National train services in France are provided by Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF). The French railway network is the second largest in all of Europe, with 18,152 miles of track. Of those, 9,408 miles are electrified and 1,166 miles are high speed lines for use by the TGV. The network connects with all of France’s neighbors with the exception of Andorra.
The TGV, an acronym standing for train à grande vitesse (high speed train in French), is the high speed train service operated by the French Railroad company, SNCF. Service began in 1981 between Paris and Lyon. Today, there are 8 high speed lines in service, on which the TGV trains operate at speeds of up to 300 KPH (186 MPH) on tracks that no conventional trains use. There are over 400 TGV trainsets of varying types, and the designs of high speed trains in many other countries are derived from the TGV.
TER, which stands for Transport Express Régional, is the service brand for SNCF services that are operated within a single administrative region of France. TER was established in 1984 to provide a framework for the regional management of train services. In recent years, train routes, schedules, and fares have been made by SNCF in conjunction with regional governments.
The Saint-Gervais-Vallorcine Railway is a single track 22.7 mile long narrow gauge line from Saint-Gervais-les-Bains - Le Fayet to Le Chatelard Frontière via Chamonix. The line carries about 500,000 passengers each year, with as few as 500 a day during the low season and 10,000 a day during the high season.
Thalys is the name for the international high speed rail services that operate between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Cologne. Thalys trains are jointly owned and operated by SNCF (France), NMBS/SNCB (Belgium), Deutsche Bahn (Germany), and Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Netherlands). The trains themselves are TGV trains, modified to handle the different power voltages on each country's tracks. PBA trainsets are modified TGV Réseau trainsets and can only operate between Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam. PBKA trainsets are single level TGV Duplex trainsets and can operate to all Thalys destinations. The acronyms that form the train type names originate with the cities that each trainset can serve. Thalys services began on June 2, 1996.
Eurostar is the high speed service that is jointly operated by the British, French, and Belgian rail systems, operating between London and Paris and Brussels via the Channel Tunnel. Service began on November 14, 1994, operating from London-Waterloo to Paris Gare du Nord. Service was later added from London to Brussels South Station (Bruxelles-Midi/Brussel-Zuid). On November 14, 2007, the London terminal was moved to St. Pancras Station, following the completion of the High Speed 1 line. Formerly, Eurostar trains used conventional tracks in England, which resulted in a slower trip. Currently, a nonstop trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris takes 2:15, and a nonstop London to Brussels trip takes 1:51.