Eurostar and France’s SNCF have joined forces to market rail travel between London and the south-west of France.
Although through tickets have been on sale for many years already it is the introduction of faster TGV services which has spurred both firms into action.
The main improvements will be seen within France itself.
From July 2, SNCF’s new and speedier TGV Oceane services will depart Paris Montparnasse for destinations such as Poitiers, Rennes, Bordeaux and Toulouse.
Roughly one hour will be cut from today’s fastest schedules. It means Paris-Bordeaux will take 2 hrs and 4 mins for a distance of 581 kms.
Paris-Toulouse will take 4 hrs and 9 mins but you must bear in mind that a part of this route operates over conventional (rather than high-speed) track.
There will be six return journeys daily between Paris and Toulouse and no fewer than 33 between Paris and Bordeaux.
TGV Armorique is another new service linking Paris Montparnasse with Rennes, Brest and Quimper. Time savings will be around 45 mins.
SNCF has ordered 40 new double-deck TGV trainsets for the new Oceane services. Some 17 will already have entered service by the beginning of July. Some existing TGVs will be refurbished and will also continue to operate the route.
The latest TGVs can operate at speeds of up to 320 kms. They have wi-fi, power points and seats which can swivel to face the direction of travel.
By 2019 SNCF hopes these new services will be able to capture 2.4 million extra travellers.
That’s the good news. The bad is that all of this comes at a cost.
Speaking to the French media earlier this year, SNCF’s CEO Guillaume Pepy, said [there will be] “Very reasonable price increases [for the new services]. We cannot invest €10 billion without increasing tariffs.”
Quoted by The Local, Rachel Picard, head of Voyages SNCF said, “We have succeeded in limiting the average price rise to 10 Europs for Paris-Bordeaux and 6 Euros for Paris-Rennes.”
And Eurostar ?
Nothing new, really. Eurostar passengers will continue to take the regular trains between London and Paris Nord for a connection for SNCF’s domestic TGVs from Montparnasse. It’s best to allow 90 mins for the connection although it can be done in less.
Making the connection means taking either a taxi ride across Paris city centre or a stressful journey on Metro Line 4. The latter is a busy, multi-stop route between the two termini and not, in my opinion, recommended for business people.
London-Bordeaux journey times vary from around 5 hrs 32 mins to 6 hrs including a 60-90 mins transfer in Paris.