All Aboard – Why We Love The TGV


While many people might think rail is an outdated form of transport, the idea of belting through the French countryside at 300kmh on a double deck train with a café – or, if it is little later in the day, a bar – really appeals to Scott. Like you wouldn’t believe.

Luckily for Scotty, the French rail system has him covered with the Train à Grande Vitesse. Better known as the TGV, the French high speed rail network operates trains at speeds of up to 320kmh to many major cities in France. And in neighbouring countries for that matter.

The first TGV line opened in September 1981, transporting travellers from Paris to Lyon. As it happens, that was also the very first TGV line we travelled on during our very first visit to France. Since that trip, the TGV has been our primary form of transport around France.

With more lines opening up all the time, and connections to Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and England (the Eurostar Channel tunnel train is a modified TGV design), getting around to major cities is quick and easy. For example, Lyon is only two hours from Paris by TGV, and a day trip from the French capital to the Champagne region is easily accomplished, with a trip taking less than 50 minutes!

And what’s more, there are no pesky airport boarding procedures. You simply walk up to your carriage and get on board!

Some TGV stations, including Avignon and Valence, are located outside the city on the high speed lines, but regular trains connect into the central city stations. Furthermore, many TGV stations are home to the major hire car companies. Picking up a car at the train station saves trying to navigate your way from an unfamiliar city centre on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!

Given how much he loves the French TGV service, I asked Scott to share his favourite things about the Train à Grande Vitesse.

  1. It means I’m in France (or a neighbouring country)!
  2. It’s easy. Tickets can be booked three months in advance. And there are a number of ways to collect your tickets – including email, depending on your country.
  3. Obviously, it is very fast.
  4. It’s smooth. As you would hope from a train going so fast, there’s no bouncing around, it’s easy to walk around without hanging on to anything.
  5. The novelty factor. In Australia the fastest trains travel at a maximum of 160 kmh, well below the 200kmh benchmark for high speed trains – we aren’t expected to have a true high speed rail line until 2065!
  6. It’s efficient. There’s no need to bother with taxis or trains to the airport, no check in, and the standard Paris to Lyon train configuration has seating for 1000 people!
  7. The TGV holds the record for the fastest conventional train – 574.8kmh (357.2 mph). This video is interesting viewing!

Are you as big a fan of the French TGV as Scott is? If so, I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Until next time – au revoir. And a big thank you to Scotty for his input into this post.

About Janelle

I believe that everyone can bring French elegance and inspiration to their life, no matter where they happen to live in the world. They only need to learn a secret or two to be on their way. When you join the Distant Francophile community, you’ll have access to the secrets that allow you to bring the best of the French lifestyle into your everyday life. I’m talking about things like style advice, recipes and book reviews. And you’ll also receive regular doses of French inspiration, as well as travel and packing tips galore.

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5 thoughts on “All Aboard – Why We Love The TGV

  • Taste of France

    Alas, there’s no TGV to Carcassonne yet, though we are served by train. It’s very useful for going from city center to city center. I used to take the Thalys from Brussels to Paris most weekends and it seemed there was only enough time to get a coffee and we’d have arrived already. It’s even better now that the entire train is nonsmoking. I hated having to walk through the smoking car to the bar car.

    • Janelle Post author

      Hmm – yes, non smoking is definitely the go. Nothing worse than being trapped with stale smoke! One thing I love a about French rail is that while not every city or town is on a high speed line, most places can be visited easily by train. And the French ‘slow’ trains are still faster than Australia’s ‘fast rail’. Go figure!

  • Claire

    I think it is a fantastic way to travel.
    I am take off on Sunday and will travel from Frankfurt to Paris, to Bordeaux, to Bern, Vienna and back to Frankfurt by rail.
    A great way to see the country side without having to worry about maps and foreign road rules.