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I may want to travel from the Netherlands to Latour-de-Carol, in southern France, by taking the Eurostar from Amsterdam to Paris, then the Intercités de Nuit to Latour-de-Carol. This is offered as an option on SNCF Connect, and can be booked in one go.

The connection time in Paris is about 1-2 hours, which makes it easy to miss the connection if the Eurostar train has a significant delay. What rights do I have as a passenger? Especially considering that, while these tickets are booked together, they have different operators.

I recall that, in the opposite direction, a delay can entitle you to board any later Eurostar train on the same day. That is of course not possible with a night train that departs once a day.

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Our good friends at the European Commission tell us, on the Rail Passengers Rights website, that if you miss your connection:

If you have a through-ticket for a train journey that involves one or more train connections (to reach your final destination) and you miss your connection(s), and it is expected that you will arrive at your final destination with a delay of 60 minutes or more due to this missed connection, you have the right to:

  • a refund of your ticket within 30 days – this may be a full or partial refund (covering the part of the journey not made), and a return journey to your initial point of departure, if the delay due to the missed connection prevents you from fulfilling the purpose of your trip, or
  • continuing or re-routing your journey under comparable conditions to reach your final destination at the earliest opportunity, at no additional cost, or
  • continuing or re-routing your journey at a later date of your choosing under comparable conditions, at no additional cost. This includes alternative transport to get you to your final destination when the train is blocked and the service is suspended.

Assistance and alternative arrangements

If your rail service has a delay at departure or arrival of 60 minutes or more, you are entitled to assistance in the form of meals and refreshments (proportionate to the waiting time). You also have a right to a hotel or other accommodation – where and when physically possible - if you have to stay overnight or an additional stay is necessary due to the missed connection. This includes a right to transport between the hotel/accommodation and the station.

Your rights in the event of a missed connection apply if you have a through-ticket for your train journey. You should be informed before purchasing your ticket (or tickets) if the ticket is a through-ticket. If you are travelling on individual tickets these rights do not apply but there might be arrangements in place between your railway company and other railway companies to ensure the continuation of your journey in the event of a missed connection (e.g. “Hop on the next available train” (HOTNAT) or the “Agreement on Journey Continuation” (AJC)).

If you are informed at departure that your train will arrive at your final destination with a delay of 60 minutes or more, the railway company may allow you, upon request, to make your own alternative travel arrangements with other transport service providers (including rail and other modes of transport) which enable you to reach your final destination under comparable conditions. In this case, the railway company will reimburse the costs you incurred.

However, if the railway company does not inform you of the available re-routing options within 100 minutes of the scheduled departure of the delayed train, you are entitled to make your own alternative travel arrangements without the agreement of the railway company with other public transport services i.e. rail, coach or bus. The railway company must then reimburse the necessary, appropriate and reasonable costs that you incurred making these alternative arrangements.

Even if you decide to continue your journey as planned or accept alternative transport to your destination, you may also be entitled to compensation if your arrival is delayed 60 minutes or more. Note that national rules in some EU countries may grant more favourable re-routing conditions to passengers.

Compensation – delay due to a missed connection

  • 25% of the ticket price if the delay is between 1 and 2 hours
  • 50% of the ticket price if the delay is more than 2 hours

You will not receive compensation if:

  • you were informed of a delay before you bought your ticket the delay due to continuing your journey with a different service or re-routing is less than 1 hour
  • you opted for a refund of your ticket
  • the delay was caused by extraordinary circumstances

Note that national rules in some EU countries and/or the terms and conditions of some railway companies may grant more favourable compensation conditions to passengers.

The FAQ additionally makes it clear that:

I made a single booking for a railway journey with several rail services through an online website. Can I claim any rights from this ticket vendor if I miss a connecting train during that journey?

YES – The ticket vendor must reimburse the total amount you paid for the ticket(s), and should also pay compensation equivalent to 75% of that amount. The ticket vendor is however not liable if he/she informed you before your journey that the tickets for each rail service represent separate transport contracts.

In short:

  • If they can delay the night train, they may do so (there's a lot of buffer for those trains, but they may be constrained by planned works)
  • If they can find some other way to get you there on time, they will do so, but the options are probably limited
  • The most likely case is that they will book a hotel for you (and pay for it), and rebook you on trains in the morning (I hear they are quite quick to do that)
  • If you find alternatives (e.g. bus) you can ask to use that and get them to pay for it
  • You will most likely be due compensation, unless extraordinary circumstances.

Make sure:

  • Your mobile phone number and e-mail are recorded on your booking (and correct)
  • That you have access to e-mail and SMS
  • That you have the SNCF-Connect app on your phone, and that your trip is recorded in it
  • If your first train gets delayed, get in touch with the train manager as soon as possible.

The operations centre should do all the re-planning automatically as soon as they detect that the connection becomes impossible. You should get the info via one of the above communications channels.

It's probably a good idea to look up alternative routes in advance (or at least as soon as any disruption becomes evident): for instance this evening there are actually two alternatives leaving later (22:15 and 22:50) and getting you to your destination about 2h30 late, but both involve bus travel and changes in the middle of the night. The day trains the next day are probably a better option, depending on your priorities. Don't forget that they need to provide alternatives "under comparable conditions" and that you can choose the date, so you can select which option suits you, you do not have to accept their suggestion.

Edit

The automatic replanning by the operations center is what happens for trips involving multiple trains operated by SNCF with mandatory reservations (usually connections between TGV InOui). Not sure if they can/will do so automatically for Eurostar-TGV connections. Your best bet is to contact the train manager as soon as possible, they will know the procedure in your case.

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  • Will they really book a hotel for you or will you have to try to find one yourself and then get reimbursed? I have different experiences in other European countries. Feb 21 at 15:29
  • @ToivoSäwén From what I understand (I haven't been in that situation myself, but colleagues have), they will book it for you in the SNCF->SNCF case. Not sure what happens in this situation.
    – jcaron
    Feb 21 at 16:15

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