The Ligne à Grande Vitesse Est européenne (English: East European High Speed Line), typically shortened to LGV Est, is a French high-speed rail line that connects Vaires-sur-Marne (near Paris) and Vendenheim (near Strasbourg). The line halved the travel time between Paris and Strasbourg and provides fast services between Paris and the principal cities of eastern France as well as Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. The LGV Est is a segment of the Main line for Europe project to connect Paris with Budapest with high-speed rail service.
The line was built in two phases. Construction on the 300 km (190 mi) from Vaires-sur-Marne to Baudrecourt (near Metz and Nancy) began in 2004; the first phase entered into service in June 2007. Construction on the 106 km (66 mi) second phase from Baudrecourt to Vendenheim began in June 2010; the second phase opened to commercial service on 3 July 2016. Opening of the second phase was delayed after a train derailed near Eckwersheim during commissioning trials, resulting in 11 deaths.
A specially modified train performed a series of high-speed tests on the first phase of the LGV Est prior to its opening. In April 2007, it reached a top speed of 574.8 km/h (159.6 m/s, 357.2 mph), becoming the fastest conventional train and fastest train on a national rail system (as opposed to dedicated test track).
Île-de-France, Grand Est,|
Vendenheim, Grand Est
Phase 1: 10 June 2007|
Phase 2: 3 July 2016
|Line length||406 km (252 mi)|
|Number of tracks||Double track|
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Electrification||25 kV 50 Hz|
|Operating speed||320 km/h (200 mph)|
The line passes through the French regions of Grand Est and Île-de-France. The first 300 km (190 mi) section of this new route, linking Vaires-sur-Marne near Paris to Baudrecourt in the Moselle, entered service on 10 June 2007. Constructed for speeds up to 350 km/h (220 mph), for commercial service it is initially operating at a maximum speed of 320 km/h (200 mph), and was the fastest service in the world at average speed of 279.3 km/h (173.5 mph) between Lorraine and Champagne  until the Wuhan–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway opened in 2009. It is the first line in France to travel at this maximum speed in commercial service, the first in France to use ERTMS, the new European rail signalling system and the first line also served by German ICE trains. The second phase includes the 4,200-metre (13,800 ft) Saverne Tunnel.
In 1969, Metz politician Raymond Mondon requested a study of a fast train from Paris to Strasbourg along the route of the planned A4 autoroute. In 1970-71, the International Union of Railways (UIC, based on its French acronym) developed a master plan of fast intercity connections in continental Europe. Its connection between Paris and Strasbourg was very similar to the route of the LGV Est. The UIC master plan called for this line to be constructed shortly after Paris-Lyon and Paris-Brussels lines. In 1974, the director of SNCF confirmed that the company wanted to follow the UIC master plan.:57
Germany, which was developing the Transrapid maglev system, was long reserved about the TGV system being developed by France. A 1975 study concluded that the passenger traffic to only Alsace and Lorraine would not be enough for the financial feasibility of the line. In 1982, recognizing German reluctance to extend the line into Germany, SNCF president André Chadeau announced that the company would not build the LGV Est without government subsidies.:58 The following year, Saverne engineer Charles Maetz convinced MPs Adrien Zeller and François Grussenmeyer to establish the East European TGV Association (French: l'Association TGV Est-Européen), which managed to bring together local authorities to support the project.
The LGV Est is a direct result of a project begun in 1985 with the establishment of a working group chaired by Claude Rattier and later by Philippe Essig. Their report provided the basis for preliminary design studies conducted in 1992-93.:12 The initial 1980s plan extended along a corridor from Paris to Munich. However, the expected passenger traffic along this corridor was quite low, unlike Paris-Lyon and Paris-Brussels/London corridors, and a direct route crossed a region of eastern France far from any major urban area.
In 1986, MP Marc Reymann submitted to the government a route that shared a common trunk line between the LGV Nord and LGV Est from Paris, through Charles de Gaulle Airport, to Soissons before forking into lines to Brussels (LGV Nord) and Strasbourg (LGV Est). In 1988, the German government agreed to a rail line from Paris to Frankfurt via Saarbrücken.:68
The following year, Philippe Essig presented the route that would later be built and at the same time addressed the other problem: financing. This route, further north than previous proposals, served Reims and Strasbourg. In order to avoid offending the cities of Nancy and Metz, which share an ancient rivalry, and avoid problems encountered during the construction of the A4 autoroute twenty years earlier, this route traveled directly to Strasbourg and passed midway between Nancy and Metz, where a single station would be built to serve both towns and improve relations between them.
