New 14-billion-euro French high-speed train project taking shape
A major rail project in the southwest of France, also called ‘grand projet ferroviaire du Sud-Ouest’ (GPSO), will extend the high-speed track linking Paris to Bordeaux on two new lines: Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax. SNCF Réseau expects 5 million additional passengers per year on these lines. Work on this 14-billion-euro project will start at the end of the year.
The construction of the Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax high-speed lines (LGV) is a historic project within the major South-Western rail project (GPSO) framework. These new lines will considerably reduce travel times, thus offering greater proximity to major European cities such as Bilbao or Barcelona.
New regional links will also be created to better connect medium-sized towns in the French regions of Occitania and New Aquitaine such as Dax, Bayonne, Agen, Mont-de-Marsan, Pau, Montauban and Toulouse with Paris. For Agen, for example, easier access to the capital is crucial at a time when the local economy is suffering from the closure of the Agen-Paris air link.
The new high-speed lines
The GPSO project consists of three distinct operations. The first stage is the creation of the new 327 kilomètres high-speed lines Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax. The new lines have a common trunk of 55 kilometres between the south of Bordeaux and the south of Gironde. These new lines connect to the national rail network south of Bordeaux, north of Toulouse, and north of Dax.
The second stage is the completion of the railway improvements to the existing Bordeaux-Sète line south of Bordeaux (AFSB) over 12 kilometres between Bègles and Saint-Médard-d’Eyrans, in Gironde. Finally, the third stage is the construction of the railway improvements to the existing Bordeaux-Sète line north of Toulouse (AFNT) over 19 kilometres between Toulouse Matabiau station and Castelnau d’Estrétefonds in Haute-Garonne.
Financing the GPSO
According to the prefecture of the Occitanie Region: “In 2022, the GPSO project entered a new phase: the financing plan of the various partners was validated and the project company, intended to finance the share of the 24 territorial authorities concerned, was set up.
The GPSO is a 14-billion project, financed by the State and the local authorities of the New Aquitaine and Occitania regions, as well as the European Union. This figure includes studies, works and land acquisitions for the new Bordeaux-Toulouse and Bordeaux-Dax lines, as well as the rail improvements south of Bordeaux (AFSB) and north of Toulouse (AFNT).
The Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed line will cost 6.6 billion euros and the Bordeaux-Dax high-speed line will cost 1.9 billion euros. The estimated costs for the creation of the Bordeaux-Toulouse new line, the rail developments south of Bordeaux (AFSB) and the rail developments north of Toulouse (AFNT) amount to 10.3 billion euro, while the creation of the new line to Dax will cost 3.7 billion euro. The funding is divided as follows: 40 per cent for the State (4.1 billion euros), 40 per cent for the local authorities (4.1 billion euros) and 20 per cent in subsidies from the European Union.
Better inter-regional connections
This modernisation of the rail network should also bring the cities of New Aquitaine closer together by speeding up certain connections, such as Bordeaux-Bayonne, and by creating new links for sub-regional cities such as Agen, Mont-de-Marsan, Dax and Bayonne. Indeed, as a result of the construction of the new high-speed lines, it is estimated that the TERs will have to accommodate 3.5 million additional passengers each year which will be trying to reach the TGV stations.
Finally, the opening of new high-speed services will allow the creation of “regional TGV” services linking medium-sized towns and Bordeaux, such as Angoulême, Saintes, Poitiers and Agen, as well as Captieux and Mont-de-Marsan-Dax, thus creating a network of towns within 30 minutes to 1 hour 30 of Bordeaux
The GPSO will have a positive carbon balance after 10 years thanks to the modal shift from air and road to rail. Indeed, it should avoid 4.3 million car journeys after the first phase of development up to Dax, and 7.7 million once the project is fully completed. As for air travel, 1 million flights should be avoided after the first phase and 2 million once the project is fully completed. Finally, 10,000 lorries a day currently travel on the Bordeaux-Spain route. The creation of the LGV to Spain will free up capacity to increase the share of rail freight from 3 to 18 per cent.