The TGV (train à grande vitesse, French for "high-speed train") is France's high-speed rail service developed by GEC-Alsthom (now Alstom) and SNCF, the French national rail operator, and operated primarily by SNCF. Following the inaugural TGV service between Paris and Lyon in 1981, the TGV network, centred on Paris, has expanded to connect cities across France and in adjacent countries. It holds the record for the fastest wheeled train, having reached 574.8 km/h (357 mph) on 3 April, 2007, and also holds the world's highest average speed for a regular passenger service. TGV is a registered trademark of SNCF.
The success of the first line led to an expansion of the network, with new lines built in the south, west, north and east of the country. Eager to emulate the success of the French network, neighbouring countries such as Belgium, Italy, Spain and Germany built their own high-speed lines. TGVs link with Switzerland through the French network, with Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands through the Thalys network, and the Eurostar network links France and Belgium with the United Kingdom. Several lines are planned, including extensions within France and to surrounding countries. Towns such as Tours have become a part of a "TGV commuter belt".
TGV trainsets travel at up to 320 km/h (200 mph) in commercial use. A specially modified 2 engine car trainset (coaches removed) reached 574.8 km/h (357 mph) on a test run. The double decker TGV narrowly missed beating the overall world train speed record of 581km/h (360.8mph), which was reached in 2003 by a Japanese maglev train The method used to achieve record-breaking speed, however, is impractical for commercial applications because of motor overcharging, empty train weight, rail and engine wear issues, elimination of all but two coaches, excessive vibration and noise and lack of emergency stopping methods.
The high speed of the TGV is made possible through the use of specially-designed LGVs (lignes à grande vitesse, high-speed lines) without sharp curves and with high-powered electric motors, enlarged wheels, low axle weight, articulated carriages and in-cab signalling (eliminating the need for drivers to view lineside signals at high speed). TGV trainsets are manufactured primarily by Alstom, now often with the involvement of a subcontractor, such as Bombardier. Except for a small series of TGVs used for postal freight between Paris, Lyon and Provence, the TGV is primarily a passenger service. Trains derived from TGV designs operate in South Korea (KTX), Spain (AVE) and USA (ACELA Express).
Travel by TGV has largely replaced air travel between connected cities, due to shorter travel times (especially for trips taking less than three hours), reduced check-in, security and boarding formalities, and the convenient location of stations in the hearts of cities. The TGV is generally a safe mode of transport, but there have been accidents; there have been train passenger fatalities twice from collisions and once due to terrorism, but nothing like the Eschede train disaster.
It was originally planned that the TGV, then standing for très grande vitesse (very high speed) or turbine grande vitesse (high speed turbine), would be propelled by gas turbine-electric locomotives. Gas turbines were selected for their small size, good power-to-weight ratio, and ability to deliver high power over an extended period. The first prototype, TGV 001, was the only TGV constructed with this engine - following the increase in the price of oil during the 1973 energy crisis, gas turbines were deemed impractical and the project turned to electricity from overhead lines. The electricity was to be generated by France's new nuclear power stations.
TGV 001 was not a wasted prototype. Its gas-turbine powerplant was only one of many technologies for high-speed rail travel. It also tested high speed brakes, needed to dissipate the large amount of kinetic energy of a train at high speed, high speed aerodynamics, and signalling. It was articulated, meaning that two adjacent carriages shared a bogie between them, allowing free yet controlled motion with respect to one another. It reached 318 km/h (198 mph), which remains the world speed record for a non-electric train. Its interior and exterior were styled by British-born designer Jack Cooper, whose work formed the basis of early TGV designs, including the distinctive nose shape of the first TGV power cars.
Changing the TGV to electric traction required a significant design overhaul. The first electric prototype, nicknamed Zébulon, was completed in 1974, testing features such as innovative body mounting of motors, pantographs, suspension and braking. Body mounting of motors allowed over 3 tonnes to be eliminated from the power cars and massively reduced the amount of unsprung weight. The prototype travelled almost 1,000,000 km (621,000 miles) during testing.
In 1976 the French government funded the TGV project, and construction of the LGV Sud-Est, the first high-speed line (ligne à grande vitesse), began shortly afterwards. The line was given the designation LN1, Ligne Nouvelle 1 (New Line 1).
