What’s the TGV?

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The TGV is a high-speed rail service in France, operating at speeds of up to 200 mph. It offers access to over 200 cities in France and nearby countries, with the ability to disembark near city centers. Travelers can purchase tickets in advance and enjoy amenities such as power sockets and the ability to bring food and drink on board. Rail passes are available for frequent travelers.

The TGV is a high-speed rail service that operates in France. Its name is an acronym for Train à Grande Vitesse, which translates as “High Speed ​​Train”. Trains travel on special rail lines designed for high speed, and trains in the service generally operate at speeds of at least 140 miles per hour (about 225 kilometers per hour), but regularly top speeds of nearly 200 mph (about 320 mph) . The TGV is the fastest train in Europe and, until 2009, it was considered the fastest train in the world.

The concept of a high-speed train in France originated around 1960 with the main goal of reducing travel times between large cities. The higher speeds would also allow steeper grades to be used compared to existing rail lines at the time. The advent of the Japanese Shinkansen, or “Bullet Train,” provided further impetus for the development of high-speed rail in France.

Despite the perceived age of the steel wheels and rails, they became the foundation choice for the new system, gaining ideas like magnetic levitation. Along with the use of the standard rail meter, this decision would allow new trains to run on existing rail lines, if at a reduced speed. In 1972, a diesel-powered prototype train called TGV001 was testing at speeds up to 198 mph (approximately 318 kph), a record for a non-electric train. At the time of testing, rising oil prices led to a system redesigned to use overhead electric power. After several years of testing the new electrical design, TGV trains entered mainstream service in 1981.

From Paris, the TGV can reach most destinations in France in three hours. Almost all high-speed rail lines pass through or near Paris, and service is offered to more than 200 cities throughout France. The TGV also offers access to cities in nearby countries, such as Brussels, Belgium and London, England.

Traveling on the TGV is similar in many ways to air travel. Like an airline, reservations are required for the TGV, and while tickets can be purchased up to three months in advance, it is possible to get them just days before a trip. Travelers are also advised to arrive before the scheduled departure time; The suggested rail service time is at least 30 minutes prior to departure. Trains generally have a First Class option with access to more comfortable seats, exclusive access to food and drink, and extra legroom. It is not allowed to smoke.

France’s high-speed rail service also has numerous differences compared to air travel, many contributing to the continued popularity of the TGV. Among the most recognized is the ability to disembark passengers near the center of a destination city. The TGV often uses the existing rail lines of the destination cities, which often pass through urban centers.

The TGV also offers services that are rare or simply not found on planes. Between these are standard two-pin European power sockets found in most cars. While full meal service is usually offered in the fourth car of the train, there are no restrictions on bringing food and drink outdoors, including beer and wine. Pets are also allowed to travel on the train with passengers, although larger dogs and pets kept in carriers require a separate ticket.

It is advisable to purchase tickets in advance, particularly on the highly demanded Eurostar trains that serve London via the Channel Tunnel. Tickets can be obtained online or by phone, and at many station kiosks. Like airline tickets, prices increase as the departure date approaches, but vary depending on the length of the trip, the destination city, and the time of day. Rail passes are available for frequent travelers, allowing unlimited travel for up to eight days in a month for a flat fee. As of 2010, the rail system had carried approximately 2 billion passengers.

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