We are on Friday July 2 at 5pm. Tomorrow, all kids in France will be on summer vacations. This is the beginning of the first month of vacations. Scores of TGVs are ready to carry scores of passengers – estimated around 1.4 million – towards the South, the sun, the beaches, the mountains, and also Italy or Spain. This is one of the mega vacation rushes. The French passenger network is pushed to its limits.
Here, in Paris Gare de Lyon, we are at the heart of the heat. It is from this station that the biggest number of passengers board trains bound for the summer vacations. The station tracks are very, very busy. Additional train sets must be sent into the station for loading as fast as can be. It is an amazing performance. But sometimes it does not work as planned. During 90 minutes of observing the flurry of trains, I saw one train breakdown - the failure lasted about 45 minutes before it was able to leave Paris while the train was fully loaded with 1000+ passengers - and I saw one train arriving at the station platform for loading about 10 minutes after the scheduled departure time.
On the picture, the photographer sits in the middle of a sea of 9 trains ready for departure. Each train is composed of 2 TGV train sets coupled nose to nose, meaning 18 TGV sets with a total seating capacity of more than 9000 passengers. From the right to the left: Duplex #237, Duplex #248, Duplex #259, Duplex #259, Sud-Est #37, Sud-Est #102, Duplex-Reseau #605, Duplex #228. There are two more trains to the right of the photographer, with Duplex #282 and Duplex #283 immediately to the right.
Further south, on the high speed line, whenever maximum capacity is reached, trains are running at 300km/h (186 mph) separated by 3 minute intervals, i.e. 1 train every 10 km (6.2 miles). Note that a train with 2 Duplex sets means 800 metric tons at 300 km/h...