After two pre-production trainsets (nicknamed Patrick and Sophie) had been tested and substantially modified, the first production version was delivered on 25 April 1980. The TGV service opened to the public between Paris and Lyon on 27 September, 1981. The initial target customers were businesspeople travelling between those two cities. The TGV was considerably faster than normal trains, cars, or airplanes. The trains became popular outside their target market, the public welcoming fast and practical travel between cities.
Since then, further LGVs have opened in France, including the LGV Atlantique (LN2) to Tours/Le Mans (construction begun 1985, in operation 1989); the LGV Nord-Europe (LN3) to Calais and the Belgian border (construction begun 1989, in operation 1993); the LGV Rhône-Alpes (LN4), extending the LGV Sud-Est to Valence (construction begun 1990, in operation 1992); and the LGV Méditerranée (LN5) to Marseille (construction begun 1996, in operation 2001). The LGV Est from Paris to Strasbourg was inaugurated on 15 March 2007, and opened to the public in the summer of 2007. In its first month of operation, more than 1,000,000 passengers traveled on the line. High speed lines based on LGV technology connecting with the French network have been built in Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The Eurostar service began operation in 1994, connecting continental Europe to London via the Channel Tunnel with a version of the TGV designed for use in the tunnel and in the United Kingdom. The line used the LGV Nord-Europe in France from the outset. The first phase of the British High Speed 1 line, or Channel Tunnel Rail Link, was completed in 2003, and the second phase was completed on Wednesday 14 November 2007. The fastest trains take 2 hours 15 minutes on the London-Paris and 1 hour 51 minutes on the London-Brussels route.
The TGV was the world's second commercial high speed service, after Japan's Shinkansen, which first connected Tokyo and Osaka on 1 October 1964. The TGV currently holds the world speed record for conventional, wheel/rail trains. On 3 April 2007 a modified TGV POS train reached 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) under test conditions on the LGV Est.
The voltage on the test track between Paris and Strasbourg was boosted to 31,000 volts and extra ballast was tamped onto the right-of-way. By doing so, it beat the 1990 world speed record of 515.3 km/h (320.2 mph), set by a similarly shortened train (two power cars and three passenger cars), along with unofficial records set during weeks preceding the official record run. The test was part of an extensive research programme by Alstom.
The TGV is in 2007 the world's fastest conventional scheduled train: one journey's average start-to-stop speed from Lorraine-TGV to Champagne-Ardenne-TGV is 279.3 km/h (173.6 mph).
A Eurostar train broke the record for the longest non-stop high speed journey in the world on 17 May 2006 carrying the cast and filmmakers of The Da Vinci Code from London to Cannes for the Cannes Film Festival. The 1421 km (883.0 miles) journey took 7 hours 25 minutes (191.6 km/h or 119 mph).
The record for the fastest long distance run was set by a TGV Réseau train travelling from Calais-Frethun to Marseille (1067.2 km, 663 mi) in 3 hours 29 minutes (306 km/h or 190 mph) for the inauguration of the LGV Méditerranée on 26 May 2001.
In August 2007, the Dutch students Hildebrand van Kuyeren and Mart Hopman used the TGV, mainly the Paris-Marseille line, to set the world record for train traveling within one week (24,428.2 km / 15,182.2 miles).
Lines used only for high-speed traffic can incorporate steeper grades than normal. This facilitates the planning of LGVs and reduces the cost of line construction. The considerable momentum of TGVs at high speed allows them to climb steep slopes without greatly increasing their energy consumption. They can also coast on downward slopes, further increasing efficiency. The Paris-Sud-Est LGV features line grades of up to 3.5%. (On the German NBS high-speed line between Cologne and Frankfurt they reach 4%.)
Track alignment is more precise than on normal railway lines, and ballast is in a deeper than normal profile, resulting in increased load-bearing capacity and track stability. LGV track is anchored by more sleepers (railroad ties) per kilometre than usual, and all are made of concrete, either mono- or bi-bloc, the latter consisting of two separate blocks of concrete joined by a steel bar. Heavy rail (UIC 60) is used and the rails themselves are more upright, with an inclination of 1 in 40 as opposed to 1 in 20 on normal lines. Use of continuous welded rails in place of shorter, jointed rails yields a comfortable ride at high speed, without the "clickety-clack" vibrations induced by rail joints.
