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I'm generally not a huge fan of rail replacement buses, and try to avoid them where possible. Recently, I've been looking at some French train travel, and bus journeys seem to keep creeping into the results.

Try as I might, I can't seem to get the usual suspects (Loco2, RailEurope / Voyages-SNCF etc) to allow me to exclude buses from my search. They all seem to take the view "if it has a SNCF number it's shown", train or bus. All the results seem to look the same until you get into the journey details, where Loco2 do at least flag up clearly that there's a bus involved, but none of them seem to let me exclude those to focus on just the pure-train results.

Is it possible to do a search online for French rail journeys, and have the options restricted to just actual trains?

Edit Just to clarify, these aren't on routes where no trains run, these are on smaller routes with multiple services per day, some of which are trains, some of which are SNCF operated buses. I wish to exclude this SNCF bus options from the results, such as in the screenshot below only having results 2 and 4 but not 1 and 3:

SNCF Booking page with buses and trains

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5 Answers 5

For searching train schedules across Europe in general, and in particular for such tricky requests, I always rely on the German Railways, the Deutsche Bahn.

I tried some request for a trip between Lyon and Grenoble. The standard search includes buses and there is a late bus from Lyon to Grenoble, leaving at 11.14 PM.

Now if you start a new search with more options, in the Connections category, you can choose the means of transport you accept. You can untick the bus box like in the screenshot and the result of the search will exclude the buses.

screenshot of the Connections options of Deutsche Bahn search

Unfortunately this is only for the schedules. If you want to buy the tickets you will have to go on voyages-sncf.com and compare the options.

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The French railway network has suffered from underinvestment during the previous years and is now undergoing extensive repairs. Logically, when track repairs happen, depending on the cases, trains are delayed in the schedules or bus bridges are set up.

In your case, the line used is a "small" regional line, with no other through traffic. This line begins at Toulouse, then forks off the westwards line to Bayonne, continuing all the way to Auch which is a dead-end station. From the forking point to Auch, it is a single-track railway without overhead wires. Services are done using small diesel units.

According to the screenshot, the 4:15pm option happens when part of the line is likely closed for scheduled repairs or maintenance, or there is no train already arrived at Auch ready to go back to Toulouse at that time of the day. Railway scheduling is a science on its own, especially on a single-track line where trains in opposite directions have to cross at designated places! The same situation can happen on some similar dead-end lines.

There is no option to exclude the bus bridge options AFAIK. Just review the other times and pick the one that suits you!

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There's no option on the SNCF website, but I'm hoping that these days with the various other companies with access to the data feeds, at least one of them will have done a search which supports it. The websites all know it's a bus...! –  Gagravarr May 16 at 17:33

As far as I know, Capitaine Train does train-only searches across France (and a few other countries like UK, Germany etc.).
It probably has the best UX/UI of any transport tickets purchase website too, so it should be quite pleasant to use.

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Nope - just tried, and they still shows SNCF buses in the results :( –  Gagravarr May 15 at 6:52
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Indeed I doubt they restrict to trains, since their goal is to offer as much as possible, including iDBus, which are international buses. The question focused on buses run by the SNCF to replace/complement its train network anyway. –  Vince May 15 at 6:57

Unfortunatelly, on some connections where railroads don't exist or are under repair, or when traffic would be too expensive by train, SNCF operates busses.

This is indicated on paper-based timetables but is not always transmitted to databases or taken into account by applications using these databases.

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There are some routes where some services are buses while some services are trains. I wish to exclude the bus options for these. The databases know it's a bus, and display it as such, I just don't want them in the results! –  Gagravarr May 16 at 12:56

I am a bit surprised that www.voyages-sncf.com does not help you. There are two different tabs for trains and buses. If you choose the train tab, you get train results... It may be that, if there is no train that reaches your destination, he proposes as an alternative a bus. But this is not the case when train is possible.

EDIT: it seems that for your travel, he indeed proposes bus, even if it is the train tab. It is probably because of a combination of short travel, small town (Auch), in order to offer more choices. And even on my version of the interface (french), no way to disable bus offer. For longer travels, between larger cities, he should not offer you bus options.

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For several searches I've tried, it offers a mixture of options, some train, some SNCF operated bus. I want to be able to exclude the SNCF buses from the results –  Gagravarr May 15 at 10:11
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SNCF uses buses when there is no railway or not enough people to justify a train, or simply construction. The tab you are talking about is for IDBUS, another product (international buses) offered by SNCF. –  Vince May 15 at 12:22
    
SNCF also have some routes where they run both buses and trains, same route, same day, just a mixture. It's these where I want to exclude them –  Gagravarr May 16 at 12:57

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