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Train Systems

France Train and Transport System

We will take a closer look at the French train transport system and how to find your way around to answer your questions. If the answer to your question isn't here, please get in touch.

Q: How do I find my way around the France train system?
A: Watch this informative video for travelling by train when only speaking English:


Q: What are the different train networks in France?
A: There are 7 different train networks. Most leave from all 6 mainline train stations in Paris. These are:

  1. European Trains: Regular trains, Night Trains to all over Europe departing from France.
  2. TGV trains: High speed trains – These lines have special well-known names:
  3. Corail trains: National lines where there is generally no TGV. The Corail runs between some of the major cities but is mainly available for traveling to Picardie, Nord Pas-de-Calais, Normandie, East, Centre Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées and the Auvergne. A newer generation of rolling stock called Corail Téoz is replacing the former stock. It offers more comfort and more service.
  4. Ter: “Transport Exprès Régional” Express Regional Transport. Trains operated by the SNCF in conjunction with the 26 regions of France for shorter local train travel.
  5. Paris Suburban lines: “Réseau Banlieu SNCF”: into the suburbs up to about 100 km around Paris.
  6. Paris RER: “Réseau Express Regional” – Regional Express Network. Click here for a map and instructions. This includes Major Stops in Paris and out into the suburbs. These lines are always designated by a capital letter and associated with a colour. There itinerary is indicated by the two terminus stations at each end of the run. Each RER can have various branch lines.
    • Line A – Cergy le Haut, Poissy and St Germain en Laye <> Boissy St Leger and Marne la Vallee-Chessy
    • Line B – St Remy les Chevreuse and Robinson <> Mitry-Claye and Airport Charles de Gaulle
    • Line C – St Quentin en Yvelines, Versailles RG, Argenteuil and Pontoise <> Versailles Chantiers, Massy-Palaiseau, Dourdan and St Martin d’Etampes
    • Line D – Orry la Ville-Coye (and Creil) <> Melun and Corbeil-Essonnes (and Malesherbes)
    • Line E – Hausmann-St Lazare <> Tournan en Brie and Chelles-Gournay
  7. Paris Metro: “Metropolitain” mainly underground train in Paris but also reaching out to surban cities generally sharing a common border with Paris. These lines are always designated by a number and associated with a colour. Click here for details, a map and instructions.
    • Line 1 – La Défense <> Château de Vincennes
    • Line 2 – Porte Dauphine <> Nation
    • Line 3 – Pont de Levallois-Bécon <> Gallieni
    • Line 3bis – Gambetta <> Porte des Lilas
    • Line 4 – Porte de Clignancourt <> Porte d’Orléans
    • Line 5 – Place d’Italie <> Bobigny-Pablo Picasso
    • Line 6 – Charles de Gaulle-Étoile <> Nation
    • Line 7 – Villejuif-Louis Aragon/Mairie d’Ivry <> La Courneuve-8 Mai 1945
    • Line 7bis – Louis Blanc <> Pré-Saint-Gervais
    • Line 8 – Balard <> Créteil-Préfecture
    • Line 9 – Pont de Sèvres <> Mairie de Montreuil
    • Line 10 – Boulogne-Pont de Saint-Cloud <> Gare d’Austerlitz
    • Line 11 – Châtelet <> Mairie des Lilas
    • Line 12 – Mairie d’Issy <> Porte de La Chapelle
    • Line 13 – Châtillon-Montrouge <> Gabriel Péri-Asnières-Gennevilliers/Saint Denis-Université
    • Line 14 – Saint-Lazare <> Bibliothèque François Mitterrand

Q: How do I read the schedules boards at stations?
A: The type of signboard below is found in the main station and displays departures and arrivals. The one below is for departures:

train-infoboard

Departure time is in the left column (18:27 = 6:27pm), then intermediary stops and final destination (Laroche-Migennes). Followed by the type of train (TER), its Number (91021 – which will be on your ticket) and finally the departure platform. (15 – which can be a number or a letter).

Notice that platform numbers for departures are only posted 20 minutes BEFORE departure (the 18:50 departure for Nice-Ville is not yet posted on the board below).


Q: What do the different signs and symbols mean?
A:
The sign-board below, generally found in the main stations, gives basic indications. Most of it is readily understandable and even translated into English.
general-direction-board
RER
Lines A and D Notice the colored circles that identify each line
Metro Lines 1 and 14 Notice the colored circles that identify each line
Just follow the arrow.

This sign also gives us Bus info with the bus numbers.

paris-rer-metro-board
RER
Line A with each terminus station
Metro 1 and 14 again with each terminus station

Notice with RER line A that it actually gives you 5 (five) stations. That is because there are branch lines. Two stations are East of Paris: Boissy Saint Leger and Marne La Vallee-Chessy (which is where Disneyland is), and three stations are West of Paris: Saint Germain en Laye, Cergy-Prefecture and Poissy. Click here for a RER map and detailed instructions.

 

The point is… for any station IN Paris you can get on any of these trains. BUT, for specific stations OUTSIDE of Paris you MUST board the proper branch line. The picture below shows an overhead sign with little white markers to the left of the stations where the train STOPS.

paris-rer
This is a poorly lit picture of an overhead sign for the RER Line D (top left hand corner). Notice the little WHITE SQUARES in the left column. When a white square is lit/marked that means the RER stops ONLY at these marked stations.

So, check the overhead signs before you embark. Notice that each RER also has a name (“ZYCK” in this case). These names correspond to a set itinerary. If you use the train system often… all you need to know is the name of your train. Especially handy when you arrive on the platform just before the doors are about to close. A quick peek at the name… and you know if it’s your train or not.

 

The Metro has similar signs but, of course, they stop at EVERY station. There’s an itinerary list of all the stations on a given Line both in the stations and above each door in each coach of every metro.

paris-metro-board

Metro 5 and 8 with each terminus station.
For instance, if your destination station is between the station where you are and Bobigny… then you need to get on the Metro for Bobigny.

 

 

 

Below is the typical Metro sign that you’ll see around Paris indicating the presence of a Metro station. Click here for details, a map of all the stations and more detailed travel instructions.
paris-metro-ext


Useful Links:
Trains in France
Travelling around Paris Information
Paris Metro Information
Paris RER Information

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