TGV 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 on all high speed services between Brussels/Bruxelles and cities in France other than Paris – hence our link going to info re: these services.

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 our route guides will give you a good idea of what type of TGV train you’re highly likely to be taking.

Re: 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 bikes have bike spaces.

(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 different types of TGV services:

TGV trains are used on three different types of train service:

(1) InOui – This is the standard service of TGV trains and all five types of train are used on these inOui routes across France.

Some inOui services also creep across the border to serve destinations such as Irun in Spain and Ventimille in Italy

(2) Ouigo – More basic, but cheaper services on a much smaller number on routes than inOui services

(3) TGV trains are also used for 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 trains share these services.

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Worth knowing about inOui TGV services:

The trains used for inOui TGV services can have different colours on the outsides of the trains.

A blue/green colour scheme is being gradually replaced by a 'Carmillon' red/grey colour scheme - but these different colours aren't specific to different routes and services.

Though all the TGV Océane trains are appearing in the 'Carmillon' scheme because they are new trains.

The on board travelling experiences can vary slightly between the different types of TGV trains, but these facts and tips we have singled out below are common to all inOui services.

See our separate guide here for Ouigo services.

TGV inOui Tickets:

The most heavily discounted tickets for journeys by inOui TGV trains are known as ‘Prems’ tickets.

The key things worth knowing about these tickets are:

(i) They must be booked at least 10 days ahead of your travel date

(ii) They can only be used on the specific departures you will have selected when making a booking

(iii) They cannot be exchanged or refunded if you subsequently cancel your trip OR miss the train due to circumstances outside of SNCF’s control, such as flight delay or a taxi getting stuck in traffic.

More detailed info, including why alternative, more flexible tickets can be worth considering, is available HERE.

(iv) 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 making a booking, though there is no option to select seats that will be facing forwards.

Travelling by a TGV inOui service:

Six things worth knowing when travelling by any TGV inOui 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) TGV trains don’t convey restaurant cars, they only have bar cars - the new menu for 2018.

(3) The at-seat catering service on TGV trains is only available if you order meals to be delivered to your seat prior to boarding.

The first stage of booking this catering servivce is to enter the train number, (not the departure time) which will be on your ticket, into this order form.

(4) The Wi-fi can be a tad temperamental, and isn’t available at all when the trains aren’t travelling on high speed lines.

(5) 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) Angers Nantes

(6) 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 inOui 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 - Luxembourg and Reims
(ii) Marseille/Lyon - Strasbourg/Luxembourg/Le Havre
(iii) Strasbourg - Bordeaux and Lille and Nantes and Rennes
(iv) Toulouse/Montpellier – Nancy via Dijon

These trains are also used on some departures on these routes:

(i) Paris Nord - Lille and Dunkerque and Boulogne and Tourcoing
(ii) Paris Est - Nancy and Metz and Strasbourg and Colmar
(iii) Paris Lyon - Aix-les-Bains and Annecy and Grenoble

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) Lille - Bordeaux and Lyon and Marseille and Montpellier and Nice and Rennes and Nantes
(iii) Marseille/Lyon - Nantes/Rennes

TGV Duplex trains also used on some departures on these routes:

(i) Paris Est - Nancy and Metz and Strasbourg
(ii) Paris Lyon - Aix-les-Bains and Annecy and Dijon and Grenoble
(iii) Paris Nord - Lille and Dunkerque and Boulogne and Tourcoing
(iv) 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 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 and 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 depature.

We explain how to do this here.

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