This is a look at your chances of having issues due to delays on rail lines with the national operator SNCF in France and what to do if they occur.
We have separately covered how to book French train tickets and what to know about French train strikes.
This article gets updates from real, sweaty, human travel writers
The Likelihood of French Trains Suffering Delays
The percent of French SNCF trains that arrive with a delay of less than 15 minutes is at 87%, according to a study released in 2022 (read here about it in French).
So 13% of French trains are delayed by 15 minutes or more.
This represents an increase in lateness over the decades since the 1950s. Le Figaro says that the causes include an aging rail network that needs to support more trains and more passengers and does so with less staff—noting that the long lines at ticket windows are “only the tip of the iceberg” showing the problem.
While this is less than ideal, note that flying is much worse. Over half of all European flights suffered delays in the summer of 2022.
Determining if a Scheduled Train Will Be Late
The SNCF has a simple, functional page with real time information on trains. You’ll need your train number as shown on your ticket, the date, and your departure and destination points.
What to Do When You Risk Missing a Connection Due to a Delayed Train
First, keep in mind that it really only takes a few minutes to walk from one platform to another to catch your train in most stations.
If your train is running late and you will miss a connection, seek help from staff on the train as soon as possible. As our resident train ticket inspector points out, those working on trains want to help you (especially if you’re polite and calm) and are likely to have the knowledge to help you figure out a workaround.
The best way to find staff is generally to walk towards the back of the train.
Also pay attention to train announcements for information.
Getting Reimbursed When Your SNCF Train Is Late
If your train is over 30 minutes late—and the factors behind the delay are the fault of the SNCF as decided by the SNCF—you should in theory be eligible for a reimbursement.
Wherever you purchased your ticket, you’ll need to deal with SNCF’s site in order to request the reimbursement.
Go to the SNCF customer service’s delayed train page, choose the type of train and service that you were on, and fill out the form.
Many people complain about the reimbursement process on Twitter; my own experience of this was not at all good. Give it a shot, but don’t get your hopes up. We’d appreciate hearing how it goes in the comments and any advice to other travelers delayed by the SNCF.
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You should point out you need a printer to use Trainline in France. Not ideal when travelling.
I don’t know about other apps.
Hi Chris, you don’t need a printer, whether using Trainline or SNCF Connect to purchase tickets online. You can display the tickets on your phone or mobile device (what I usually do) or print them from machines in train stations using your booking reference. There is more on showing your tickets in this article on booking train tickets in France. Have a great trip!