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A second TGV line to Lyon

by DoDo 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:

  1. 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;
  2. the restored-upgraded Haut-Bugey conventional line, accelerating the TGV connection to Geneva and Lausanne (opened in December 2010);
  3. the future Lyon–Chambéry high-speed line and the Mont d'Ambin Base Tunnel, which will provide the link-up with the Italian high-speed network;
  4. a new high-speed line to Nice (LGV PACA);
  5. the linkup with Spain's high-speed network (opened in December 2010 to limited service) and later improvements along the Mediterranean.

The once and future high-speed network of France drawn over Wikipedia's Map of Metropolitan French cities, re-posted from The EU's emerging high-speed networkS. Legend:

  • Orange: lines in service
  • Red: lines in construction at the end of 2009
  • Blue: lines in construction or tendering in 2011
  • Light blue: lines in design or study phase
  • Grey: plans beyond 2020

Now let's look at the currently considered LGV POCL route options:

Map via Railway Gazette International

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 cut-off 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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Check the Train Blogging index page for a (hopefully) complete list of ET diaries and stories related to railways and trains.

In other French high-speed news:

Railway Gazette: Third generation TGV Duplex handed over

FRANCE: Alstom Chief Executive Patrick Kron formally handed over the first of 55 'third generation' TGV Duplex high speed trainsets to SNCF President Guillaume Pepy by on May 30.

Ordered in June 2007, the latest evolution of the TGV Duplex family incorporates changes arising from EU Technical Specifications for Interoperability, as well as improved passenger information and fire safety equipment and changes aimed at lowering operator's life cycle costs.

The 320 km/h SNCF trainsets will have signalling and multi-voltage electrical equipment for use in France, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg, and some will be modified with fire doors for use in Spain. The third generation platform also forms the basis of the 14 sets which Morocco's ONCF ordered in December 2010 for use on Tanger - Casablanca services from 2015.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 03:48:52 PM EST
Tours-Bordeaux is in the starting-blocks after a long and difficult financial negotiation - €7.7bn for a PPP with Vinci. The central state put in €100mn to close the deal.

Bordeaux-Toulouse is in the doldrums, with no firm financing commitment yet from the state, and lesser local players (like the Lot département) pulling out. It's still supposed to be planned for 2015, but that's an obvious joke.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 04:26:34 PM EST
The PPP contract for LGV Bretagne (on the map the snaking blue line to Rennes) was also awarded in January, for €3.4 billion. Two years behind schedule, it is now supposed to be completed in 2016; of course, PPP contractor Eiffage first has to contract actual work.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 04:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
lesser local players (like the Lot département) pulling out

From the financing, or the route selection too?

The last I read on the line was that the corridor was narrowed down to a 1,000 m band in October 2010, with final route selection scheduled for end of 2011. Strangely enough, this was on a German rail news site, while the official RFF page only reports the start of the 1,000 m band selection work in May last year, though they mention end of 2011 too. There was, however, a third public consultation on the route only last month, and there will be one more in Q3.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 07:12:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the Lot département would have little influence on the route anyway - its participation would have been in the name of the general benefit to the region (it is one of the départements of Midi-Pyrénées).

The third public consultation on the route started recently, as you say. There are a number of points of local friction - north of Toulouse, for instance, or at Agen. The kind of problem that usually ends up getting fixed.

But the PPP financing with Vinci comes in for more and more criticism. Vinci is pushing the envelope up to €8bn, more than the Tours-Bordeaux section. At the same time, the State claims not to have the means to finance directly.

From the (April) newsletter of the Europe Ecologie-Les Verts representatives on the Midi-Pyrénées regional council:

Voici des mois que les élu-es régionaux Europe Ecologie Les Verts défendent la liaison Paris-Bordeaux-Toulouse en TGV par le réaménagement des lignes existantes, notamment parce que le financement du projet en partenariat public privé apparaissait complètement irréaliste. L'actualité de la semaine vient conforter la position des écologistes : le TGV n'arrivera jamais à Toulouse si les différentes parties prenantes s'obstinent à croire qu'il est possible de réaliser un projet alors que de plus en plus de collectivités se désengagent, que RFF tire le signal d'alarme, que Vinci réclame à RFF 60 millions d'euros supplémentaires faisant ainsi exploser la facture au delà des 8 milliards d'euros...

