TGV Lyria, First Class: Basel to Paris

I‘m on my way to Paris. I have a meeting with ICAO at their regional head office for Europe and the North Atlantic. Instead of taking the plane, this time round I‘ve decided to take the train. Basel has the luxury of currently four daily TGV connections to Paris Gare de Lyon. The fabulous TGV makes the journey in just over three hours, making the journey from door to door slightly faster than taking a plane.

I leave my flat on the square in front of the main railway station at 16:20. My train will be departing at 16:34. After a really bad heatwave at the beginning of July, it‘s cooled down considerably here in Switzerland. Most days it rains. But I‘m not complaining!
I make a brief stop at the Confiserie Bachman to pick up a Schoggi Weggli, a delectable chocolate bun with chunky pieces of dark chocolate, and a coffee to tie me over until I reach Paris.
My train will depart from track 5. Basel‘s main railway station has a Swiss and a French sector. But because the TGV to Paris originates from Zurich, it arrives and departs from the Swiss sector.
The train is not very busy today. Presumably because of the summer holidays.
The route between Basel and Paris is operated by TGV Lyria, which is a joint venture between the Swiss Federal Railways SBB and the French State Railways SNCF. On the outside the trains are branded accordingly, but inside it‘s just a regular TGV. Starting in December, the line will switch to double decker trains on all services, which will significantly increase capacity on the route.
On the TGV there are usually three classes: Economy, First, and Business Class. The latter is located in car 11, which is the first passenger car of the train. There is no difference in terms of seats between First and Business Class. But in Business Class you also get complimentary drinks and food served at your seat. However, between 15 July and the end of August, the Business Class service is suspended due to lack of demand.
Of course, there’s still also the bistro car between First and Economy Class.
The seat pitch is very good and there‘s also a footrest with adjustable height available. Every seat has a European standard electric power plug. There is currently no wifi available on these trains, although from what I understand, that may change with the introduction of the new trains in December.

The train pulls into the Gare de Lyon four minutes ahead of schedule and I must say, I‘m very impressed. First of all, the TGV really is a beast. When it reaches its normal cruising speed, you literally feel as though you‘re flying over the rails. But apart from that, the train is comfortable and the views outside help pass the time. Best of all though, thirty minutes after arriving at Gare de Lyon, I‘m already at my hotel near the Porte Maillot, close to ICAO.

The TGV, and high speed trains in general, are seriously underrated, me thinks. But they are also usually state run companies that tend to be slow to embrace new business opportunities and cooperate with other railway companies across borders. I travel to Luxembourg very often for work. Currently, there is no direct train from Basel to Luxembourg, and the shortest travel time between the two cities is more than four hours and requires two changes. If there were a direct train, I‘d definitely be willing to shift from planes to ground based transport. Until then, SWISS it shall be…

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6 Responses to TGV Lyria, First Class: Basel to Paris

  1. wwk5d says:

    “There is no difference in terms of seats between First and Business Class. But in Business Class you also get complimentary drinks and food served at your seat.”

    But…not in First? That seems strange.

    Good report, though a few more cabin pics would have been welcome, as would mentioning the toilet facilities for first passengers…

    Also, minor typo:

    “First of all, the TGV really is a best.”

  2. Jorge Teixeira says:

    Thank you for another great post, this time quite exotic indeed… I do hope, like you, that underrated train transportation will get a boost some time in the (near) future, and many European train companies need to invest in renovation and marketing!
    Anyway, on a constructive note, I suggest you correct this typo “cooperate with other railway companies across boarders”, thus making your post spotless 🙂

    • Hi Jorge,
      Thanks for the feedback. I‘ve corrected the typo.
      I agree the railways need better marketing. But also better sales. It can be rather tedious on longer journeys to have to buy separate tickets for every individual sector of the way.

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