The diameter of tunnels is greater than normally required by the size of the trains, especially at entrances. This limits the effects of air pressure changes, which could be problematic at TGV speeds.
Maintenance on LGVs is carried out at night, when no TGVs are running.
Outside France, LGVs often carry non-TGV intercity traffic, often as a requirement of the initial funding commitments. The Belgian LGV from Brussels to Liège carries 200 km/h loco-hauled trains, with both the Dutch HSL Zuid and British High Speed 1 planned to carry 200 km/h domestic intercity services. The Channel Tunnel is not an LGV, but it uses LGV-type TVM signalling for mixed freight, shuttle and Eurostar traffic at between 100 km/h and 160 km/h. The "Standard Pathway" for path allocation purposes is the time taken by one of Eurotunnel's own Shuttle trains (maximum speed 140 km/h) to traverse the Tunnel. A single Eurostar running at 160 km/h occupies 2.67 standard paths; a second Eurostar running at minimum distance (3 minutes) behind the first train only "costs" an additional 1 path, which is why the Eurostar services are often flighted 3 minutes apart throughout from London to Lille and vice versa. A freight train running at 120 km/h occupies 1.33 paths. A freight running at 100 km/h occupies 3 paths. This illustrates the problem of mixed traffic at different speeds.
|Eurostar||160 km/h||2⅔||"catches up" with earlier trains|
|Eurostar (average for two)||160 km/h||1⅚||consecutive "flighted pair" at same speed|
|Eurotunnel Shuttle||140 km/h||1||optimal usage, all trains at same speed|
|Multi-modal freight||120 km/h||1⅓||"holds up" train behind it|
The line is divided into signal blocks of about 1500 m (1 mile), with the boundaries marked by blue boards with a yellow triangle. Dashboard instruments show the maximum permitted speed for the train's current block and a target speed based on the profile of the line ahead. The maximum permitted speed is based on factors such as the proximity of trains ahead (with steadily decreasing speeds permitted in blocks closer to the rear of the next train), junction placement, speed restrictions, the top speed of the train and distance from the end of the LGV. As trains cannot usually stop within one signal block, which can range in length from a few hundred metres to a few kilometres, drivers are alerted to slow gradually several blocks before a required stop.
Two versions of TVM signalling, TVM-430 and TVM-300, are in use on LGV. TVM-430, a newer system, was first installed on the LGV Nord to the Channel Tunnel and Belgium, and supplies trains with more information than TVM-300. Among other benefits, TVM-430 allows a train's on-board computer system to generate a continuous speed control curve in the event of an emergency brake activation, effectively forcing the driver to reduce speed safely without releasing the brake.
The signalling system is normally permissive: the driver of a train is permitted to proceed into an occupied block section without first obtaining authorization. Speed is limited to 30 km/h (19 mph) and if speed exceeds 35 km/h (22 mph) the emergency brake is applied. If the board marking the entrance to the block section is accompanied by a sign marked Nf, for non-franchissable, the block section is not permissive, and the driver must obtain authorisation from the Poste d'Aiguillage et de Régulation (PAR - Signalling and Control Centre) before entering. Once a route is set or the PAR has provided authorization, a white lamp above the board is lit to inform the driver. The driver acknowledges the authorization using a button on the control panel. This disables the emergency braking, which would otherwise occur when passing over the ground loop adjacent to the non-permissive board.
When trains enter or leave LGVs from lignes classiques, they pass over a ground loop that automatically switches the driver's dashboard indicators to the appropriate signalling system. For example, a train leaving the LGV for a ligne classique has its TVM system deactivated and its traditional KVB (Contrôle Vitesse par Balise, or beacon speed control) system enabled.
One of the main advantages of TGV over other fast rail technologies such as magnetic levitation is that TGVs can take advantage of existing infrastructure. This makes connecting city centres (such as Paris-Gare de Lyon to Lyon-Perrache) by TGV a simple and inexpensive proposition. TGVs often use intra-city tracks and stations built for lower speed trains.