Financing of this proposal called for contributions from local governments—a first in France for construction of a high-speed line—and the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. This was a favorable financial arrangement for SNCF due to low ridership projections and because the population of the towns served were below a threshold for building a high-speed line. The complexity of financing resulted in the long delay of the project. Under the government of Pierre Beregovoy (French Prime Minister from 1992-1993), the government refused to contribute more than 25 billion francs to the project, and limited the route to Baudrecourt, to which the Alsace region threatened to withdraw its financial contribution to the project. After long delays under the successive governments, all wanting to limit the cost of the project, a two-phase project was finally accepted by all parties, provided that commitments were made for the quick completion of the second phase.
On 1 April 1992, the project was added to the master plan of high-speed lines, in which it was classified as a priority project. On 22 May 1992, France and Germany agreed to a Franco-German high-speed line consisting of a northern branch through Saarbrücken and Mannheim and a southern branch through Strasbourg and Karlsruhe. The same year a similar memorandum of understanding was signed between the transport ministers of France and Luxembourg. At the European Council meeting in Essen in 1994, the LGV Est project was reaffirmed as a priority trans-European transport project.
The expected socio-economic benefits of the LGV project was lower than other ongoing high-speed rail projects: LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire and LGV Bordeaux–Toulouse. The line is redundant to three existing rail lines: Paris to Strasbourg, Paris to Mulhouse, and the combined Ligne de Trilport à Bazoches and Reims-Metz lines.:18 Additionally, the international potential of the planned line seemed low, as Germany had little interest in the development of high-speed lines, favored domestic north-south axes, and due to the competition between SNCF and Deutsche Bahn.
The decision to build the line is politically motivated by fostering European integration, serving the European institutions in Strasbourg, and geographical balance of French high-speed rail lines, following the construction of high-speed lines from Paris to the southeast (LGV Sud-Est, LGV Rhône-Alpes, & LGV Méditerranée), the southwest (LGV Atlantique), and north (LGV Nord).
A public inquiry was conducted in 1994. The following year, a report conducted at the request of the Transport Minister advocated a complete redesign of the project, with an endpoint of the line at Épernay and from there onwards the adaptation of the existing Paris-Strasbourg line to accommodate high-speed tilting trains. In Nancy, which this route favored, this route was championed locally by Gérard Lignac, director of the L'Est Républicain newspaper. Although a budget was not completed and the planned phasing of the project was opposed by Lorraine and Alsace, the déclaration d'utilité publique was signed on 14 May 1996, two days before the deadline after which a new public inquiry would have been required.
A protocol for the construction and financing of the LGV Est was signed between the national government, RFF, SNCF, and local governments. The financing agreement for the first phase of the line from Vaires-sur-Marne to Baudrecourt was signed on 7 December 2000 between the numerous partners in the project, including 17 local governments. On 18 December 2003, the Jean-Pierre Raffarin government announced that it would proceed with several TGV projects, including construction of the second phase of the LGV Est, which would begin in 2010. On 24 January 2007, the financial arrangements for studies and preparatory work for the second phase of the line from Baudrecourt to Strasbourg was signed.
Construction of the line was divided into two phases. The first phase traverses 300 km (190 mi) of relatively flat land from Vaires-sur-Marne (20 km (12 mi) east of Paris) to Baudrecourt (between Metz and Nancy), where it intersects the Metz–Saarbrücken and Paris-Strasbourg rail lines. Construction on the first phase began in 2002 and it entered into service in 10 June 2007. Until the completion of the second phase, TGV trains continued from here towards Strasbourg on the Paris-Strasbourg rail line. The second phase traversed 106 km (66 mi) of rougher terrain from Baudrecourt to Vendenheim, on the northern edge of the Strasbourg metropolitan area. Construction on the second phase began in August 2010 and it entered service on 3 July 2016.
Between the opening of the first and second phases, trains from Strasbourg, Colmar, and southern Germany travelled along the classic Paris-Strasbourg line until Réding, then the Réding–Metz railway to join the LGV Est at Baudrecourt. However, trains from Nancy and Sarrebourg traveled along the Paris-Strasbourg line until Frouard, then took the Frouard–Novéant railway to join the LGV Est at Vandières.
