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High-Speed Link

DW staff / AFP (win)June 10, 2007

The first high-speed rail link between France and Germany began scheduled services Sunday, slashing travel times and marking a major step towards a truly pan-European rapid transit network.

France's TGV is coming to GermanyImage: AP

The service, offering fast connections to Luxembourg and Switzerland, cuts the Paris-Frankfurt journey by two and a half hours to three hours 50 minutes and brings Munich within six hours
of the French capital.

The first scheduled passenger train to whizz along the state-of-the-art new tracks was an Inter-City Express (ICE) train, operated by Germany's Deutsche Bahn, that left Paris at 6:43 a.m. headed to Frankfurt.

BdT Deutschland Frankreich Verkehr Hochgeschwindigkeitszug Stuttgart Paris
TGVs will link Paris to MunichImage: AP

France's superfast Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) will also provide services into Germany from December, traveling over the border for the trip to Munich via Stuttgart.

The new services provide a real alternative to flying and one that is cleaner and more hassle-free, officials say.

Going faster

The new line, the TGV Est, runs for 300 kilometers (186 miles) between Paris and Strasbourg, the home of the European Parliament, cutting the journey time between the two cities from four hours to two hours and 20 minutes.

BdT Deutschland Frankreich Verkehr Hochgeschwindigkeitszug Frankfurt Paris
German and French train conductors already welcomed the ICE in Frankfurt on May 25Image: picture-alliance/ dpa

Passenger services on the track between Paris and the border will run at 320 kilometers per hour -- compared to 300 kph elsewhere on the TGV network -- dropping to around 250 kph once inside Germany.

The line links Paris to one of France's last regions to be hooked up to the national high-speed network, bringing the cities of Strasbourg, Nancy, Metz and Reims within commuting distance of the capital.

It was inaugurated on Saturday with a TGV trip from Paris to Strasbourg and began commercial service on Sunday.

It was on this stretch that the TGV broke its own world speed record in April, hurtling into the history books at 574.8 kilometers per hour.

Costing billions

The new line will also provide a showcase for rival trainmakers, Alstom of France, maker of the TGV, and Siemens of Germany, which makes ICE trains, to display their products.

The line cost four billion euros ($5.3 billion) to build, mobilized some 10,000 workers over five years, and used up 78,000 tons of steel -- enough to build eight Eiffel towers.

BdT Frankreich Eisenbahn Neue Hochgeschwindigkeitsstrecke für TGV
The link cost billions to buildImage: AP

Along the TGV-Est's path 17 rail stations have been spruced up and three built from scratch, while gleaming new business parks have sprung up in anticipation of the extra investment and tourism it is hoped the fast train will bring.

The French rail operator SNCF has already sold more than 600,000 tickets for travel on the new Paris-Strasbourg line and hopes it will carry more than 11 million passengers annually by 2010.

The cost of the project was shared among 22 financial partners including the French government, Luxembourg, the European Union and the SNCF.

The pride of French engineering, the TGV -- which turned 25 last year -- is one of the world's fastest rail services, along with Japan's Shinkansen bullet train and Germany's ICE.

Outside France, TGVs provide high-speed links to London and Brussels, and low-speed connections over the French border into Switzerland and Italy.