France's high-speed trains get an eco-makeover

French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday unveiled a mock-up of the next generation of greener, super-high-speed trains, known in France as TGVs — four decades after the first TGV was launched.

At a presentation at Paris' Gare de Lyon railway station, Macron played up the new train's eco-friendly aspect.

"This decade for the TGV will be about innovation," he said, adding that France must "respond to the challenge of moving around by emitting less and promoting new energy forms".

Macron spoke in front of a full-scale model of the new TGV M. It will carry more passengers — 740 compared with the present train's 600 — and is planned to enter service in 2024. It will also use a fifth less electricity than the present model, while maintaining its top speed of 320km/h.

The ceremony took place 40 years after another French president, Francois Mitterrand, launched his bold new gamble in technology at the same station — the first TGV, or Train a Grande Vitesse (Very Fast Train).

With a line speed of over 270km/h, according to France's SNCF railway company, that train went on to change the face of modern train travel. It has since been emulated worldwide, including in the UK's highly anticipated HS2 project.

Macron's government has promised €6.5 billion (NZ$10.8 billion) in new investments this year to expand high-speed train lines, and boosting train use has been part of his government's strategy to reduce emissions.

Return of the rail passenger

Rail companies are starting to reclaim Europe's intercity travel from budget carriers.

At the end of this month FirstGroup is launching a London-to-Edinburgh direct service expressly targeting the low-cost air-carrier links between the two capitals.

With fares from £30 pounds ($58), a stress on green-credentials, plant-based catering and carbon emission per passenger, Lumo hopes to attract a climate and budget-conscious traveller.

"Travelling in the UK should not cost a fortune and it certainly shouldn't be the planet that pays. Whatever your preferred mode of transport, we are likely to be more affordable and kinder to the planet," MD Helen Wylde told the Guardian.




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