Friday, September 22, 2006

France's TGV

25 Years of the TGV

This year is the 25th anniversary of the TGV or the Train à Grande Vitesse. Since the beginning of the TGV, it has made travel much easier and quicker throughout western Europe, connecting to other train systems Germany, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and Spain. Some Americans call it the 'bullet train' of France but I have never heard it called that here. 'Bullet train' is generally a high-speed rail train especially refering to the trains in Japan.

TGV Statistics
  • 100 million passengers in France and Europe in 2005
  • 1.20 billion passengers since the TGV started
  • 650 TGV trains run each day in France
  • 250 TGV train stations
  • 260 km/h (160 mph) normal high speed
  • 320 km/h (200 mph) normal high speed for TGV-Est, the new TGV to Reims and Strasbourg
  • 50% of travel is by TGV for less than 3 hours duration in France
  • 23 billion euros in investments of infrastructure over 25 years
  • 65,000 employees
  • 2 of 1500 TGV drivers are women, shame !
The TGV continues to be improved. More high-speed lines are added each year. The TGV set the world record of rail speed of 515 km/h (320 mph) in 1990 on a test track but the rate of repair and maintenance was estimated to be much more than double. Still, normal speeds are increasing.

Practical Matters

I have traveled by TGV throughout France and find it very easy, effecient and comfortable. Living in central Paris, none of the seven major train stations are far. When I take the TGV from La Gare Montparnasse, I leave home walking 25 minutes before the trains leaves. Even then, I have enough of a margin to take my time. Most destinations in France take less than three hours. No wonder most of the French take the TGV instead of a plane for travel under three hours.

Most often I reserve tickets via the internet via the national company SNCF and pick them up at La Gare Montparnasse at a machine. Rental cars can be picked up at destinations saving time and money.

There is an even cheaper alternative than the TGV offered by a small company iDTGV. iDTGV purchases blocks of tickets for one or two TGV cars, usually just one scheduled per day. There are more restrictions but the price is worth it. The tickets are downloaded from the internet and printed on a PC / printer. Nothing could be easier or cheaper. I have paid as little as 25 euros for a fare than I have paid previously for 90 euros.

Still, in a photograph I took at Gare de Lyon, there was one unhappy traveler, stuck amid the busy travelers. Sometimes nothing works well.



Post a Comment

<< Home