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Podcast: The legacy of the heatwave in France, 15-minute urban plots, the first TGV

How France changed its approach to heat waves after the deaths of nearly 15,000 people in the summer of 2003. An urban planning concept is taken up by conspiracy theorists. And the first TGV which launched the development of high-speed rail transport in France.

The world has just experienced its three hottest months on record. But the worst heat wave France has ever experienced occurred 20 years ago, in 2003. In August of the same year, nearly 15,000 people died from heat in France, more than any what a summer since then. The disaster permanently changed the way the country deals with heat waves – and now, as climate change makes extreme heat more frequent and intense, the country must change tactics again. Public health historian Richard C Keller, author of a book on the 2003 victims, looks back on what France has learned. (Listen @1’30)

When Carlos Moreno designed the quarter-hour city, he didn’t expect to be drawn into the world of conspiracy theorists. The Parisian sociologist has imagined a new urban planning concept to try to create neighborhoods where all services – work and leisure – are within 15 minutes on foot or by bike from home. The city of Paris has adopted the concept, but elsewhere it has been taken up by people saying it is part of a plan to limit people’s movement and confine them to open-air prisons . (Listen @16’25)

France’s first high-speed train line was inaugurated on September 22, 1981, with an orange and white “high-speed train” – or TGV – running the route from Paris to Lyon. This marked the beginning of an era of reducing travel times and chasing speed records. (Listen @12’10)

Episode mixed by Cécile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, Apple Podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), Google Podcasts (link here) or your favorite podcast app (


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