Today in Transportation History – 1981: The LGV Sud-Est Roars Down the Tracks

The first section of France’s first high-speed rail line officially began operations. The LGV Sud-Est was being built as a transit link between Paris and Lyon, and the inaugural festivities for the new line included a special train running on the completed segment between Lyon and the commune of Montchanin.

As the train sped north towards Montchanin, French President François Mitterand briefly took over the controls from engineer Jacques Ruiz. Mitterand also took the time that day to say that the pioneering high-speed line was “a sign to the whole world that France intends to stay a great innovative nation, well-placed in the race for high technology.”

At the time, the trains running on the LGV Sud-Est at approximately 160 miles per hour were the fastest in the world. These trains initially reduced the time it took to travel between Paris and Lyon via rail transportation from three hours and 48 minutes to two hours and 40 minutes.

For more information about the LGV Sud-Est, please check out

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