With 50 years of rail speed records, France's national railway company SNCF took another step toward becoming the undisputable world leader in high speed train techonology.
Today, by successfully completing the longest ever non-stop high speed train ride in Europe, 621.3 miles from Calais on the English Channel to Marseille on the Mediteranean sea, in three hours and thirty minutes, the SNCF showed that it had tremendously improved its network over the past two decades.
Paris to Marseille in Three Hours
With journalists from all over the world onboard, today's run was carried out using a regular commercial TGV train, at an average speed of 197.26 mph, with peaks at 227.42 mph, still far from the 1981 high speed record by a TGV — 320 mph.
On June 10th, France's newest high speed line, TGV Mediteranee, will begin service, linking Paris to Marseille in just three hours, down from a ride that took four hours and twenty minutes at an average speed of 186 mph. At that time, the SNCF will be operating a total of about 950 miles of high speed line.
France has the most extensive network of high speed rail lines in the world. In all, travel to 140 cities will take one hour less once the TGV Mediterannée starts operating. Other international rail connections will benefit from the new line.
A Solution to Air Traffic Delays?
The new $3.5 billion high speed rail line will carry 23 million passengers annually, attracting some 6 million passengers away from air and road transportation by 2003, preventing travellers from having to go through the nightmare of air traffic delays. Today, the travel time between several French cities is comparable whether you choose the train or the plane.
But it has not always been an easy task to make people accept the TGV. When the SNCF starts a project for a new line, difficulties are enormous. In the case of the TGV Mediteranee, villagers first rejected the project, saying that their quality of life would be affected by the TGV. The SNCF had to call in teams of specialists and consult local people to make sure that the environment, and the quality of life, would be preserved.
With today's successful attempt, the SNCF is now looking forward to exporting its technology to other countries, including the US.
"The many American travellers who visit France and ride the TGV have seen the advantages of high speed rail travel, and the SNCF is ready to help with any high speed project in the US" said Chris Lazarus, spokersperson for Rail Europe, American subsidiary of SNCF.