Tried & Tested

Rail check: TGV first class

22 Oct 2013 by Jenny Southan

BACKGROUND France’s TGV operates 16 daily services from Paris Gare du Lyon to Marseilles St Charles, with return fares from £45 and a fastest journey time of three hours, five minutes.

DEPARTURE I arrived on a connecting train from London St Pancras into Paris Gare du Nord at 1047 (click here to read review), taking a taxi to Paris Gare du Lyon with plenty of time to spare until my 1237 departure on TGV 6113. (It's worth noting that Le Train Bleu restaurant upstairs is a wonderfully decadent place to stop for a coffee or lunch.)

The train was leaving from platform nine and I boarded at 1220. I was in coach three but there was a big queue so I instead got on via coach two, near the front, had my ticket checked, and took a flight of stairs up to the first class area.

THE SEAT I left my suitcase in one of the upstairs luggage racks and found my seat, a solo backwards-facing seat (72) by a window. There were also two racks in the middle sections of the carriage for suitcases and bags, as well as angled shelves above all the seats for coats and smaller items.

I shared a table with solo seat 71, and across the aisle were four more seats (73, 74, 75 and 76) arranged around a larger table with fold-out wings. Solo seat 61 was behind 71 and, across from that, was a luggage rack, then a set of electronic sliding doors leading to a bar selling snacks and drinks and a washroom.

The first class seat was wide and comfy with grey striped upholstery, fixed wing headrests, a table and a lamp. The carpet was freshly vacuumed and everything was very clean. There was also an EU power socket in the wall by each of the seats and coat hooks. A button in the right-hand armrest reclined the seat and shunted it forward for relaxing. Window blinds could be pulled down and there were signs for no mobile phone use. Note that sitting near the connecting doors of the carriages can be a bit annoying – in my case I was facing the door and it kept opening and closing as people went to and fro.

THE JOURNEY There was a bar in the next carriage where passengers could buy soft drinks, alcohol and snacks, but there was no complimentary meal or refreshment service for first class passengers. An inspector came around to check tickets about 30 minutes into the journey. There was a group of four American women sitting across from me and, I later discovered, after getting talking to them, that they were on a Provencal painting holiday.

ARRIVAL After exchanging business cards, the ladies disembarked at Avignon, and I continued on to Marseilles. There were no bins on the train but a member of staff came around to collect rubbish shortly before arrival. The train pulled into the station on schedule at 1554.

The taxi rank is down a set of escalators outside the front of the station, and it is worth being aware that in Marseilles, drivers don't like making short journeys from the station to the Vieux Port in the centre of town, for example, so may not want to take you if you are staying around there. In my case, the first driver didn't want to take me but a second driver was happy to. (Expect to pay about €15.)

VERDICT A pleasant journey in comfortable, spacious first class seats on the upper deck of the TGV. There were no free drinks or food though. The service was very punctual. Taking the train makes a nice alternative to flying if you have the time to spare, though the transfer between Gare du Nord and Gare du Lyon takes a bit of time so make sure you don't cut it too fine when booking tickets. Taking the Eurostar to Lille and changing there would be easier as you only need to change platforms.


JOURNEY TIME 1237-1554 (three hours, 17 minutes)


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 midweek return first class ticket in December started from £86.50.


Jenny Southan

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