Tried & Tested

Rail check: TGV first class

22 Oct 2013 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND TGV operates eight daily services (plus one overnight) from Cannes to Paris Gare du Lyon.

DEPARTURE My train (TGV 6176) was scheduled for 1206 from Cannes station, and I arrived with plenty of time to spare at 1135. The train was leaving from platform two, on the same side as the entry hall to the station, so I didn’t need to go down any steps to get to it.

Staff were on hand to guide people to the correct waiting area of the platform, with signs with letters of the alphabet corresponding to the carriages people were booked in. I was in coach 13 so was directed to waiting area X.

A screen on the platform also showed a diagram of the train’s configuration – 16 carriages in total, one to eight corresponding to waiting areas V-R, and 11-18 corresponding to W-Z. Dining cars were in four and 14.

The TGV pulled in at 1203 and I promptly boarded, stowing my case in one of the luggage racks beyond the left-hand set of doors on the lower deck. (There were stairs leading to the upper level.)

THE SEAT I had been assigned aisle seat 56 at the front of coach 13 but someone was sitting in it. As there was no one in window seat 51, adjacent, I sat there with the intention of moving if the appropriate ticket-holder boarded. Choose seats such as 21, 22 , 31, 32, 41 (there is no 42 as there is a luggage rack here) 51 and 52, on the left-hand side of the train to get the best views of the coastline when departing Cannes. Also consider which seats face forwards (such as 51, 53, 54 in coach 13) when booking, as the train lilts from side to side a lot and can give you a feeling of travel sickness when sitting backwards. 

The lower deck of first class is configured 1-2, with some seats as pairs or solos facing forwards or backwards, and others arranged around shared central tables in quads or pairs. All window seats have power sockets built into the walls, and tables either slide up and out of the seat in front or fold out from the middle when shared between two or four people. Shared tables also have a desk lamp and all have overhead reading lights. My coach was a quiet zone so no mobile phones could be used.

The interiors were clean and first class seats upholstered in purple or blue fabric. They also have a switch in the arm to electronically move forwards or backwards to create recline. There were hooks by the window for jackets and bags, and racks overhead. The seats were very comfortable and spacious.

THE JOURNEY The train left on time, and was nonstop to Paris with the exception of three stations en route (St Raphael, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence). The train stopped at 1315 for a “security reason” and then slowly drew into Toulon at 1330. Passengers boarded at 1335.

The service then went on to experience further delays because of an incident with a TGV train in front of ours, and then an electricity fault. Announcements were only in French but I managed to understand that there could be a further one-hour delay, meaning I was very concerned I would miss my Eurostar connection to London at 1908. 

The dining car upstairs in coach 14 had a menu of drinks and snacks, though the women sitting near me warned me off the “soggy, cold in the middle” ham and cheese sandwich. Other options included chicken wraps (€5.90), risotto with courgettes and Parmesan (€8.90), croissants (€1.70), peanuts (€1.60), Pringles (€2.50), 33cl bottles of Kronenberg 1664  (€3.10), Vittel water 50cl (€2.60) and 37.5cl bottles of Bordeaux AOC Mouton Cadet wine (€9). You can also buy tickets for the Paris metro (€2).

When I went up to the buffet car at 1430, there was a huge queue but I did manage to buy a dish of hot risotto (just like airline food in economy but surprisingly okay to eat), a rapé carrot salad (again, tasty), and a bottle of water. Later in the journey I found there was no paper in the toilet.

The train arrived in Aix-en-Provence at 1525. At 1740 the announcer came on to say the train would be arriving in Paris at 1845, one hour 34 minutes late. With a connection onwards to London on the Eurostar at 1908, it seemed impossible to arrive in time, transfer to Gare to Nord from Gare to Lyon, go through security and board the train.

ARRIVAL The TV did indeed arrive in Paris at 1845, meaning that with a 25-minute taxi ride in traffic, I arrived at 1915, just missing my Eurostar. In total the journey took over six and a half hours. Fortunately, Eurostar was able to transfer me to the next service with minimal fuss.

VERDICT The delays experienced on this journey were frustrating, inconvenient and stressful, and meant I missed my onward connection. The first class product is very comfortable and good value for money on the TGV but the bar was overwhelmed with passengers because of the delay, which meant there were long waits for refreshments.

It’s also worth noting that passengers who do experience long delays may be entitled to compensation. A Rail Europe spokesperson says:

“Passengers delayed by 30 minutes to one hour can claim 25 per cent of the cost of their ticket in vouchers.

“Passengers delayed by one to two hours can claim 25 per cent of the cost of their tickets in vouchers or in pounds sterling.

“Passengers delayed by two to three hours can claim 50 per cent of the cost of their tickets in vouchers or in pounds sterling.

“Passengers delayed by more than three hours can claim 75 per cent of the cost of their tickets in vouchers or in pounds sterling.
 
“We are able to assist passengers who booked with Rail Europe in the UK and who experienced a delay and apply for the compensation on their behalf. They would need to return their original tickets, and any new tickets that they may have had to purchase, along with a short covering letter explaining their situation and we will liaise with SNCF on their behalf.”

FACT FILE

JOURNEY TIME 1206-1711 (five hours, five minutes)

TRAIN TYPE TGV Duplex

SEAT CONFIGURATION 1-2 in a mix of forward- and backward-facing seats, some pairs and some quads with a shared table between them.

PRICE Internet rates for a single first class ticket in December started from £40.50.

CONTACT raileurope.co.uk

Jenny Southan

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