Image: German and French high-speed trains
Michel Euler  /  AP
Two high-speed trains one German, left, one French, arrive at the Gare de l'est train station in Paris, May 25. The trains zipped from Germany to France on Friday, marking a crucial step toward a Europe-wide high-speed rail network aimed at competing with air travel.
updated 5/25/2007 2:36:17 PM ET 2007-05-25T18:36:17

Two high-speed trains designed to cut travel time between Frankfurt and Paris almost in half made their first journey on Friday — and ran 35 minutes late.

The French-German run was billed as the beginning of Europe-wide high-speed rail network from Barcelona to Budapest, a dream that has been taking shape in Europe for years.

For now, the new fast train routes will reach four countries. France’s newest high-speed line, the TGV East, opens June 10 with service to cities in Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

Ultimately, plans are to create two high-speed axes that meet in Strasbourg: one running between Paris, Munich, Vienna and Budapest; the other linking Hamburg, Frankfurt, Lyon and Barcelona.

When all is running smoothly, the new route will cut travel from Frankfurt to Paris to 3½ hours from 6 hours, 15 minutes today. It will run at speeds of up to 199 mph.

The line between Frankfurt and Strasbourg is the same one on which a TGV broke the world rail speed record last month, reaching 357.2 mph.

Friday’s journeys were primarily symbolic, marking an industrial milestone and a step in Europe’s integration. The joint venture, known as Alleo, is also being touted as an environmentally friendly option to fuel-guzzling airplanes.

Many European countries have their own high-speed trains, but developed their networks independently. Only limited international links exist. Technical differences between the trains have made cross-border links difficult.

The German train left Frankfurt and the French train left from Stuttgart, and then slowed to a crawl as they entered Paris’ Gare de l’Est station side-by-side.

The two trains arrived 35 minutes behind schedule — an embarrassment for the project partners France’s SNCF and Deutsche Bahn AG of Germany. Nervous SNCF officials did not immediately give a reason for the delay.

SNCF chief Anne-Marie Idrac kissed the cheeks of Deutsche Bahn counterpart Hartmut Mehdorn when he got off the German train. Curious travelers gathered nearby, snapping photos with their cell phones.

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Mehdorn said a contract would eventually be signed by nine European railways. The deal would cement a common service level and allow for crossbookings, much as airlines offer.

The railway operators say the trains will be a cheaper, cleaner, and more hassle-free alternative to flying. Many travelers have grown frustrated with tougher airline security in Europe.

A typical second-class ticket on the train service will cost $133 between Frankfurt and Paris and $127 between Paris and Stuttgart. A standard Air France economy class ticket from Paris to Frankfurt costs about $268 round trip, or $669 one-way.

“The TGV is very efficient,” said Pierre-Louis Rochet, a former SNCF official. He said a traveler on a TGV train produces four to five times less carbon emissions than one on a plane.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: A European tour

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  1. Venice, Italy

    Gondolas line the bank near Venice's grand canal with the San Giorgio Maggiore church in the background. (Peter Deilmann Cruises via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Rome, Italy

    The Colosseum is one of the best-known attractions in all of Italy, and is the largest elliptical amphitheater built in the Roman empire. (Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. London, England

    The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower, located along the River Thames, are seen at dusk from Westminster Bridge. (George Rose / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Berlin, Germany

    Tourists take pictures of themselves at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. The memorial, designed by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman and inaugurated in May 2005, is made up of more than 2,700 concrete steles that form a curved landscape in the heart of Germany's capital. (Barbara Sax / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Granada, Spain

    The Alhambra palace in Granada, although one of 21 finalists, missed out on being named one of the new seven wonders of the world. (Jose Luis Roca / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Paris, France

    This bird's-eye view of Paris at dusk, with the Eiffel Tower and L'Hotel des Invalides prominent, show why the capital's nickname is the "City of Light." (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Lindos, Greece

    The ancient town of Lindos is famous for its Acropolis, which stands on a 380-foot-high hill overlooking Lindos and the Aegean Sea and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Eyeswideopen / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Dublin, Ireland

    People walk past The Temple Bar, which should not be confused with its neighborhood, also called Temple Bar, in central Dublin. Ireland's capital has been voted one of the top 25 cities of the world to live in. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Lisbon, Portugal

    Belém Tower was built in the early 16th century as a ceremonial gateway to the city, and to serve as a defense at the mouth of the Tagus River. It is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Sebastiano Scattolin / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Barcelona, Spain

    Columns and arches of the Sagrada Familia rise high in this Roman Catholic church, which has been under construction since 1882 and remains incomplete. (Christophe Simon / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Florence, Italy

    A woman looks over Florence from the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the city's cathedral church began in 1296 and finished in 1462. (Guido Cozzi / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. County Mayo, Ireland

    Ashford Castle, which dates back to the 13th century and sits on 350 acres of manicured gardens and land, now ranks among the finest hotels in Ireland. About a two-hour drive from Dublin, the castle has played host to myriad high-profile events, including actor Pierce Brosnan's wedding. (Tourism Ireland via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Kaag, Netherlands

    A cyclist pedals along rows of tulips near the village of Kaag, outside of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The Dutch often use cycling to get around, and Amsterdam is considered one of the most bike-friendly large cities in the world. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Amsterdam, Netherlands

    A tourist smokes at a coffeeshop "de Dampkring," or "Atmosphere," where a part of the "Ocean's Twelve" movie was filmed, in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands. The city is famous for its nightlife, cultural activities and red-light district. (Peter Dejong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Stockholm, Sweden

    Boats line up on the shoreline in Stockholm, the capital and largest city in Sweden. The city is built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Krakow, Poland

    The Church of St. Mary of the Assumption in Krakow, Poland, is one of the most well-known tourist spots in the city and noted for its gothic, medieval architecture. However, most people come to Krakow because of its proximity to Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi's concentration camps, which is now a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. (Jon Hicks / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Nice, France

    Hundreds of people enjoy sunbathing on the beach in Nice on the French Riviera. (Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Brussels, Belgium

    The Grand Place in the heart of Old Town in Brussels, Belguim, is marked by many 17th-century buildings and flower markets. (Jean-Pierre Lescourret / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Greek islands

    Oia, on the island of Santorini, Greece, is on a clifftop village filled with white structures and gorgeous sunsets. Santorini offers seaside tavernas, cliffside paths, black volcanic rocks and of course, sunshine and the Aegean Sea. (Saundra Virtanen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Pamplona, Spain

    Revelers hold up their red scarves during the start of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain. The annual festival is best known for its daily running of the bulls. (Susana Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Prague, Czech Republic

    The buildings in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, are constructed in many architectural styles from Romanesque to gothic to art nouveau and modern. (Michal Cizek / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Reykjavik, Iceland

    Tourists stand in the Blue Lagoon outside Reykjavik, Iceland. The Blue Lagoon's waters come from natural hot water springs flowing through rocks of lava. Many also believe the mineral-rich waters may have health benefits. (Olivier Morin / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. St. Petersburg, Russia

    The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul is seen on the bank of the Neva River in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Dmitry Lovetsky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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