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Don’t miss your train to the slopes

Posted on 11 December 2017

Travelling to the Alps by train allows passengers to sit back, relax and take in the stunning French landscape as it hurtles past their window. While trying to resist a smug smile as their mind wanders to the skiers queuing up at airports, cooped up on transfers or seven hours into their mammoth drive to the mountains. But there is a potential hiccup in your seemingly well-laid plans if you fail to account for your connection in Paris.

TGV high-speed train in Gare de Lyon station. Will you get there on time? (Mikhailo / Shutterstock.com)

Typically train travel from Britain to the French Alps consists of taking the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord, before hiking across the French capital to catch a TGV train from Paris Gare de Lyon to the Alps. This section of the journey requires you to navigate the Metro system or jump in a taxi through the busy Parisian traffic, and is often overlooked by travellers.

To ensure your train trip to the slopes is hassle-free, you must give yourself enough time to make your connection. Problems arise when booking your train journey online, because you might end up purchasing a ticket that doesn’t allow you enough time to make it across the city – despite more suitable connection times being available.

For example, anyone booking a train from London to the Tarentaise valley – home to Les Arcs and Val d’Isere – will be offered the Eurostar from London St Pancras at 08:31, arriving at Paris Gare du Nord at 11:47, and a TGV connection from Paris Gare de Lyon at 12:45. This leaves just 58 minutes for you to get from one station to another – they are approximately 4.5 kilometres apart.

To avoid a mad dash across Paris all you would need to do is take the 07:52 Eurostar instead of the 08:31, leaving you with a far more comfortable connection time of 88 minutes. The only problem is websites such as Eurostar, Voyages SNCF, Loco2 and Trainline fail to provide this option to you, due to the online booking algorithm that has been set by a US-based company on behalf of the National Society of French Railways. Consequently, travellers often unwittingly book these 58 minute connections or in some cases even tighter connections of 54 minutes.

Now you have been given the heads up you can rest assured you won’t have any trouble making your connection by either contacting the booking providers directly – if possible – or by booking the Eurostar and TGV legs separately online. Although the latter may mean you may miss out on the discounted composite ‘Connection fares’ that are offered when booking two high-speed trains on one ticket.

If you’re hopping on a train to view properties in the French Alps this winter, download the France Buying Guide by clicking here.

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