The ceremony was attended by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, minister of defence, the presidents of the two regions to be served by the new line, Mr Pierre Berger, director general of Eiffage, and Mr Hubert du Mesnil, president of RFF.

The €3.3bn project is being realised as a public-private partnership between RFF and Eiffage Rail Express which is responsible for financing, designing, constructing and maintaining the line for 25 years. RFF is contributing €1.4bn and the national and regional governments €1.9bn to the project.

The line, which will include 32km of links to the existing network, is an extension of the existing TGV Atlantique from Paris to Connerré, 20km east of Le Mans. There is also a line around Le Mans which intersects with the existing line at Sablé-sur-Sarthe for services to Nantes. Once work is completed in autumn 2016, journey times from Paris to Rennes and Brest in western France will be slashed by 37 minutes, while trips from Paris to Nantes will be reduced by eight minutes.