The experimental train reached
a top speed 574.8 kph [AFP]

An enhanced version of France's TGV train has broken the world speed record for a train running on rails.

The experimental V150 train, which had two locomotives and extra-large wheels, reached 574.8kph on a specially prepared section of track east of Paris, the French capital.

The previous record of 515.3kph was also set by a TGV train in 1990.

The train reached similar speeds in trials in recent months, but this was the first test to be officially monitored.

"We saw the countryside go by a little faster than we did during the tests," Eric Pieczac, the train's driver, said after the record was broken.

"I'm proud to have fulfilled the mission.

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

The record-breaking train was an enhanced version of the ones that will run on the new Paris-Strasbourg line from June 10 which wil reduce the journey time from four hours to two hours and 20 minutes.

Enhanced train

The train was equipped with larger wheels than the usual TGV to cover more ground with each rotation and a stronger, 25,000-horsepower engine, said Alain Cuccaroni, the technician in charge of testing.

It makes me very happy, a mixed feeling of pride and honour to be able to reach this speed"
The electrical tension in the overhead cable was also increased, from 25,000 volts to 31,000.

Alstom, the manufacturer of the train, arranged the record attempt with state railways group SNCF and track operator RFF in order to test its latest engineering designs in extreme conditions and showcase French engineering to help boost sales abroad.
  
Jacques Chirac, the French president, congratulated "this new proof of the excellence of the French rail industry".
 
"Economically efficient and respectful of the environment, the TGV is a major asset in efforts to ensure sustainable development in transport."

France's electrically-powered TGV trains have been operating since 1981, reaching speeds of 320kph over about 1,600km of track across the country.

"Philippe Mellier, the head of Alstom's transport division, said the speed of commercial TGV trains could reach 350-360 kph in the next five-to-six years.

"An operator and a country that wants to launch high-speed rail, that is a lot of money at stake, they need to be able to do that in complete safety," he said.

The TGV narrowly missed out on breaking the overall world train speed record of 581kph which a Japanese magnetic levitation train, Maglev, reached in 2003.

Source: Agencies