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"A high-speed rail is a tool of the Green Deal, an alternative to air transport," says SNCF's International Affairs Director, Mr Mugnier

&quote;A high-speed rail is a tool of the Green Deal, an alternative to air transport,&quote; says SNCF's International Affairs Director, Mr Mugnier
photo: Archive/"A high-speed rail is a tool of the Green Deal, an alternative to air transport," says SNCF's International Affairs Director, Mr Mugnier
17 / 06 / 2022

The RAILTARGET editorial team presents an exclusive interview with Gilles Mugnier, International Affairs Director at SNCF. What are the main benefits that high-speed rail has brought to the French regions? How does he assess the Czech-French cooperation in the preparation of the high-speed line in the Czech Republic? Find out in the interview.

What do you see as the main benefits of high-speed rail?

High-speed rail does not only permit reduced transportation time. It is also a way to develop regional hubs and regions by facilitating companies to remain established in regional cities deserved by high-speed lines, with short commuting times for their staff and with ability to meet more regularly the customers or suppliers.  As a result, it allows also people to find or keep more jobs locally, as the regions remain attractive for employees. Indeed, high-speed rail leads to environmental preservation, by proposing a clear alternative to air or highway travel.

Will high-speed rail compete with high-speed flights in the future?

Definitely.  Whatever is the distance, the air flights imply in fact a long time of preparation in addition to the sole flight duration (reaching the airport, boarding formalities ...). Furthermore, arrivals in airports are often far from city centres. High-speed trains allow travel with reduced transportation time, with an arrival generally in railway stations in the heart of cities.

Has the introduction of high-speed rail in France led to regional development?

Yes. With the feedback of forty years, it can be proved that high-speed lines have led to the development of regional areas, such as Bordeaux or Rennes, for example. The high-speed connections have permitted the development of local industries in enabling companies to maintain their headquarters locally, still with the possibility to strengthen their regional brands.

What are the main problems you have observed in France related to the introduction of high-speed rail?

Like many infrastructures, a railway line must be chosen with care and with minimal consultation. Some constraints (such as potential noise when a train passes by) have to be preventively identified to find solutions. In practice, a high-speed train is far less noisy than a plane or a highway, and some corrective measures exist and can be agreed upon in advance with local authorities and inhabitants (such as the setting of noise barriers for example).

How do you evaluate the cooperation with the Railway Administration and its Director-General Jiří Svoboda?

The cooperation with Sprava Zlzenic is good and based on long-term relations with the SNCF group, especially with SNCF RESEAU, the French infrastructure manager. Mr Jiří Svoboda is willing to develop this cooperation, with a positive mindset.

Do you think it is good that there is an effort within the EU to create a unified rail network connecting the individual countries?

A unified EU rail network is one of the key objectives of EU authorities. Aside from roads, the railway lines and corridors should then be improved in most of the EU countries. The Czech Republic is clearly identified as one of the countries to be taken into account in projects, such as TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network). These improvements will support both internal railway needs but also transnational lines, with Germany or Poland by example.