French high-speed extensions offer model for the Midwest

July 13, 2017

Passengers in France are celebrating the first trains on 303 miles of new high-speed lines. The new segments are extensions of the LGV Atlantique (Atlantic high-speed line), first completed in 1990, which heads west from Paris then splits into a “Y” to reach Le Mans and Tours. The new segments extend 200 mph service west from Le Mans to Rennes and south from Tours to Bordeaux. The new high-speed tracks connect to the older, conventional tracks in a number of places to also bring faster service to a number of intermediate cities.

France has one of the world’s greatest high-speed rail networks, but it wasn’t built all at once. Their high-speed system has been built in segments that connect to and enhance their older railroad network, bringing incremental improvements to several destinations as each segment is completed. The Midwest High Speed Rail Association calls this the Phased Network Approach, and it’s one of our key strategies to bring fast trains to our side of the pond.

LGV connections to existing line

Bordeaux didn’t have to wait until 2017 to enjoy the benefits of high-speed rail. Trains to Bordeaux took advantage of the previous high-speed line as far as Tours completed in 1990, then connected seamlessly to the existing railroad to finish their journey. The 1990 segment cut an hour from the journey, and the 2017 extension cuts another hour, bringing what used to be a four hour trip down to two hours.

High-speed rail in the Midwest will be built in the same fashion: a single high-speed segment heading south from Chicago would shorten trips to St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, or Cincinnati by connecting to and enhancing our current railroad network. Later extensions would make trips to further destinations like Nashville or Kansas City feasible. Read how the Phased Network Plan will bring fast, frequent and reliable trains to the Midwest.

If you like maps as much as we do, here are a few more about the new French upgrades and it exemplifies the Phased Network Approach:

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Free Transit Oriented Development Walking Tour of Downers Grove
July 20, 9:30 a.m.

Join DePaul University and MHSRA board member Joe Schwieterman for "mobile workshop" (walking tour) of transit-oriented development in the Village of Downers Grove on Thursday, July 20, from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Stops include the thriving neighborhood around the Metra station. Meet at Downers Grove Village Hall (801 Burlington Ave) for breakfast beforehand. If you come by Metra, there are 7:45 or 8:50 a.m. departures from Union Station on the BNSF Line. If you take the latter, they’ll arrange for you to meet the tour. RSVP to This is a free event. Bring a colleague or friend!  

Articles we enjoyed

Feds release high-speed rail plan, rethinking two states. The FRA has released the Record of Decision for the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 environmental impact study.

High-speed rail goal must be kept alive. An editorial supporting the study of high-speed rail from Boston to Springfield, Mass., which was removed from the state budget at the last minute.

Iran looks to build high-speed rail links with Italian firm. A 1.36 billion euro deal for two high-speed rail lines.