Railway electrification in France

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French electrified lines. Legend: Green: 1,500 V DC; Orange: 25 kV AC; Red: 25 kV AC on high speed lines; Yellow: others

There are 15,687 km of electrified railroads in France.[1]

For historical reason there are two norms of electrification that cohabit in France: 1,500 V DC and 25 kV 50 Hz AC.

The equipment of the French railway network was made in four phases.

First, at the start of the 20th century, was a phase of test and technological explorations. Third rails and overhead lines were on trial in some lines in France; different tensions where tried. Afterwards, in the 1920s, main lines starting from Paris and lines in Pyrenees were electrified with 1 500 V DC.

After World War II and with the improvements in power electronics, tests have been made in 20 kV AC and after that in 25 kV AC in the Alps and gave satisfaction. Then the North and the East of France got electrified in 25 kV AC, and some lines got electrified in 1,500 V DC in the South to complete the network of electrified lines.

And from the 1970s to now the electrification of the French network has been completed in 25 kV main to bring electrically powered TGV to some cities and to complete the network of electrified lines.

These two norms were a huge problem for the SNCF up to the 1970s, because there was not much equipment able to run under both norms of electrification. Today all electrical equipment ordered by the SNCF can use both 25 kV AC and 1,500 V DC.

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