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High Speed Train Routes of France Transit Diagram

Presenting my next transit-styled diagram, this time showing all the high speed train routes that pass through France. This includes the French (SNCF) TGV trains, the Eurostar trains from London, the Thalys services from Belgium and the Netherlands, and some ICE services from Germany that operate in tandem with corresponding TGV services from France. It does not show high speed trains that do not pass through France: for example, the ICE train from Amsterdam to Germany does not pass through France, so is not shown.

Research for this diagram was particularly tricky as no one source outlines all the routes in one comprehensive listing. I had to compile the information from various sources, none more valuable than the amazing Deutsche Bahn web timetable, which I have fond memories of using in 2003 as I caught trains all over Europe while backpacking.

Once I started the diagram, the sheer amount of high speed services in France initially overwhelmed me, and it was a long while before things formed a coherent pattern for me. Once I worked out the complex routing of trains out of and around Paris, things began to fall into place.I decided that colour-coding would try to reflect the origin of the train, so all trains out of the Gare de l’Est in Paris are variations of green, for example,while all Thalys routes are a shade of the rolling stock’s distinctive maroon. I find it particularly interesting how the initially homogeneous colours become more mixed the further from Paris you get, especially towards Marseille, where lines from all over France begin to converge towards their final destination.

It’s interesting to note that the equivalent diagram in America would consist of one route – the Acela Express from New York to Washington, DC – and even that barely qualifies as “high speed”. Fast by American standards, maybe…

But do note that these trains do not necessarily travel at their maximum speed (up to 300km/ per hour or 185 miles/hour) on all the routes shown. To attain these speeds, the trains have to run on specially-built tracks, which currently are only on the highest density parts of the system. However, all these routes use TGV/Eurostar/Thalys/ICE rolling stock, which is the criterion for inclusion on this diagram.

My favourite parts of the diagram include the grand loop around Paris to the east, the complex interplay of routes around Lille, and the subtle inclusion of the Winter routes to the French Alps without having to accord them an entire route from start to finish: more complexity is not what this diagram needs!

As usual, you can view a much larger version of the diagram over on Flickr. Comments are always welcome!

Update: March 3rd, 2011: New version of the diagram with a new route added from Melun to Marseille (Don’t know how I missed that one!). Routes from Le Havre to Strasbourg and Cherbourg to Dijon were deleted, as these “experimental” (and poorly patronised) routes stopped running in December 2010. Winter services to Evian and Saint-Gervais also added. Finally, the station names have been made a little larger.

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14 Comments

  1. Nathanael

    This is pretty, but for diagram purposes it would really make sense to combine some of the lines as they get near Paris. Obviously only the ones which make the same station stops could be combined, but it might be possible to make those thick colored stripes approaching Paris more comprehensible.

  2. I worked in France 1981-1985 and truly love my adopted country, and the wonderful SNCF. HOWEVER, please remember that one reason that high-speed rail works in France is that the entire country is only the size of Texas. Air travel is more practical over long distances like we have in the United States.

    • Roger,

      while it’s true that France is small, high-speed rail (HSR) works there because there is an absolute commitment to it a a form of transportation, which is sorely lacking in the U.S. If size of the service area was the only issue, the California HSR would be up and running by now, the Amtrak Northeast Corridor wold be true HSR instead of the “slightly faster than normal” service it is now, Florida would have adopted HSR instead of rejecting it… and so on and so on. HSR can work on a regional level within the U.S., but politics and an over-reliance on the car and plane prevents it from becoming so.

    • Andrew

      “Air travel is more practical over long distances like we have in the United States.” You realize people travel distances other than New York-LA, right? High-speed in the northeast corridor, California, Texas Triangle, and upper midwest would be perfectly reasonable markets. Just because it’s a bad idea to take a train from Chicago to LA doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to take a train from Chicago to Minneapolis.

      Put another way: Can you imagine someone saying, “We can’t have trains in Europe, air travel is more practical over long distances like we have in Europe”? And, just like we would benefit from localized rail networks that connect together, so does Europe!

  3. Brent Palmer

    Exquisite! Just one thing though—Monaco should be shown as a sovereign nation, not part of France. Other than that, I wouldn’t mind paying for a print copy.

  4. tobias b köhler

    Suggestions for the next updates:

    Extend the “Köln” Thalys line to Düsseldorf – Duisburg – Essen.

    Include the LGV Rhin – Rhône (Mulhouse – Dijon opened december 2011).
    This means new trains (Zürich HB -) Mulhouse Ville – Belfort-Montbéliard TGV – Besançon Franche-Comté TGV – Dijon Ville – Paris/Lille/Montpellier.
    (I guess replacing some of the trains going through the old stations of Belfort, Montbéliard and Besançon – that’s the price of high speed, not all intermediate towns are served in the city center!)

  5. StevyD

    Cameron your map is precise, efficient, recognizable and beautiful. I almost sense the motion of the trains
    I salute the French, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, and others who have realized the value of HSR and made the commitment.
    Why anyone would expect the USA to have high speed trains is beyond me. We are a 3rd World country (in number of homeless, in infant mortality rates, in the number of uninsured and lacking healthcare, and the number of executed prisoners), which is overly enthralled by guns, murder and warfare and whose citizenry lack competent educational standards yet couldn’t care less. We’ll have high speed rail when pigs fly, not one day before.

  6. Ben

    Nice work, really!
    But as a French fellow, I have to make a few comments:
    First, your map of France looks very strange: why its wisth is not proportionnal to its height?
    Second, all the lines shown are not high-speed. Even if TGV is ‘railing’ on all those lines, TGV can go at a 270hm/h speed only on some sections (figured in blue lines on this map : http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fichier:Carte_TGV.svg). When not on thoses sections, TGV is as slow as a normal train (more or less 100 km/h, if my memory is not bad).
    But maybe this was explained on the legend I could read… :)

    • The first thing to remember is that is a diagram of the routes, not a geographically accurate map. Some distortion is required to space the stations out evenly in an aesthetic way, especially when there are many lines running parallel to each other. Paris to Lille, especially, takes up much more room on my diagram than in real life.

      I’m also aware that the trains don’t necessarily run at full speed on all the routes, but all the routes do run TGV-type trains which are capable of those top speeds. So rather than differentiating between “fast” TGV and “slow” TGV, I decided to show them all.

  7. This map looks incredible. I was curious how you were going to resolve the chaos east of Paris but you managed to do it with minimal visual confusion. I feel like a diagram like this is the only proof the United States needs that high speed rail does and can work here. Yes our cities are setup and arranged differently than European cities, but that doesn’t mean the potential of HSR is mute. Holding my breath for the day that the US version has a similar graphical quality.

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