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  4rail.net - Super High Speed Networks and Lines          

This page will grow to be a quick reference on (mostly) European high speed rail networks and lines. You might also be interested in the Super Fast Trains Main Page or to be  "How to design a superfast train" page. Click the links on the left for articles and the latest news on High Speed Trains.
   
Ever since the introduction of the super high speed train TGV-PSE and the worlds first super high speed line LGV-Paris-Lyon (LGV is French for a High Speed Line) the super high speed systems have been growing at an unseen pace. Currently most of the Europes western side is covered with super high speed corridors. This development is progressing now north, east and southeast. This development however started much earlier in different parts of the world.    
     
 Page Menu   
   Short History of the High Speed Lines...  
   First Line (1981-1983): LGV Paris - Lyon...  
   Southwest Extension (1989-1990): LGV Atlantique...
   Northern Extension (1993): LGV Nord Europe...
     
   German High Speed History...    
   
   
 The Short history of the high speed lines     
The need for higher and higher speeds is as old as the railroads themselves. Every now and then since the very beginnings surprising developments have been realized locally: There have always been high speed steam lovomotives, running on te state of art line. The 1930's Santa Fe in the Western U.S.A. run trains at an incredible speed of 160 km/h (100 mph) for longer stretches of the line, streamlining and aluminum construction are not a new phenomenon. The WW2 stopped the developments for a couple of decades, before the mothballed projects were reinvented. The 1960's and early 1970's saw some interesting gas turbine prototypes of high speed trains, as the electricity was once considered not the only alternative power source, but with the gas prices going up even in the 1970's the real answer for the economical high volume traffic lied evetuallywith the electrification of the lines.   
   
The real post war boom started with the Japanese Shinkansen (new rail line) rail lines with its bullet trains. France was another nation with a needed determination to go forward with the building of the super high speed lines and trains. 
   
 Why were the french SO successful on their efforts?

The French were not the first nation with their super high speed efforts in the 1960's to current. No, they were just one nation pushing the ideas forward. However, it was France, where the ideas were seen as a strategic move and with determination and enough resources the building of the LGV's (siper high speed lines) and TGV trains to run on them were started. But where the Japanese had to build a totally new line, the French kept building smaller stretches of super high speed lines meandring around the rural areas in France.  They still do their line building this way: one small step at a time. The important difference between Shinkansen bullet trains and TGV's? Simply the fact that TGV's can use the conventional track as well, simplifying enormously the building around the congested bigger cities. While the TGV's can reach just about any electrified networks part of France, once its found that the traffic volumes pick up, the economical calculations might well justify for the building of another stretch of the super high speed line. Another factor was that the TGV's were intended to be used by everyone, not just the elite (like with Germany's elite TEE trains). Broader usage again translated for more income helping development further and further!   

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In the picture by Pekka Siiskonen two sets of TGV-PSE's in their original orange and blue livery are seen somewhere in the French countryside on the first LGV (Ligne a Grande Vitesse) between Paris and Lyon. 
   

 The First Line: LGV Paris-Sud-Est  
France, Paris - Lyon, 453 kilometers / 281 miles 
The very first larger scale super high speed line to be built was the LGV Paris-Sud-Est stretching from outskirts of Paris south east to third largest French city Lyon. The construction was started in 1974 and finished partly in 1981 with the rest of line in use by 1983. The LGV (LGV stands fot the "Line of Great Speeds", Ligne a Grande Vitesse) was strategically on the way for the most journeys in the French populated areas enabling "flying on the ground" (as travelling on the TGV is often referred due to high quality LGV structure) for the first time for everyone. LGV Paris-Sud-Est was an immediate great success and by now the capacity has saturated, even with special double decked rolling stock and TGV's running in pairs (maximum length for the French platforms si the length of two TGV units, or 400 meters). 
 

The LGV-PSE was electrified with for the time new French standard of 25kV 50Hz instead of the traditional 1500V DC (Direct Current) that could not provide enough power for the new trains. For current super high speed lines mainly the "standard" 25 KV 50/60Hz or the older variant 15 KV 50 Hz is supplied.  
   
The TGV-PSE (TGV Paris-Sud-Est) units became available slowly from from 1980, the last units of order delivered from Alsthom in 1988. Soon after the opening of the new high speed track the destinations of the TGV trains spread around the southern France as the TGV can run anywhere (slightly faster than the normal train) provided that the line is electrified, either 25kV or 1500V. In 1984 the first trivoltage 15 kV units were taken into use for travels to Switzerland.


