JMGRIFFIN
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TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Wed Sep 25, 2013 12:37 pm

A (slightly) unconventional trip report about a train ride, hope someone finds it useful/interesting!

--------------------------------------

After doing our research ahead of time and researching how to buy tickets (SNCF vs RailEurope.com post here) and then arriving to Charles de Gaulle airport and making our way to the train station (post: Taking a train from Paris Airport CDG-Charles de Gaulle), it was time to begin our first train journey of the trip.

TGV service/review

We were scheduled on the 16h21 train (that's 4:21pm to you Freedom-fry-loving guys in 'Merica). Because this train didn't originate at the CDG airport, we had to wait until about 15 mins before departure to see which track it would be on. The trip was scheduled to take 4 hours 16 mins (!) and put us at Bordeaux St. Jean right at 21h37.

The TGV has been in service since 1981 and, to be quite honest, some of the cars are starting to feel like they were one of the pioneers back in 1981. That said, everything was rather old and dated and this model didn't offer power ports at the seat, but we were traveling in 2nd class, so it's possible that only 1st class was power-outlet equipped. (Update: Double checked and these particular cars were built between 1988-92 and then refurbished between 2005-09.)



The bathrooms were dirty but, all-around, this wasn't a bad trip, just pretty sparse when compared to the "glamorous" European train travel that we've all heard touted by our brethren from across the pond.



As with anything quintessentially French, wine and coffee wasn't too far:



The full-service dining car had about anything and everything you could want/need on a 4+ hour train ride.



TGV: Not as fast as you may think

If you're like me, you were thinking 4 hours 16 mins to go from the CDG airport to Bordeaux?! That's a substantial trip! For comparison, a direct train trip from Paris Montparnasse takes 3 hours 14 minutes. While it's absolutely easier to take the train, it's only marginally faster and only cheaper if you're going with no more than 2 people.

A drive would take you 5h28 vs 4h16 on the train:



Part of the reason that taking the train from the airport adds an extra 58 minutes is that they take you all the way around Paris to get there:


Going around your.....to get to....how's that saying go? Well they've perfected it here

And, at the end of the day, while the TGV has achieved speeds of up to 190 mph on this line, it's all about averages and actuals:


Average speed of just 95 mph


Actual top speed achieved 145 mph

I wore my Garmin GPS watch on the trip and have the the train-nerd stats here:



Check out the Garmin Connect Player to see it in action: Garmin Connect Player



Interestingly, when researching this route, I found that the SNCF is currently working on a €7.2 billion project to rebuild over 300 km of this line to shorten the distance and make higher speeds possible. When opened in 2017, Bordeaux-Paris route is expected to take 50 mins less, down to 2h24 from 3h14--glad to see the the French are still investing money in rail!



BOTTOM LINE: I still think nothing beats train travel in Europe, but this particular journey had me questioning my loyalty--from the slightly dated train and dirty bathrooms to the rather slow 95 mph average for a "High-speed train."
 
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Francoflier
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:10 pm

I've done this same trip several times.

I'm surprised you didn't get a refurbished train. I thought they would have done all of the trainsets by now.

It i is a long trip. It goes all around Paris on tracks used by slower regional trains, and when it leaves Paris, it only goes high speed for about an hour before the high speed track ends.

The high speed extension to Bordeaux is way overdue.
In truth, the Southwest region of France has always been somewhat forgotten when it comes to infrastructure developments. Most of the HST budget has been dedicated to the Paris-Southeast, Paris-North and Paris-East corridors. The same goes for the rolling stock...

Now with Bordeaux, Toulouse and the region benefiting from the aerospace boost and seeing some growth, the infrastructure budget is finally turning this way.
Another example of the lack of foresight of the narrow mindedness of the Parisian technocrat-led centralised system...
I'll do my own airline. With Blackjack. And hookers. In fact, forget the airline.
 
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Aesma
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Wed Sep 25, 2013 1:50 pm

Well LGV lines are expensive, you couldn't expect France to build them as quickly as China.

What that means though is that I don't take the TGV often, because my father is hailing from Brittany so it's also more than 4 hours from Paris (and I first have to go there from the suburbs), against about 5h30 by car or less than an hour by plane. Other members of my family (uncle who doesn't like driving, brother who doesn't have a car) do it often. As for Bordeaux, once the LGV is complete it is expected that more people (some already do it) will live there while working in Paris.

With various fidelity cards and promo fares frequent travelers who don't mind paying a bit more would go first class, though.

There are talks about increasing the RER capacity to CDG, I don't know if that will help the TGV around Paris ?
New Technology is the name we give to stuff that doesn't work yet. Douglas Adams
 
ozglobal
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:02 am

Well you picked a very partial high speed route, added to that an extra hour of curcuit around Paris and lot'sof stops. My trips to Bordeaux are 3:14h and I find that slow. Try Paris to any one of Marsailles, Lyon, Strasbourg, Lille, Brussells, Basel, London, etc....
When all's said and done, there'll be more said than done.
 
