Why are so many TGV stations in the middle of nowhere?

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Horizon22

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I was exploring the French network a little bit to plan a future interrail trip and to see some extended European friends. Whilst exploring the TGV network and its maps, I noted that the French have a trend of building TGV stations in quite frankly the middle of nowhere.

A few I picked up where Haute-Picadie on LGV Nord (30 minutes away from any major city) and on Est, Meuse LGV of which the closest considerable settlement is Verdun which isn't exactly huge. Are these half-baked compromises for the regions? Or a "parkway" type concept that works and people do actually drive the distance? Or vanity projects? I can't find many passenger number figures out there for these stations, but it certainly appears to be under 500,000 a year which isn't exactly high and mighty.

I'd understand more if they were maybe built at a classic junction allowing people to interchange, but the two I've listed above (and no doubt others) aren't interchange stations either. This isn't an approach we're taking with HS2, so I'm just curious if anyone knows the history behind these stations seemingly in the middle of miles of farmland?
 
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jamesontheroad

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You’re correct on a few points: SNCF wanted to build the straightest, fastest lines between major cities, so where local train connections weren’t possible many are indeed “parkway” style stations.

Others are political compromises. If you look at the French language page for Creusot TGV station there is a bit more information than the English one, which Google Translate can explain.

Le Creusot TGV is the result of a compromise between the logic of the French National Railway Company (SNCF), which wanted to build a high-speed line from Paris to Lyon without intermediate stop (a simple technical stop was planned at Montchanin) and those of the local communities which mobilized during the impact study of the LGV to promote the development of their territory. For SNCF, the customer potential did not justify the investment in connections for a service to central stations. The station construction project was notably defended by André Jarrot, former minister, senator and deputy, at the time mayor of Montceau-les-Mines.

There may be better examples, but they are usually built to appease local politicians in one more départements or communes and to get support from voters from NIMBYs who don’t want an LGV passing through their region.
 

Snow1964

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Another factor is the LGV stations need a big site. The platforms are away from passing High speed trains on loops so have to have space for at least 4 decently spaced tracks plus 2 platforms. Some like Chessy (Disney Paris) are double decked with through lines underneath.

I think there are a couple of stations with emergency facilities for coupling trains, so the loops are >800m rather than 400m. These are long compared to a typical UK Intercity platform of only 240-280m
 

Austriantrain

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Actually, LGV stations have been established along several lines. For a long time, they were „gares betteraves“ („sugar beet“ stations), not actually situated in the middle of nowhere, but close to major motorways and away from connecting railway lines. The TGV was seen as a separate System; Integration with other railways was not a priority.

Examples of these are TGV Piccardie and TGV Lorraine, both situated where a motorway crosses the LGV, and some distance from where other railways run (or even earlier, Macon-Loche TGV and Le Creusot TGV, the last of which is not even situated next door to a motorway but neither along the Dijon - Le Creusot railway line)

At some point the French realised this is quite absurd. Whereas those old stations where not resituated, even though in some cases that was under study, on new lines, an effort was made to have a connection to the classic network: think of Valence TGV, Avignon TGV, Besancon TGV or Belfort TGV (actually, the LGV Med opened before the LGV Est, and still was more modern in this respect - might have something to do with the time of planning).

On two very new lines, LGV Bretagne-Pays de Loire and TGV Sud Europe Atlantique, yet another way was chosen: No intermediate stations on the LGV, but rather chords to the classic network to serve town-center stations (eg Laval, Poitiers).

Plans for the next generation of LGV (Bordeaux - Toulouse, Montpellier - Perpignan) see a return to stations on the LGV, but at least an effort seems mostly to be made to have these stations connected to the classic network.
 

mister-sparky

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Most of them in the middle of nowhere were built so that the departments would let them build across there land, not for any actual purpose or interchange
 

Austriantrain

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Most of them in the middle of nowhere were built so that the departments would let them build across there land, not for any actual purpose or interchange

It is true that the regions put enormous political pressure on building these stations, but in several examples mentioned by me (Picardie, Lorraine etc), placing them at a crossroads with motorway and far from the conventional rail network was a conscious and deliberate decision.

Connections were never really an SNCF priority, especially not for the TGVs. There is a reason France is not moving towards a Takt even though the network structure and infrastructure would be perfectly suited for it.
 

