10th June 2007 with a full timetable operating on domestic services to Metz, Mulhouse Nancy, Reims and Strasbourg with a limited service to Bar le Duc, Charleville-Meziers, Epinal and St Dié des Vosges. In addition an International service with TGVs and German ICE units operating to Luxembourg, Frankfurt and destinations in Switzerland. SNCF services over LN6 are operated by a fleet of 33 Reseau sets and 19 POS sets. The POS sets were created by using 19 Reseau units and the construction of 19 new Duplex TGV sets with triple voltage power cars and new generation 12,900 hp engines (also to be used on the TGV Dasye units in 2010). The power cars of the new Duplex units were attached to the Reseau trailer coaches and the Reseau power cars to the new Duplex coaches, the latter creating the Reseau Duplex sets used on the PSE. This formation enables the POS sets to operate in Germany and Switzerland without the need for the extra capacity provided by the double deck coaches. New style interiors designed by Christian Lacroix were applied with lime green and dark grey seats in 1st class and mauve and orange in 2nd class !
Les Sables d’Olonne was put on the TGV map back in 2000, when some services formerly terminating at Nantes were dragged by class 72000 diesels to the seaside resort. Proving too expensive to operate, this experiment lasted until 2004. However, the double track ‘main line’ to La Roche sur Foron and single track branch to Les Sables were electrified in 2008 when through TGV services to and from Paris Montparnasse recommenced.
The end of the decade saw the opening of two further lines dedicated to the TGV. The first stage of the Perpignan to Barcelona line opened in December 2010, as far as Figueras and the Ligne des Carpates or Haut Bugey line was reinstated from Brion-Montréal- La Cluse to Bellegarde. A project of over 300 million Euros (partly financed by the Swiss) to effect a 20 minute saving, on Paris to Geneva/ Evian les Bains/ St Gervais services, compared to the former route via Culoz. Primarily single track this improvement to the TGV service has been at the cost of TER services, on the western end of the line, between Bourg en Bresse and St Claude resulting in only one train in each direction per day with all other services being bustituted.
The 140 km first stage of the LGV Rhone-Rhin, from Belfort to Dijon, opens in December 2011 and will see the TGV services to Mulhouse, Bale and Zurich etc. transferred from the Gare de l’Est to the Gare de Lyon.
Contracts have been signed and work has commenced on three new major LGV developments, those of the LGV Aquitaine from Tours to Bordeaux, the second phase of the LGV Est from Baudrecourt to the outskirts of Strasbourg and the LGV Bretagne from Conneré to Rennes and Sablé. Other projects are at the design and consultation stage
Thirty years on from that first public service departure, the TGV has a safety record that is second to none and can boast that there has not been a single passenger fatality at high speed. There have been a number of high speed derailments caused by technical failure or track bed subsidence but the only fatalities, principally train drivers, have occurred off the high speed lines beyond the control of the SNCF and generally collisions on level crossings. In all derailment incidents the articulated architecture of the TGV units has retained the set intact and upright.
Passenger numbers have seen year on year growth, without exception, since 1981 with 160 million being carried in 2010. Over the thirty years the TGV has made a substantial operating profit, but SNCF now claims that 30% of its high speed services do not break even. Track access charges (1.53 billion Euros in 2010) levied by RFF are beginning to change the equation. It is claimed that these will have to be increased to meet the full cost of maintaining the high speed infrastructure leading, inevitably, to higher fares. Together with the current world-wide financial crisis these extra costs are bringing into question future investment and growth forecasts. Projects such as the planned creation of super duplex 18 coach TGV sets for the PSE line and freight TGVs have yet to appear. The French Government had given outline approval for a finance package of 8 billion Euros for the replacement of the 1st generation PSE and Atlantique fleets from 2015 but this is certainly now on hold. As a result, many of the early PSE TGVs have recently received a life extension overhaul.
New generation DAYSE and TGV 2N2 type Duplex TGVs are currently being delivered to SNCF, using triple voltage power cars with asynchronous motors similar to the POS type described earlier.
