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The number one criticism should be not one of the TGV itself, but government priorities. I blamed the Chirac government, but the bulk of the prior decade wasn't ideal either. The first leg of the TGV Est will be opened on 10 June -- but that's a decade late compared to riginal planning, and the second leg across the Vosges toward Strasbourg receded into misty future. The line towards Bordeaux and Toulouse is to be built only in stages and only after 2010, the total delay will be more like two decades. A line South towards the Massif Central, either as true high-sapeed or an upgrade for tilt trains, is now even off the table -- while the beautiful but high-way-carrying Millau bridge completed an expensive highway. A lot of highwqays have been built in central France, including in the Loire valley, where a cross line (to reduce the centralised nature of the network) wasn't even proposed.
The number two criticism is tunnels. TGV lines were built on the cheap by sparing tunnels almost completely. Only the TGV Atlantique connection into Paris and the TGV Mediterranée entry into Marseille have significant tunnels. This policy has two negative consequences.
On one hand, projects that really drag are those where tunnels are unavoidable, and they drag more than in other countries. Witness the ever-stretching Lyons-Turin project. Witness the TGV Rhin-Rhône: on the easiest, firsat to be built Northeast branch (towards Mulhouse) of its three branches, a single laughable less than two km long tunnel was treated as significant challenge, while the Northwest branch (across Dijon towards Paris) will not be built in 15 years due to the need of a relatively short cross-city tunnel under Dijon.
The other negative consequence is indicated by the above example of Dijon: to cut costs, TGV line planners had the idea to bypass cities and build stations out in the green, rather than build cross-city tunnels (as now built in Florence and Bologna on the Italian network, or in Barcelona in Spain) or parallel bypass and city access lines (as say at Zaragoza and Lerida in Spain). So there goes the no-travel-to-the-airport-time advantage of high-speed rail, high-speed rail is connected to car culture, and that not with that much success (these out in the nothing stations are often lightly frequented).
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
The present government backs a plan for a second international airport for Toulouse on the grounds that the first will not be able to handle air traffic in the future. Toulouse is on the "TGV" map richardk provided, in the blue 5-6 hour zone. That is, the train you get on in Toulouse is a true TGV, but runs as a regular express train for more than half the trip to Paris via Bordeaux. That takes 5h 20mn. So the Toulouse-Paris (700 km/440 miles) air shuttle is hugely used. Circular argument by which the authorities justify the need for a new airport...
A full TGV link would put Toulouse at 3h 30mn from Paris and would probably cut air shuttle traffic by half.
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