30907

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Picardie was a sop to Amiens, who lobbied for the Lille route to serve them, and there wasn't a real alternative to the planned motorway (by train, you might as well go direct to Paris: a station connecting with Amiens-Laon wouldn't have been a great deal of use). However, it now seems to do quite well, judging by the number of cars parked there when I last passed.

Lorraine was built because you can't practically serve both Nancy and Metz - and came in for a lot of criticism because a station on the Nancy-Metz rail route would have been possible. Neither it nor Meuse seem that busy from the timetable.
 

riceuten

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TGV Lorraine is situated at the southern end of the airport in Metz, which I think is missing a HUGE trick, as the airport at Metz is a good 50 minutes by bus from the Gare in Metz itself. The nickname for it (the TGV Station) is "Gare de Bettaves" (Beetroot Station) as it is situated in the midst of said crop. The ICE/TGV service to Saarbruecken and Frankfurt did not, despite SNCF's protests - originally stop there, but now most trains on that route are TGVs, they do. I saw a grand total of 5 people get off last time I took it.
 

Austriantrain

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Picardie was a sop to Amiens, who lobbied for the Lille route to serve them, and there wasn't a real alternative to the planned motorway (by train, you might as well go direct to Paris: a station connecting with Amiens-Laon wouldn't have been a great deal of use). However, it now seems to do quite well, judging by the number of cars parked there when I last passed.

I doubt that the station serves any purpose on the Amiens - Paris traffic flow, and as far I can see, it is hardly served by TGV to Paris anyway. It is almost entirely TGV Interconnection, and for these, a connection to the Amiens - Laon line would have made a lot of sense.
 

Horizon22

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Picardie was a sop to Amiens, who lobbied for the Lille route to serve them, and there wasn't a real alternative to the planned motorway (by train, you might as well go direct to Paris: a station connecting with Amiens-Laon wouldn't have been a great deal of use). However, it now seems to do quite well, judging by the number of cars parked there when I last passed.

Lorraine was built because you can't practically serve both Nancy and Metz - and came in for a lot of criticism because a station on the Nancy-Metz rail route would have been possible. Neither it nor Meuse seem that busy from the timetable.

This is the impression I got - initial compromise solutions that please nobody. Parkway stations are fine in principle but the routes look like there are definitely occasions where a new two-level interchange with a classic line would have been more then feasible.
 

Ianno87

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I doubt that the station serves any purpose on the Amiens - Paris traffic flow, and as far I can see, it is hardly served by TGV to Paris anyway. It is almost entirely TGV Interconnection, and for these, a connection to the Amiens - Laon line would have made a lot of sense.

From Amiens it would have very little advantage for Paris journeys compared to travelling from Amiens on the existing classic line.
 

AverageTD

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From Amiens it would have very little advantage for Paris journeys compared to travelling from Amiens on the existing classic line.
Yep, by the time you got to the LGV station you'd be halfway to Paris on classic lines. I also doubt that SNCF would be very enthusiastic to slow many Lille to Paris trains down considering how much time a stop would add. If LGV Picardie ever opens then you'd hope the residents of Amiens would finally get their high speed link to Paris rather than having another far away station.

Montpellier is an interesting example as although it's rather close to the city centre the transport links to it are miserable. It's too built up to have a classic rail link like Avignon but close to both lines 1 and 3 of the tram serve close by meaning bus is once again the only option. There are plans to extend line 1 to the station but it should really be under construction now. Lastly, the name of the station is ridiculous! It should be called either TGV Montpellier or Montpellier Sud, not Montpellier South of France!
 

Austriantrain

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From Amiens it would have very little advantage for Paris journeys compared to travelling from Amiens on the existing classic line.

As I already pointed out, TGV to Paris don’t stop there anyway, it is almost entirely XC TGVs, which could profit from a rail-rail interface.

It really comes down to a question of philosophy. Do you want that train users arrive mostly by car, or do you want an integrated transport system? Thankfully, the French have made at least some steps towards the latter.
 

JRT

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Over in Germany and Spain I tend to travel on the traditional lines, but I have noticed that some of their high speed lines also have stations en route that are some way out from the nearest settlement or equivalent conventional line station.
Hence my dread at the HS2 in England having stations en route far from city centre transport hubs.
 

