President hops aboard new high-speed train
President Sarkozy will launch a new section of the country's high-speed rail network on Thursday when he takes a trip on the new Rhin-Rhône branch.
The new section of the LGV (ligne à grande vitesse) covers 190 kilometres of track and links the cities of Dijon and Mulhouse, a vital artery in the east of the country that means journey times between some large cities can be dramatically reduced.
The travel time between Dijon and Strasbourg will be slashed from 3 hours 40 minutes to just 2 hours. Passengers travelling from Dijon to Belfort can set their alarms much later with a journey time that will drop from 2 hours 15 minutes to 50 minutes.
The president will take one of the new trains, which can reach speeds of up to 320 kilometres per hour, to Belfort-Montbéliard where he will give a speech on France's ambitions in high-speed rail.
The high-speed rail network in France was developed in the 1970s with the first line, between Paris and Lyon, opened in 1981. It now covers more than 1,500 kilometres and connects over 250 destinations.
The new section of track is part of a bigger project to bring high-speed rail to the area. At a cost of €2.3 billion, construction is being financed by France, Switzerland, the European Union and local authorities in Burgundy, Franche-Comté and Alsace.
BFM TV was reporting on Thursday morning that the presidential train ride was creating headaches for security staff who will need to secure the 140 kilometres along which the president plans to travel.