London to Bourg St Maurice via Lille at half-term

Tickets for some TGVs from Paris to Bourg St Maurice, at February half term, appeared to sell out immediately. How this could happen so quickly is a mystery. Alternative routes via Lille are worth considering

By: Daniel Elkan
Wed, 15 Nov 2023

Something strange has happened this morning.

As soon as tickets went on sale for TGV trains in France, many of them had sold out on the Paris - Bourg St Maurice root, at February half term.

I was up at 5am UK time, which is when tickets normally go on sale. And normally, even at Feb half term, there are plenty of tickets on the various trains on that route.

But not this morning. I searched various booking websites, and took screenshots as I did so.

Why have TGV tickets sold so quickly at half-term?

This isn't clear. Some skiers and tour operators have speculated that SNCF pre-block booked the tickets, to sell to groups. This I guess is plausable, but I have no idea whether it is the case. It would be good to find out.

There is of course more interest in rail travel to the Alps. A recent survey of UK-based skiers found that 12% intend to travel by train to the Alps in the coming season – which is a lot more than previous years. And capacity is needed, to match these intentions. But I don't think even the increased interest can account for trains booking out so quickly, within minutes of going on sale.

SNCF is a very opaque organisation. Their outward facing communications offices are very tight lipped. Intervention by politicians, to get SNCF to start communicating with the travel industry and travel media in a sensible way, will be essential.

Alternative routes to Bourg St Maurice, via Lille Europe

If you are struggling to find tickets, here's an idea. You could travel from London to Bourg St Maurice via Lille Europe. The route via Lille is: 

1. London - Lille Europe, by Eurostar
2. Lille Europe to Lyon Part Dieu, by TGV
3. Lyon Part Dieu to Moutiers, Aime la Plagne, Landry and Bourg St Maurice, by TER (= French local train)

The thing is, that if you put 'London to Bourg St Maurice' into rail-booking websites, the algorithms often won't find this journey. So travellers remain in the dark about it.

Even if you put 'Lille Europe to Bourg St Maurice', it may or may not show up.

So if necessary, break it down into each individual leg, and then once you can see all the legs showing, book them separately.  Although this is not ideal, it's a way to beat the stupid algorithms which fail in their task of showing viable journeys.