From our correspondent in Paris
September 22, 1981
Seven months after setting the world rail speed record at 265 mph, the new French high-speed train enters service today on which is equivalent to a Paris-Lyon metro link.
President Mitterrand will inaugurate the first1st major new main line in Western Europe since the turn of the century, taking place in the Concorde-style TGV which will connect the two cities in two hours and 40 minutes.
Two years from now, when the trains leave the city center stations every half hour, the 250 mile Paris-Lyon journey takes you two hours, less than half of the current time. By then, the air link between the cities is expected to be obsolete.
Compared to its world speed record, the TGV - Train à Grande Vitesse - will run at a maximum speed of 180 mph at the start, still 30 mph faster than its Japanese rival, the Hokaido, which inspired French service.
But after breaking in, the £ 850million investment - a quarter of the cost of Concorde - will open a new era of travel that could eventually link London to Paris and beyond, via the Channel tunnel .
Already 87 trains have been built or are in service ready to link Paris to Marseille in four hours 50 minutes, just one of dozens of journeys that will be
Not only will it be faster to travel by TGV than by any other means, but it will also be cheaper. The price of a ticket will be the same as the current service, but it will be cheaper than any other way. Paris -Lyon will cost around £ 16, compared to almost £ 40 by plane. After 1985, a series of new lines will be built to the west and southwest.
From Walter Schwarz in Lyon
September 23, 1981
The inaugural Beaujolais remained wonderfully stable in the glass and you could hear the rain on the roof.
It looked like a plane as it pulled away from Gare de Lyon yesterday on its first pass, with resident P Mitterrand and four ministers on board, and plenty of wine.
But a union delegation from the Socialist Railroad Union on the quay occasionally gave an outdated look. The men yelled into loudspeakers at VIPs then that they were getting on the train that the new line was "undemocratic" and unfair to railway workers and passengers.
"What is colored orange and goes faster than the 36 hour week? asked their banner - a reminder that presti technologyge always let people work harder than socialist promises led them to expect. They complained that spending £ 850million on fast trains meant shutting down outdated lines.
The protest only added to the mix. 'excitement, without spoiling the feeling that a new era has dawned in which trains go almost as fast as planes at less than half the price.
" A silly demo "said Mr. Georges Marchais , the Communist leader, as he climbed aboard beaming - the only non-ministerial politician in charge of the train. "We Communists have always been for progress; this train, nuclear, rapid breeders, reprocessing, Concorde - we are for them all - and the Channel Tunnel too.
He had come as a guest of his friend Mr Fiterman , Communist Minister of Transport. The two men could ignore the socialist demonstration, knowing happy that most of the railway workers belong to the Communist CGT.
In fact, the TGV is quite democratic - with the same fares as old-fashioned trains, except at peak times. There is a First Class, but the Second Class is more comfortable than an airliner, with the same hostesses carrying food and drink on carts. Yesterday, Chopin 's groundbreaking study sounded quietly on the intercom to accompany the refreshments.
The aeronautical effect also spread throughout the driver's cabin. The electronic information transmitted to his computer leads prationly the train without its help.
There is no speedometer in the compartment to inform passengers, as there is in most slow, less comfortable " high speed train . "The French train smells faster because it is narrower and lower, but it shakes less. The driver told us when we passed the 162 mph speed barrier: it was exhilarating because it was really fast.
All the talk yesterday were in honor of France, where the train speed record was broken in 1955 with 205 mph, and again last year with 236 mph - which remains the top speed of the new tr ain, although it will run at 162 mph at the moment.