From June 10, rail fans will be able to board a direct high-speed TGV train at Paris Est and reach Stuttgart 3 hours and 39 minutes later. The ticket will normally cost Euros 95 one-way in standard class.
Today the same trip by conventional train involves up to four changes (there are no direct links), takes 6 hours 14 minutes and costs Euros 102 for a one-way “walk-up” tariff.
Another example of where journey times are being speeded up is the Paris-Frankfurt route. Currently anyone wanting to take the train will have to search hard for a direct train (most services require en route changes) and even then he or she is faced with a 6 hours 25 minutes trip costing Euros 87 in standard class.
From next June a Paris-Frankfurt trip with TGV or ICE (Germany’s equivalent of France’s famous TGV train) will typically take 4 hours 29 minutes (bear in mind that an en route change is still necessary) and cost Euros 105.
But from December 9, further track improvements will cut the Paris-Frankfurt time to 3 hours, 50 minutes.
The faster journeys, making the train far more competitive than the plane, are down to France’s new TGV Est line which runs eastwards from Paris to Strasbourg and beyond. Right now these lines east of Paris, with their slow and conventional trains, are “Cinderella” services compared with their high-speed TGV counterparts which have run south and west of the capital for many years.
Another first is that the two countries’ national rail systems (France’s SNCF and Germany’s DB) will both operate their high-speed trains over the same tracks. Until now, the French have barred Germany’s ICE trains from their rails claiming that they were “too heavy.” But critics reckon French chauvinism played a role here.
Standards are being elevated on the new route. DB says that on-board staff will speak English, German and French. The first class service will include a wide selection of newspapers, a taxi order service for Paris and a light meal at your seat for international journeys.
Because Paris Est (from where the new trains depart) is next door to Paris Nord (the terminus used by Eurostar’s London trains) it means that UK passengers will also benefit from the new link.
But as regular rail travellers will testify, through rail ticketing isn’t a strong point. And this will be the situation here in the early days so passengers travelling to or from the UK with Eurostar will be obliged to buy separate tickets.
However a Eurostar spokeswoman told Business Traveller that the firm is “committed to through ticketing” and plans to offer through fares into Germany via Paris. As a first step Eurostar expects to introduce a £99 return excursion to Frankfurt this summer.
Report by Alex McWhirter