France’s South Europe Atlantic (SEA) Tours to Bordeaux high speed line has been completed on budget and ahead of schedule.
The new 302km long section from Tours to Bordeaux will shorten the 500km journey time between Paris and Bordeaux to 2 hours and four minutes.
Lisea, a consortium comprising Vinci Concessions, Caisse des Dépôts, Meridiam and Ardian, designed, built and financed the line. It will also operate and maintain it until 2061.
The project has been funded through a mix of public and private cash and has cost £6.7bn (€7.8bn). Owner and maintainer of the French rail network SNCF Réseau invested an additional £1bn to connect it to the existing rail network.
The line was Europe’s biggest rail project and has been completed in record time, ahead of schedule, said Vinci. It took six years to design and construct.
The 302km line between between Saint Avertin in the south east of Tours and Ambarès et Lagrave to the north east of Bordeaux also includes 10 links totalling 38km to connect the new line to other cities in southwest France. It also involved setting up control rooms, easing congestion in Bordeaux and upgrading the Montparnasse station in Paris.
The line is set to open to traffic on 2 July 2017 and it is expected to carry 20M passengers a year.
The line will be operated and maintained under a 50‐year concession contract between SNCF Réseau and concession company Lisea. SNCF Réseau will oversee Lisea to ensure compliance with service quality objectives and principles, monitor the high‐speed line’s performance indicators and manage traffic on Lisea’s behalf.
Vinci said that this concession model, which was chosen by French public authorities and embedded in the requirements to make it possible to harness the private sector partners’ resources. It also said that it allowed innovation to develop France’s rail network, while enabling efficient programme management and full compliance with environmental requirements.
Journeys from Bordeaux to Lille will take 4h 36 minutes and journeys from Toulouse to Paris will take four hours 10 minutes on trains travelling at 320 km/h.
Vinci said that the line would also crucially free up capacity on the existing rail line between Paris, Tours, Poitiers, Châtellerault, Angoulême and Libourne, and even Orléans, Limoges and Toulouse.
Lisea chief executive Laurent Cavrois said: “I’m proud of the way we delivered on schedule, the quality of our construction work, our uncompromising stand on environmental protection measures and the partnerships we have built with all the stakeholders.
SNCF Réseau chief executive Patrick Jeantet said: “This inauguration is the first step in what will be an historic year for high‐speed travel in France. In 2017, three new lines will reshape the rail landscape and bring places and people closer together.
“This is a praiseworthy accomplishment, the result of constant cooperation between Lisea and SNCF Réseau teams, and has brought about SEA, the first step in the biggest rail project that Europe has seen in years.”
Incremental speed trials on the line began in July 2016 and were completed in February 2017. Dynamic trials were carried out in both directions, gradually increasing speed from 160km/h to the commercial operational speed of 320km/h plus an additional 10%.
Vinci said that training for 500 drivers began on 20 February and will be completed on 15 June, on two trains running three daily return trips and calling at Angoulême and Poitiers stations.