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Where can I find France rail maps and train time tables?

I'm looking for a rail map of Southern France but time tables of lines I would use. But I can't find any. All I could find is online reservation / itinerary look up systems, and very rough TGV line map that shows only major stops.

Is it like the trains in France don't run on schedule at all that they decided not to publish the schedule? But there must be a map. Maybe I need to search in French?

Posted by
8889 posts

Kuro, for a map, there is a page on the SNCF website with many maps: https://www.sncf-reseau.fr/fr/projets-chantiers-ferroviaires/cartes
The map of the whole network is here: https://www.sncf-reseau.fr/fr/projets-chantiers-ferroviaires/cartes/cartes-citees-dans-le-drr-reseau-ferre/national/carte-comple-0
It is a humongous PDF file (40MB).
I found this by searching for "carte ferroviaire france", I knew it existed because I had seen it before somewhere on the SNCF site, but couldn't remember where.

Times and tickets can be found at the SNCF site: https://www.sncf.com/en
Also recommended alternative for times and tickets: https://www.trainline.eu/

I suggest you start with this guide to the trains in France: https://www.seat61.com/France-trains.htm

BTW, you did know that SNCF is the French national railway company and runs most of the trains (SNCF = Société nationale des chemins de fer français)?

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you, Jazz+Travels and Chris, this all helps.
The big map really helps me to visually understand how the trains run in France but I have a question. When I was searching tickets, they were showing TGV travels from Avignon Central (not Avignon TGV) to Orange. But the TGV line doesn't go to Avignon Central. I don't see Orange on the TGV line. Can I understand some TGV trains run on regular tracks?

Posted by
7800 posts

No the TGV does not run on the same tracks as regional or Intercity trains; they may stop at hubs to connect passengers to regional or Intercity trains. Avignon Central is a hub and only one TGV stops there, while several TGV trains coming from all directions terminate at Avignon TGV but do not stop at Avignon Central.

Posted by
19929 posts

Yes, TGV's do operate on regular tracks. I see one from Avignon Center to Orange. It is part of a route starting at Miramas to Paris Gare de Lyon. Funny, it takes 2 minutes longer to cover that short stretch than a TER.

TGV's just don't operate at "grand vitesse" on regular tracks. They run at the same speed as regular trains, since the track quality is the speed limiting factor.

Posted by
8889 posts

TGV tracks (technically called LGV = Lignes à grande vitesse) are the same as normal tracks, just better quality. Like the difference between freeway/motorway/autoroute and normal city streets. The LGV frequently end at the edge of cities (because it would be too expensive to build through urban areas). The TGV can run on the same tracks as other trains, provided the line is electrified. They run at normal speeds (which can still be 80-100mph) to the same city centre stations. This means at the city centre station you can change from a TGV to a local train, making the whole thing a connected network.

The TGV can also be extended well beyond the LGV, to provide a single service. For example Paris to Barcelona. If you look the LGV ends at Montpellier, and resumes again at Perpignan just before the Spanish border.

When you are leaving Paris Gare de Lyon (or Gare de Nord), you start on the same tracks as commuter trains, then on the edge of Paris there is a junction where the LGV starts. Then the trains starts to accelerate.

Posted by
16893 posts

When searching for schedules to most cities, you can normally indicate just the city name and get results to/from any relevant stations. But for Avignon, it helps to make separate searches to/from the TGV and Centre stations to see all the schedule options.

Posted by
12172 posts

The trains run pretty well on schedule (even with a strike). They don't publish a giant schedule because it can change season to season. They don't finalize the schedule and start selling tickets until a few months (maybe 6) out.

Posted by
8889 posts

If you are looking for a printed timetable, most railway companies published these. But they were huge, multiple volumes. SNCF runs 14,000 trains per day, so you can guess how big they were. If you wanted to consult one you went to a library. And they needed changing twice a year.
Then they invented the internet. You can now look up trains from A to B and you don't have to know the route in advance. Most train companies (including SNCF) publish free leaflets showing the trains on each line. You can get these at the stations on that line. The big national timetables went the way of phone books.

Same for maps, to show every route and station they have to be very large (like the one I linked to), and you have to zoom to see the stations. SNCF claims to own 3029 stations ( https://www.sncf.com/sncv1/en/communities/stations ).

The key is to find what the station is near where you want to go. Google maps is not good for this. It shows roads and de-emphasises rail lines so you have to zoom to street level to see them. I prefer https://www.openstreetmap.org which gives rail lines and stations nearly as much emphasis as main roads.

BTW, The UK still "publishes" the complete timetable online as a set of PDF files to download, for those who prefer the old format. It is a 40MB download: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/timetabling/electronic-national-rail-timetable/

Posted by
9526 posts

I love the old timetables. Used to always have the Hungarian menetrend. Always so fun to page through and daydream about possible trips . . .