In France, a Truly Low-Cost High-Speed Rail Option

Ouigo

» To convince even more passengers to take the train, the SNCF national rail carrier plans to offer very cheap tickets.

France’s SNCF national rail service has, since the introduction of the TGV in 1981, held to the belief that fast trains should not be segregated to serve only higher-paying passengers. As a result, fast trains have replaced all slow-speed service on most long-distance travel throughout the country; passengers are able to take advantage of fare deals that allow them to journey between cities hundreds of miles apart at €25 or less, as long as they book in advance.

This dedication to opening up speedy trains to people across the income spectrum is unique compared to most other European and Asian countries. In Germany, for instance, train service between major cities is often available at two speeds — fast Intercity-express and slower InterCity, at very different prices. In the

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Commitment to Tramways Makes France a World Model for New Urban Rail

Tramways in France

» Over the past twelve years, the total route mileage of tramways systems in France has multiplied by five — at a cost reasonable even for small cities.

Last weekend, the city of Brest, on the far western coast of France, opened its new tramway, a 14.3-km (8.9-mile) line that connects the center city to the west and northeast. 50,000 daily riders are expected in a city of about 140,000 inhabitants. This Friday, Orléans, an even smaller city in central France, will open its second, 11.3-km tramway line. The first already attracts about 40,000 daily users.

These two cities are far from alone in France. Across the country, cities large and small have adopted the construction of modern tramways* to bring their citizens a modern form of public transportation that has led to improved circulation, more convenient networks, and renovated downtowns. Like American streetcars, these tramways operate at

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After 30 Years, TGV Service Prospers Even as its Future is Questioned

France High-Speed Rail Lines

» France’s high-speed rail network is more extensive than ever and attracts huge ridership — but the financial viability of new lines raises concerns.

Thursday, France celebrated the 30th anniversary of the opening of the high-speed link between Paris and Lyon by then-President François Mitterand, an occasion that redefined travel in Europe and encouraged countries around the world in invest in faster train service by offering train service at speeds above 150 mph for the first time. SNCF, the public national rail company, celebrated this evening at Paris’ Gare de Lyon, where services first originated.

The distinct orange and blue TGV trains that have rocketed through the French countryside at speeds of up to 320 km/h (200 mph) since 1981 have been extraordinarily successful in attracting travelers away from airlines and even the highways because of the quick journey times they offer between center-cities. And they’re supremely safe: More

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Doing Right by the Public: PPPs in High-Speed Rail

» As the retrenchment continues in the American public sector, private-sector investors are likely to play an important role in paying for fast train systems.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a longtime supporter of the development of high-speed rail, has not given up on his state’s plans for an extensive network stretching initially from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and then on to Sacramento and San Diego. Despite cost estimate increases, opposition to the line among residents of some affected areas, and a total loss of new federal funding thanks to anti-investment Congressional Republicans, Mr. Brown has made evident in recent weeks his support for the line.

Construction on a segment in the Central Valley between Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield is still planned to get under way next year. Funding for that initial link is mostly lined up, thanks to state commitments and federal grants resulting from the stimulus of early 2009.

But because

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For French High-Speed Rail, a Lower-Cost Future Pondered

TGV

» National operator SNCF is considering expanding low-cost options for country’s fast trains in response to increased competition. Increasing premium services also proposed.

Faced with the prospect of direct competition for the first time and settling into a difficult fiscal environment, French national rail operator SNCF is strategizing for a more nimble, efficient future that will include cheaper tickets on some of its most frequented routes. In five years, passengers traveling between big cities like Paris, Lyon, and Marseille can expect to see a variety of companies offering similar services at reduced prices.

SNCF is expected to begin offering an increasing number of low-cost services beginning in 2012.

For train riders on the low end, this could mean a sharp turn towards TGV high-speed rail operations based on those promoted by low-cost airlines — at least for routes that have the demand to handle the crowds that these services require. Business

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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