TGV InOui, First Class: Luxembourg via Mulhouse to Basel

I leave the Novotel Kirchberg at 10:06. My train back home doesn‘t leave until 11:24. But I figure I might as well get a move on, with my business here in Luxembourg done.

Mudam is the tram stop closest to the hotel. The next stop after that is Pfaffenthal, from where I connect onto the funicular railway.

Kirchberg is a plateau that sits just outside the city of Luxembourg, on the other side of a pretty, green valley.

Every morning, the grand duchy of Luxembourg is invaded by a whole armada of French, Belgian and German workers, causing hopless traffic jams along the Avenue JFK, Kirchberg‘s main artery.

So the Luxebourgers figured it made a lot of sense to have the commuter trains stop in Pfaffenthal, because That’s where the vast majority of people entering the city in the morning is headed anyway. And so, obviously with may more money than common sense, the station of Pfaffenthal was built halfway down the valley.

Incidentally, a Swiss company was contracted to build the funicular railway, which was designed to connect the station in the valley with the tram stop on the plateau.

The only problem with all of this, is that save for a period of an hour in the early morning and then again in the evening, the capacity of Pfaffenthal station is completely wasted. Which explains why there are so few people in my photos of the station.

Which really makes you wonder why the couldn‘t just have built a set of escalators instead? And in case you‘re wondering, the journey by funicular railway take less than a minute…

I reach the station in time for the 10:31 departure to Luxembourg main station. Quite frankly, it‘s an old and rickety looking train. But inside it looks as though the seats have been updated recently.

Although I should mention Luxembourg also has some more modern rolling stock…

At Luxembourg station I have enough time for a stop at Oberwies to get myself a coffee. The station building is not very big. After all, there‘s only ten platforms.

My train is departing from platform 7 and is already standing there when I arrive just before 11:00.

There are three first class carriages on the train, then the dining car, followed by four second class coaches. The train is empty, and pretty much stays that way all the way to Strasbourg.

Today I‘m on a single seat, which is rather pleasant if you‘re travelling on your own.

After leaving Luxembourg, the train briefly calls at Thionville, Metz, Colmar, and Strasbourg before reaching Mulhouse. The high speed sector is between Metz and Strasbourg and takes about 40 minutes. Other than that though, the train goes at a more moderate speed. Furthermore, the line is very busy with other trains, causing the TGV to slow down or stop often.

We pull into Mulhouse station at 13:52, with a delay of two minutes. It‘s only when viewed in the broad daylight that one becomes fully aware of just how run down and old the station in Mulhouse is…

My next connection from Mulhouse to Basel is at 14:19. Unfortunately, it‘s this puny little TER train, which doesn‘t even have a first class section. The train stops eight times on its way from Mulhouse to Basel.

I arrive back in Basel at 14:50. By 14:58 I‘m already back at home, after a door-to-door journey time of 4 hours and 52 minutes.

In summary, while I think the TGV is really good fun, very impressive and certainly a very good option for trips to Paris, I‘m not convinced about taking the TGV to Luxembourg. First of all, the high speed sector, for which the TGV has its own dedicated tracks, is rather short. Which means that for most of the journey, the TGV is more or less stop-starting with the other trains on the line. By the time we‘d reached Mulhouse today, we‘d already picked up a delay of 10 minutes. Furthermore, I do think they could coordinate the trains a bit better for a smoother connection in Mulhouse, which could then even bring down the journey time to under three hours.

Because I live in Basel, my journey today by TGV was pretty much the same duration as it would normally take me by plane to Zürich and then to catch a train home to Basel. But if I‘d been travelling from Winterthur, where I work, the journey by train would have been longer than by plane.

And finally, there‘s also the issue of the schedule. With my train leaving at 11:24 today, there wasn‘t really any time to go to the office in Luxembourg in the morning. There is wifi on the train, but I couldn‘t connect to that. If there were a train that left after 15h, then at least you‘d get a half day in the office. But like this, I basically spent money for a hotel room in Luxembourg only to catch a train this morning.

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