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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 April 2007, 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK
French set new rail speed record
TGV train
The modified TGV was powered by two engines

A French high-speed train (TGV) has smashed the world record for a train on conventional rails by a big margin, reaching 574.8km/h (356mph).

The previous TGV record was 515km/h (320mph), set in 1990.

The record attempt by a modified TGV took place on a track between Paris and the eastern city of Strasbourg.

The absolute train speed record was set by a Japanese magnetic levitation train - Maglev - in 2003. It reached a top speed of 581km/h (361mph).

The TGV set the new record at 1314 (1114GMT) on Tuesday. It was a modified version called V150, with larger wheels than usual and two engines driving three double-decker cars.

The BBC's Emma Jane Kirby said the three train drivers were seen grinning on French TV after they realised they had broken the record.

V150 TRAIN
Two engines - one at each end
Three double-decker cars
Three motorised bogies
Power output: more than 25,000 horsepower
Cost: 30m euros (22m; $40m)

The train travelled almost as fast as a World War II Spitfire fighter at top speed.

The electrical tension in the overhead cable was boosted from 25,000 volts to 31,000 for the record attempt.

Spectators clapped and cheered as the train zoomed underneath bridges.

"We saw the countryside go by a little faster than we did during the tests," engineer Eric Pieczac told the Associated Press.

Shot of train breaking record
The train travelled as fast as a WWII fighter plane

"Everything went very well. There are about 10,000 engineers who would want to be in my place," Mr Pieczac said. "It makes me very happy, a mixed feeling of pride and honour to be able to reach this speed."

French TGV trains, in service since 1981, generally travel at about 300km/h. But from 10 June they will be allowed to reach 320km/h on the recently opened Paris-Strasbourg LGV Est line.

SNCF and the train's makers Alstom say the record attempt represents a test on the infrastructure in extreme conditions, which is impossible to carry out in the laboratory.

After the record was broken, President Jacques Chirac conveyed his congratulations on "this new proof of the excellence of the French rail industry."

Rival trains

"Economically efficient and respectful of the environment, the TGV is a major asset in efforts to ensure sustainable development in transport," Mr Chirac was quoted as saying.

"What is important for us today is to prove that the TGV technology which was invented in France 30 years ago is a technology for the future," said Guillaume Pepy, director-general of SNCF.

Alstom also aims to boost TGV sales abroad, where it is competing with the Japanese Shinkansen and the German Inter-City Express high-speed trains.

China, South Korea and Taiwan are the most important customers for high-speed trains.

The technology is also being looked at in California for a new high-speed service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, according to AFP news agency.

World speed records on manned trains - bar chart




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Footage of the record-breaking trip



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07 Jun 01 |  Europe

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