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TGV: 9 things you might not know about France's high-speed rail network

The Local France
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TGV: 9 things you might not know about France's high-speed rail network
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

France's high-speed rail network is more than 40 years old, and the TGV trains are much loved both here and abroad - here's a few things you might not know about them.

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In 1981, President François Mitterrand officially inaugurated the first high-speed rail line connecting Paris and Lyon. A few days later, a bright orange TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, French for “high-speed train”) raced down the tracks at over 200km/h.

The newest incarnation of the train will be the TGV M, hailed by president Emmanuel Macron as a prime example of "French genius" and set to go into service in early 2025.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

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The streamlined version of the bullet train promises to carry more passengers - up to 740 passengers from 600 - while using 20 percent less electricity.

It will continue to whizz people between cities at a top speed of 320 km/h, making most door-to-door trips shorter and cheaper than on airplanes.

To celebrate the TGV (which in French is pronounce tay-shay-vay), here are a few fun facts about the super-speedy trains.

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Patrick  - That’s the name of the first TGV. Built in 1978 and set into action in 1981 on the Paris-Lyon line, the bright orange Patrick travelled some 13.5 million kilometres before taking his well-earned retirement in 2020. 

574.8 km/h - That’s the world rail speed record, held by the Alstom V150 TGV. Although Japan’s superconductor-powered Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains travel faster - with a record of 603 km/h - they technically don’t run on rails.

3 - That’s how many times the TGV has set the world rail speed record: in 1981 (380 km/h), 1990 (515.3 km/h) and 2007 (574.8 km/h). 

2,734 km - That’s the total length of France’s high-speed rail network, with even more lines set to be constructed in the future. This means France has the fourth-longest high-speed rail network in the world, behind China, Spain, and Japan. 

0 - That’s how many passengers sit aboard the IRIS 320, which travels some 1,500 km every day. Laden with cameras and scanners, this 200-metre-long TGV rapidly inspects the state of the TGV’s train lines in order to ensure travellers' safety and security.

€7 - That’s how much it costs to take a small pet - including a snail - on the TGV. Animals, even tiny ones, need their own tickets. In 2008 a TGV passenger fined for carrying live snails in his luggage without a ticket for his animals, although the fine was later waived after the story received national attention.

240 - That’s the number of stations served by the TGV network. 183 of these stations can be found in France. The others are located in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. 

300,000 - That's the average number of passengers who travel by TGV each day, divided among 750 trains. 

1947 - the last year without a single recorded strike on the rail network in France. And that doesn't necessarily mean that pre-1947 was a golden age of industrial relations – just that SNCF's records are incomplete before then.

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