The LGV Est high-speed line will be extended to Strasbourg in April 2016 (photo © Leonid Andronov / dreamstime.com)
The coming couple of years will see the opening of several new stretches of high-speed railway in Europe. Here’s a look at what’s in store for rail travellers in France and Germany. Between them, these two countries have five major new high-speed routes which look set to open within the next two years.
That’s not to say that there are not important rail infrastructure investments taking place elsewhere. Spain and Turkey both have major projects in progress, with significant new route openings over the coming two years. In Spain, for example, trial runs are taking place this week on the 162-km Valladolid to Léon line. All being well, the line will open to public service next month. Spain often opens new lines without great fanfare and no great advance notice.
Nor should we forget that not all major rail investments are in the high-speed sector. Next year will see the opening in Switzerland of the world’s longest rail tunnel. The first public trains are expected to run through the Gotthard Base Tunnel on 11 December 2016.
But here’s a summary of two important projects in Germany and three in France. We have ordered them according to likely opening dates. Together these five projects account for 820 kilometres of new high-speed rail route.
Unless there are any last-minute hitches, this 123-km route in eastern Germany will open to public traffic on 13 December 2015. It will trim 30 minutes off the journey between Erfurt and Leipzig, and lead to even greater savings on journeys between Erfurt and both Halle and Berlin. It will thus become the optimal route from Berlin to Frankfurt-am-Main, removing the advantage now held by the route via Braunschweig and Göttingen.
The LGV Est gave a big boost to traffic between Paris and the Rhine Valley when it opened in 2007. But the new route stopped short of the mountainous Vosges region, and trains bound for Strasbourg and southern Germany then reverted to a traditional line for a picturesque journey through the hills. That changes on 3 April 2016, when the LGV Est line is extended east. The new stretch is 106 km long. It will cut travel times on Paris-Strasbourg journeys, but will also be used by TGVs travelling from Lorraine to the Jura region and the south of France.
The LGV Bretagne-Pays de la Loire project is designed to bring the geographically remote area of Brittany closer to the French capital. A new 182-km route is due to open in May 2017. It will halve the journey time between Le Mans and Rennes.
Residents of Aquitaine cannot wait for the opening of this new 302-km stretch, which is an extension of the existing Paris-Tours high-speed line. It will cut almost an hour off the journey time from Paris to Bordeaux. The first public trains on this important route across western France are due to run in mid-summer 2017.
This new German 107-km route is due to open in late 2017. It will introduce an important new link between northern Bavaria and eastern Germany. Together with the new route running north-east from Erfurt (see 1 above), this new line will transform communications between Berlin and Munich.