After a wonderful 17 days of travelling across 4 different countries in a whole bunch of different trains, it was time to board my last 3 trains and return home.
As I had stayed the night at the InterContinental Genève, I took bus line 5 from the hotel doorstep to the main station, Genève Cornavin. Just like in Basel the train tracks for the France bound trains are separated from the rest of the station by a border control and customs facility (as we now travel back into the EU and the Shengen area). If you travel towards France it is advised to be on time in the station, about 30 minutes before departure, to allow for plenty of time in case there are queues and checks in place.
I took the 9:38 TGV Lyria service bound for Paris Gare de Lyon. Lyria is a Corporation owned by SNCF (74%) and SBB CFF FFS (26%) and is in charge for all TGV services in between France and Switzerland.
My train was formed by 2 TGV POS units, these are owned by Lyria and thus sport the Lyria livery and logos. They were originally built for TGV services between Paris and Germany but where quickly superseded by double-deck TGV duplex there because of lack of capacity and subsequently transferred to Lyria to replace their ageing fleet of TGV SE units.
While most TGV Lyria services are operated by their own TGV POS units, some routes (like Paris <> Zurich and Geneva <> Marseille) and some of the busier departures are operated by leased SNCF TGV duplex units in standard SNCF outfit. The TGV POS units are decorated in the same “Lacroix” styling as the TGV Reseau (like used on Belgium <> France routes) and TGV Atlantique trainsets after the refurbishment in the 2000’s.
Their interior design is not very popular because of their weird seat design and inverse use of colours (traditionally 1st class uses warmer, red colours while 2nd class uses a colder blue, green and grey palette while in the Lacroix units it’s the other way around).
The TGV left Switzerland on time and uses the double track line towards Lyon until Bellegarde. Here we still see a mountainous landscape and cross several tunnels and viaducts. After a brief wait to enter the station of Bellegarde we made our first and only stop of this train in the station. After the stop the train continued over the “Ligne de haute-Bugey” which was closed in 1990 for all traffic and only reopened after a full renovation and electrification in 2010 to allow for a faster journey time for TGV Lyria services between Paris and Geneva.
Compared to the old route over Culoz and Amberieu there has been a reduction of 20 minutes travel time. The line is single tracked and features some stunning civil engineering works and scenery, running along some lakes for parts of the journey. In Bourg-en-Bresse the train joins the old mainline before switching over to the LGV Sud-Est at Macon.
Once we reached the LGV, the speed picked up and we raced down toards Paris at 300 km/h while the landscape became flatter and more boring the further we drove. After exiting the high-speed line we meandered a bit in the suburbs of Paris passing by freight yards and maintenance depots before ending our journey in the famous Gare de Lyon.
As my connecting Thalys left from the Gare du Nord I still had to cross Paris. Luckily the Gare de Lyon and gare du Nord are connected by a direct RER line, Line D only stops once in Chatelet-les-Halles providing for a fast transfer. The line D is operated by an older generation of double-decker stock, sporting the previous very colourful livery for Île-de-France.
Arriving in planet of time to catch my Thalys to Antwerp, I still had time to visit the Thalys lounge. As I was travelling in Premium my ticket allowed entrance to the lounge, where you could grab a coffee or a tea and some cakes or biscuits. There was also complimentary wiFi, newspapers, magazines and toilets. The Lounge is not located in the station itself but rather in a building next door, across the street where the Taxis are parked, in the so called “Thalys and More Store”.
About 15 minutes before departure I headed back to the station where the usual crowd was already anxiously awaiting till the platform number of the train was announced. As soon as the number was known, the entire mass stormed the platform entrance and while there was a security check facility before entering the platform only some people were selected for a screening while the rest of us could just walk past.
As the train was operated by a double unit I had to walk all the way to the front and the rear unit only went as far as Brussels. When I got to the front there was no second unit in sight, fearing the worst I was relieved when in the end a second unit destined for Amsterdam did show up and coupled onto the Brussels bound unit. After the staff had boarded and the catering was loaded we were also allowed to board the train.
Despite leaving a few minutes behind schedule due to the late arrival of the Amsterdam unit we did had a smooth and fast journey and an on time arrival into Antwerp. On the way I was still served a small savoury snack which was tasty, but the white wine I selected with it was not such a success.
After 17 days of travelling, for a big part on my own, I was happy to be arriving back home. I had a wonderful time abroad, experiencing a lot of new things and places but next time I would prefer to have Timothy partake in the adventure again.