For months now the regional representatives of EE-les Verts have been supporting the Paris-Bordeaux-Toulouse TGV connection by conversion of the existing lines, notably because the project finance by PPP seems completely unrealistic. This week's news [the Lot pulling out] backs up the ecologists' position: the TGV will never reach Toulouse if the different stakeholders obstinately go on believing it is possible to complete a project while more and more local authorities pull out, while RFF sends alarm signals [about financing], and Vinci demands €60mn more from RFF, pumping up the bill to over €8bn...

EE-les Verts argue their position in favour of a cheaper project (at 220 kph), in this pdf (in French).

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 09:51:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW, the ticket policy that ensured the popularity of the first TGVs is dead and buried: with PPP financing, the private interest will be pushing TGV prices 30% above those of ordinary trains for the same trip.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 09:59:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To be fair, they quote SNCF boss Pepy arguing for the necessity of elevated ticket prices on the basis of TGV Est, too (which was still built as a government project).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 10:29:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Vinci is pushing the envelope up to €8bn, more than the Tours-Bordeaux section.

Hm? What does Vinci have to do with the price of a contract nowhere near even PPP tendering? Isn't Vinci pushing up its contract price for Tours-Bordeaux to €8 billion? In the linked document, EE-les Verts put the "extra" price tag of Bordeaux-Toulouse at €2 billion, RFF the full price at €2.8-2.9 billion.

EE-les Verts seems to argue for 220 km/h in general, though their travel time comparison is for Paris-Toulouse with Tours-Bordeaux built as planned. They sadly make the argument by not considering capacity, and give bad examples to follow (Germany: before they think a half-measures high-speed system is good, first compare ridership; Austria, Switzerland: compare domestic travel distances; USA: long-distance rail transport role model, really?). And it appears they seem to see the financing and ticket pricing models they criticise as inevitable rather than the problem.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 10:27:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yep, misreading on my part, it's the Tours-Bordeaux section Vinci was pushing on, and the state had to come up with €100mn to close it.

I suspect there is a lot of infighting as usual in les Verts over this (I know for a fact a good many Verts are opposed to the TGV, full stop.) So the resulting policy support is for a compromise, let's back 220kph...

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 11:11:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They should also take a look at this and its (hard to link) Eurostat source. Which two French relations were among the top four busiest intra-EU air routes in 2008 (far above anything else in France)? Paris/Orly to Toulouse resp. Nice. Incidentally (not), the two major cities with the weakest TGV connections. (In fact, from the data I could find at Eurostat, in 2009 and 2010, the two French relations were the second and third busiest EU air routes, behind Madrid-Barcelona at a reduced level, while Milan Linate to Rome Fiumicino dropped out of the race due to the Milan-Bologna high-speed line.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 12:47:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Similarly, flights between Roissy CDG and Brussels Zaventem have been completely eliminated after the Thalys ramp-up.
by Bernard on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 12:56:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure. The fact of the busy Paris link has been adduced as evidence Toulouse needs a new international (!) airport. Toulouse being French Airspace City, a not uninfluential local lobby denies the usefulness of a TGV link with Paris. And still there are Greens who don't want the TGV... <sigh>
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 01:38:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think that as long as the line connects to the northern end of the Lyon eastern bypass, you get rid of all the Lyon-bound train (and the few that go to Montélimar) and the line is much less saturated. That would put off the need of building an western bypass (in rather hilly countryside, even through St Etienne) by quite some time.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jun 3rd, 2011 at 06:45:38 PM EST
Yes, the difference between that option (the more southern red branch on the map) and a western bypass is only the future traffic to Grenoble, Savoy and Italy. The Mâcon option would separate only the Rhin-Rhône and Haut-Bugey bound traffic, but all the rest of the southeast TGV traffic would use the short section until the start of the Lyon eastern bypass.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 4th, 2011 at 07:01:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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