The TGV fleet is allocated to five depots in France and Brussels Forest. Four of the SNCF depots, now called Technicentres, are based in Paris at Chatillon (Atlantique), Conflans (Paris Sud Est), Le Landy (Nord) and Ourq (Est) the fifth is in Lyon. At these Technicentres basic maintenance and light overhauls are undertaken. Heavy maintenance is carried out at Bischeim (Strasbourg) and Hellemmes (Lille). Major repair work is undertaken at Alsthom’s Belfort works. More recently Alsthom’s (the TGV manufacturer) pride has been dented by Eurostar’s decision to opt for the Siemens Velaro E320 high speed train and the certainty that they will be facing a much more competitive market in the future.
The thirty years of the TGV in public service have been a fabulous success, with 220 towns served, journey times reduced and a very high level of reliability and passenger satisfaction. However, there is no doubt that the development of the TGV network has been at the expense of investment in the classic reseau. It is only now, under the management of the Regions, that this neglect of a large part of the classic network is being addressed. Rail enthusiasts lament the passing of many locomotive hauled express trains, replaced by the TGV connecting with local regional trains. But the primary concern of the SNCF is to run trains for its passengers and not rail fans.
Since 1981 there have been only two basic TGV colour schemes, the original orange livery worn by the 1st generation PSE units and the now corporate blue and grey, originally known as Atlantique. The latter now being universal. Occasionally, TGVs have been decorated with special advertising or promotional liveries such as the Rugby World Cup, the 100th anniversary of Paul Cezanne’s death, Disneyland etc. but this is not a widespread practice. PSE unit number 65 was decorated in a special livery and fitted out as a mobile exhibition, to celebrate the 30 years of the TGV. During May and June it made a tour of 10 provincial French cities, a number of the Parisien terminals, Brussels and Geneva to promote this amazing achievement.
Update December 2014. Following Eurostar’s announcement that it would be purchasing Siemens’ Velaro 320 units for its proposed new services to Holland and Germany, Alsthom (the TGV manufacturer) took out legal proceedings to attempt to halt the contract, on the grounds that these units would not satisfy the Channel Tunnel fire requirements. This argument was not accepted and in attempt to pacify Alsthom an order was placed by the French government, for 40 new TGV Duplex units, just before the 2012 Presidential elections!  Duplex units now account for over 50% of the 520 strong TGV fleet.
The exponential growth in passenger numbers saw the 2 billionth TGV traveller in 2013 and SNCF is predicting that the 3 billion mark will be achieved by 2020. Also in 2013 a low-cost TGV service was introduced. Marketed under the brand name of Ouigo, Duplex TGVs operate along the LGV-PSE & Mediterranée routes from Marne la Vallée (to the east of Paris) to Lyon, Avignon, Aix en Provence, Marseille & Montpellier. Tickets are only available on the internet, with single fares as low as 5 Euros single from Marne la Vallée to Lyon. Passengers are limited to one piece of hand luggage and are surcharged for extra pieces – the service has been dubbed Ryanair sur rails.  The Ouigo services are operated by sets made up of new generation power cars with refurbished first generation coaching sets – all first class seating and the buffet car make way for standard class seating, increasing capacity to 634 places without altering the seating alignment. The sets are intensively operated, with some units doing two return journeys Paris to Marseille in a day i.e. 3000km. Some sets have recorded over 90,000km in a month.

2014 saw the first withdrawals and scrapping of 1st generation TGV units including the triple voltage sets used on the Swiss services (replaced by POS units). The long awaited through service from Paris to Barcelona also started in 2014. At the time of writing (12/ 2014) it would appear that the Eurostar NoL sets will be withdrawn (and stored) from the Paris Nord to Lille and northern city services, following the appearance of Duplex units on these routes. Duplex TGVs are now operating on all of the French high speed lines. It is generally recognised that SNCF has sufficient TGVs for its immediate requirements and the French financial crisis is likely to see the replacement of the Atlantique fleet deferred for several years. SNCF announced that the TGV postal sets will be withdrawn in 2015, this leaves in doubt the proposed TGV parcels services from Paris to Barking, due to have been introduced in 2017. The future for the high speed network looks good but is likely to see its TGV trains used more intensively. Rumours abound that the Thalys and Lyria TGV services are prime candidates for privatisation.

Michael Bunn

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