Train Providers in France

Overview and Information About All National Train Providers

History of Rail Providers in France

Though the railway system developed at a slower pace in France than other countries during the 19th century, its first line was opened in 1832. The French railway system would eventually become nationalised in the internationally recognised SNCF at the end of the 1930s. Prior to this, six large companies operated services on the network: Chemin de Fer de l'Est, Chemin de Fer du Nord, Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée, Chemin de Fer Paris-Orléans, and Chemin de Fer du Midi. With the Decree-Law of 31 August 1937, operation of the railways became nationalised by the then socialist government, creating the Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Francais (SNCF).

Major Rail Providers in France

Currently, the SNCF is the only French railway company assigned to passenger transport and operates services all across the country. Other companies operating on French territory work in partnership with the SNCF group. These include Thalys, which runs regular high-speed services between Paris and Brussels. Thalys operates as a consortium of railway companies, with 62% of its capital held by SNCF. Eurostar, which operates the services using the Channel Tunnel linking France to England, is also 55% owned by SNCF.


Operating throughout France and a couple of neighbouring countries, SNCF carries about 1 billion passengers a year. The national rail provider offers high-speed and regional journeys, using TGV, TER and Intercity trains. First Class and Second Class tickets offer passengers a choice of both luxury and value when travelling. TGV trains offering high-speed services between major cities and along the most popular routes typically have air conditioning, reclining seats, power outlets, a bar and dining car, toilets, facilities for passengers with limited mobility and Wi-Fi.

Popular Train Journeys in France

The high-speed lines are generally the most journeyed routes, carrying around 100 million passengers every year. The most popular of these is certainly the Paris-Lyon-Marseille line, linking the three largest French cities. Other popular and scenic journeys include routes to Nice, Cannes or Bordeaux. International destinations are also sought after and easily accessible from France, with popular cities including London, Brussels, Milan and Barcelona.