News: Head to the Med for less

The best deals, the latest hot spots and what's new in travel
Click to follow
The Independent Travel

French Railways has started aggressively to promote its cut-price deals for its train à grande vitesse (TGVs), with a new website: www.tgv.co.uk. The site, which is run by SNCF's British subsidiary, Rail Europe, is selling the 500-mile journey from Paris to Marseille for £15 each way. Short-term deals from the French capital to other destinations are also available; past candidates have included Paris to Grenoble at £15. Other bargains on the website include Lille to Bordeaux for £19 each way.

French Railways has started aggressively to promote its cut-price deals for its train à grande vitesse (TGVs), with a new website: www.tgv.co.uk. The site, which is run by SNCF's British subsidiary, Rail Europe, is selling the 500-mile journey from Paris to Marseille for £15 each way. Short-term deals from the French capital to other destinations are also available; past candidates have included Paris to Grenoble at £15. Other bargains on the website include Lille to Bordeaux for £19 each way.

As The Independent has reported, cut-price deals on the core Paris-Marseille route have been available for more than a year through the French domestic website www.sncf.fr - though knowledge of French is required. The new site is much more straightforward, and has some bargains that actually undercut those available to travellers in France.

For travellers who are flexible enough to take advantage of the lowest fares, and who can find a London-Paris return ticket for £59 return, the new site reduces the total cost of a London-Marseille return trip to £89. This undercuts the lowest rate available from Eurostar, and is - in real terms - an historic low for rail travel between Britain and the Mediterranean.

A series of test bookings, however, reveals that many of the cheap seats are sold out shortly after they go on sale, which is 60 days before departure. As with airlines, once the cheapest tickets have sold out, fares rise - apparently in increments of £15, judging from our tests.

To benefit from these low fares, you must buy at least two weeks ahead of travel. If you fail to make this deadline, other fares are available on the website.

* French Railways is quietly changing its approach for long-distance non-TGV services. The organisation is gradually refurbishing its "classic" Corail carriages - the standard long-distance rolling stock - and re-branding them as Téoz. Standards of comfort are higher, but the ability to travel on any train without formality is being withdrawn: as with TGVs, you must have a reservation.

Another trend is towards using standard seating carriages for long-distance overnight journeys such as Paris to Lourdes or Nice to Toulouse. These are usually available at lower cost than day services, but must be reserved in advance. They are not replacing the traditional couchettes (low-cost bunk beds) - indeed, the rolling stock serving the key Paris-Nice link has been refurbished.

Rail Europe (08705 848 848; www.tgv.co.uk)

Comments