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I'm just back. I can't add much on this event, which was a ceremonial opening run before the 10 June opening to regular traffic. Some more general notes:

  • In terms of European linkup, we are a long way. The proper high-speed line extends only from Paris to beyond Metz, from where both branches (to Stuttgart and Stuttgart) use only upgraded lines (and some are a few months late in the Frankfurt direction).

  • However, the photo aptly shows the one significant progress made: at least the flagship trains of the two railways now offer full service on both sides. There has been parallel service of German Railways DB's ICE-3 and Thalys trains from the TGV between Brussels and Cologne for some time, but the former got speed restrictions in Belgium because their airflow picked up stones from the less solidly laid trackbed, and the latter had much lower top speeds in Germany because the transformer of normal TGVs isn't well suited for the differing frequency.

    Making the LGV Est Européenne parallel service cost above all the German railways much: €48 million for the modification of the first six trains, and another €28 million for extensive multi-year tests in France. On one hand, the stone-pickut problem had to be solved (changes in the aerodynamic shape of the undercarriage), on the other hand, SNCF had to see how a number of technologies not used in France works in their system.

  • The Paris-Budapest, and now Hamburg-Barcelona axes are a nice dream, but currently, talk about them is mostly smoke and mirrors. There are a number of national projects along these corridors, but also some gaps, and plans for mere upgrades, which won't allow truly fast service along the entire routes.

    No true high-speed line is planned from Strasbourg to Budapest, though some sections (to Karlsruhe, Augsburg-Munich, Wels(near Linz)-Vienna) are four-tracked with 200+km/h high-speed tracks. From before Straßbourg to Stuttgart, trains will travel in a big S, no straight line planned.

    Germany's domestic plans would include full high-speed or 250 km/h upgraded lines all the way from Hamburg to the French border (with roughly half already in service or construction), though they have been slowed town to near standstill lately. France's next TGV line will be the East leg of the LGV Rhin-Rhône, but Strasbourg-Mulhouse will only be upgraded, the South leg of the LGV Rhin-Rhône (to Lyon) is in the misty future. In the South, the border-crossing Perpignan-Figuera line and its continuation to Barcelona is in the works, but no plans for the Montpellier-Perpignan gap.

  • Still, if a future EU Commission decides to give a larger percentage of funds for rail projects it supports, what is talking hot air today can turn the inspirator of real policy tomorrow, and for this reason, that now there is talk of Hamburg-Barcelona, too, can be termed as progress.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 26th, 2007 at 10:15:15 AM EST

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