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Travel News Major Changes to services between France and Spain
The daily train to Madrid arrives in Avignon TGV

Major Changes to services between France and Spain

The Marseille ↔ Madrid and Lyon ↔ Barcelona services aren't included on the new timetable which comes into effect from December 11th.


Since the opening of the cross-border high-speed line which links Perpignan in France with Figueres in Spain, the French national rail company SNCF and the Spanish national rail company, Renge have collaborated on the services which use it.
A long-term agreement was reached in which the two companies worked together on the marketing and shared revenues, with SNCF providing the trains used on the Paris ↔ Barcelona route and Renfe providing the trains used on the Lyon ↔ Barcelona and Marseille ↔ Madrid route.
Pre-pandemic there had also been a Toulouse ↔ Barcelona service.

This agreement between SNCF and Renfe has ended, but SNCF will still be providing direct trains on the Paris ↔ Barcelona route from December 11th, which is the date on which the key annual timetable takes place across continental Europe.
There will still be two daily Paris ↔ Barcelona departures per day year round, plus and additional third summer service; though the schedule and dates of this additional service have yet to be confirmed, also four trains per day were available in July/August pre 2020.
SNCF is to operate these Paris to Barcelona services as TGV InOui services, which is the branding it uses for its standard TGV services within France, so its typical ticketing terms and conditions will apply.

According to reports, Renfe ultimately plans to operates its own independent services between Spain and France, but it won't be allocating trains to the Lyon ↔ Barcelona and Marseille ↔ Madrid routes on the new timetable, which commences on December 11th.
As a result the final departures, for the time being, on both of these routes will be on December 10th.
Travellers will therefore be left to hope that Renfe re-introduces these routes at a later date in 2023, after all it has ordered 30 brand new trains, which will be branded 'Avril', with the apparent stated intention that around a third of these trains will be used for international services.
Though these trains have yet to enter service on Spanish routes (a situation which may change from December 11th).
New rail operator iryo may also be planning to introduce high-speed services between Spain and France.

However, from December 11th, until a yet to be confirmed future date, only two trains per day will be traveling in each direction, on a railway which had constructions costs into hundreds of millions of euros!
Though it would be surprising if the Lyon ↔ Barcelona and Marseille ↔ Madrid services were not to be available for summer 2023, particularly as on July and August weekends this year, these trains were selling out weeks in advance.

Future schedules and connections:

From December 11th the following services and connections will be available:

Paris ↔ Barcelona

Heading south trains will typically be departing Paris Gare De Lyon at:

  • 09:38 - arrives Barcelona Sants at 16:34; Girona at 15:46 and into Figueres-Vilifant at 15:27
  • 14:54 - arrives Barcelona Sants at 21:25; Girona at 20:44 and into Figueres-Vilifant at 20:27
    This second train of the day will have a connection from a Eurostar which will typically be departing London at 10:22 and arriving into the Gare Du Nord at 13:47 or 13:57.

Heading north trains will typically be departing Barcelona Sants at:

  • 10:13 - arrives Paris Gare De Lyon at around 17:20 (the precise time varies according to the travel date)
  • 14:32 - arrives Paris Gare De Lyon at 21:21.
    The first train of the day will have a conveniently timed connection into a Eurostar which will depart Paris Gare Du Nord at 19:13.

Lyon ↔ Barcelona

Despite the withdrawal of the direct train between the two cities, a Lyon to Barcelona journey will still be easily managed.
A train which will typically depart Lyon-Part Dieu station at 10:36 will connect into the first train of the day from Paris to Barcelona at Valence TGV station; this train will be commencing its journey in Bruxelles and will also be calling in Lille.

A connection into the same train on to Barcelona will also typically be available by departing Lyon-Part Dieu at 11:06 and connecting in Montpellier-St Roch station.

Though the existing direct service to Barcelona typically departs Lyon at 14:35 and there will no conveniently timed connections offered in its place.
A train which will typically be departing Lyon at 14:10 will arrive in Montpellier-Sud de France station more than two hours before the departure of a train on to Barcelona.

Heading north both of the daily trains from Barcelona to Paris will offer onward connections into trains on to Lyon at Nimes station, with a transfer time between trains of under 20 minutes.

Marseille ↔Madrid

The loss of this service is particularly inconvenient as it not only provides the only direct train of the day from both Marseille and Avignon to Spain, it's also the only direct morning departure to Barcelona (and beyond) from a swathe of French towns and cities including Beziers, Montpellier and Nimes.
From December 11th first direct train of the day to Barcelona will typically be departing from Nîmes at 12:46, from Montpellier St Roch at 13:18 and from Béziers at 14:10, with an arrival into Barcelona at 16:34.
An earlier arrival time into Barcelona will only be possible by taking two regional train services and making a connection at Port Bou station.
The best option for departing from Avignon in the morning will also involve taking a regional train to Port Bou.
Journeys on to Zaragoza and Madrid will require a second connection in Barcelona.

The impact when travelling from Marseille will be particularly awkward, as the loss of the direct train isn't being compensated for by any conveniently timed morning connections.
In the afternoon travellers will be left hoping that the 11:24 Intercités from Marseille will arrive in Nîmes on time, as it will usually offer an 8 minute connection into the train on to Barcelona.

In the opposite direction the 14:32 departure from Barcelona will typically have a 30 min connection in Valence TGV station in to a Ouigo service on to Avignon TGV and Marseille-St Charles.
Though departing Barcelona at around 16:30, as per the timings of the existing service, won't be feasible.


Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.


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