However, LGV route designers have tended to build new intermediate stations in suburban areas or in the open countryside several kilometers away from cities. This allows TGVs to stop without incurring too great a time penalty, since more time is spent on high speed track; in addition, many cities' stations are stub-ends, while LGV tracks frequently bypass cities. In some cases, stations have been built halfway between two communities. The station serving Montceau-les-Mines and Le Creusot is an example, and a more controversial example is Haute Picardie station, between Amiens and Saint-Quentin. The press and local authorities criticized Haute Picardie as being too far from either town to be convenient, and too far from connecting railway lines to be useful for travellers. The station was nicknamed la gare des betteraves, or 'beet station', as it was surrounded by sugar beet fields during construction. This nickname is now applied to similar stations away from town and city centres, whether in the vicinity of beet fields or not.
New railway stations have been built for TGV services, some of which are major architectural achievements in their own right. Avignon TGV station, opened in 2001, has been praised as one of the most remarkable stations on the network, with a spectacular 340 m (1,115 ft)-long glazed roof that has been compared to that of a cathedral.
The articulated design is advantageous during a derailment, as the passenger carriages are more likely to stay upright and in line with the track. Normal trains, by contrast, may split at couplings and jack-knife.
A disadvantage of this carriage design is that it is difficult to split sets of carriages. While TGV power cars can be removed from trains via standard uncoupling procedures, specialized depot equipment is needed to split carriages, by lifting the entire train at once. Once uncoupled, one of the carriage ends is left without a bogie at the split, so a bogie frame is required to support it.
SNCF operates a fleet of about 400 TGVs. Seven types of TGV or TGV derivative currently operate on the French network; these are:
All TGVs are at least bi-current, which means that they can operate at 25 kV, 50 Hz AC on newer lines (including LGVs) and at 1.5 kV DC on older lines (such as the 1.5 kV lignes classiques that are common around Paris). Trains crossing the border into Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom must accommodate other voltages, requiring tri-current and quadri-current TGVs. TGVs have two pairs of pantographs, two for AC use and two for DC use. When passing between areas of different supply voltage, marker boards remind the driver to turn off power to the traction motors, lower the pantograph(s), adjust a switch to select the appropriate system, and raise the pantograph(s). Pantographs and pantograph height control are selected automatically based on the voltage system chosen by the driver. Once the train detects the correct supply, a dashboard indicator illuminates and the driver can switch on the traction motors. The train coasts across the boundary between sections.
|Equipment type||Top speed|| Seating|
|Overall length||Width||Weight (empty)|| Power|
(under 25 kV)
|TGV Sud-Est|| 270 km/h (168 mph) as built|
300 km/h (186 mph) rebuilt
|345||200.2 m (657 ft)||2.81 m (9.2 ft)||385 t||6,450 kW||16.7 W/kg|
|*TGV Atlantique||300 km/h (186 mph)||485||237.5 m (780 ft)||2.90 m (9.5 ft)||444 t||8,800 kW||19.8 W/kg|
|TGV Réseau||320 km/h (199 mph)||377||200 m (656 ft)||2.90 m (9.5 ft)||383 t||8,800 kW||23.0 W/kg|
|Eurostar Three Capitals||300 km/h (186 mph)||750||393.7 m (1,293 ft)||2.81 m (9.2 ft)||752 t||12,240 kW||16.3 W/kg|
|Eurostar North of London||300 km/h (186 mph)||596||318.9 m (1,033 ft)||2.81 m (9.2 ft)||665 t||12,240 kW||18.4 W/kg|
|TGV Duplex||320 km/h (199 mph)||512||200 m (656 ft)||2.90 m (9.5 ft)||380 t||8,800 kW||23.2 W/kg|
|Thalys PBKA||300 km/h (186 mph)||377||200 m (656 ft)||2.90 m (9.5 ft)||385 t||8,800 kW||22.9 W/kg|
|TGV POS||320 km/h (199 mph)||357||200 m (656 ft)||2.90 m (9.5 ft)||383 t||9,280 kW||24.2 W/kg|
The Sud-Est fleet was built between 1978 and 1988 and operated the first TGV service, from Paris to Lyon in 1981. There are 107 passenger sets operating, of which nine are tri-current (including 15 kV, 16⅔ Hz AC for use in Switzerland) and the rest bi-current. There are also seven bi-current half-sets without seats that carry mail for La Poste between Paris, Lyon and Provence, in a distinctive yellow livery.
