The TGV entered service on September 22, 1981, when it first traveled from Paris to Lyon in 2 hours and 40 minutes. Renamed by newspapers around the world “train à la Concorde”, the TGV – acronym for High Speed Train – has become a symbol of France in the world.
Almost forty years later to the day, French President Emmanuel Macron unveiled the next generation of TGV trains at Paris Gare de Lyon, the same station where then-President François Mitterrand first introduced the service.
In his speech, Macron defined the high-speed train as a “technological miracle” which will allow France to establish a “new rail pact to perpetuate our country’s rail system”. Entering service in 2024, the new generation of high-speed trains will focus specifically on reducing environmental impact, offering a cheaper and environmentally friendly alternative to short to medium-haul air travel.
“This decade will be the decade of the new TGV, of innovation and new journeys for our citizens,” Macron continued.
The TGV: a symbol of France in the world
Inspired by the Japanese high-speed Shinkansen train from Tokyo to Hokkaido, the TGV was born out of the need to reduce train travel times, while further connecting different parts of the country to Paris. When it was launched in 1981, the high-speed network – part of a larger set of operations carried out by the French national railway company SNCF – focused on the Paris link to the south-east via Lyon.
In the following years, other lines were added: in 1990 it was the turn of the Paris-Le Mans / Tours line while between 1992 and 2007, the Lyon-Valence, Paris-Lille, Valence-Marseille lines and Paris-Baudrecourt are launched. .
“The TGV is a sign to the whole world that France is a great innovative nation, well placed to compete in the race for technology,” said then President Mitterrand during his inauguration speech in 1981.
TGV trains initially ran at a speed of 180 km / h – 30 km / h faster than their Japanese counterpart – but over the next 40 years they became faster, reaching the current speed of 320 km / h.
Because of how it revolutionized the concept of train travel, over the past 40 years TGV has become a symbol of the French railroad, inspiring similar trains across the world.
In Italy, high-speed trains began to enter the market from the early 2000s to the mid-2000s, first with Frecciarossa in 2008 and with Italo in 2012. In the UK, Eurostar linked London to European cities such as Paris and Brussels, while nationally HS2 will offer faster journey times.
Unveiling of the TGV-M
“Happy 40th anniversary to the TGV and long live the TGV of the future! “. It is with these words that President Macron unveiled on September 17 the new TGV model, the TGV-M.
Called “M” for modern and modular, the TGV-M trainsets will make modularity their benchmark, allowing the number of cars to be adjusted according to the different market needs, and the reconfiguration of the interior space by removing or adding seats. .
The design of the fleet will also take greater account of sustainability, with a specific focus on reducing the environmental footprint. To do this, TGV-M trains will have a 97% recyclable structure as well as an aerodynamic shape allowing better air penetration and 20% energy savings.
According to railway manufacturer Alstom – which first unveiled the TGV-M power unit in May 2021 but received the first order in 2018 – maintenance costs will also fall by 30%.
Trains should provide the best possible service also in terms of connectivity and accessibility on board, with real-time information and Wi-Fi connection. The TGV-M is also the first TGV to be designed in collaboration with associations wheelchair users.
A new French railway revolution
The new TGV-M fleet is the latest in a series of projects that – both at government and industry level – focus on innovating the country’s rail system with sustainability and the net zero benchmark.
On the industrial side, SNCF recently launched its Planet Voyage program for long-distance trains, which aims to reduce train energy consumption by 20% by 2025. The company is also committed to going to zero waste by now 2030, by reducing car waste, recovering leftover waste and eliminating single-use plastic.
At the government level, the Elysée has massively funded the rail industry, investing 61 billion euros over the past five years and committing to invest an additional 6.5 billion euros. Part of the allocated funds went to the resurgence of night train lines like Paris-Nice, with several more to come by the end of the decade.
“My ambition [is for] ten night trains in 2030 organized around four major corridors: Bordeaux-Marseille, Dijon-Marseille, Tours-Lyon via Ile-de-France and Paris-Toulouse ”, Railway of the future reported Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari.