Travelling Through France at Record Speeds

World News - Editor - 02 April 2007

Travelling Through France at Record Speeds

A French train with a 25,000-horsepower engine and special wheels broke the world speed record Tuesday 4th of April 2007. The record attempt took place on a track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg. Reaching a top speed of 357.2 mph (574.8 kph) the bullet train cruised through the countryside to the amazement of clapping and cheering spectators. The train travelled almost as fast as a World War II Spitfire fighter at top speed as the train zoomed underneath bridges and across the French countryside.

Pierre-Louis Rochet, former head of French state-run rail network SNCF's international division, said “this may be as fast as it gets on standard rails.” He went on to say there is “no interest in going faster”. The speed test was aimed at boosting cruising speeds for commercial trains, which he predicted would never run at more than 220 mph (350kph), "because after that the costs will increase too much”.

The demonstration was meant to showcase technology that France is trying to sell to overseas markets such as China also the goal was about more than breaking a record, it was a test that would help improve the security and comfort of passengers. SNCF and the train's makers, Alstom, say the record attempt represents a test on the infrastructure in extreme conditions, which is impossible to carry out in the laboratory.

Operating the train, Eric Pieczac said, "I'm proud to have fulfilled the mission.” “Everything went very well," he added. Adjustments were also made to the new track, which opens June 10. The French TGV trains have been in service since 1981 and generally travel at about 300km/h. But from 10 June they will be allowed to reach 320km/h on the recently opened Paris-Strasbourg LGV East line.

Rails were also specially treated so the wheels of the TGV had good contact. The electrical tension in the overhead cable was increased from 25,000 volts to 31,000.

The record puts France's image in the expanding market for high-speed technology as countries turn to bullet trains. France competes with neighbouring Germany and with Japan for contracts.

After the record was broken, President Jacques Chirac conveyed his congratulations on "this new proof of the excellence of the French rail industry."


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