JMGRIFFIN
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:00 pm

Quoting OzGlobal (Reply 3):
Well you picked a very partial high speed route, added to that an extra hour of curcuit around Paris and lot'sof stops. My trips to Bordeaux are 3:14h and I find that slow. Try Paris to any one of Marsailles, Lyon, Strasbourg, Lille, Brussells, Basel, London, etc....

I guess I didn't realize that "TGV" was more of a branding thing than a true 100% high-speed route. Maybe partly similar to the "Acela" Amtrak train in the Northeast corridor of the US where the Acela train doesn't actually travel at much greater speeds but is just an express train with limited stops.

Quoting Aesma (Reply 2):
What that means though is that I don't take the TGV often, because my father is hailing from Brittany so it's also more than 4 hours from Paris (and I first have to go there from the suburbs), against about 5h30 by car or less than an hour by plane. Other members of my family (uncle who doesn't like driving, brother who doesn't have a car) do it often. As for Bordeaux, once the LGV is complete it is expected that more people (some already do it) will live there while working in Paris.

Didn't realize that that many people are actually using TGV to commute daily to Paris! Still makes me envious of high-speed rail in the US.
 
aloges
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:40 pm

Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Thread starter):
just pretty sparse when compared to the "glamorous" European train travel that we've all heard touted by our brethren from across the pond.

It's still mass transport, so whatever may have been reported as "glamorous" to you must have been something of an exception - and those do occur - or the story of someone who always travels in first class.  

Anyway, to many of us over here, train travel is simply a part of life - which IMHO is, in itself, pretty glamorous in its own particular way if you think about it for a moment.

Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Reply 4):
I guess I didn't realize that "TGV" was more of a branding thing than a true 100% high-speed route.

That is indeed quintessential advice. Here in Germany, many old "InterCity" train carriages are being upgraded to "InterCity Express" (our name for HSTs) cabin standards. On those routes where ICs and ICEs have to use the same non-highspeed tracks, this puts both trains on almost exactly the same level.
Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.
 
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Aesma
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Thu Sep 26, 2013 9:56 pm

Well you were on board a TGV train that can go to more than 300Km/h. Unlike some other systems, the TGV can use both conventional and high speed tracks (that are quite different), various voltages, etc. So it's not lying, and after all when you book you know the time it will take.

When I was a kid I would take some of those routes in a "train corail", no high speed involved, and it took much more time, with many stops. There was a car dedicated to kids with many games, climbing nets etc.
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airmagnac
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:17 am

Quoting Aesma (Reply 6):
There was a car dedicated to kids with many games, climbing nets etc.

Really ?!? I can't believe I missed that one on all those endless Corail journeys, I'm going to have to have a word with my parents 



As said above, "TGV" designates the SNCF brand for high-end long-distance express service, based on "TGV" rolling stock built by Alstom, but that ironically does not always run at TGV/Very High Speed...something which requires a dedicated high-speed rail line (an "LGV", Ligne à Grande Vitesse)

But most journeys can be routed for at least some part of the way over an LGV, so there will often be a short high-speed dash. You should have experienced this for 200km between southern Paris and Tours, but I cant' see it on your graphs...so I don't know if there's construction work, or if your watch couldn't track the high speeds ?   (there seems to be an hour of journey between 50' and 1:30' which is really slow, and I'd expect this to be just about when you should have been on the LGV Atlantique)

Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Thread starter):
the "glamorous" European train travel that we've all heard touted by our brethren from across the pond.

I have a hard time believing anyone in France would associate the word "glamorous" to the SNCF... 
But trains, like buses, are certainly not something to be looked down upon, as too many of my North American friends tend to do. For journeys of under 1000km, over relatively even terrain within relatively densely populated areas (for example most of Europe and some parts of the US), trains are definitely the way to go.
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Arrow
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Sat Sep 28, 2013 10:23 pm

My wife and I just got back from a 3-week vacation in the UK, and for the last three days took the Eurostar train from London to Paris (and back). Trains are getting long in the tooth, but they're still comfortable although a little shopworn. My first time on a high speed train, and 300 km.h looks pretty fast when you see the trees flash by. Trip is 2.5 hours each way and goes through the chunnel.

Glad we did it -- but there's a lot of track where the speed is definitely below that 300km level -- especially going in and out of gare du nord. But I like the idea of city-to-city centre (Gare du Nord is a 20 minute metro ride from Notre Dame).

European approach to trains is much appreciated (include the UK in that), but there's a need for some spending on the nuts and bolts. A lot of those trains have been around for 30-40 years and they look it.
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JMGRIFFIN
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:06 pm

Quoting airmagnac (Reply 7):
I have a hard time believing anyone in France would associate the word "glamorous" to the SNCF... 

Haha, you've caught my sarcasm. Maybe "more civil than North American rail travel" is more of what I was going for.

Quoting arrow (Reply 8):
But I like the idea of city-to-city centre (Gare du Nord is a 20 minute metro ride from Notre Dame).

It's really hard to argue with city-to-city center (fixed the spelling for you   ) when comparing rail travel to air travel.

We've been talking of the top speeds of the TGV being at around 300 km/hr, any idea on who holds the record for top speeds in the world right now? China?
 
