Which is the best high-speed rail route between London and Bordeaux when taking Eurostar or TGV Oceane? Is it better to change trains in Paris or Lille?

Last week I wrote about Eurostar along with SNCF’s new and faster TGV Oceane service to south-west France which launches on July 2.

It proved a popular piece. However, one reader commented that, when bound for Bordeaux, it would prove easier to route via Lille rather than Paris.

He wrote: “There are a few direct TGV trains from Lille to Bordeaux. If coming on Eurostar [from London] this would mean just a platform change rather than a trek across Paris.”

I featured the Paris routing because, at the time, SNCF had not released July 2 schedules for Lille-Bordeaux so there was nothing to compare it with. Indeed, knowing that rail firms, just like airlines, can change schedules, there was no indication that connecting possibilities would be retained.

However, one week on and the rail fans’ website seat61.com is displaying the Lille timings.

I must stress that SNCF itself and rail agents like loco2.com will not reveal timing and fares until late March. But as regards timings, seat61.com is a trusted source for accuracy.

So which of the two has the better routing ?

London-Paris-Bordeaux remains the best.

  • It provides a far wider choice of schedules throughout the day. It is also faster. The best overall timing is 5 hrs 55 minutes, which is almost one hour faster than the best schedule via Lille. It means a traveller leaving London at 0701 will arrive in Bordeaux at 1356. But the drawback is having to trek between Nord and Montparnasse by Metro or taxi and there is always the risk of strike disruption in Paris itself.

London-Lille-Bordeaux is the simplest routing.

  • You have a simpler change at Lille. But I must stress you have to walk 500 yards between Lille Europe (the arrival point for Eurostar) and Lille Flanders (the city’s terminus for domestic TGVs). And there are only two or three times a day when Eurostar connects with the Lille-Bordeaux TGV. The best overall journey time is 6 hrs 48 mins so you could leave London at 0804 and arrive in Bordeaux at 1552.

The Lille-Bordeaux TGVs avoid Paris by using a special high-speed bypass route constructed in the 1990s.

We shall have to wait for the fares. As I noted above, these will be released towards the end of March. It is true that SNCF has already published Paris-Bordeaux prices for July 2. But SNCF, Eurostar and loco2.com have not displayed schedules/fares for Lille-Bordeaux.