Work finally starts on new high-speed train line Bordeaux to Toulouse

The €14 billion project is part of plans to improve public transport services in the south-west

The new train lines are set to cut journey times from Bordeaux to Toulouse to just 1 hour 5 minutes, and Paris-Toulouse to three hours 10 minutes by 2032
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Work has finally begun on a new high-speed train line that will cut journey times from Bordeaux to Toulouse to just 1 hour 5 minutes, and Paris-Toulouse to three hours 10 minutes by 2032.

Current train times can be around double this.

The €14 billion project - dubbed the Grand Project Sud-Ouest (GPSO) - began on May 7 after years of planning, in a ceremony attended by local officials from Occitanie and Toulouse - and the prefect on behalf of the state. 

The team, wearing hard hats, helped to symbolically install the line’s first overhead mast.

Multi-billion railway project

The new ligne à grande vitesse (LGV) is the first step in a project that will include 220km of track, two new stations (in Agen and Montauban), intervening stops, and connections between the train and local metro, bus, and bike systems.

The line is set to enter service in 2032.

The project - which will cost €8 billion for the Bordeaux-Toulouse section alone - will also see a €4 billion line between Bordeaux and Dax.

Yesterday, construction began specifically on a new €1 billion junction. 

It will double the number of tracks over 19 km at the northern entrance to Toulouse. 

With four tracks instead of two, the goal is to eliminate the current bottlenecks that stop the station from operating more trains at the same time.

More TER and express train services

The project will notably allow for more TER regional services, which are designed to enable more workers to commute from the surrounding areas into Toulouse city centre more easily. 

This will include more services from the future Service Express Régional Métropolitain (SERM), which is aiming to run services from 05:00 to 23:00, and trains every 10 minutes at rush hours.

A funding application for this part of the Toulouse RER was made in January by the region, Toulouse Métropole and Haute-Garonne departmental council.

This SERM will not be the only such service in France; President Macron has said that he is aiming to roll out 10 SERMs nationwide. 

The government will provide €700m worth of funding for them, with extra investment coming from local authorities.

Metro and other transport links aiming to reduce cars on roads

A survey in April found that almost 8 out of 10 (76%) of people in France support the construction of the new line, despite considerable opposition in Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie from critics.

Overall, the plans are intended to work together to reduce individual journeys between Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Paris, and discourage people from taking cars or planes (although critics of the new A69 motorway, which also connects to Toulouse, have disputed this overall goal).

Read also: Strong public support for new TGV lines in south-west France

Read also: Controversy erupts around Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed train line 

For example, in Toulouse, local transport network Tisséo is currently building 27 km of new metro track, including a new east-west, north-south line across 21 new stations, which will help to improve connections to the new LGV line. This €3.1 billion Metro project is set to open in 2028.

The Occitanie region has also voted in favour of a new €4 billion investment agreement with SNCF over the next 10 years, for 110 extra regional trains per day (a 24% increase compared to the current offer).

The aim is that - working with the LGV project - these added train and metro services (along with new car sharing lanes and express bike routes) will reduce the number of cars on the road in the Toulouse area by 90,000 per day, significantly reducing carbon emissions and road pollution.