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« Speed is outdated », they used to say, when it was a question of making us lift our feet, either to avoid accidents, or to make us save some fuel, at the time when, in France, we had « no oil but we have[vait] ideas »(1). Air speed also had to be curbed (for civilian flights, of course, not for warlike cuckoos that can still be used to massacre some foreign countries), because of the danger when, for example, the European supersonic, strangely named « Concorde », would have sacrificed 113 people to inaugurate the century. 

Only rail still has no limit other than that of its machines (except in case of bad weather and disturbing calculations of the influence of speed on energy consumption(2)) or of defective switch locks (as in Brétigny, 7 deaths). When the railroad could no longer support the desired or dreamed of high speed, it was preferred to build new lines adapted to the new equipment made in France(3) rather than adapting the speed of its trains or the equipment. However, choosing one and/or the other was easy: taking one’s time and improving the comfort of the trip in the first case, preferring the tilting train (and a significant improvement of the tracks) in the other. But these two solutions, for the elected representatives of « progress », present several prohibitive disadvantages: they do not allow either the sinking of public money in large useless and imposed works, or the transfer to the private sector of all or part of the public service, or the access of the city or the region to the rank of « TGV stage », which does not bring anything back to the city or the region, but looks very nice on the electoral printouts. 

As far as projects are concerned, our great and old elected officials, for an overwhelming majority, were trained during the thirty glorious years and still have not understood that time has passed, that the world has changed, and that infrastructure has never been more important than structure. This old idea, dating back to the Stalinist USSR and taken up by the current decerebrate ultraliberalism, postulates that by creating infrastructure we create development and consequently reduce unemployment. Nobody believes in it anymore. In France, the cities with the best high-speed rail connections (Lille, Strasbourg, Marseille, etc.) have the highest unemployment rates. 

Every mayor of a large city, or at least of a regional capital, dreams today of being the one who(4) who will bring High Speed to his city or region. Of course, unserved cities or regions are immediately labeled as « landlocked. This metaphorical neologism, born with the multinationals of the construction industry, has become a leitmotiv that all politicians now use in their arguments to mask their abysmal lack of political project. There is no city or region (except perhaps the capitals?) that does not need to be « opened up » as soon as possible, whether by air, road or rail. In each region, unemployment and the chronic budget deficit are explained by the « enclavement » of that territory. 


The mayor of Limoges, main instigator of the absurd Limoges-Poitiers project, accuses his opponents of being « the same people who once preferred the stagecoach to the railroad »! This touches on another truth. The important thing is to go FASTER than what already exists. Speed is no longer « overtaking », but « it’s overtaking ».

High speed has become a concept. You either have it or you don’t. The defenders of the Limoges-Poitiers bar argue that it is necessary for the people of Limoges to reach Paris in 2 hours. Why 2 hours? Why this number? Why not 1 hour or 45 minutes(5) ? What difference does it make? Are people from Marseille who have to spend 3 hours to reach Paris penalized compared to Lyon? 

And, when it will be possible to reach the speed of 500 km / hour will it be necessary again to build new adapted tracks and to concretize the countryside to make it possible to join the concretizers of the large cities? And this at a time when, thanks to the internet, communications from a very large number of people at the same time, in audio and in vision, are immediate! At a time when the relocalization of exchanges has become necessary for the survival of the human species and the planet! 

This vision of « progress » defined almost solely by the speed of transportation is not only outdated, but criminal. 


A small region like Limousin and a city like Limoges (the etymological origin of the word « limoger ») could only seize on this false problem to divert the attention of voters from the real problems of our time. 

The POLLT line(6) has always been considered as the « backbone » of the French railway network. Crossing four regions, serving 18 stations and running directly to Spain, this line used to allow the circulation of an international high-speed train, the Talgo, leading to Barcelona and Madrid(7). Until the beginning of the 90’s, the most modern train in Europe, the Capitol, was running there at 200 km/h. Since then, this line has been abandoned by the SNCF and its policy of all TGV, as well as by all governments of the left and right. In 2001, however, the renovation of the line was decided and budgeted by the State, the Centre, Midi-Pyrénées and Limousin regions, the SNCF and RFF. A Pendolino, a first-generation tilting train, made two perfectly conclusive tests on this line, putting Limoges at less than 2h30 from Paris. But this project was abandoned by a unilateral decision of the State in 2003. 

