What new high speed train?

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Public consultations have finished about the new High Speed Line to be built from Montpellier as far as Perpignan.

Will they, won’t they, well one could be forgiven for sitting back and waiting, as we have already been waiting for over 30 years, almost good enough for The Guinness Book of Records.

High speed train travel has now been around for more than 40 years, but with the arrival of many advances in technology the world has changed and may be going full circle. It’s no longer a 12 journey from the Cote d’Azur and Spain to Paris. Now it is still possible to spend a working day in Paris and get back here for an aperitif. The writer did this as long ago as 1993 whilst putting together a 50th anniversary steam Medloc train.

The current mood is towards eco-friendly and quieter trains.

Occitanie is a long way from the seat of government, and the powers that be in our new region are casting doubts about what the railway planners have in mind. What they object to is the plan to build two new TGV stations, necessary if the TGVs are to remain High Speed trains.

So the short gap between Cadiz and Hamburg, Montpellier and Perpignan may never be built despite all of the assurances of those in Paris, and the extra-large grant from the EU

A few days ago the public consultation period came to an end, it remains to be seen if the local comments will be taken into account by the Minister, my guess is that she will push on with this slow process.

Two new stations will be built – one at Cers – Villeneuve les Béziers and the other to the west of Narbonne at Montredon.

The stretch between Montpellier and Narbonne where the line goes in two directions, south to Perpignan and Spain and west to Toulouse and Bordeaux, is already saturated, and to accommodate the increasing number of lorry piggy-backs and general freight trains, the new line will free up this busiest stretch of the line.

It is too late to make representations to this public debate. The good news is however that with the opening of the new Nimes TGV Station twelve months from now, the journey time north and south will be shortened even further.

Across the frontier in Spain, work continues to extend their already large high speed network of lines, to convert the Iberian wide gauge tracks to double gauge and to upgrade. One of the cross-country lines being upgraded and brought into the 21st century is the line from Valencia via Teruel, Zaragoza to the magnificent frontier station at Canfranc, through the tunnel into France and the city of Pau.

Chris Elliott a former instructor on the Longmoor Military Railway and now the CIWL roving correspondent in Europe and author of The Lost Railway Lines of l’Hérault. www.medlocbooks.co.uk christopher.elliott@club-internet.fr.

Photo 1 Intercité heading to Carcassonne taken just west of Montredon

Photo 2 Canfranc station