Bordeaux to Paris in just two hours

Construction work will start early next year and the line is expected to open in 2017

New EUR 7.8bn high-speed rail link is given the go-ahead and is expected to open in 2017

A NEW high-speed rail link that will slash the journey time from Bordeaux and Angouleme to Paris has been given the go-ahead.

The 300km line will link Bordeaux with Tours, where it will join the existing TGV route into the capital.

Journey times from Bordeaux to Paris will be cut from three and a quarter hours to just two. Angouleme to Paris will take an hour and a half.

Construction work will start early next year and the line is expected to open in 2017.

After several months of delays, rail track operator Reseau Ferre de France (RFF) signed an EUR 7.8bn contract yesterday with private construction firm Vinci, which will build and maintain the new line.

The project is being billed as the French rail sector's biggest-ever public-private partnership. About half of the funding is coming from the state and RFF.

RFF chief executive Hubert du Mesnil said: "Gaining an hour on the journey time will allow us to take a good slice of the current air travel market and carry four million extra passengers a year."

The construction work will affect 117 communes across six departments, according to Sud Ouest. Some 1,300 construction jobs will be created - and 150 permanent jobs once the new line is open.

The president of Aquitaine regional council, Alain Rousset, said the deal was "a historic moment" for the region.

Meanwile, plans to open up the TER local train network to competition have been shelved until after next year's presidential election.

Ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet is planning initial meetings with those involved after the summer break to look at how the SNCF and other operators would work alongside each other, but no formal calendar has been set and no decisions will be made before the election.

Photo: Claude Coquilleau - Fotolia.com

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