While local elected officials pretended to protest by preventing trains from running on the line for a good minute, the first lady of France, Bernadette Chirac, inspired by Marie-Antoinette proposing to the people to eat brioche when they were short of bread, put forward the idea, rather than restoring the POLLT line, of building another one that would allow the people of Limousin to get to Paris via Poitiers. The local elected officials are immediately enthusiastic about the absurdity of such a route. It extends the distance to Paris by a hundred kilometers, isolates several departments including Creuse, and massacres one of the few remaining wilderness sites in Limousin. The major elected officials then hastened to answer « yes! » and engaged RFF in studies carried out at breakneck speed and in a public debate animated by an ever-increasing number of opponents(8). The TER Limoges-Poitiers line is being renovated for an amount of several tens of millions of € and the POLLT line, following the Brétigny accident, the action of associations and the report of the Parliamentary Commission Mobility 21, will soon benefit, according to the Minister of Transport, Mr. Frédéric Cuvillier, of a billion € for its modernization. This project seems doubly useless since it puts in competition not only one but two existing lines for the same route! 

The associations have multiplied since the start of this project. The Collective anti LGV LP & pro-POLLT gathers about forty associations, (Friends of the Earth, ATTAC…), federations of associations (France Nature Environnement, Fédération Nationale des Usagers des Transports… ), unions and political parties. And politically, the score could not be simpler. On the one hand, the employers’ unions: the MEDEF, represented by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Haute-Vienne and the FNSEA, supported by the two main French liberal parties, PS and UMP. On the other hand, the workers’ and farmers’ unions: CGT Cheminots, SUD Rail, Confédération Paysanne, supported by the parties gathered today in the Left Front and the ecologists. 

After a simulacrum of three routes proposed to the population, it is obviously the shortest route and, therefore, the most ecologically devastating that is chosen by the RFF brains. It is nothing but a straight line connecting Poitiers to Limoges, crushing the feet of the wild and classified Monts de Blond, full of history and still hidden secrets. The valley of the Glaïeule, however classified as a Natura2000 area (this river being a tributary of the Gartempe, one of the last rivers where the salmon reproduces in France), will be damaged without doubt fatally. Nearly 1,300 hectares of agricultural and wooded land are to be ravaged for the sole purpose of allowing an elite (in view of the predictable prices everywhere else and the extra kilometers) to save little more than a quarter of an hour (which will be immediately lost by the arrival at the labyrinthine and largely saturated Gare Montparnasse) to get to the capital. Not to mention the two billion euros announced, paid by the taxpayer, which will of course, as always, be largely discounted and exceeded. 


But this Limoges-Poitiers high-speed line has another interest for our elected officials who claim to be defenders of public service (the Haute-Vienne has been socialist for more than a century, the Corrèze recently became so with Mr. François Hollande before his election as head of the country). It will be built and managed by a private company within the framework of a Public Private Partnership (PPP), as is the case with Vinci for the LGV between Tours and Bordeaux. Thus, on the one hand, the public funds will pay the private company to make the expected profits, but on the other hand, since it is likely that this line will never be profitable, they will also pay, and for fifty years, the deficits. 

The taxpayer is thus financially cuckolded four times: 

1) He will pay for the works of this useless line, by his taxes and by the TIPP (the Limousin has raised to its maximum the authorized legal rate while its neighbor of Poitou-Charente, also concerned by the project is at the minimum rate)(9),

2) It will pay for the repairs, necessary anyway, on the two existing lines Limoges-Poitiers and POLLT which make the LGV perfectly useless, 

3) It will pay the deficits of the private company chosen as partner (most probably Vinci), 

4) And he will have to pay much more for his train ticket. 


Since the beginning of the studies, in 2007, RFF and the major local elected officials have multiplied the lies, the falsified surveys and the dubious practices. For example, RFF, intentionally or not, made a major blunder by letting the legal deadline for opening the public inquiry pass. Indeed, the legislator wanted the population not to be disturbed by the preparation of a project more than five years(10). The association Non LGV Limoges-Poitiers, Oui POLLT informs the Prefect who remains silent. However, RFF is renewing its referral to the National Commission for Public Debate. However, the Administrative Court ruled that the complaint was inadmissible. 

In May 2013, the new prefect, chosen by the new president, gave the green light to the public inquiry, even before it was presented to the elected officials and the population, while publicly recommending that the Commission of Inquiry give a favorable verdict to this project « vital for the Region »! 

