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Quick Trip on French TGV Has O.C. Panel Up to Speed

March 18, 1990|JEFFREY A. PERLMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

French officials have studied the vibration problem and have even tunneled under one vineyard, but the farmer involved is still not satisfied, officials said. Also, France's activist Green Party, which concerns itself with the environment, has become more worrisome and bothersome, said Claude Constant, director of international cooperation for the French National Railroad.

In one case, for example, the Green Party forced the railroad to relocate a pond to protect frogs.

And the Green Party, along with a group of homeowners near St. Arnoult Enyvelines, outside Paris, forced officials to construct a concrete sound wall next to the tracks even though they had never objected to a much noisier, heavily congested highway closer to their homes.

"Everybody wants the train service," Constant said, "but they say, 'Not in my garden.' "

French officials say their high-speed model is quieter at 270 m.p.h. than a conventional train is at 100 m.p.h.

But there are some who are skeptical, possibly including Roth.

"It remains to be seen," he said Saturday, "whether the French train can survive the environmental problems it is likely to encounter in California."

While the French train ride is more comfortable than that of a conventional train, some passengers--even Parisians interviewed Saturday--said they object to their ears "popping" every time the train goes through a tunnel at high speed.

The problem is that the speeding train compresses the tunnel's air in front of it, changing the pressure in the inner ear. But others said it was no worse than the same popping experienced on an airplane.

"I take the train to Rennes almost every weekend," said Jean Amburgey, a banker whose fiance lives in Rennes, about 250 miles from Paris. "I much prefer the train because it is so convenient."

The fare is about $100 for a round trip.

The French, however, are used to using trains. Within the Paris area, for example, about half the commuters use public transit, mostly trains, including the Paris Metro. The commuter rail service is so cheap--less than $1 per day for unlimited use--it is virtually free by American standards.

Said Paris transit spokesman Cyrille de La Faye: "In Paris, a politician who doesn't work for better public transport will lose his job."

Facts About The TGV The TGV is a high-speed train made by the French firm GEM Alsthom. It can reach speeds of nearly 300 m.p.h. and has carried more than 100 million passengers since entering service n 1981. The main TGV line runs between Paris and Lyon. Additional lines in other parts of France are now being added. Pros -The TGV has a proven track record in commerical service. -It is non-polluting. -Capital costs are less than West German's experimental magnetic-levitation train system. Cons -TGV cannot take steep grades. -It uses more energy than the maglev train. -It requires extensive earth removal for tracks to be laid. The steel-wheel train, which runs on electicity, can travel on conventional railroad tracks. TGV stands for Train a Grande Vitesse, or high-speed train. In order to keep the train stable at high rates of speed, the traction motors are suspended from the chassis, reducing strain on the tracks. TGV is also equipped with three different brake systems that allow the train to stop at high speeds.

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