From Academic Kids

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A Réseau-class 2nd-generation TGV train at Marseille St-Charles station.
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A TGV Atlantique on an enhanced ordinary track.
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Duplex double-deck TGVs offer higher capacities (510 total, out of which 182 are in first class) on heavily frequented routes, such as Paris-Marseille.
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Duplexes have four rows of seats (two at the bottom, two at the top); the upper and lower levels are linked by staircases. Carriages communicate at the upper level. A wheelchair-accessible compartment is provided.

The TGV is France's train à grande vitesse; literally "high-speed train". Developed by Alstom and SNCF, and operated by SNCF, the French national railway company, it connects cities in France, especially Paris, and in some other neighbouring countries, such as Belgium and Switzerland. TGVs or trains derived from TGV design also operate in the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. TGV trains are manufactured primarily by Alstom, now often with the involvement of Bombardier.

The TGV is a passenger train, except for a small series of TGVs used for postal freight between Paris and Lyon, France.



The idea of the TGV was first proposed in the 1960s. The first prototype, known as TGV 001, was powered by gas turbines and generated its own electricity from oil, but after the 1973 energy crisis and the consequent sharp rise in the price of oil this was deemed impractical. The first fully electric prototype was completed in 1974, with the final version delivered in 1980 and the service opened to the public between Paris to Lyon on 27 September 1981.

Since then, dedicated lines to Tours/Le Mans, Calais, Brussels and Marseille have opened. A line to Strasbourg is under construction, as are dedicated high-speed lines to London (see Channel Tunnel Rail Link), Cologne and Amsterdam. Further extensions into Spain and Italy are planned for the future.

The TGV is not the world's first commercial high-speed service, as the Japanese Shinkansen connected Tokyo and Osaka from 1 October 1964, nearly 17 years before the first TGVs entered commercial operation.

Tracks and stations

The TGV is one of the fastest commercially operating conventional trains in the world. Under test conditions, the TGV has reached speeds of 515.3 km/h (320.2 mph), setting a world record in 1990.

The TGV runs on dedicated tracks known as LGV (ligne à grande vitesse, "high-speed line"), allowing speeds of up to 320 km/h in normal operation on the newest lines. TGV trains can also run on conventional tracks, albeit at reduced speeds. They now serve around 200 destinations in France and abroad.

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Avignon TGV station.

The LGVs are similar to normal railway lines, and:

  • they use long welded rails in place of the older shorter rails, making the ride very comfortable at high speeds, without the usual 'clickety-clack' vibrations induced by rail joints;
  • the power supply is at 25 kV AC;
  • signalling is via electrical pulses through the rails, giving indications (speed, target speed, stop/go) directly to the train driver through dashboard-mounted visual indicators rather than lineside signals; trains are under the driver's control, though there are safeguards against driver errors that can safely bring the train to a stop.

The LGVs do not replace conventional tracks, but instead complement them. LGVs carry only high-speed traffic, and are not used for freight trains (except for TGV high-speed postal freight).

A strong point of the TGV in comparison to magnetic levitation trains is that older tracks may be used without special improvements; this is especially important when serving railway stations inside city centers (Paris's, Lyon's and Dijon's station are good examples). There has been a tendency to build new stations serving smaller locations in suburban areas or in the open countryside some miles away from the town, so as to be able to make a stop without incurring too great a time penalty. In some cases, such as the station serving Montceau-les-Mines and Le Creusot, the station was built in the middle between the two towns. Another example is the Haute Picardie station between Amiens and Saint-Quentin. This latter one was rather controversial, criticized in the press and by local government as too far from either town to be useful, and sited near a trunk road rather than a connecting railway line: it was often nicknamed 'la gare des betteraves', or 'beetroot station'.

A number of major new railway stations were built, some of which have been major architectural achievements in their own right. Avignon TGV station (left), opened in 2001, has won particular praise as one of the most remarkable stations on the network, with a spectacular 340m-long glazed roof that has led to the building being compared to a cathedral.

Rolling stock

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A TGV train in Rennes, in Britanny.
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TGV trains depart from Gare Montparnasse in Paris to western and south-western destinations.
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Long Eurostar trains connect London with Paris and Brussels through the Channel Tunnel.

