Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Another's comments on Paris-Marseille TGV

Taking ericmarseille's comment from the CAHSR Blog:

Totally OFF TOPIC but, I hope, informative :

I came back yesterday from a trip in the Parisian region (Marseille-Paris and back, 480 miles)

The good :

- Took an IDTGV, so could book on internet and print the tickets myself
- Only €100 for the entire trip, decided only two days before departing
- Was able to upgrade to first class for €2 on the Marseille-Paris leg
- Was able to change my ticket the day before I was supposed to leave for a €10 fee and did it all on internet too, including printing the new ticket
- Still as fast and cool as ever
- on the return leg, arguably in an off period, I was able to strech my legs as much as I wanted for 45 min, I was in a face-to-face configuration and the guy who was in front of me got out at Avignon and nobody took his place. Everybody staying in the car after Avignon either was alone on its two seats side or didn’t have someone in front of him in face-to-face configuration, smart seat management from SNCF
- Los of seat and elbow room in first class (lateral seat configuration : 2+1 instead of 2+2 in second class) ; so much seat room in fact, that I felt a bit loose in my seat (and I’m 240lbs)
- The croque-Monsieur at the snack car, still shockingly good (I mean, good, which is shocking given SNCF standards)

The bad :

- Last-time tickets on the busiest part of the week-end can grow to up to €110 for a single trip
- First-generation TGV first class atmosphere (dark grey, dark red, and black) was good for regular TGVs, but on the duplex, lower and less luminous it is sad and even creepy
- On my first leg the TGV was so old that the first class car stank of old furniture textile, and even old, very old, cigarette odour ; the smells of the arguably refined perfumes that the first class passengers use in abundance, as a social status sign, all mixed, didn’t help either
- Not only that, but for the first time of my life in a TGV, I was annoyed by the noise of the train itself (still on the first leg, first class), which, instead of a whirr comparable to a cat’s purring, was rather comparable to a vacuum cleaner noise ; still not as noisy as the dreaded Parisian RER, but, hey, it had to be a very, very old TGV
- more than €6 for a croque-Monsieur, the rip-off goes on at the snack car

Additional thoughts:
1. Paris-Marseille, at 481 miles, is about a hundred miles further than Los Angeles-San Francisco. A one hundred euro fare, round-trip, is currently worth $132.90. Booked two days in advance, this is significantly cheaper than the vaunted Southwest fares between Los Angeles and San Francisco for two days in advance as well. Not only is it significantly lower than the $351.40 round trip fare, it is even cheaper than the $165 one way fare.
3. SNCF is probably in dire need of new or refitted rolling stock. Thankfully smoking odors won't be an issue with CAHSR trains.


  1. Wow on a lot of fronts here -- $0.27/mi is lower than any true HSR or 110-mph enhanced service fares I've seen planned for the U.S. In Minnesota, the Northern Lights Express to Duluth is planned to charge about 30 cents/mi.

    Amtrak currently charges $100 for the 418-mile trip from MSP to CHI -- $0.24/mi, and the trip takes about 8 hours. I've taken it in 7.5; there's half an hour of extra padding between Milwaukee and Chicago. Historically it was done in 6, though that was from the St. Paul Union Depot which is about 6 miles closer along a segment of fairly slow track.

    One-way flights between MSP and ORD are often available for $100. I looked at the 2-day advance price right now and it's $200 with taxes & fees included.

    I see they also charge $68 for the Coast Starlight from LA to Oakland (11h12 over 464 miles -- blech) and $57 for the bus/train combo using a San Joaquin from Bakersfield to Oakland (only 8h40).

    I'll never understand ticket pricing...

    Regarding your third thought: In his recent column at The Transport Politic, Yonah said that RFF was going to charge higher track fees, and that SNCF responded by saying increased track fees would prevent them from replacing the first-generation TGV trains until after 2020. I suspect that might just be a political ploy, though.

  2. Actually, I have to confess a mistake. It isn't 27 cents per mile. I mistakenly priced a two way fare according to only one way mileage. It's actually 13.8 cents per mile.

  3. Yeah, I noticed after posting that the original commenter had to correct himself on the distance.


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