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Paris to Berlin in four hours: The plan for Europe’s ultra-rapid train network

The EU's Covid-19 economic recovery package could be used to fund a European ultra-rapid train network - including a four-hour train link from Paris to Berlin.

Paris to Berlin in four hours: The plan for Europe's ultra-rapid train network
Photo: AFP

The EU's €2 trillion recovery package for economies blighted by the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has been driven by French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, and aims to avoid a damaging and long-lasting recession.

It proposes helping out industries particularly badly hit by the lockdown such as tourism.

But a report from the Vienna Institute for Economic Studies looking at ways of spending the fund to give the greatest benefit also suggests a series of massive infrastructure projects including a European ultra-rapid train network.

Map: Vienna Institute for International Studies.

The document proposes “a European green high-speed train network to be established as part of a recovery programme from the Covid-19 crisis over the period of the 2020s.

“The URT network should be a new double-track high-speed railway system that is complementary to the existing networks.

'However, where suitable, also existing lines could be adapted. An average speed in the range of 250-350 km/h should be achieved. This would allow passengers to halve the current rail travel times, for instance, from Paris to Berlin in about four hours, making air travel for a large part of the intra-European passenger transport obsolete.

“Cutting by around half the EU’s domestic air passenger operations has the potential to reduce global commercial aviation CO2 emissions by about 4-5 percent. In addition, rail cargo capacities would be increased, freight transport speeded up and so also road-vehicle emissions reduced.”

The plan proposes four lines.

1. Paris to Dublin – from Paris to Brest, taking the Brest-Cork ferry then running from Cork to Dublin. The report describes this route as 'taking on an additional significance in the context of Brexit'.

2. Lisbon to Helsinki – running from Lisbon through Spain and France, via Paris, then to Belgium and the Netherlands before splitting into a loop via Berlin and onwards to Helsinki.

3. Brussels to Valetta – through Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy before taking the ferry to Malta

4. Berlin to Nicosia – with a ferry-based sea link between Piraeus and Paphos and a loop between Vienna and Sofia.

The plan would give France an extra 2,060km of high-speed railway and Germany an extra 2,299km.

 

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Painful’ – is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Following a survey that said Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was the best in Europe, we asked Local readers what they thought...

'Painful' - is Paris Charles de Gaulle airport really that bad?

Recently, Paris Charles de Gaulle was voted the best airport in Europe by passengers.

The 2022 World Airport Awards, based on customer satisfaction surveys between September 2021 and May 2022, listed the best airport on the planet as Doha, while Paris’s main airport came in at number 6 – the highest entry for a European airport – one place above Munich. 

READ ALSO Paris Charles de Gaulle voted best airport in Europe by passengers

Given CDG’s long-standing reputation doesn’t quite match what the World Airport Awards survey said – in 2009 it was rated the second-worst airport in the world, while in 2011 US site CNN judged it “the most hated airport in the world” – we wondered how accurate the survey could be.

So we asked readers of The Local for their opinion on their experience of Europe’s ‘best’ airport. 

Contrary to the World Airport Awards study, users erred towards the negative about the airport. A total 30.8 percent of Local readers – who had travelled through the airport in recent months – thought it was ‘terrible’, while another 33.3 percent agreed that it was ‘not great’ and had ‘some problems’.

But in total 12.8 percent of those who responded to our survey thought the airport was ‘brilliant’, and another 23.1 percent thought it ‘fine’, with ‘no major problems’.

So what are the problems with it?

Signage 

One respondent asked a simple – and obvious – question: “Why are there so many terminal twos?”

Barney Lehrer added: “They should change the terminal number system.”

In fact, signage and directions – not to mention the sheer size of the place – were common complaints, as were onward travel options. 

Christine Charaudeau told us: “The signage is terrible. I’ve often followed signs that led to nowhere. Thankfully, I speak French and am familiar with the airport but for first time travellers … yikes!”

Edwin Walley added that it was, “impossible to get from point A to point B,”  as he described the logistics at the airport as the “worst in the world”.

And James Patterson had a piece of advice taken from another airport. “The signage could be better – they could take a cue from Heathrow in that regard.”

Anthony Schofield said: “Arriving by car/taxi is painful due to congestion and the walk from the skytrain to baggage claim seems interminable.”

Border control

Border control, too, was a cause for complaint. “The wait at the frontière is shameful,” Linda, who preferred to use just her first name, told us. “I waited one and a half hours standing, with a lot of old people.”

Sharon Dubble agreed. She wrote: “The wait time to navigate passport control and customs is abysmal!”

Deborah Mur, too, bemoaned the issue of, “the long, long wait to pass border control in Terminal E, especially at 6am after an overnight flight.”

Beth Van Hulst, meanwhile, pulled no punches with her estimation of border staff and the airport in general. “[It] takes forever to go through immigration, and staff deserve their grumpy reputation. Also, queuing is very unclear and people get blocked because the airport layout is not well designed.”

Jeff VanderWolk highlighted the, “inadequate staffing of immigration counters and security checkpoints”, while Karel Prinsloo had no time for the brusque attitudes among security and border personnel. “Officers at customs are so rude. I once confronted the commander about their terrible behaviour.  His response said it all: ‘We are not here to be nice’. Also the security personnel.”

Connections

One of the most-complained-about aspects is one that is not actually within the airport’s control – public transport connections.  

Mahesh Chaturvedula was just one of those to wonder about integrated travel systems in France, noting problems with the reliability of onward RER rail services, and access to the RER network from the terminal.

The airport is connected to the city via RER B, one of the capital’s notoriously slow and crowded suburban trains. Although there are plans to create a new high-speed service to the airport, this now won’t begin until after the 2024 Olympics.

Sekhar also called for, “more frequent trains from SNCF to different cities across France with respect to the international flight schedules.”

The good news

But it wasn’t all bad news for the airport, 35 percent of survey respondents said the airport had more positives than negatives, while a Twitter poll of local readers came out in favour of Charles de Gaulle.

Conceding that the airport is “too spread out”, Jim Lockard said it, “generally operates well; [and has] decent amenities for food and shopping”.

Declan Murphy was one of a number of respondents to praise the, “good services and hotels in terminals”, while Dean Millar – who last passed through Charles de Gaulle in October – said the, “signage is very good. [It is] easy to find my way around”.

He added: “Considering the size (very large) [of the airport] it is very well done.  So no complaints at all.”

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