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Last year I had a ticket on a certain TGV. I arrived let due to getting a coffee. I got on the next TGV, an hour later. I figured I'd have to buy a new ticket on board.

Surprisingly, the chef said, no, you're allowed to do that if you miss it, your previous ticket is good. I paid nothing at all.

Similarly, a friend reported he one got on the next-earlier TGV, and surprisingly agin did not have to pay. Another third anecdote was similar.

I'm surprised by this - in fact does a TGV (or similar) ticket allow you to take any train? Or is it for a specific time? Or were these just confusing cases of the chef "letting someone off"?

Surprisingly, I can't really find any official info on this, or even people blogging about it.

  • My guess is that you're technically supposed to take the train written on your ticket, but that in practice it's not enough of a problem for them to actually enforce it. The official answer is probably somewhere in the carriage conditions, but they're a big pile of legalese... – fkraiem Sep 18 '14 at 16:43
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    By the way, I don't think I have recently seen a train where you have the choice whether or not to book a seat... Either it's all free seating (TER) or all booked (TGV and Intercités). – fkraiem Sep 18 '14 at 16:44
  • (Re the seat booking, thanks, I'm sure you're right! I find it mysterious. there's a bit where you book tgvs online and it's unclear if it's just a 'preference' (aisle, etc) .. anyways, thanks for that tidbit!!) – Fattie Sep 18 '14 at 16:46
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    Why did you miss you train? If you missed the train due to other train related delays, then you're allowed to take a later train than booked no matter the ticket conditions – Gagravarr Sep 18 '14 at 17:17
  • Ahh - fascinating point. In my case anyway I just missed it because of drinking, but perhaps that explains other such anecdotes ..... Note two that two of my three anecdotes are indeed an EARLIER train ... – Fattie Sep 18 '14 at 17:42
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Some rules explained here (in French): http://aide.voyages-sncf.com/toute-laide-train/suite-mon-achat/echange-et-annulation/conditions-d-echange-d-annulation-et-de-remboursement

And a version in English : http://help.en.voyages-sncf.com/en/exchange-cancellation/conditions

It depends on which fare you have paid when booking your ticket. TGV are in the category Trains à réservation obligatoire, that's why there's a car/seat number. Concerning your experience, either you had a Tarif Pro ticket, either you were lucky. Because with all other tickets, you either cannot use it in another train (Prem's) or have a fee to pay to change train.

  • Good point on the TarifPro. Often you "get stuck with" a TarifPro ticket, even if you did not particularly ask for one / think of one, if you purchase too late to get a cheap fare. Maybe in these anecdotes the person did have a TarifPro fare. – Fattie Sep 18 '14 at 17:03
  • Note for example "TarifPro...tickets can be cancelled without charge up to 2 hours after departure". I guess, if you got on the next train, it would be effectively the same; you could get a full refund, and, just buy another full-price fare. Maybe the chef just "does nothing" knowing it's a wash. Thanks again! – Fattie Sep 18 '14 at 17:04
  • To sort of answer my own question further; since posting this I've had more experience of it. I consistently (almost always it seems) take a different train time from the one I booked. The fact is you "very often" get away with it, and "sometimes" have to pay! To put a figure on it I'd say, give that the conductor visits you, you get away with it 70% of the time. My experience! (Of course sometimes you don't even see a conductor [that rather depends on the route, I'd say]; obviously then you got away with it.) – Fattie Apr 15 '15 at 13:57
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Generally speaking, TGV tickets are bound to a specific train connection. Higher fares (pro ticket) allow free exchanges and refunds but I think you are still supposed to do it prior to boarding (even a few minutes before, traditionally with dedicated machines in the station's concourse but there is now a mobile app as well) rather than just showing up in another train.

Tickets are not normally sold on trains in France (conductors can do it with a surcharge – or even possibly waive it, see comment – but it is not encouraged like it is or used to be in other countries).

Except in case of irregular operations (strike, cancellations, etc.) it would therefore seem impossible to take another TGV with the same ticket. But on the other hand, I can imagine that most conductors would be lenient with passengers who appear to be lost and paid an expensive ticket. If you are French, have a discount (“Prem's”) ticket and it seems like you are trying to dodge the fare you might get another treatment.

Whatever the circumstances, try to approach the conductors as soon as possible (walk up to them or grab them when they first go through the train). You might get lucky and avoid paying anything or at least get a ticket with a small surcharge. If you are found out later on, when they check tickets, you would be liable for a heavier surcharge/fine.

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    I have an interesting factoid on buying-tickets-on-board. I do this often, and there's a surcharge as you say (of course even worse, you generally pay the highest ticket-type price, I think). Interestingly I had to run to get on a connecting train the other day, and the chef could see from my other tickets it was not possible for me to have time to buy a ticket for that new leg. In fact, he did not charge me the surcharge: i.e.: the computer must give the chef the option to charge it or not, dicressionarily. Fascinating! – Fattie Sep 19 '14 at 6:24
  • @JoeBlow In many places I'm aware of, the on-board vending machines the guards have are the way to buy a ticket if you get on at on unmanned station (a ticket machine, if there is one, at the station may be broken). – gsnedders Oct 19 '15 at 16:41
  • Hi GS. Yes, that's right, on french trains (1) you can always buy a ticket onboard (2) you pay a small extra fee if you so (3) I believe as you allude to, IF it was not possible to buy one at the station (station closed, broken, whatever) then you don't pay the small extra fee. in terms of the question at hand: do you have to pay a fee to CHANGE THE TIME OF YOUR TICKET. it would appear the chef d'train HAS DISCRESSION in this choice. (it's not "automatically determined" by the computer system) – Fattie Oct 19 '15 at 18:04

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