What I've learned about TER trains

Chances are your journey to a ski resort by train might - at some point - involve a TER train.

By: Daniel Elkan
Wed, 07 Feb 2024
Daniel Elkan

Over the years, I've travelled on a lot of TER trains.  And recently, even more.

TER trains are local trains in France. The acronym stands for 'Transport express régional'

Some journey schedules to ski resorts necessitate a change of train from TGV to TER. For example, when you go by Eurostar to Lille, then Lille to Lyon Part Dieu, you change onto a TER from there.

Other journeys, for example at certain times on a Saturday or Sunday from Paris, or during the week, might require a change at Chambery or Annecy onto a TER.

I learned more about these trains recently and took some photos.

There are older and newer TER trains

Relaxing on TERRelaxing on TERPhoto: Daniel Elkan

I really like the older ones because they have design that seems retro. At the time, it must have seemed ultra modern. But I found a recipe book at a friends' house once, called 'Microwave cooking'. Things change.

But the old trains haven't, and that's their charm. Also, the seats are very comfy. Cushions that welcome your posterior like it's a love affair.

You can draw the red curtains. How often do you get to draw curtains on a train these days. They say it's the simple pleasures in life. And they are right.

Only the newer trains have first class

TER 2nd Class interiorTER 2nd Class interiorPhoto: Daniel Elkan

The photo above is 2nd Class on the newer TERs. And when I say 'newer', they are not brand spanking new, but they have a more modern aesthetic than the more charming retro ones.

The newer trains have some plug sockets, but not by every seat. So if you are in some way reliant on an electronic device for entertainment or information, charge it beforehand. Also, some of the plugs have a little flap on them that prevents a UK-to-France adaptor being inserted. Deliberately, no doubt!

The photo below is of the newer TERs in 1st Class. Spot the difference? Yellow seat covers and a bit more space. That's about it though.

TER 1st Class interiorTER 1st Class interiorPhoto: Daniel Elkan

What TERs look like from outside

TER at BourgTER at BourgPhoto: Daniel Elkan

The TER above is at Bourg St Maurice - it's one of the older TERs.

The TER below is at Chambery, one of the newer TERs.

TER at ChamberyTER at ChamberyPhoto: Daniel Elkan

Both the older and newer TER trains have toilets on them. And both the older and newer TER trains have plenty of space for bags, skis and snowboards.

Photo: Daniel Elkan

The older TER above. The newer ones below.

Space for luggage on TERPhoto: Daniel Elkan

Seating inspired by a croissant

Circular seating on TERCircular seating on TERPhoto: Daniel Elkan

I love the seating above. Can you imagine that on a train in the UK? The fun police would have removed it a long time ago, I feel.

There are two of these cresent seats opposite each other, so that's about eight or ten of you sitting there if you want. What joy!

There's no reserved seating on any TER trains. So you just choose your seats when you get on.

Some trains are busy, some not at all.

At the SNCF ticket office at Chambery, I asked staff about booking trains in advance. 

Me: "I know that you can buy tickets online in advance online, but sometimes a website like Trainline or Rail Europe might show no more tickets. Does that mean the train is sold out?"

SNCF Staff "Sometimes, when a certain number of tickets have been sold, they system online won't sell any more. However, even if you can't buy tickets online, you can still buy them on the day, at the ticket office or at ticket machines."

And that's it. That's what I know about TER trains.