Cheap TGV, ICE, and Eurostar Tickets and Reservations via Railteam
Passengers can travel fast, cheap, and environmentally friendly on TGV, ICE, and Eurostar trains between France, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland.
High-speed trains have been traveling in European countries for around thirty years. The most famous fast trains in Europe are the French Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) and the German Inter-City-Express (ICE) trains, which also cross the borders to travel to neighboring countries. Eurostar trains provide high-speed rail links from London to Paris and other continental destinations including seasonal travel to ski resorts and the south of France. Railteam was formed to coordinate international high-speed rail travel and not only increase the speed of trains on cross border journeys but also make online bookings and reservations of rail tickets on European trains easier.
Cross-Border Railteam High-Speed Trains in Western Europe
Railteam is an alliance between DB Deutsche Bahn (Germany), SNCF (France), Eurostar (UK), NS Hispeed (Netherlands), ÖBB (Austria), SBB (Switzerland), and NMBS (Belgium). A major aim of Railteam is to increase the speed of trains, especially when advance trains such as the ICE and TGV trains cross borders to find themselves on non-dedicated high-speed railway lines.
The largest high-speed railway networks are in Germany and France. Many trains cross borders allowing for fast travel from for example Paris to Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, or Basel but true high-speed railway networks are not available for domestic travel from Geneva to Bern for example. Similarly, fast trains run from Germany to Amsterdam and Brussels and from both cities to Paris.
Railteam also pushed for integrated reservations systems. It is increasingly possible to make reservations on cross-border journeys online but this is often not possible when slower trains are used at either end of the journey.
Money-Saving Tip for Train Reservations in Europa
The best deals for cheap train travel are often only available online and explained, mostly due to the limit duration of many offers, in the national language of the particular railway operator. Although Deutsche Bahn for example has an excellent English site, which will take all price options into consideration when making reservations, it will be necessary to be able to read German to spot the real bargains – sometimes picking a different day for travel can result in huge savings. Similar savings are often advertised in French on the SCNF website but translations are not available on its Rail Europe site.
Sometimes it is cheaper to make separate reservations for different trains on the different national websites. However, in cases of delays, separate reservations will not necessarily be honored if all the trains were not booked as one journey.
High-Speed Trains in Europe
The five main hubs for high-speed rail travel in Europe are Brussels (Belgium), Lille (France), Stuttgart, Köln (Cologne), and Frankfurt am Main in Germany. Lucky are the rail enthusiast living close to any of these centers as most European high-speed rail destinations can be reached directly from these stations.
The three high-speed train systems in Railteam’s network are the TGV, ICE, and Eurostar trains:
- The French TGV trains operating in different regions have special names and different management structures although pricing and ticketing is fully integrated. Cross-border TGV trains include the TGV Thalys to Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany (Cologne and Düsseldorf), the TGV Lyria to Switzerland, and the TGV Rhealys to Luxembourg, Germany (Saarbrücken, Frankfurt, Stuttgart), and Switzerland (Basel and Zurich).
- Germany has an excellent high-speed train network with ICE trains frequently between major German cities. ICE trains offer international connections to neighboring countries with destinations including Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Basel, Zurich, Bern, and Vienna.
- Eurostar trains operate only on the line from London St Pancras International station via the Channel Tunnel to Lille and Paris in France and Brussels in Belgium. Seasonal trains are available to further destinations including the ski train to French winter sport resorts in the Alps during winter and the south of France during summer
The Spanish AVE and Italian FS high-speed railway networks are not currently part of Railteam.
Cheap High-Speed Trains vs Low-Cost Airlines in Europe
Cooperation between European high-speed railway networks are at least partly due to the competition from low-cost budget airlines during the 1990s and early years of the 21st century. Although trains cannot compete on truly long-distance travel, the increasing inconvenience of air travel, extortionist charges, and the clear environmental consequences of flying added to the popularity of trains even on routes served by low-cost airlines.
High-speed train travel between major European city centers are for example:
- Amsterdam to Brussels – 2h40
- Brussels to Paris – 1h20
- Amsterdam to Paris – 4h00
- Paris to London – 2h20
- Brussels to Cologne (Köln) – 2h20
- Brussels to Frankfurt – 3h40
- Amsterdam to Frankfurt – 4h00
- Paris to Frankfurt – 3h49
- Frankfurt to Basel – 2h50
- Frankfurt to Vienna – 6h56
- Paris to Geneva – 3h30
The current thinking is that business travelers will use a train if the journey is less than three hours and leisure travelers will easily prefer trains over planes for journeys up to five hours. Families especially prefer the more relaxed atmosphere of train travel.
The Eurostar has decimated air travel between London and Paris and London and Brussels. Other destinations such as Amsterdam and Cologne are often not only price competitive but also faster when travel time to airports from city centers and check-in times are added.