TGV France Trains (an overview)

TGV trains are French high speed trains operated by SNCF, the national rail company in France.

They travel up to 320 km/h – on parts of the LGV Est between Paris and Strasbourg and on the relatively new route between Paris and Bordeaux.
Though 300 km/h is the maximum speed of most TGV services.

Tickets  l   French TGV Routes

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The different types of TGV train:

There are five different types of TGV trains in service:

Atlantique  l  Duplex  l   Océane

Reseau* l  Sud-Est.

TGV Duplex and TGV Océane trains are double decked.

*TGV-Reseau trains are used on all high speed services between Brussels/Bruxelles and cities in France other than Paris – hence the link above points to TGV (France/Belgium) trains.

There are some other technical differences between the TGV trains, but these five categories will incorporate the key differences in the travel experiences.

However, when looking up journeys within France by TGV train, the type of train that will be used for a departure won’t be specified.

Though the route guide summaries will give you a good idea of what type of TGV train you’re highly likely to be taking.

A note: the summary below:

The summaries we provide for European train services are designed to be used for one specific train and not five, so please note:

  • (i) TGV Océane trains are an exception to some of these rules because they are new – they do have power sockets in 2nd class and have bike spaces etc.
     
  • (ii) TGV Duplex and Océane trains are double-decked.
     
  • (iii) The rail pass reservation fee info refers to journeys within France – for international fees click on the brand names of the international services below.

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The InOui services:

Some departures on which TGV Duplex trains are used and ALL departures on which TGV Océane trains are used are now specifically branded as 'TGV InOui' services.

The key benefits of an InOui service are enhanced Wi-Fi connectivity and on the departures on which the TGV Duplex trains are used, it indicates a modernised interior including power sockets in Seconde/2nd class. 

All TGV Oceane trains fall into the 'InOui' category because they are new trains.

The services that are branded 'InOui' also offer Business Premiére Class in addition to regular Premiére/1st class.

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TGVs are also used on these two types of service, which aren't classed as TGV France services.

(1) Ouigo – More basic, but cheaper services on a much smaller number on routes.

(2) The multiple international train services to/from France, which are given these specific brand names;

(i) DB-SNCF between Paris/Strasbourg and western Germany*

(ii) Lyria between Paris/Dijon and Switzerland

(iii) RENFE-SNCF between France and Spain*

(iv) TGV France - Italy between Paris/Lyon and Torino/Milano

(v) Thalys between Paris and Belgium, northern Germany and The Netherlands

*Other types of high speed train are also used on some routes taken by these services.

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Worth knowing about TGV France services:

The trains used for TGV services can have different colours on their exteriors.

A blue/green colour scheme is being gradually replaced by a 'Carmillon' red/grey colour scheme - these Carmilion colurs are being used for the servcies that are classed as InOui.

All the TGV Océane trains are appearing in the 'Carmillon' scheme because they are (1) new trains and (2) are classed as 'InOui' services.

The on board travelling experiences can vary slightly between the different types of TGV trains (InOui indicates a modernsied or new train interior) but these facts and tips we have singled out below are common to all TGV France services.

See our separate guide here for Ouigo services.

TGV Tickets:

Tickets for journeys by TGV France services are usually placed on sale 3 months ahead of the travel date - which is in contrast to tickets for journeys by Ouigo trains, as they're usually available 6 months in advance.

When looking up a journey on Oui.SNCF you may see both 'TGV' and 'TGV INOUI' trains available on the route you will be taking.

As clearly shown on the Oui.SNCF website the key advantage of the InOui service is better access to Wi-Fi, but the distinction seemingly makes no difference to the ticket price in Seconde class - but on the InOui services, two types of Premiere class service is available.

Tickets can only be used on the specific departures you will have selected when making a booking.
However, they can now be exchanged or refunded if you subsequently cancel your trip.
More detailed info is available HERE.

Seat reservations are automatically included when booking tickets for any journey by TGV train – including non-high speed journeys.

You can choose the type of seat you’d like to sit in when booking 2nd class tickets - and when booking 1st class tickets you can also choose specific seats from a seating plan.

If you will be travelling on a TGV Duplex or a TGV Sud-Est train it isn't possible to choose forward facing seats, but this facility IS available on TGV Atlantique and TGV Océane* trains.
It's also available on the TGV France-Italy services and on some TGV Lyria departures

*In Premiére/1st class on the TGV Oceane trains, nearly all seats will be rotated so that they face forwards.