Following the report of the Parliamentary Commission Mobility 21, which postponed the project until after 2030 and was confirmed by the Prime Minister, the elected officials are turning a deaf ear and continue to mortgage the future, even providing a few million euros for pre-indemnification of agricultural land along the route. 


This high-speed line thus appears not only as incompatible with the spirit of the Grenelle de l’Environnement(11)which, moreover, only proposes this high-speed line in the conditional, but also as flouting the law and the recommendations of the Cour des Comptes(12).

Moreover, and this is undoubtedly the main reason for the obstinacy of the MEDEF, the UMP and the PS, it prefigures what is going to become of the public rail transport service by offering everything, construction, management and profits (and even compensation in case of non-profitability) to the multinational Vinci alone. 

The government, fortunately, has announced clear cuts in the various LGV projects. But, unfortunately, an elected official from Limousin declares that everything is already folded and that the Minister(13) (who announced the creation of a commission to evaluate which LGVs should be scrapped) assured him that the Limoges-Poitiers line would not be affected. Another great example of democracy! 

Continuation of this saddening soap opera at the end of 2014, at the time of the Declaration of Public Utility. 

Alain Bertrand,
ecologist, Greenpeace activist
and the Alternatives.

Notes et références
  1. Pour les plus jeunes : vieux slogans ministériels dictés par la conjoncture du premier choc pétrolier.
  2. Un temps, la Commission européenne avait envisagé de réduire les performances de vitesse des TGV car au-delà d’un certain seuil, la consommation électrique croît exponentiellement, voire double.
  3. Le train pendulaire a le défaut syndical d’être fabriqué en Italie (d’où son nom de Pendolino), même après un essai concluant sur la ligne ParisLimoges. Même encore si le fabricant, Alsthom, est quant à lui, depuis quelques années, bien français et se contente de vendre ces trains à grande vitesse ultramodernes, aujourd’hui de quatrième génération, un peu partout en Europe (Italie, Allemagne, Pologne, etc.).
  4. Rarement « celle » : le fantasme TGV étant surtout masculin, voisin de celui du train électrique commandé au Père Noël ou du concours de celui qui fera pipi le plus loin.
  5. Chiffres d’ailleurs très réalistes puisque les derniers essais de TGV ont permis d’atteindre la vitesse de 570 km/h !
  6. Paris-Orléans-La Souterraine-Limoges-Toulouse. Les militants antiLGV et pro-POLLT ont pris l’habitude de mettre deux L (deux ailes?) à l’ancien POLT par égard pour les Creusois, premières victimes de l’abandon de la ligne et du projet LGV.
  7. Train pendulaire de conception espagnole. Les derniers Talgos, pouvant rouler à 200 km/h, «disposent d’un système pendulaire qui améliore le confort pendant le voyage et permet d’atteindre de plus grandes vitesses» (source: RENFE). Le Talgo vers l’Espagne qui empruntait la ligne POLT a été supprimé au profit de la LGV ParisBarcelone via Valence et Montpellier.
  8. Plusieurs passages de cet article sont repris de celui du même auteur publié par L’Ecologiste, n°38, octobre-décembre 2012, la LGV Limoges-Poitiers, un projet doublement absurde.
  9. L’Association Non à la LGV Limoges-Poitiers, Oui au POLLT a exercé un recours contre cet abus voté à l’unanimité par le groupe socialiste régional.
  10. L’article L 121–12 du Code de l’environnement prévoit qu’ « en ce qui concerne les projets relevant de l’article L. 121–8 (c’est-à-dire ceux qui doivent pouvoir faire l’objet d’un débat public), l’ouverture de l’enquête publique prévue à l’article L. 123–1 ne peut être décidée qu’à compter soit de la date à partir de laquelle un débat public ne peut plus être organisé, soit de la date de publication du bilan ou à l’expiration du délai imparti au Président de la Commission nationale du débat public pour procéder à cette publication et au plus tard dans le délai de cinq ans qui suivent ces dates ».
  11. L’article II bis précise: « La politique durable des transports donne la priorité en matière ferroviaire au réseau existant. Cette priorité s’appuie sur l’amélioration et la modernisation de la qualité de l’infrastructure ferroviaire existante. »
  12. Cf. Rapport juillet 2012 de la Cour des Comptes, pages 152–153.
  13. M. Jérôme Cahuzac, Ministre du Budget, qui, depuis lors s’est rendu célèbre par d’autres honnêtetés.

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