France is investing in the future of train travel. The latest version of the country’s high-speed trains or TGV is the M model, which can reach speeds of up to 350 km/h (220 mph). The M stands for modular, a model that will allow France’s SNCF to extend its network in different ways: from Bordeaux to Toulouse; from Bordeaux to northern Spain; and from Lyon to Turin, in northern Italy.
The creation of the Toulouse – Bordeaux, and the Bordeaux – Dax high-speed lines (LGV – lignes grande vitesse) is a project of great relevance for the future of France’s southwest. Construction will begin in 2024 with the opening of the Toulouse – Bordeaux line in 2030. “Once the high speed line is completed through to Toulouse, even more will switch. Just as they have on the routes from Paris to Lyon, Bordeaux, Nantes and Marseille over the last 40 years,” David Haydock, French railways expert told CNN.
For a more ecological transport solution for everyone, the LGV brings the cities of France’s southwest closer together. As an alternative to travel by plane or car, these new lines allow a massive modal shift. They create faster connections with Paris and Europe, and put the New Aquitaine and Occitania regions on the major rail routes.
People are already turning away from airlines and taking the TGV.David Haydock French railways expert
Serving all inhabitants, high-speed lines strengthen the links between the territories of the Greater Southwest. They are a path to sustainable economic development and ecological transition. These two new lines are part of the major South-Western rail project (abbreviated to GPSO), which also includes major projects to develop the Bordeaux and Toulouse rail hubs.
The creation of high-speed lines, and the services that will result from them, is a project for the future: it reduces travel times to make the train competitive with the car and the plane. Shorter travel times will offer greater proximity to major European cities such as Bilbao or Barcelona. New regional links will better connect the medium-sized cities of Occitania and New Aquitaine.
The financing of the new lines in France’s South-West region will involve the State and the local authorities of the New Aquitaine and Occitania regions in equal measure. The total cost of creating the high-speed lines is estimated at 14 billion euros in 2021 (State/DGITM estimate). It corresponds to studies, works and land acquisitions on the new Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax lines, as well as the rail developments south of Bordeaux (AFSB) and north of Toulouse (AFNT).
- 10.3 billion euros for the creation of the Bordeaux-Toulouse new line, the rail developments south of Bordeaux (AFSB) and the rail developments north of Toulouse (AFNT).
- 3.7 billion euros for the creation of the new line to Dax.
Breakdown of financing (out of the 10.3 billion euro budget):
- 40% State (4.1 billion euros)
- 40% local authorities (4.1 billion euros)
- 20% European Union subsidies
EU is piloting 10 projects to boost cross-border rail connections
In February of this year, the European Commission announced it will support 10 pilot projects to establish new rail services or improve existing ones. The initiative is also intended to promote efficient and green mobility, in line with the Commission’s Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility.
The route proposals were submitted by the rail sector and relevant authorities in response to the Commission’s Action Plan to boost long-distance and cross-border passenger rail adopted in December 2021. The EU executive selected the following proposals for cross-border pilot services, in order of planned starting date:
- Hungarian Ministry of Transport, new services connecting Hungary, Austria and western Romania;
- Connection Germany – Denmark – Sweden, with participation of SJ (new night train service Stockholm – Copenhagen – Berlin and day train Hamburg – Gothenburg (and potentially Oslo, in cooperation with DSB and DB), Snälltaget (enhanced night train service Stockholm – Copenhagen – Berlin), České dráhy (new service Prague – Berlin –Copenhagen, in co-operation with DB and DSB) and Flixtrain (new service Leipzig – Berlin – Copenhagen– Stockholm);
- Midnight Trains, new night train service Paris – Milan – Venice;
- Flixtrain, new service Munich – Zurich;
- WESTbahn, new service Munich – Vienna – Budapest, extension of existing service;
- Nederlandse Spoorwegen, enhancement of the existing Amsterdam – London service, in cooperation with Eurostar;
- European Sleeper, new night train service Amsterdam – Barcelona;
- Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane /Deutsche Bahn, new services Rome – Munich and Milan – Munich;
- ILSA, new services Lisbon – A Coruña and Lisbon – Madrid;
- Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya, new services connecting Catalonia and the South of France.
The Action Plan identified obstacles hindering the uptake and operation of cross-border passenger rail services, including measures to address them. One of these measures is the pilot services revealed by the Commission, which is intended to help railway operators and authorities to break down remaining barriers in practice, with the support of the EU.
The EU’s Action Plan comes on top of the existing EU regulatory and policy framework for rail, which equips EU countries and the sector with many tools to implement the Single European Rail Area in order to remove barriers and to open the market for new players and services.