SNCF meaning "National Company of French Railways" is France's national state-owned railway company. Founded in 1938, it operates the country's national rail traffic along with Monaco, including the TGV, on France's high-speed rail network. Its functions include operation of railway services for passengers and freight (through its subsidiaries SNCF Voyageurs and Rail Logistics Europe), as well as maintenance and signalling of rail infrastructure (SNCF Réseau). The railway network consists of about 35,000 km (22,000 mi) of route, of which 2,600 km (1,600 mi) are high-speed lines and 14,500 km (9,000 mi) electrified. About 14,000 trains are operated daily.
In 2010 the SNCF was ranked 22nd in France and 214th globally on the Fortune Global 500 list. It is the main business of the SNCF Group, which in 2020 had €30 billion of sales in 120 countries. The SNCF Group employs more than 275,000 employees in France and around the world. Since July 2013, the SNCF Group headquarters are located in a Parisian suburb at 2 Place aux Étoiles in Saint-Denis. The president of SNCF Group has been Jean-Pierre Farandou since 2019.
Travelling with SNCF allows you to discover the wonders of France by train. SNCF trains take you to all corners of France, as well as to international destinations like Spain and Germany. There are three major SNCF trains you can take – TGV, TER and Intercities. These SNCF trains will take you on national, regional and local routes, including high-speed trains from Paris train stations.
TGV trains are the flagship fleet run by SNCF. The high-speed TGV trains depart and arrive from Paris on a daily basis, with destinations including Marseille, Nice, Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux. TGV trains are also extremely popular due to their double-decker style carriages, enabling them huge numbers of passengers on every route while providing stunning views for those lucky enough to grab a spot on the upper deck.
TGV trains have both First and Second Class carriages so depending on your budget, there are two options for you to choose from. When travelling in First Class expect to find excellent comfort and amenities such as power sockets (local and European), hot drink holders and headrests. Seats are arranged in a 2 + 1 formation so, there is much more space onboard First Class carriages compared to Second Class. There’s also a food carriage (cafe-bar) on most trains, providing hot meals and beverages. For speedy service, use the free WiFi to order your food from your seat and skip the queue when you pick up.
SNCF Intercities trains serve major stations and destinations in all parts of France. These SNCF trains link the major Paris stations with destinations such as Le Havre, Lyon and Bordeaux in comfort and speed. Intercities trains also operate at night so if you have an early start or want to save forking out on hotel rooms, these journeys could be perfect.
When travelling onboard, there are many different facilities that cater to all different travellers. There are quiet zones should you want to relax and maybe catch some sleep while you travel. If you’re in a group, then you can ride in seats of four grouped around a table, creating a place to chat and relax as you glide through France. If you’re travelling with young children, then there are selected Intercities that have special play area compartments. These are ideal for those that want to keep their children occupied while travelling over long distances.
If you are travelling within a region of France and want to move about effortlessly and quickly, then you may find yourself on a TER train. SNCF dedicate the TER trains to shorter routes around France. TER trains aren't high-speed and often stop more frequently, but if you don't mind station hopping, then these are a very convenient and very cost-effective way to get around the country.
TER trains are the most frequently run in France, with up to 7,500 services a day across the country! As well as regional routes, TER services are also important commuter trains into and departing most major French cities.
Other SNCF trains
There's more to the SNCF network than the TGV, TER and Intercity trains. SNCF also part own a number of other train services across Europe.
Ouigo is a high-speed, yet low-cost train service that provides passengers with long-distance services across France. While only available on four routes, if you're travelling to a city or town with Ouigo, get yourself a bargain while these tickets are up for grabs.
You can also travel to Barcelona on a Renfe-SNCF train. Operated in partnership with Spanish train operator Renfe, this cross-country train operator connects cities in southern France such as Toulouse with the Catalonia region of Spain.
On trains to Belgium, you'll find yourself on another part-owned train service called Thalys. These high-speed trains travel from Paris, calling at cities such as Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam.
OUIGO is SNCF’s low-cost high-speed train service, allowing for intercity travel in France to suit any budget. OUIGO trains only have one class – Standard – and do not contain some of the creature comforts of their pricier TGV cousins. However, this means tickets are considerably cheaper for OUIGO services.
OUIGO tickets guarantee access to a seat and 2 pieces of hand luggage. There are a variety of ‘extras’ you can add on to your booking, including plug socket access, more luggage and bringing a stroller on board.
While OUIGO services operate primarily in France, they also run on the Barcelona-Madrid route in Spain.
Eurostar : Eurostar is a Franco-British company that connects the UK with France and Belgium by traveling through the Channel Tunnel. The main route the Eurostar runs connects Paris and London; however, other French cities like Lille, Calais, Lyon, Avignon, Marseille and Marne-la-Vallée also connected with the UK via Eurostar trains.
Thalys : Thalys trains connect France with Belguim and the Netherlands. Thalys trains connect French destinations like Paris, Lille, Lyon and Marseille with Brussels, Rotterdam and Amsterdam in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Lyria : Lyria trains travel between France and Switzerland with more than 4 million passengers traveling on Lyria trains every year. You can reach Geneva, Basel, Lausanne and Zurich (and other major Swiss stations) from Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Lille or Dijon.
Thello : Thello was created as a partnership between SNCF and Trenitalia in 2010 and provides trains between France and Italy. Three lines currently exist: Paris - Venice (via Dijon and Milan), Milan-Marseille (serving major stations of the French Riviera) and Milan - Nice. To continue your journey by train in Italy you have to use Trenitalia or Italo.
Most Popular Trains to Paris
Most Popular Trains to Lyon
|Trains from Nice to Lyon|
|Trains from Amsterdam to Lyon|
|Trains from Berlin to Lyon|
|Trains from Brussels to Lyon|
|Trains from Amsterdam to Lyon|
|Trains from London to Lyon|
|Trains from Paris to Lyon|
Popular International Routes by Train
The main international routes that reach France usually depart and arrive from Paris and Lyon. Some of the most popular international routes by train go from London to Lyon/Paris, Amsterdam to Lyon/Paris, Brussels to Lyon/Paris, Berlin to Lyon, Barcelona to Paris, and Milan to Paris.
SNCF train tickets
With the Prem's, Second and First Class tickets, we recommend that you book these tickets as far in advance as possible (usually available up to three months in advance). This is the best possible way of getting cheap train tickets in France.
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