Each set is made up of two power cars and eight carriages (capacity 345 seats), including a powered bogie in each of the carriages adjacent to the power cars. They are 200 m (656 ft) long and 2.81 m (9.2 ft) wide. They weigh 385 tonnes with a power output of 6,450 kW under 25 kV.
Originally the sets were built to run at 270 km/h (168 mph) but most were upgraded to 300 km/h (186 mph) during mid-life refurbishment in preparation for the opening of the LGV Méditerranée. The few sets that still have a maximum speed of 270 km/h operate on those routes that include a comparatively short distance on LGV, such as to Switzerland via Dijon. SNCF did not consider it financially worthwhile to upgrade their speed for a marginal reduction in journey time.
Modified unit 325 set the world speed record in 1990 on the new LGV before its opening. Various modifications, such as improved aerodynamics, larger wheels and improved braking, were made to enable speeds of over 500 km/h (310 mph). The set was reduced to two power cars and three carriages to improve the power-to-weight ratio, weighing 250 tonnes. Three carriages, including the bar carriage in the centre, is the minimum possible configuration because of the articulation.
They are formed of two power cars (8,800 kW under 25 kV - as TGV Atlantique) and eight carriages, giving a capacity of 377 seats. They have a top speed of 300 km/h. They are 200 m (656 ft) long and are 2.90 m (9.5 ft) wide. The bi-current sets weigh 383 tonnes: owing to axle-load restrictions in Belgium the tri-current sets have a series of modifications, such as the replacement of steel with aluminium and hollow axles, to reduce the weight to under 17 tonnes per axle.
Owing to early complaints of uncomfortable pressure changes when entering tunnels at high speed on the LGV Atlantique, the Réseau sets are now pressure-sealed. They can be also coupled to a Duplex set.
The Eurostar train is essentially a long TGV, modified for use in the United Kingdom and in the Channel Tunnel. Differences include a smaller cross section to fit within the constrictive British loading gauge, British-designed asynchronous traction motors, and extensive fireproofing.
In the UK, it is known under the TOPS classification system as class 373. In the planning stages, it was also known as the TransManche Super Train (Cross-channel Super Train). The trains were built by GEC-Alsthom (now Alstom) in La Rochelle (France), Belfort (France) and Washwood Heath (England), entering service in 1993.
Two types were built: the Three Capitals sets, consisting of two power cars and 18 carriages, including two with one powered bogie each, and the North of London sets, consisting of two power cars and 14 carriages, again with two with one powered bogie each. Full sets of both types consist of two identical half-sets which are not articulated in the middle, so that in case of emergency in the Channel Tunnel one half can be uncoupled and leave the tunnel. Each half-set is numbered separately.
Thirty-eight full sets, plus one spare power car, were ordered: 16 by SNCF, four by NMBS/SNCB, and 18 by British Rail, of which seven were North of London sets. Upon privatisation of British Rail by the UK Government, the BR sets were bought by London and Continental Railways, whose subsidiary Eurostar (U.K.) Ltd. is managed by a consortium of the National Express Group (40%), SNCF (35%), SNCB (15%) and British Airways (10%).
The sets operate at a maximum speed of 300 km/h (186 mph), with the power cars supplying 12,240 kW of power. The Three Capitals sets are 394 m (1,293 ft) long and have 766 seats, weighing a total of 752 tonnes. The North of London sets have 558 seats. All are at least tri-current and are able to operate on 25 kV, 50 Hz AC (on LGVs, including High Speed 1, and on UK overhead electrified lines), 3 kV DC on lignes classiques in Belgium and 750 V DC on the UK former Southern Region third rail network. The third-rail system became obsolete in 2007 when the second phase of High Speed 1 was brought into use between London and the Channel Tunnel, as it uses 25 kV, 50 Hz AC exclusively. Five of the Three Capitals sets owned by SNCF are quadri-current and are able to operate on French lignes classiques at 1500 V DC.
