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Thursday, April 30, 2009
High Speed Trains
Image: © 2009 theirEarth.com

High Speed Trains - The New Transportation Growth Sector

LEVALLOIS-PERRET, FRANCE - theirEarth photographed a TGV high-speed train, manufactured by Alstom of France, at the Paris Gare De Lyon Station recently. We had an opportunity to travel between Paris and Nice, France on the TGV high-speed train and experience travel by rail at excessively fast speeds. The TGV, shown in the photo is one of the newer 'Duplex' type, which is bi-level (lower and upper decks) - and provides for efficient passenger carrying capacity while still maintaining a comfortable cabin space for travellers. We will do a separate review of Alstom's business in our Green Investment category.

In the United States, investments into high-speed train infrastructures appear ready to catapult to new levels. Currently there is one high-speed rail service, called the Acela Express, and it runs the route Boston to Washington, D.C., with stops in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. With the expected new infrastructure investments in high-speed rail travel, new track, new trains and new industries are expected to appear in the United States that support this mode of efficient and zero emissions high-speed transport.

In California, the market appears very attractive for infrastructure investments in high-speed rail. One need only look at the congestion on Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose to realize that a TGV type train that ran the corridor between these two cities at speeds of up to 175 mph (280 km/h) would be well received by residents of the Bay Area. It is technically possible that a direct service would cover this 45 mile (72 km) distance in approximately 25 minutes or less. In the next five years, it is expected that a new Los Angeles to San Francisco high-speed train line will start construction, and for California this project will further enhance the pioneers of environmental technology image that the State is becoming known for. 

The first ever modern day high-speed train was Japan's Tokaido Shinkansen which started operating between Tokyo and Osaka, Japan more than forty-four years ago on October 1, 1964. But in France, where in 1981 the first high speed TGV rail service started between Paris and Lyon, the large-scale business model for high-speed rail travel has become a real commercial success.

Since the opening of the Paris-Lyon TGV line in 1981, France's major North-South passenger train route has been extended further to Marseille with new high speed track and track foundations. There are now numerous specially laid TGV routes in France, going to places like Lille in the North, Strasbourg and Belfort in the East, and fourteen other major destinations in the West and South East - like Bordeaux, Nice, Limoges, and Clermont-Ferrand. TGV customers can buy first and second-class tickets through the internet [www.tgv.fr], and travel between any TGV stops along these high-speed rail corridors.

The TGV Duplex train shown in the photo, carries 512 passengers and is capable of achieving 320 km/h (200 mph) on specially laid high-speed track. Each TGV rail car set includes a power car front and rear, and eight pressure sealed integral passenger cars in between, offering a quiet relaxed internal train cabin at high speed. On the TGV Paris to Marseille route, two TGV rail-car sets are often joined together to carry as much as 1012 passengers a distance of 783 km (489 miles) in 3 hours, at an average speed of 261 km/h (163 mph).

Our journey on the TGV was between Paris (Gare De Lyon) and Nice and we travelled on a special advance purchase idTGV ticket in first class which was extremely comfortable with the extra leg room provided. There is also a buffet car onboard that serves hot meals, snacks, drinks, liquor, wine, and rents DVD players and movies for those who would like to watch a Hollywood film on their journey. The TGV moves the fastest on the Paris to Marseille route, where on specially laid track it can hit a top speed of close to 300 km/h (188 mph) and arrives in Marseille in about 3 hours point to point. For the 207.2 km (129.5 miles) distance between Marseille and Nice, the TGV moves at a slower pace, as it has to use the same track as the French commuter trains. For the entire TGV trip distance from Paris to Nice of 990 km (618.8 miles), our trip took 5 hours 31 minutes.

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