The trivoltage Unit number 117 in its 1990's - early 2000's era paint scheme in Zurich. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.
 
The author remembers boarding the TGV in Nice and running it all the way to Paris already in 1984. Even back then it was fascinating to glide on the perfectly smooth surface of the LGV-PSE at 275 km/h (170 mph), which was the original maximum speed for the first TGV's. 

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 The LGV Atlantique  
France, Paris - Le Mans / Tours, 283 kilometers / 173 miles
The next line to get a go ahead financially was the LGV Atlantique, southwest of Paris. This was built during the late 1980's and opened in 1989 and 1990 for the revenue traffic. The building of a new high speed track meant also ordering new trains, which were of new improved type of TGV-Atlantique (TGV-A), still dedicated pretty much to this track. Unlike all other TGV type trains, Atlantique units have 10 trailers instead of the normal 8, which means its hard to use in multiple elsewhere on the LGVs.      


TGV-Atlantique set number 354. Externally similar to TGV-Réseau sets, Atlantiques have 10 passenger trailers instead of the usual 8 of other TGV units. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.     

The LGV Atlantique high speed line (V350) is the only LGV starting as high speed line all the way from the Paris Montparnasse. It is crowded around Paris,  thus the other lines join existing lines outside Paris. The LGV Atlantieque serves french living soutwest of Paris. The line is Y-shaped the first part of the line going towards Le Mans (city famous for its yearly 24 hour museum auto race) and ends outside the city. From here the conventional rails stretch to Bretagne and cities a bit south of it by the river Loire like Angers, Nantes and Saint Nazaire. Much of this areas rails are currently served by TGV train units, and extensions are planned. The other branch goes to near Tours, feeding trains to the cities by the Atlantic coast all the way to southern France.
 
Except for extended TGV services for the Bretagne, and super high speed line extension to major French population area Rennes is also being proposed (LGV Bretagne - Pays-de-la-Loire). This extension would bring Rennes just 1:25 away from Paris! The length of the proposed line is 225 kilometers (139 miles). Rough estimates are that the line could be in use by year 2017 with a cost of 2 - 3 billion Euros. It is also proposed, that 25 TGV-Atlantique units would be modified by adding a tilting mechanism for service all the way to to Bretagne. The trainsets are due to rebuilding program anyway after year 2010.            
 
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 The LGV Nord Europe     
France, Paris - Lille, 337 kilometers / 209 miles.
Third super high speed line to be added was the LGV Nord Europe starting again from Paris and stretching to Lille and all the way to Calais by the Eurotunnel. This line was completed in 1993. From Calais the Eurotunnel under the English Channel connected the Continental Europe for the first time with United Kingdom . North of Lille the line was used to connect Brussels and Amsterdam with the French high speed network.


The Eurostar unit(s) 3201/3202 seen here gliding through a station in Calais preparing to continue on the LGV Nord Europe. Picture by Ilkka Siissalo.  
 
Under construction from here, more will be added in the next development cycle.

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 Germany and Hig Speed Railroadin     
Germany was one of the nations which experimented heavily on the high speed railroading and managed to create a true super high speed network beginnings already by 1990s. This development had a number of key events and unusual happenings which we look in more detail next.

Picture: A German marvel manufactured by Siemens, an ICE3/Velaro unit for Deutsche Bahn that the giant is receiving for its international competition from year 2011. These units will add 15 more to the existing fleet of 67 similar super high speed trainsets.

Under construction and to be continued shortly.  


 
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Created for 4rail.net by John McKey. Pictures by Pekka Siiskonen, Ilkka Siissalo, Sanna Siissalo, Stanislav Voronin, Siemens AG and John McKey.



 Also on super high speed

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Other interesting pages in this category on 4rail.net 

  Super Fast Trains Main Page  Updated
  Super High Speed Trains News   NEW!
  Super High Speed Trains records Page   NEW!
  TGV & AGV page   Recently Updated      
  
Eurostars 
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  Super High Speed Lines and Corridors...     Updated 
  Super High Speed Train Manufacturers...     NEW 
 

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© 4rail.net Railroad Reference 2004 - 2009  -  Created 11.11.2008, Last Updated 13.7.2009   John McKey