Three of the Three Capitals sets owned by SNCF are in French domestic use and carry the silver and blue TGV livery. The North of London sets, intended to provide direct regional Eurostar services from continental Europe to UK cities north of London, using the West Coast Main Line and the East Coast Main Line, have never seen regular international use: budget airlines in the UK offered lower fares. A few of the sets were leased to GNER for use on its White Rose service between London and Leeds, with two of them carrying GNER's dark blue livery. The lease ended in December 2005 and a year later the same sets found themselves working services to Calais in France for SNCF, remaining in the standard Eurostar livery, minus the logos.
The Chief Executive of Eurostar, Richard Brown, has suggested that the trains could be replaced by double-decker trains similar to the TGV Duplex when they are withdrawn. A double-deck fleet could carry 40 million passengers per year from England to Continental Europe, equivalent to adding an extra runway at a London airport.
Eurostar has higher security measures than other TGVs. Luggage is screened and passengers are theoretically required to check in 30 minutes before departure, although this requirement is seldom if ever enforced. In addition, passengers entering or leaving the UK have to pass customs and identity checks.
After a lengthy development process starting in 1988 (during which they were known as the TGV-2N), they were built in two batches: 30 between 1995 and 1998 and 34 between 2000 and 2004. They weigh 380 tonnes and are 200 m (656 ft) long, made up of two power cars and eight bi-level carriages. Extensive use of aluminium means that they weigh not much more than the TGV Réseau sets they supplement. The bi-current power cars provide a total power of 8,800 kW, and they have a slightly increased speed of 320 km/h (199 mph).
They consist of two power cars with eight TGV Réseau type carriages, with a total power output of 9,600 kW and a top speed of 320 km/h (199 mph). Unlike TGV-A, TGV-R and TGV-D, it has asynchronous motors, and isolation of an individual motor in a powered bogie is possible in case of failure.
France has around 1,700 km of LGV, with three lines under construction. The current lines and those under construction can be grouped into four routes radiating from Paris:
Amsterdam and Cologne are served by Thalys TGVs running on ordinary track, and these connections are being upgraded to high-speed rail. London is served by Eurostar trains running on High Speed 1 - Eurostar now runs on fully-segregated line once in the United Kingdom.
The development of TGV trains is being pursued in the form of the AGV, automotrice à grande vitesse (high speed multiple unit). The AGV design has motors under each carriage. Investigations are being carried out with the aim of producing trains at the same cost as existing TGVs with the same safety standards. AGVs of the same length as TGVs could have up to 450 seats. The target speed is 360 km/h. The prototype AGV was unveiled by Alstom on February 5 2008.
In the short term, plans are being considered to increase the capacity of TGVs by 10% by replacing the central two power cars of a double TGV with passenger carriages. These carriages would have motorized bogies underneath them, as would the first and last carriage of the train, to make up for the lost power.
Italian operator NTV is the first customer for the AGV, and intends to become the first open access high speed rail operator in Europe, when it starts operation of its AGVs in Italy in 2011.
Following the number of accidents at level crossings, an effort has been made to remove all level crossings on lignes classiques used by TGVs. The ligne classique from Tours to Bordeaux at the end of the LGV Atlantique has no level crossings as a result.
Lyon Turin Ferroviaire (Lyon-Chambéry-Turin), which would connect the TGV to the Italian TAV network, has been the subject of demonstrations in Italy. While most Italian political parties agree on the construction of this line, inhabitants of the towns where construction would take place are vehemently opposing it. The concerns of the protesters centre around storing dangerous materials mined from mountain, like asbestos and uranium, in the open air. This serious health danger could be avoided by using more appropriate but expensive techniques for handling radioactive materials. A six-month delay in the start of construction has been decided in order to study solutions. In addition to the concerns of the residents, RFB - a ten year old national movement - opposes the development of Italy's TAV high-speed rail network as a whole.
General complaints about the noise of TGVs passing near towns and villages have led the SNCF to build acoustic fencing along large sections of LGVs to reduce the disturbance to residents, but protests still take place where SNCF has not addressed the issue.