First High Speed Train in France 1981-2011
Our President and CEO, Frédéric Langlois, contributes monthly to our High Speed Rail News blog series. Sharing his passion for travel and high-speed rail of which he is considered an expert. With over 17 years in the industry, Langlois sits on the Advisory Boards of the German National Tourist Office, the French National Tourist Office and hotel giant Accor. In addition, he has appeared on cable news discussing the future of high-speed trains in the United States.
France has been a crossroads of trade, travel (and invasion) since prehistoric times and perhaps this rich travel history is what has helped create an understanding of the importance of being able to transport people and products quickly, comfortably and safely across its varied terrain.
While all trains can be credited for being able to transport products such as fine wines from the Champagne, Bordeaux or Burgundy regions and fine cheeses from the Rhone Alps to all parts of France; it is the iconic TGV that can really be credited for connecting people to places and changing the way people in France live their lives and even choose where they wish to work.
The first TGV line was built between Paris and Lyon and opened in 1981. TGV trains have transported over 1.5 billion passengers since it first opened. Its impact was and still is immense, as it introduced the option of living in one city and working in another – a concept never even considered possible before that. Travel between these two major cities takes only two hours and offers commuters a stress free and faster alternative to driving. Currently one in three TGV passengers is a business traveler and TGV owns about 90-95% of the market share vs air, for journeys under 2 hours.
It is only fitting that such an iconic French train should be influenced by an iconic French designer. Christian Lacroix designed the interior of the TGV East, which carries passengers from the city center of Paris to the city centers of cities such as Reims (in Champagne), Metz, Nancy and Strasbourg in eastern France.
Since 1981, the TGV has led the way in changing the travel patterns not only of the French, but also of tourists who visit the country. High speed rail networks span about 1,178 miles. Investment in the high speed infrastructure continues to be made and it is expected that by 2014, an additional 200 TGV trains will be added to the fleet. With over 400 TGV trains running each day and traveling at speeds of up to 200 mph, this really is the best way to travel around France.
France is the largest country in Western Europe (it is about the same size as the US state of Texas) and its major cities of Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Strasbourg, Nice and Bordeaux to name just a few, are all connected by the TGV. Some current travel times from city center to center are:
Paris/Strasbourg: 330 miles
Travel Time: 2H approximately
US equivalent: NYC to Montreal
Paris/Marseille: 560 miles
Travel Time: 3H approximately
US equivalent: NYC to Columbus Ohio or San Francisco to Las Vegas Market share Vs air:73%
Paris/Bordeaux: 580 miles
Travel Time : 3H approximately
US equivalent: NYC to Columbus Ohio or San Francisco to Las Vegas Market share Vs air: 68%
So when you are planning your next trip to France, check out the trains – they get you where you want to go with speed, comfort, flexibility and lots of leg room! The TGV is a “must-do” when visiting France – after all you’d never leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower or go to London and not ride a red double decker bus!