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On the fast track in France


High-speed trains call for modern tracks, and this formed the core of LISEA’s project: 340 km of new tracks were laid while integrating a number bridges and viaducts. A new signaling system has been installed to suit high-speed trains. “The project was delivered one month in advance,” says Hervé Le Caignec, President of LISEA. “The conventional rail network is still in use for regional rail travel and freight trains.” Traveling at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the high-speed train takes just over two hours to reach Bordeaux from Paris instead of more than three hours as it did in the past. Bordeaux has experienced an economic boom in recent years, making a faster connection to Paris necessary. At the same time, the connection will help to boost the city’s economy even further.

Of the six years it took to complete the project, the first was a planning phase, and LISEA finished work about one month ahead of schedule. SNCF, the French state railways, currently operates about 70 trains a day on the Paris-Bordeaux route, with that number spiking to 90 on peak days. Other destinations are also possible, such as La Rochelle and Toulouse. The route is expected to serve 18 million passengers annually and has seen significant use in its first few months in operation. “We see a lot of potential to increase these volumes,” Mr. Le Caignec notes. “Due to current legislation, only SNCF may use the rail network at this time. Once the monopoly has ended, other rail companies will vie for use of the tracks.”

LISEA’s seven billion EUR project was financed equally by the public sector and private investors, which is quite common among projects of this kind. “The concession lasts until 2061, and the ones using the tracks pay the operator for the use,” the President points out. When the concession expires, the project will be turned over to the state.

During the construction, up to 9,000 employees were working for the project, but LISEA has now 32 regular staff. Mr. Le Caignec and his team are responsible for operation, environmental protection, marketing and safety. It is also his responsibility to ensure smooth operations on the route. “That includes regular maintenance and repairs to be completed on the tracks,” Mr. Le Caignec adds. “We cooperate with MESEA, a maintenance company of about 180 people to conduct this work.”

Another important aspect of the project is the many corporate foundations involved with LISEA. “There are three corporate foundations responsible for environmental and social aspects,” the President highlights. Outside the tract limits, the company has an area of 3,500 ha in its custody, and it works with a variety of organizations to carry out environmental protective measures there. “It’s a matter of plants, animals and biodiversity,” Mr. Le Caignec adds. The new connection is proving to be environmentally beneficial in another way: The time savings compared to driving or flying are so considerable that many travelers are choosing the train over other means of transportation.

“We have a lot on our plate,” Mr. Le Caignec confirms. The future has a lot in store for the company, as well. “We aim to increase the frequency with which the trains run on our tracks and acquire new customers while considering important environmental factors along the way,” the President says in conclusion.

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