A new case to add to the long, long list of journeys that should be easy enough by rail, but in the end are such a nightmare that most people will just not attempt them, and will fly instead.
I am working in Geneva on Friday 15th March, and will spend a weekend skiing at Chamonix on 16th and 17th March. I then need to be in Brussels by the evening of Tuesday 19th March. So how do I do it?
I start, as ever, with DB’s timetable search, and it gives me a decent connection on Monday 18th – Chamonix – St-Gervais – Paris – Brussels, using TER – TGV – Thalys.
So then I try to book it, trying first with Loco2, and then with Capitaine Train, and then with Voyages SNCF. All just give me a Lunéa night train for St-Gervais – Paris. Strange. I try St-Gervais – Brussels, rather than Chamonix – Brussels, and this time I get trains, but changing in Bellegarde onto a TGV Lyria. But DB tells me the St-Gervais – Paris TGV should run on a Monday.
So I turn to Twitter, where Stefan de Vries tells me these TGVs run only on Saturdays. I point out to DB that their timetable is wrong, and they tell me they rely on other railways to give them the right information. Meanwhile Erik Griswold suggests I route through Martigny in Switzerland, and here too I encounter a problem – a Brig-Lille TGV, stopping in Martigny, that doesn’t run on a Monday but is listed by DB. The problem is compounded in Capitaine Train’s search, which gives me just Martigny-les-Bains, a town in France near Nancy, rather than Martigny in Switzerland, although the train from there ends in France…
And then there is the price. I am trying to book all of this 5 weeks ahead of the journey, but the best price I can find is €146.00 single for the trip, in the main because all connections end up on a peak hours service from Paris to Brussels. Paris-Brussels alone is €99 single, although if I book it through to Liège (yes, further) then I save a bit (thanks to Alex van Herwijnen).
And if I were to fly? €26 bus transfer to Geneva, and then €37.99 for the Easyjet flight (excl. charges).
The irony in all of this? The work in Brussels is to chair a panel discussion with MEPs, the very people who could sort out this mess by obliging rail companies to provide full ticketing and timetable data APIs in standardised formats.