Champagne, Alsace-Lorraine and Switzerland will all become faster and easier to reach by rail from next summer, thanks to the new high-speed line from Paris that launches on 10 June 2007. The September edition of the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable (£11.50) reveals details of the TGV Est Européen - a 186mph track that completes the main network for the Trains à Grand Vitesse around France.
The new line comprises the missing link on the TGV network. At present, the 19th-century line running east from the French capital limits average journey speed to 90mph or less. The Est Européen will offer the same standards of high-speed travel that much of the rest of France enjoys.
A new station, Champagne-Ardenne, is being built just south of Reims, and another - called Lorraine TGV - will open between Nancy and Metz.
Initially, the new railway east from Paris's Gare de l'Est will mainly benefit travellers to Reims, Nancy, Strasbourg and Basel. The current four-hours-plus journey from Paris to Strasbourg will be cut by nearly half to just 139 minutes, while the Paris-Nancy link is timetabled to take an hour and a half, saving 70 minutes on the present fastest journey. Some trains are scheduled to continue on the conventional tracks south from Strasbourg to Basel and Zurich - with a total trip time from Paris to Switzerland's largest city of four-and-a-half hours.
From June, one train each day will run from Paris direct to Frankfurt in four hours - making the railway competitive with air for city centre-to-city centre journey times. The frequency of trains to the German financial centre will increase from December next year.
The Gare de l'Est is a 10-minute walk from the Gare du Nord, where Eurostar trains arrive. But easier connections will be available at Lille Europe, with several direct services each day to destinations on the new line. Even with the waiting time at Lille, the London-Strasbourg journey should take less than six hours. Travellers from elsewhere in the UK flying into Paris Charles-de-Gaulle airport can connect with the new line. A direct train from the terminal to Strasbourg will take under two-and-a-half hours.