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 TGV Frequently Asked Questions

TGVweb > Introduction > Frequently Asked Questions

Serve this page from: California, USA / Pisa, Italy

This is a summary of frequently asked questions about the TGV. If you have a question that you think might interest other readers, please ask.

What does TGV stand for?
TGV is a French acronym for "Train à Grande Vitesse". In English this translates very simply as "high speed train". TGV does not stand for "Très Grande Vitesse" or other similar variations. The TGV brand is now a trademark, although the acronym remains a general term.

Is TGV a company?
No. The TGV high speed trains are owned and operated by the "Grandes Lignes" unit of SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français), the French national railways. The tracks they run on are owned and operated by RFF (Réseau Ferré de France).

What does TGV refer to?
It can refer to the trains, it can refer to the high speed lines, it can refer to the entire French high speed rail system. Usage varies and depends on context. It's important to keep in mind that TGV means more than just the trains. By themselves they can't go much faster than conventional trains, and to achieve their potential special tracks and signalling are required. Therefore, the TGV is also a system.

How fast can a TGV go?
Typically, top speed in commercial service is 300 km/h (186 mph). Under special test conditions a TGV trainset has reached 515.3 km/h (320 mph). Some speed restrictions due to the line or the train may exist, but weather (such as dense fog) does not limit speeds.

Is travelling by TGV safe?
Yes, very safe. The high speeds have resulted in no fatalities two decades of operations. You could probably say riding a TGV is safer than taking the airplane.

Is the TGV good for the environment?
This question has no simple answer. Considerations include pollution (the trains are powered by electricity generated mostly by nuclear power plants), energy consumption (rather higher than a conventional train, but still lower than automobiles) and environmental impact of the new TGV lines.

How much does it cost to ride a TGV?
Not too much more than other trains on the SNCF (French railways) network. There is a fixed fee based on the origin / destination pair, plus a mandatory reservation fee which is more expensive during peak traffic periods. Various special fares exist. To find out more, see SNCF's site.

Who makes the TGV?
The prime contractor for almost all TGV trains is French rail manufacturer ALSTOM, formerly GEC-Alsthom. Of course a myriad of components that make up each trainset are manufactured by subcontractors such as Bombardier Transport, Faiveley, etc. Many more companies are involved in building the high speed lines and their associated equipment. It's difficult for people outside the industry to keep track of who made what with all the corporate mergers, splits and associated complications.

What are TGV trains made of?
Almost all of them are made of steel. For weight savings, the newest models such as the TGV Duplex have aluminum body shells (except for the locomotives which are still made of steel), and even feature magnesium seat frames!

Do both TGV power cars run at the same time?
Yes. Whenever a TGV trainset operates, the front power car pulls and the rear power car pushes. The rear power car is controlled remotely from the front power car.

How many people are in the crew of a TGV?
Nominally four: two conductors in the passenger area (including the chef de train) who ensure safety and collect fares, one engineer (driver) in the cab, and one food service worker in the Bar car. For double trainsets, there is only one engineer (driver) for both.

Does this site include economic data?
No. It is difficult to present such data in a form that is unbiased or at least fully explained. Much of this data is likely proprietary anyway, and as it is a controversial subject among proponents and opponents of high speed rail it is not discussed in detail on TGVweb.

I need TGV measurements for an architectural project.
See this page for detailed measurements of a typical TGV trainset so you can scale the train appropriately. These measurements don't vary very much among the different types of TGVs.

Where can I find professional TGV videos / photographs?
SNCF has an audio-visual department (CAV) which handles these matters. Contact:
Centre audiovisuel
93584 Saint-Ouen cÚdex
Phone: +33 1 40 10 57 71

What is the minimum curve radius for a TGV?
At very low speeds of course, a TGV trainset can pass through curves as tight as 125 m, such as in terminal approach areas.

TGVweb > Introduction > Frequently Asked Questions

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