Six distinct types of TGV trains operate on French lines:

Type: TGV Sud-Est
Entry into service: 1981
Composition: 2 power cars, 8 carriages
Mass: 385 t
Length: 200 m
Width 2.81 m
Max. speed: 300 km/h
Power: 6,450 kW
Capacity: 345 seats
Note: A special version of this TGV, without seats and painted yellow, is in service for the postal freight of La Poste.
Type: TGV Atlantique
Entry into service: 1989
Mass: 444 t
Composition: 2 power cars, 10 carriages
Length: 237.5 m
Width 2.9 m
Max. speed: 300 km/h
Power: 8,800 kW
Capacity: 485 seats
Type: TGV Réseau
Entry into service: 1993
Mass: 383 t
Composition: 2 power cars, 8 carriages
Length: 200 m
Width 2.81 m
Max. speed: 300 km/h
Power: 8,800 kW
Capacity: 377 seats
Type: Eurostar
Entry into service: 1994
Mass: 752 t
Composition: 2 power cars, 18 carriages
Length: 394 m
Max. speed: 300 km/h
Power: 12,200 kW
Capacity: 766 seats
Type: TGV Duplex
Entry into service: 1996
Mass: 386 t
Composition: 2 power cars, 8 carriages
Length: 200 m
Max. speed: 300 km/h
Power: 8,800 kW
Capacity: 512 seats
Entrance into service: 2006
Mass: 423 t
Composition: 2 power cars, 8 TGV Réseau carriages
Length: 200 m
Max. speed: 320 km/h
Power: 9,600 kW
Capacity: 375 seats

One complication is the multiple types of power supplies that the trains must accommodate. French TGVs must accommodate 1500 V DC (older lines, especially around Paris) as well as 25 kV AC (newer lines, including LGV). Trains crossing the border into Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and England must accommodate foreign voltages. This has led to the construction of tri-current or even quadri-current TGVs. Eurostar Eurostars have an additional complication, in that the trains collect their power from overhead lines for most of the way but have to rely on a third rail system during their journey through the London suburbs.


France has around 1,200 km of LGV built over the past 20 years, with four new lines either proposed or under construction.

Existing lines

  1. LGV Sud-Est (Paris Gare de Lyon to Lyon-Perrache), the first LGV (opened 1981)
  2. LGV Atlantique (Paris Montparnesse to Tours and Le Mans) (opened 1990)
  3. LGV Nord Europe (Paris Gare du Nord to Lille and Brussels and on towards London, Amsterdam and Cologne) (opened 1993)
  4. LGV Méditerranée (An extension of LGV Sud-Est: Lyon to Marseille Saint-Charles) (opened 2001)
  5. LGV Interconnexion (LGV Sud-Est to LGV Nord Europe, east of Paris)

Planned lines

  1. LGV Est (Paris Gare de l'Est-Strasbourg) (under construction, to open 2006)
  2. LGV Rhin-Rhône (Strasbourg-Lyon)
  3. Barcelona-Perpignan-Montpellier, which would connect the TGV to the Spanish AVE network
  4. Lyon-Chambéry-Turin, which would extend the TGV into Italy
  5. Tours-Bordeaux and Le Mans-Rennes, extending the LGV Atlantique
  6. Bordeaux-Toulouse-Narbonne

Amsterdam and Cologne are already served by Thalys TGV trains running on ordinary track, though these connections are being upgraded to high-speed rail. London is presently served by Eurostar TGV trains running at high speeds via the partially-completed Channel Tunnel Rail Link and then at normal speeds along regular tracks through the London suburbs.

TGV outside France

TGV technology has been adopted in a number of other countries:


TGV lines have largely replaced air traffic between connected cities. BrusselsParis in 90 minutes has increased commuting between the two capitals, and likewise the Paris–Marseille line has greatly reduced travel time. Towns such as Tours are becoming a part of "TGV commuter belt".

External links


  • [1] ( English version of SNCF official TGV website
    • [2] ( SNCF website for British users
  • [3] ( TGVweb
  • [4] ( The history of the TGV
  • TGV - The French High-speed Train Service ( at h2g2
  • LGV2030 ( an unofficial website about TGV Network in 2030cs:TGV

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