9th year of work begins on French LGV Nord high-speed line
The project to renew the French LGV Nord high-speed rail line is entering its ninth and penultimate year. This 32-million-euro project is fully financed by infrastructure manager SNCF Réseau. The 8th phase of the works starts this month.
Opened in May 1993, the Ligne à Grande Vitesse (LGV) Nord links Paris to the Channel Tunnel and the Belgian border via Lille. The line is used by TGV, Thalys, Lyria and Eurostar trains, and carries an average of 200 trains a day. From 2015, ballast and rail renewal operations began south of the Haute Picardie TGV station, for a period of 10 years. Each year, the project has been progressing towards Lille at a rate of 25 to 35 kilometres of track renewed per year.
With a total budget of 420 million euros, the renovation project on the Ligne à Grande Vitesse Nord is now entering its ninth year. In 2023, 4 rail expansion devices and 15 kilometres of track will be renewed, at a cost of 36.5 million euros entirely financed by SNCF Réseau. In the Hauts-de-France region, SNCF Réseau and its partners are also committing 501 million euros in 2023 to regenerate and modernise the regional rail network.
A new phase of works
The 8th phase of work to renew 68 kilometres of track 1 between Oignies and Sainghin requires an investment of 36.5 million euros, entirely financed by SNCF Réseau. This operation involves replacing 70,000 tonnes of ballast and 30 kilometres of rail using 4 expansion devices, which allow expansion and contraction movements of the rails. The work is scheduled to take place at night, from Monday evening to Saturday morning, mobilising a team of 180 people from SNCF Réseau and its partners, COLAS RAIL, TSO and FVF.
The major phases in 2023 include the replacement of the expansion devices from 16 January to 11 March, the ballast from 4 September to 11 November, and the rail from 13 November to 9 December. The work will be carried out at night, outside rail traffic periods. The planning of the worksite means that the track will be available at a speed of 300 km/h in the morning, thanks to an innovative rail fastening system.
From 4 September 2023 to 23 December 2023, 15 kilometres of track will be replaced between Dourges and Fretin, representing 30 kilometres of rails and 2,000 tonnes of steel. 50,000 tonnes of ballast will also be replaced and 4 expansion devices installed. SNCF Réseau has scheduled night-time work to ensure that daytime trains can run for passengers. This major project, involving 180 people, is essential to maintaining the safety and efficiency of the line.
A mobile worksite
This mobile worksite is moving along the line to replace 15 kilometres of track, crossing the municipalities of Dourges, Hénin-Beaumont, Courrières, Oignies, Carvin, Libercourt, Camphin-En-Carembault, Phalempin, Seclin, Avelin, Ennevelin and Fretin between 23 December and 16 January. In all, the project involves renewing 50,000 tonnes of ballast between 4 September and 10 November, followed by the replacement of 30 kilometres of rail between 13 November and 23 December.
The work is taking place mainly at night on weekdays, from 10 pm to 6.30 am, from 16 January to 11 March and from 13 November to 23 December. In addition, SNCF Réseau is replacing 4 expansion devices over a distance of 64 kilometres, affecting the municipalities of Lille, La Madeleine, Saint-André-Lez-Lille, Lambersart, Erquinghem and Nieppe. The aim of this initiative is to improve the trajectory of railway curves and, consequently, passenger comfort.
SNCF Réseau’s rail network stretches over 30,000 kilometres in total, or 1.2 times around the planet. In 2022, track regeneration work generated more than 1.8 million tonnes of dismantling products, including rails, ballast, sleepers and catenaries, equivalent to the construction of 36 triumphal arches.
Since 2020, used ballast from the LGV Nord high-speed line has been processed at Lille-La-Délivrance, screened, sorted, washed and reintegrated into the track or reused in road construction. This base promotes a more sustainable supply chain for materials from rail dismantling and building deconstruction. In 2023, a major milestone is reached with the renewal of the Northern High-Speed Line, using exclusively used ballast from the Lille-La-Délivrance rear base. Work trains are supplied during the day for night-time operations.
Rail recycling involves the complete processing of 2,000 tonnes of steel removed during the works. 90 per cent of these rails are taken over by SNCF Réseau’s Supply Chain and renovated at Saulon in Burgundy for re-use on conventional lines, according to the infrastructure manager. The remaining 10 per cent is recycled at the Ancial plant in Saint-Sauve to make steel “blooms”, which are used to produce new rails from recycled steel.