Source AP ©

Europe high-speed thains flit from Germany to France

Two high-speed trains - German one and a French one – zipped from Germany to France on Friday, aimed at competition with air travel.

The TGV-ICE duet is an important collaboration between often rivalrous rail giants, France's SNCF and Deutsche Bahn AG, and is being touted as a more environmentally friendly alternative to airplanes.

The German train left from Frankfurt and the French train left from Stuttgart, and both were to slide into Paris' Gare de l'Est side-by-side Friday afternoon.

The journey cuts travel from Frankfurt to Paris to 3Ѕ hours from 6 hours, 15 minutes today.

While many European countries have their own high-speed trains, each one has been developed independently, and only limited international links exist. Technical differences between the trains have made it difficult to make cross-border links feasible.

The French-German co-operation, however, could be the beginning of a Barcelona to Budapest high-speed dream that has been taking shape in Europe for years.

The CEO of Deutsche Bahn AG, Hartmut Mehdorn, announced before the German train's departure in Frankfurt that a contract would eventually be signed between nine European railways. The deal would cement a common service level and allow for crossbookings, much like airline alliances.

Friday's event comes ahead of the June 10 opening of the France's newest high-speed line, the TGV East, opening up speedy service to cities in Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

It was on that line that a TGV broke the world rail speed record on April 3, reaching 574.8 kph (357.2 mph).

The cross-border high-speed trains will run at 320 kph (199mph).

After six years of bureaucratic and technical preparation, the rail companies hope the TGV East project will raise passenger numbers by 50 percent to 1.5 million yearly.

They hope it's fast enough - at downtown Frankfurt to downtown Paris in 3Ѕ hours - to compete with the airlines, whose toughening security measures and other problems have frustrated travelers around Europe.

Ticket prices are also competitive, slated to be EUR99 (US$133) second class between Frankfurt and Paris and EUR95 (US$127) between Stuttgart and Paris.

The TGV East will also offer streamlined same-ticket high-speed service to Munich, Luxembourg and Zurich. 

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