Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 07:14:10 AM EST
Railway Gazette: Paris to Clermont-Ferrand high speed line plans outlined
FRANCE: Four possible routes for a high speed line linking Paris with Orléans, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon were unveiled by RFF on May 26, following four years of discussion. LGV POCL is part of the 2 500 km of new line included in the government's Grenelle d'Environnement strategy as a long-term project for construction after 2025.
This high-speed line will be the sixth radiating out of Paris (the fifth, to Le Havre in the Normandy, may be built earlier). While it will link some of the last major cities near Paris to the TGV high-speed network, its significance will be network-wide, and thus worth some discussion despite being in the far-away uncertain future.
The declared objectives of the project:
- reducing journey times between Paris and Clermont-Ferrand to less than 2 h;
- connecting Orléans into the high speed network;
- improving services to Bourges and other towns in central France;
- providing a second route between Paris and Lyon to relieve the original LGV Paris-Sud-Est, which is now close to capacity.
About the last, you read it here first four years ago:
...we'd need... a new Paris-St. Etienne-(Valence) [line], even more than for higher high-speed to have the capacity (Paris-Lyon is nearing saturation in rush-hour).
You may recall that traffic on LGV Sud-Est, France's first high-speed line (opened in 1981), grew beyond all expectations, a fact not unrelated to the original, socialist TGV ticketing policy, which was to keep fares at the same level as on normal trains (see "How (not) to get bad publicity" section in Puente AVE). You could also say that the original ticketing system was a victim of its own success: the current customer-unfriendly system, which rewards early reservations and off-peak travel and punishes ad-hoc travellers with a higher base fare, could be introduced as a way to 'manage' traffic.
However, traffic on the line is bound to increase further, as new connecting lines are being added between 2010 and 2025 – from north to south:
- The Y-shaped LGV Rhin-Rhône (the first section of which opens this year), which when completed will carry the bulk of Paris-Mulhouse-Northern Switzerland traffic;
- the restored-upgraded Haut-Bugey conventional line, accelerating the TGV connection to Geneva and Lausanne (opened in December 2010);
- the future Lyon-Chambéry high-speed line and the Mont d'Ambin Base Tunnel, which will provide the linkup with the Italian high-speed network;
- a new high-speed line to Nice (LGV PACA);
- the linkup with Spain's high-speed network (opened in December 2010 to limited service) and later improvements along the Mediterranean.
Now let's look at the currently considered LGV POCL route options:
A line along any of these routes can bring capacity relief between Paris and Lyon. However, they will leave the tracks around Lyon with almost all the traffic, especially on the routes via Mâcon (just north of Lyon). In addition, there are no time savings. But, a bypass of Lyon, best as a cutoff from Roanne through Saint-Étienne to Valence, could be added later: that way, all the Paris-Mediterranean traffic could bypass Lyon, and non-stop trains could save around half an hour, which should be significant for further-than-three-hours destinations like Nice and Barcelona.
However, all proposed alignments also have a benefit left unmentioned among the declared objectives: facilitating transversal intercity traffic. Presently, almost all TGV services end in or pass by Paris, the network is very centralised. One half of this line, however, could be used by TGV services connecting Lyon (and destinations further east and north-east) with the major cities along the Loire to the west.
Of course, all of this is the discussion of tentative plans (for after 2025!) without any budget commitment. But, I wonder how plans would change under a Socialist President, should one candidate defeat Sarkozy.
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