NEW YORK -- Stay tuned for yet another French revolution.
Rail watchers have decreed that the soon-to-be-launched TGV
Mediterranee line from Valence to Marseilles in France will be as
life-changing for European travelers as the Eurostar service was
when it crossed the English Channel in 1994.
The TGV Med, to begin this June, is an extension of France's
first high-speed service between Paris, Lyon and Valence.
From Valence, the new service heads along the Rhone river valley
to Avignon, Aix and Marseille, with a branch extending west to
The TGV Med will cut the travel time from Paris to Marseille --
a major hub for business travel and tourism to Provence and the
Riviera -- from four hours and 20 minutes to three hours.
And time from Paris to the heart of Provence, Aix, will be
reduced from five hours to two hours and 55 minutes.
"The two major tourist areas in France are Paris and the French
Riviera," said Rail Europe president Bernard Frelat, who expects a
30% to 40% increase in U.S. train travel to southern France as a
result of the new service. "Now it will make Paris and the south
much closer to each other by train, so people interested in a side
trip to the Riviera can actually get there and back in a day."
Americans often are time-limited when they come to France,
Frelat said, and the TGV Med might convince them to visit Provence
or Riviera towns they might have previously considered too far away
The TGV Med will provide several high-speed links from Provence,
which will connect Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and Lille,
Brussels (via the Thalys service to Paris) and London (via the
Eurostar service to Paris).
Each day there will be 140 scheduled departures from
TGV-connected cities. Both Eurostar and Thalys plan to run
through-trains to the south of France on the TGV route.
Three new TGV stations -- in Valence, Avignon and Aix -- are
being built to open in June with car rental counters and taxi and
bus service. Six stations along the line are being renovated.
Other high-speed developments by country follow:Germany. In November, the latest generation of ICE trains
started running between Frankfurt and Amsterdam, reducing travel
time from five hours to 3.5 hours. By 2002, time between Cologne
and Frankfurt will be reduced from two hours to one. The
Frankfurt-Paris train should be running by 2004, cutting travel
time from six to four hours.The Netherlands. By 2002, the first stage of a track from
Amsterdam to Brussels will be completed, making the Thalys trip
between Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam three hours and 48 minutes, a
savings of one hour and 35 minutes.Spain. By 2005, the Madrid-Barcelona line will be complete,
reducing travel time from six-and-a-half hours to two hours, 30
minutes.Switzerland. This June, tilting trains will begin service on
the Jura Foot line (Saint Gall, Zurich, Biel, Lausanne, Geneva),
cutting travel time by 15 minutes.Great Britain. By 2003, the first stage of the track from
Folkstone to London will be complete, taking 20 minutes off the
three-hour trip to Paris and the two-hour-and-40-minute trip to