Besides the construction of the LGV, the project includes:
Journey times have decreased as follows:
|From||To||Original Time||First Phase||Second Phase|
|Paris||Strasbourg||4h 00||2h 20||1h 50|
|Paris||Reims||1h 35||0h 45||-|
|Paris||Sedan||2h 50||2h 00||-|
|Paris||Charleville-Mézières||2h 30||1h 35||-|
|Paris||Nancy||2h 45||1h 30||-|
|Paris||Metz||2h 45||1h 25||-|
|Paris||Luxembourg||3h 55||2h 05||-|
|Luxembourg||Strasbourg||2h 17||-||1h 35|
|Paris||Basel||4h 55||3h 20||-|
|Paris||Zürich||5h 50||4h 35||-|
|Paris||Frankfurt||6h 15||3h 50||3h 40|
|Paris||Stuttgart||6h 10||3h 40||3h 10|
|Paris||Saarbrücken||4h 00||1h 50||-|
Earthworks for the first phase between Vaires-sur-Marne and Baudrecourt started in spring 2002. The contractors took three years to complete the earthworks and some 327 pieces of structural work as well as re-establishing communications for people and wildlife. Tracklaying and building the new stations started in 2004.
As the first infrastructure project of its kind to be declared a public utility by the Ministry of the Environment, the LGV Est is also the first railway to be financed largely by the French regions and the European Union (EU). The main contractor for the project is RFF (Réseau ferré de France), the state-owned company responsible for managing the French rail infrastructure.
Civil engineering works were distributed in eight contracts which were awarded after bidding by five companies: SNCF, ISL, Tractebel, Scétauroute and Setec. This is the first time there has been competition for the construction of a TGV line since reform of the rail system in 1997 and the involvement of RFF. SNCF Engineering, in partnership with EEG Simecsol succeeded in obtaining four of the contracts (including one for the second phase), this being 50% of the civil engineering project. Moreover, it directed the entire superstructure works project (track, signals and electrification) under the responsibility of Réseau Ferré de France.
On 9 June 2007, the TGV Est made its inaugural voyage, leaving from the Gare de l'Est at 7:36am. Notable passengers included: François Fillon, the French Prime Minister, Alain Juppé, the Minister of Sustainable Development, and the Argentinian Ambassador to France. The Prime Minister hailed this event as "a beautiful symbol of the capacity of our country to innovate when it is united, a symbol of European France, of the knowledge of French businesses, and a symbol that gives confidence in the future." He hailed this achievement as "a union by train between France and its German, Luxembourgish, and Swiss partners, between the European institutions and the [French] capital."
On 2 September 2009, infrastructure manager RFF announced the tendering for the second phase. Financing was finalized on 1 September 2009, with a mix of sources ranging from the French and Luxembourgish governments, regional governments, the EU, and RFF. The full line was planned to open on 3 April 2016, but that opening was delayed to July 3 by a major accident during testing of the line. Until then, TGV ran between these two cities via the existing Metz-Strasbourg line at the 160 km/h normal speed for the line.
The final weld of rails on the second phase took place on 31 March 2015 and was accompanied by a ceremony marking the end of construction of Phase 2, although work on signaling continued. The opening of the second phase had been scheduled for 3 April 2016, but was delayed after a train derailed near Eckwersheim during commissioning trials, resulting in 11 deaths and damage to a bridge on the line. The line opened on 3 July 2016.
A series of high speed trials, named Operation V150, were conducted on the LGV Est prior to its June 2007 opening using a specially modified train. The trials were conducted jointly by SNCF, TGV builder Alstom, and LGV Est owner Réseau Ferré de France between 15 January 2007 and 15 April 2007. Following a series of increasingly high speed runs, the official speed record attempt took place on 3 April 2007. The top speed of 574.8 km/h (159.6 m/s, 357.2 mph) was reached at kilometre point 191 near the village of Le Chemin, between the Meuse and Champagne-Ardenne TGV stations, where the most favourable profile exists.
The 515.3 km/h speed record of 1990 was unofficially broken multiple times during the test campaign that preceded and followed the certified record attempt, the first time on 13 February 2007 with a speed of 554.3 km/h, and the last time on 15 April 2007 with a speed of 574.8 km/h.
The total cost was about €4 billion, apportioned as follows:
The LGV Est was a subject of public debate for several reasons:
The speed record for a train running on a national railway system, rather than a test track, remains in the hands of conventional rail, with a modified version of an Alstom SA TGV model reaching 575 kmph in France in 2007.