Travelling by a TGV France service:

The seven things worth knowing when travelling by any TGV service are:

(1) When boarding a TGV you must sit in the reserved seat(s) which will be specified on your ticket(s).

On your ticket(s) 'voiture' = coach/carriage number, ‘Place Assise’ = the seat number.

(2) The luggage allowance on TGV France services is a maximum of 2 large suitcases + one piece of hand luggage per person.

(3) Non folding bikes which haven't been disassembled and cased can't be taken on board the TGV Duplex trains, but they can be taken on board the other TGV trains.

(4) TGV trains don’t convey restaurant cars, they only have bar cars - the new menu for 2018.

(5) The at-seat catering service on TGV France trains is only available if you order meals to be delivered to your seat prior to boarding.
The first stage of booking this catering service is to enter the train number, (not the departure time) which will be on your ticket, into this order form.

(6) TGV trains can travel for fairly long distances on conventional non-high speed lines.

This includes these routes

(i) Bordeaux – Hendaye/Tarbes/Toulouse
(ii) Rennes – Brest/Quimper
(iii) Montpellier – Perpignan/Toulouse
(iv) Marseille – Nice
(v) Macon (north of Lyon) – Dijon
(vi) Mulhouse  Strasbourg

(7) On non-international services, most of the on-board announcements will only be made in French.

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The main routes in France taken by the different types of TGV trains:

These lists are summaries and journeys taken by these trains often extend beyond the routes we have singled out below.

TGV Sud-Est trains:

It’s LIKELY that you will travelling by TGV Sud-Est trains on these routes;

(i) Paris Est - Reims
(ii) Paris Nord -  Dunkerque and Boulogne and Tourcoing via Lille Europe
(ii) Strasbourg - Bordeaux and Lille and Nantes and Rennes

These trains are also used on some departures on these routes 
Paris Est - Nancy
Paris Est - Metz - Luxembourg

This type of TGV train used to operate between Paris and the south of France, hence the name, but they no longer do so.
As a result these trains are no longer used on services to and from Paris Gare De Lyon.

TGV Duplex trains:

You will almost travelling by double-decked TGV Duplex trains on these routes;

(i) Paris Gare De Lyon - Besancon and Lyon and Marseille and Montpellier and Nice and Perpignan
(ii) Paris Gare de Lyon - Aix-les-Bains and Annecy and Grenoble
(iii) Paris Gare de l'Est - Strasbourg - Colmar
(iv) Paris Nord - Lille (Flandres)
(v) Lille - Bordeaux and Lyon and Marseille and Montpellier and Nice and Rennes and Nantes
(vi) Marseille/Lyon - Nantes/Rennes
(vii) Marseille/Lyon - Strasbourg/Luxembourg

TGV Duplex trains are also used for most departures on these routes:

(i) Paris Est - Nancy
(ii) Paris Est - Metz - Luxembourg
(iii) Toulouse - Lyon via Montpellier

TGV Atlantique trains:

You will be travelling by TGV Atlantique trains on journeys between Paris - La Rochelle and Le Croisic and Tours

It's also more than likely that will be travelling on a TGV Atlantique train on these routes;

(i) Paris - Rennes - Quimper*
(ii) Paris - Rennes - Brest*
(iii) Paris - Nantes*
(iv) Paris - Bordeaux via Poitiers and Angouleme

*However, as more TGV Océane trains enter service they will begin to operate more trains on these routes in 2019, particularly between Paris and Nantes and on services via Rennes.

TGV Océane trains:

If you'll be taking a train which travels non-stop between Paris and Bordeaux, then it's now almost certain that you will be travelling on a TGV Océane train.

Many journeys taken by TGV Océane trains also extend beyond Bordeaux to and from other destinations.

So it's likely that you will be travelling by these trains if you take a TGV between Paris and Bayonne or Biarritz or Hendaye or Lourdes or Tarbes or Toulouse.

TGV Reseau trains:

These trains are used on services between Bruxelles/Brussels and cities in France other than Paris, including Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice and Strasbourg.

How to confirm which type of TGV you will be travelling by:

If you look up a TGV departure on the Oui.Sncf ticketing website, the official ticketing website of the national rail company in France -  you can use the 1st class seating plans to work whether an Atlantique, Duplex, Océane or Sud-Est will be used for a specific departure.
We explain how to do this here.

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Other useful information:

An intro to train travel in France

How to buy tickets for French train journeys


Riding ON French trains

Travelling on European daytime trains

Travelling on European overnight trains

International train routes to/from France

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