Bordeaux Saint-Jean station is the departure point for direct TGV trains to Germany (photo © Oleksandr Prykhodko / dreamstime.com).
France switches to summer train schedules this weekend. In France there is a wealth of summer-only connections. So some of the new services starting on Saturday only run until late August or early September. A striking innovation this summer is a weekly direct TGV from Bordeaux to Frankfurt-am-Main. True, it only runs on eight occasions in each direction so don’t get too excited. There are departures from both ends of the route on Saturdays from 8 July to 26 August.
So for a few weeks this summer Bordeaux now has two direct trains to Germany.
In this new service, there’s an echo of a former summer Saturdays train which linked Bordeaux and Frankfurt in the late 1990s. Like the new TGV link, that train of 25 years ago just ran for a few weeks each summer, and it was mainly aimed at travellers wanting to transport their cars. For Germans, some of whom are only reluctantly parted from their vehicles, the German Autozug from Frankfurt to Bordeaux attracted families heading off on holiday to Bordeaux and the Basque region. It was one of two direct car trains from Frankfurt to south-west France. The other was a weekly seasonal service to Biarritz.
At the German end of the route, the car train from Bordeaux terminated at Neu-Isenburg, just southwest of Frankfurt. It wasn’t fast, taking 14 hours for the overnight journey from Bordeaux to Neu-Isenburg. By contrast the new TGV link from Frankfurt to Bordeaux positively dashes. Departure from Frankfurt-am-Main Hauptbahnhof is at 06.56 with arrival in Bordeaux at 14.35. The return run from Bordeaux departs at 15.58 with arrival in Frankfurt at 23.51. The early departure time from Frankfurt and late arrival back in the city on the River Main may deter some passengers. It will be a brave family with small children that books such journeys. But looking at loadings on trains this month, it seems that the service is well patronised.
This new TGV summer service to Bordeaux runs south from Frankfurt then crosses the Rhine at Kehl to give a first stop in France at Strasbourg. It then continues via Marne la Vallée and Massy TGV to reach the high-speed line from Paris to Bordeaux.
This new summer service augments another direct link from Germany to Bordeaux which only started last December. That other service is a direct train from Freiburg-im-Breisgau to Bordeaux which runs weekly. There are departures from Freiburg on Saturdays and from Bordeaux on Sundays. Its timings will appeal to families, with departure from Freiburg at 12.22 on Saturdays. The Sunday journey back to Germany normally leaves Bordeaux at 08.54, but there are some Sundays in July where departure is slightly earlier to accommodate a diversion in the Paris area due to engineering work.
The direct train to Freiburg was the first international departure from Bordeaux since 2019, when Thalys offered a non-stop Brussels to Bordeaux service on summer Saturdays. Pre-pandemic there was talk of a direct Eurostar service from London to Bordeaux being launched in the mid-2020s. Hope for that possible international link have now faded as Eurostar, faced by considerable economic pressures, focuses on its core markets. So, for now at least, Germany is the only country with direct international trains from Bordeaux.