Austriantrain

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Over in Germany and Spain I tend to travel on the traditional lines, but I have noticed that some of their high speed lines also have stations en route that are some way out from the nearest settlement or equivalent conventional line station.

I am aware of only one such station in Germany (but I might have missed others), Limburg Süd. It is certainly no trend there and the Germans have always had a rather interconnected system and are even strengthening it with the Deutschlandtakt plans.
 

JRT

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I am aware of only one such station in Germany (but I might have missed others), Limburg Süd. It is certainly no trend there and the Germans have always had a rather interconnected system and are even strengthening it with the Deutschlandtakt plans.
Thanks, that's the station I was thinking of. Yes, you’re right, Germany is not the same.
 

Horizon22

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Over in Germany and Spain I tend to travel on the traditional lines, but I have noticed that some of their high speed lines also have stations en route that are some way out from the nearest settlement or equivalent conventional line station.
Hence my dread at the HS2 in England having stations en route far from city centre transport hubs.

Luckily HS2 looks very connected either using existing stations (Euston, Manc Picadilly) or located at transport exchanges (Birmingham Interchange, Old Oak Common) or a strong city centre location (Curzon St). It probably adds to the cost though.
 

Horizon22

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High Speed Rail (TGV) is a matter of pride in France. Oh for the same attitude in the UK.

I'm sure it will eventually come to be seen as an excellent part of UK transport, but we are about 30 years behind and in the construction stage which never pleases people.
 

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I'm sure it will eventually come to be seen as an excellent part of UK transport, but we are about 30 years behind and in the construction stage which never pleases people.
I have been through the Channel Tunnel but still not been on a TGV. On my bucket list that is for sure.
 

Bald Rick

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It is true that the regions put enormous political pressure on building these stations, but in several examples mentioned by me (Picardie, Lorraine etc), placing them at a crossroads with motorway and far from the conventional rail network was a conscious and deliberate decision.

TGV Haute-Picardie was, I believe, the first station to be known as a Gares Des Betteraves. When it was built, the A29 autoroute didn’t exist, so getting to it was, to put it mildly, une douleur des derrière. Particularly from Amiens, for which it was built.

I have been through the Channel Tunnel but still not been on a TGV. On my bucket list that is for sure.

Don’t expect too much. When first built they were the definition of basic! Vinyl seats for example... Better now, of course.
 

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Take a look at an online mapping service of your choice for neighbouring España's Villanueva de Córdoba - Los Pedroches and Antequera - Santa Ana stations.
 

Ianno87

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As I already pointed out, TGV to Paris don’t stop there anyway, it is almost entirely XC TGVs, which could profit from a rail-rail interface.

That's my point - there's little point in stopping Paris TGVs as they wouldn't actually be that attractive.
 

edwin_m

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So should there have been a Chiltern Parkway Rt Hon Dame Cheryl Gillan New Town Station on HS2?
That's probably the closest we would get to a "Gare des Bettraves" in the England, as the population density is that much higher so almost everywhere is near someone. Of the existing planned HS2 stations only East Midlands isn't either in a city centre or with a city centre counterpart, and that's more suburban than rural.
 

Bald Rick

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That's probably the closest we would get to a "Gare des Bettraves" in the England, as the population density is that much higher so almost everywhere is near someone. Of the existing planned HS2 stations only East Midlands isn't either in a city centre or with a city centre counterpart, and that's more suburban than rural.

I’d say the current East Midlands Parkway is our best example. Interestingly it has a very similar number of passengers to TGV Haute Picardie, despite having a far, far better service both in terms of frequency and destinations.
 

leytongabriel

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I think some of the gare de bettraves like Haute Picardie and Le Creusot were also justified at the time in terms of regional development policy; areas of high unemployment, de-population, de-industrialisation etc. Political pressure and pay-offs for the line going through an area but also a central government response to be seen to be doing something for areas turning to the then National Front.
 

AverageTD

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To be fair to Ebbsfleet there is meant to eventually be something there... And it has a huge car park(s)
If only there was a regional station about 400 metres away with frequent connections to South East London and the Medway towns, imagine!
 
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