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TGV threatens Bordeaux vineyards

Trace of the new high-speed route goes straight through 10 wine domains

TEN of the oldest vineyards in Bordeaux are under threat from plans to expand the TGV network in the south west with lines from Bordeaux towards Toulouse and Spain.

Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) which is responsible for the rail network has revealed the initial 1km-wide trace of the €7 billion route south and east from Bordeaux and dismayed vignobles, farmers, foresters and environmentalists.

The pebbled landscape is famed for fine Bordeaux and between 40 and 50 hectares could be lost, with about 10 domains affected including Le Tuquet, Château Méjean and Château du Grand Bos.

The president of the Maison des Vins des Graves, Dominique Have-lan, said: "The Graves vineyard is the oldest in Bordeaux. The wine tourism routes that we recently opened will be seriously hit by this plan."

The route cuts the Graves area in two and Bruno Geraud, of Chateau Mejean at Ayguemorte-les-Graves just south of Bordeaux, says it "cuts right across my property and even if it does not go through the house who wants to live beside that?"

He fears losing 10 years of work after taking his wines into the top 100 Bordeaux.

The 450km of new track will open up passenger and freight traffic between France, Spain and Portugal, making Madrid just six hours from Paris and speeding links between the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

While the network is expanding, the SNCF is reported to be thinking of cutting its TGV services after making a loss on one in five trains. It is said to be looking at dropping routes avoiding Paris, including Bordeaux-Strasbourg.

Further challenges could come from rivals attracted by a European directive opening up international rail travel.

Water, waste and transport group Veolia is reported to be in discussions with Italian train operator, Trenitalia, to launch high-speed services in the next two years. These could include TGVs from Paris to London, Strasbourg and Frankfurt, and Brussels to Paris and Lyon.

Veolia and Trenitalia plan a "rail Ryanair" with cheap TGV services and, while they and SNCF would pay RFF the same to use the track, they already pay staff less than SNCF does.

France is building 2,500km of high-speed tracks with lines to Brittany, Moselle and Nice plus links between the Rhine and Rhône. The missing south coast link between Montpellier and Nîmes is also to be built.

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