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Our French retirement haven is stuck between motorway and new TGV

Couple’s ‘quiet’ farmhouse first had a motorway built nearby and now a new high-speed train line project is to pass close to another side

Surrounded by noise... Bernard Daudet’s hopes of a quiet retirement Pic: GPSO

A couple’s dream of a peaceful retirement in the countryside has been shattered as the isolated home they bought in 2000 has since had a motorway built to one side... and now a TGV line is to be built on the other. 

Retired electrical installer Bernard Daudet told The Connexion he bought the 1835 farmhouse in Escaudes, Gironde with his wife as a haven for their family and grandchildren, with views over fields and forest. 

The A65 motorway opened within view and earshot ten years later. 

Now maps for the new Bordeaux-Toulouse TGV line show the high-speed train running 100m from the other side of the property. 

‘We have given up on thoughts of selling’

Mr Daudet said the TGV will have a devastating impact on his life and the property’s value.

‘’These are bureaucrats in Paris and Bordeaux deciding with a stroke of a pen,” he said. 

“Bureaucrats have destroyed my retirement. They are out of touch with reality.” Mr Daudet, 68, was born and raised in nearby Bernos-Beaulac and worked in the Paris area for 40 years before returning home in the 90s and buying the house for retirement in 2000. 

With the purchase, renovations and improvements, he estimates he has spent up to a million euros. 

He said: “We will not be able to buy another property. We will not be able to help our children and grandchildren back with the money we invested. We have given up on thoughts of selling.” 

Even before the new line is built, he fears the effects of trucks and heavy plant machinery which he says will cause pollution from dust and noise. 

The TGV link is part of the Ligne à Grande Vitesse (LGV) Grand-Ouest, which would see a triangular junction of lines south of Bernos-Beaulac. 

These are part of the Grand Projet du Sud-Ouest (GPSO), made up of a 327km TGV line from Bordeaux to Toulouse and another towards Spain, via Dax. 

The budget is estimated at €14.3billion – including €10.3billion for the Toulouse line alone. 

Work on Bordeaux-Toulouse is due to start in 2024 for an opening in 2030, with Bordeaux-Dax opening in 2032. 

The project is agreed, though funding is not completely finalised. 

Criticisms from environmentalists and locals

Now Mr Daudet has joined neighbours to protest against it as he says he did when the 150km A65 was planned from Langon in Gironde to Pau in Pyrénées-Atlantiques. It opened in 2010. 

He initially thought that the motorway was to be built on his property and had hoped there would have been financial compensation, but the road was built slightly further away and he said he did not receive anything. 

Lawyer Gilles Caillet, an expert in expropriation law, said judges usually decide compensation based on noise pollution and distance. 

Payments are made to neighbours affected by noise exceeding a daily average of 80 decibels and where the property is within a 30 to 80 metres radius. 

Mr Daudet said he is not currently planning specific legal action, but hopes at least to delay construction by protesting, which he said had succeeded in the case of the A65. 

Mr Caillet said any such project needed to give proof of its benefits to the common good and this one has been backed by the government since 2016 because it aims to cut 7.7 million car journeys a year and two million flights. 

Those responsible for the GPSO say it will have positive economic benefits for the region and will represent a significant gain of time for travellers. 

There have however been criticisms from environmentalists and locals who point to its huge costs compared to benefits. 

It will also pass through eight protected ecological sites, though there are plans aiming to minimise impact on flora and fauna. 

Jacques Lacampagne, president of the green group Association des Amis du Barthos, said the broader picture of environmental losses showed the LGV would eradicate 400,000 acres of land, with 300,000 acres of forest. 

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