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Why are reservation fees for TGV so expensive?

This is my second or third time using a Eurail pass for travel in Europe. It may be the last time I do so. It seems to me that some countries are eager to take part and others are not. We bought a France-Switzerland select pass and quickly found out that reservations on TGV runs are expensive.

Take for example the Lyria from Paris to Basel. The reservation fees for one ticket runs at a whopping $100 per ticket. So for my family of four that would be $400 on top of my rail pass. I am pretty confident that I could simply purchase tickets for that run for roughly the same cost as the reservations.

Why is it that if I travel in Switzerland or Germany with the rail pass I can simply board virtually ANY train and travel to my destination - no reservations required. I don't mind paying a reservation fee, but some of the rates for TGV are a money-grab, plain and simple.

And please don't suggest I can take none TGV options for the same journey....sure, this is true, but often at twice the time. Many of the runs in France previously serviced by conventional IC trains are now serviced by only TGV, so you are virtually bound to play the reservation scam game.

I do not blame RailEurope for this, but mainly SNCF. Perhaps they do not feel being part of this program is worth it, in which case it might be time for RailEurope to end ties with SNCF. France is a lovely country, but it just does not seem to make sense to use a rail pass if traveling in this country.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) August 26, 2015 18:47
    Hi Matt.

    It is true that reservation costs can run higher on certain trains, including the 'TGV Lyria' trains. However, that does not mean that rail passes are never the most economical option for itineraries involving any 'TGV Lyria' trains. The most economical option for an itinerary depends on the specific itinerary itself. For certain itineraries, even some including France and/or those high-speed trains with higher reservation costs, a rail pass can still work out to be the most economical option.

    There have been many instances when travelers have booked point-to-point tickets for all their trips only to learn later on that a rail pass would've been significantly more economical. For certain itineraries, regular point-to-point tickets would be the least expensive option; for others, a rail pass and reservations would be the least expensive option. That is why we encourage comparing both options before deciding on what to purchase. Our website is unique in that it does offer both choices.

    On most reservable trains in Europe, the 'Passholder' rates (reservation costs) range between $4 and $25 per person (but are usually $11 to $13 per person). However, the Passholder rates on certain trains, such as the 'TGV Lyria' and 'Thalys' trains, can be higher than the standard reservation fees on reservable trains throughout most of Europe. Reservation costs on overnight trains also run higher than than the standard reservation fees for day trains, since it would be space in an actual sleeping compartment being reserved.

    The 'TGV' itself (the actual domestic high-speed trains operating within France; different from the 'TGV Lyria') is actually an example of a train that offers passholder reservations at the standard reservation cost of only about $11 to $13 per person.

    SNCF is the national rail network of France, so there would be no way for any vendor to sell rail tickets on their trains without having ties with them.
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  • Our reservation fee was 18 Euro from Strasbourg to Paris, not too bad I suppose other than there were people in our seats! I think what irks many is that increasingly trains that were once standard routes are now "special" and fall outside of RailEurope pass catchment. Yes, they are newer, nicer, faster, etc....but often have replaced the previous EC option.

    And $100 reservation rate is for TGV Lyria is not just "higher", but highway robbery. SNCF should just come out and say we don't wish to accept Passholders.

    What I meant was, SNCF may wish to go with their own railpass structure, or opt out altogether, because they're not winning many over with the reservation fees.

    Thanks for the reply. Again, I don't blame RailEurope, but I do blame SNCF.
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) August 26, 2015 21:22
    You're welcome, Matt.

    It is true that many cities, especially in Western Europe, are connected almost exclusively by high-speed trains on which reservations would usually be required.

    It is also true, as you stated in your initial post, that any (non-reservable) regional trains operating along the same routes as high-speed trains would typically take significantly longer.

    The reservation costs on domestic 'TGV' trains (SNCF's high-speed train) are actually pretty standard in relation to other reservable trains. It is the internationally operating high-speed trains between France and bordering countries that typically run higher (i.e. the 'TGV Lyria', the 'Thalys', the 'France-Spain High Speed', and the 'France-Italy TGV'). The reservation costs on trains like the 'TGV Lyria' and the 'Thalys' may be higher than that of other reservable trains, but that still doesn't mean rail passes should always be ruled out as options for itineraries that include those trains. It always depends on the itinerary.

    All I'd be able to recommend is to look into all options available to you. You've already conveyed that you're educated on this subject, but travelers in general shouldn't always go right to purchasing a rail pass without first looking into the option of regular tickets. We encourage comparing both options.
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