TGV


We leave for our trip to France in about three weeks. We fly from Toronto to Paris on the 26th of June, stay in Paris for a week, taking day trips to Versailles and Disneyland Paris (warning: heavy flash site), and then we take the TGV* high-speed train down to Bordeaux. We will stay a couple of days in Bordeaux before renting a van and driving north through the Loire Valley, stopping at Château de Chenonceau, ending up in Saint-Malo near Mont Saint-Michel. Eventually we’ll make our way back to Paris, flying back to Toronto on July 12th.

* According to Wikipedia, TGV stands for Train à Grand Vitesse (high-speed train), though I thought it stood for Très Grand Vitesse (very high speed). I couldn’t find anything on the TGV site itself.

While there are going to be many cool things about this trip, one thing I’m looking forward to is the high-speed train from Paris to Bordeaux. The train travels at speeds up to an amazing 320 km/h and will make the 580 km journey in 3½ hours (with a few stops along the way, I believe). Sounds very cool, but it made me wonder why we don’t have high-speed rail lines in North America. I did a little research and found that there is a high-speed (240 km/h) train running from Boston to Washington DC, but that’s it. There are such trains all over Europe, as well as Russia, South Korea and Japan, but one in all of North America. You’d think there would be lots in the US — New York to Chicago, LA to San Francisco, and LA to Las Vegas immediately jump to mind. The most obvious would be New York to Washington, though I believe the one from Boston to Washington does stop in New York so that one’s covered.

In Canada, Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal would be an obvious one, as well as Calgary to Edmonton and Calgary to Vancouver, though getting a high-speed train over or through the Rockies might be problematic.

I would think that if there was a train that could get you from Toronto to Ottawa in 90 minutes or Toronto to Montreal in under two hours, people would use it all the time. Air Canada rates for flights from Toronto to Ottawa range from $49 up to $419 for coach. Of the seventeen daily flights, only two are $49, and most are $169 to $269, so the train wouldn’t have to be dirt cheap to be widely used. Current train rates from Toronto to Ottawa are about $235 for a 4½ hour trip, so if people are willing to pay that, they’d probably pay $100 more to cut three hours off the trip.

With the way that gas prices are going, an energy-efficient high-speed train might be a big-time money-maker for the government, even if it does cost a couple of billion to build — as long as they don’t do something dumb like sell it off to a private company like they did the 407.

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