Despite some clear improvements in service, the SNCF still attracts quite a lot of hostile comment. As we noted earlier, it’s now offering a Garantie voyage to passengers using the TGV, Intercity trains and international services. This covers such things as information, refunds, punctuality and assistance to passengers. To take two of these points: for cancellations and delays of over an hour passengers can claim an immediate refund in cash; a serious effort is being made to improve the quality of information available to travellers, including that given by audio announcements. In future these announcements will be made live by specially trained staff. Those currently in use are recorded in Paris and can surprise, as with references to B.O. (that’s right: Biot).
To find out more, visit the English section of the SNCF website at http://www.sncf.com. And if you want to make a claim with SNCF, see "After Sales Service" at the bottom of the page.
Worth noting: the rail link between Marseille St Charles and Aix-en-Provence has been upgraded (frequency, length of journey, rolling stock) and this makes a side trip to that attractive university city much easier. Marseille itself has had an extensive facelift in preparation for next year when it becomes European Capital of Culture. Worth a visit maybe now before the crowds arrive (up to 3 million visitors are expected in 2013).
Talking of rail travel, the UK has the distinction of offering the EU’s highest train fares along with some lousy service. So what about those intercity buses, National Express, especially? Much cheaper than the train. Well, that’s soon to be less true for some people. In October the government is scrapping the subsidy which has allowed reduced fares for oldies. Start saving, gran, and take a train in 2014.