TGV train aims for new speed record

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PARIS, April 3, 2007 (AFP) - France's TGV will on Tuesday attempt to set a new world speed record for a train on rails, with organisers aiming to hit at least 560 kilometres (350 miles) per hour.

PARIS, April 3, 2007 (AFP) - France's TGV will on Tuesday attempt to set a new world speed record for a train on rails, with organisers aiming to hit at least 560 kilometres (350 miles) per hour.

The record attempt will be tried on a 73-kilometre (45.3 mile) stretch of track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg.

Weather permitting, the experimental Train a Grande Vitesse (TGV) will aim to break a 17-year-old speed record for a traditional rail-based train of 515.3 kilometres (320.2 miles) per hour. That was set by an earlier version of the TGV.

In unofficial trials since January, the train has already reached speeds of 559 kph (347 mph), according to the SNCF, the state rail company. One source close to the project said the train had touched 568 kph (352.7 mph).

The TGV might also challenge the overall world train speed record of 581 kph (360.8 mph) reached in 2003 by a Japanese magnetic levitation, or Maglev, train.

The record attempt is to take place between 1100 and 1130 GMT, about 200 kilometres from Paris.

The project has cost an estimated 30 million euros (40 million dollars). The record attempt will be made by a specially modified experimental train called the V150, designed to travel at 150 metres (495 feet) per second.

"Beyond the technical exploit, this is part of an attempt to record data on the behaviour of the infrastructure and of the rolling stock in extreme conditions which are impossible to carry out in the laboratory," said a statement by the SNCF, the rail network operator RFF, and Alstom, makers of the train.

Another aim of Tuesday's record attempt is to show off French engineering prowess and help boost Alstom's sales of TGVs abroad, in a multi-billion-dollar market that increasingly competes with regional air links.

"What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology which was invented by the SNCF in France 30 years ago is a technology for the future," said Guillaume Pepy, SNCF's director-general.

Japan's Shinkansen "bullet train" and Germany's Siemens, makers of the Inter-City Express (ICE), are the other major players in the market.

The Shinkansen, made by Kawasaki, Hitachi and Nippon Sharyo, has been operating in different forms since 1964.

The Shinkansen and the ICE currently average about 300 kph (186 mph) but a new version of the Japanese train, the Fastech 360Z, which started tests one year ago, is expected to operate at 360 kph (223.5 mph) when it enters service.

Currently, average travelling speeds for the TGV are around 300 kph (186 mph), but trains on the new Paris-Strasbourg line are to run at 320 kph (198.7mph).

The SNCF says the new line is not expected to be profitable enough at the start to warrant going at full speed in the new trains.

But it will eventually cut the Paris-Strasbourg trip to two hours and 20 minutes from four hours.

"If we beat this record, that will put us in a good position with respect to our competitors who do not have this technology," said Philippe Mellier, the head of Alstom's train unit.

China, South Korea and Taiwan have been major customers for high-speed trains, and Turkey, Brazil and Argentina are believed to be considering fast trains.

Work began five years ago on the Paris-Strasbourg TGV line, which will start commercial trips on June 10.

One of the biggest rail projects in Europe, it mobilised some 10,000 workers and required 78,000 tonnes of steel -- enough to build eight Eiffel towers.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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