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GrahamHill
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:20 pm

Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Reply 4):
Didn't realize that that many people are actually using TGV to commute daily to Paris! Still makes me envious of high-speed rail in the US.

One of my father's friend used to do that. He was living in Le Mans and working in Paris. That's 200+ km of distance (roughly the same as Philly-Washington). It was a "commute" of one hour. He was usually arriving sooner at work than his colleagues living in the Paris suburbs.

Quoting arrow (Reply 8):
but there's a lot of track where the speed is definitely below that 300km level -- especially going in and out of gare du nord

Well of course, you can't go in and out of Paris/London at a speed of 300 kph! Also, the whole tunnel section is a top speed of 160 kph for security reasons. And for years, the English part of the journey was at 110 kph because the Brits did not (or could not, I don't know the reason) build a high speed line.

You can't be at a consistent top speed of 300 kph all across. Still, 2:20 hours from city-to-city centre is quite enjoyable  
Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Reply 9):
We've been talking of the top speeds of the TGV being at around 300 km/hr, any idea on who holds the record for top speeds in the world right now? China?

On conventional rail, I think it's still France/German/Japan with a speed of 320 kph on some lines (Paris-Strasbourg in France, for example). Spain's high speed train can go up to 350 kph but at the moment none of them are going to that speed (max is 310 kph).

I don't know the situation in China, to be honest.
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Arrow
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:26 pm

Quoting GrahamHill (Reply 10):
Well of course, you can't go in and out of Paris/London at a speed of 300 kph!

Gee -- thanks for straightening me out on that one, I just assumed it could stop on a dime.    Out of St, Pancras, it was up to a high speed in less than ten minutes. Out of Gare du nord, it took more than half an hour. The Brits may have been slow to upgrade the line, but they did eventually do it and it's a better section of track (smoother from a passenger perspective) than the track on the French side. I know they can't firewall it through the chunnel.

I agree that it's a good service -- London to Paris in 2.5 hours is pretty good. And I'd do it again. But a little upgrade on the French side could shave another ten minutes off that time maybe. Of course, who has the money to do that stuff any more.
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
 
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GrahamHill
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:02 pm

Quoting Arrow (Reply 11):
Gee -- thanks for straightening me out on that one, I just assumed it could stop on a dime.

Lol, that's not what I meant. Sorry for the bad English.

Quoting Arrow (Reply 11):
And I'd do it again. But a little upgrade on the French side could shave another ten minutes off that time maybe. Of course, who has the money to do that stuff any more.

Indeed. It's not worth the expense for just gaining 5-10 minutes. The part where lots of time could be saved on was on the British side, and now that it's done with a brand new HSL, there will be no more works on this line.

I'm also happy that the Brits changed their station. I've always considered a (friendly) provocation to welcome the French in a station called Waterloo.
"A learned fool is more foolish than an ignorant one" - Moliere
 
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Aesma
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Mon Sep 30, 2013 5:11 pm

I'm not sure it's just track quality, the speed is restricted for noise reasons too, so unless you cover everything it won't work.
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aloges
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Mon Sep 30, 2013 6:17 pm

Quoting GrahamHill (Reply 12):
I'm also happy that the Brits changed their station. I've always considered a (friendly) provocation to welcome the French in a station called Waterloo.

I imagine that it's a bit like walking through central Paris as a German tourist.  
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JMGRIFFIN
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:31 pm

Quoting airmagnac (Reply 7):
You should have experienced this for 200km between southern Paris and Tours, but I cant' see it on your graphs...so I don't know if there's construction work, or if your watch couldn't track the high speeds ?   (there seems to be an hour of journey between 50' and 1:30' which is really slow, and I'd expect this to be just about when you should have been on the LGV Atlantique)

You're right! It appears to be a glitch with the Garmin watch.

Also, to partly answer my own question the fastest passenger rail (unconventional rail, though) service operated in the world is the 19 mi (30 km) track from PVG to Shanghai. It uses magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) to reach max speeds of 268 mph (431 km/h)!
 
PBNZ
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RE: TGV Trip Report: Paris-CDG-->Bordeaux

Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:42 am

Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Reply 15):
Quoting JMGRIFFIN (Reply 15):
Also, to partly answer my own question the fastest passenger rail (unconventional rail, though) service operated in the world is the 19 mi (30 km) track from PVG to Shanghai. It uses magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) to reach max speeds of 268 mph (431 km/h)!

I've done that PVG to Shanghai maglev - it's pretty surreal - it feels like being in a very low flying (i.e. about 20 ft AGL) aircraft.

In fairness that was also my impression from my first TGV-type (actually the Thalys Paris-Bruxelles) train experience, and I've still got the pic of the on-board intranet map showing us at 292 km/h (181 mph).

Your photograph in the cafe car looks really 80's - most of my TGV trips have been on far newer looking carriage sets. If you go 1st class (required for certain railpasses) the extra space ( 2+1 seats abreast rather than 2+2 in 2nd class) and legroom, and the generally less crowded carriages do add a lot to the experience. Maybe not glamour but definitely more comfortable than 2nd class - and if booked early enough you can sometimes get tickets in first for just a few euros more than 2nd class.

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