In the UK, I used to take the train every day to get from my home to university. Now in the south of France, I live in a town called Périgueux, but I work in a small village in the countryside. The only way I can get to work is on the train. This has given me the opportunity to use the French train system a lot, so I would like to give you my comparison between trains in France and the UK.
The first thing that surprised me was the cost. I expected that the French government-run SNCF train system would be cheaper than the privatised train system we have in the UK. In fact, I have found the cost to be about the same. More shocking was how infrequent the trains are here - trains run only every 2 hours! This can be a real pain when I have to wait at the train station for ages before the next train arrives. In the UK, there are usually trains leaving at least every 30 minutes.
Just like in the UK, the trains are sometimes delayed. But it’s more frustrating for me here, as there is nothing else I can do in my village except for waiting at the station. There was one occasion when I had to wait for 4 hours – I was absolutely freezing, as there isn’t any heating at the station.
Although there are some things I don’t like about the French train system, there are some good points, too. I like the smart uniform that all the conductors and ticket inspectors wear. I also find that the train staff are very friendly, helpful and polite. Another difference is the culture of buying train tickets in France. It seems like a very important thing to do here. As I wait at the station, I often see families coming to buy their train tickets well in advance of their travels. In the UK, I think people treat buying a train ticket as a hassle, rather than an important event. I’ve also noticed that the French take a great pride in their train stations. The stations themselves are very large, ornate buildings. Plus, there are always cleaners mopping the floors or sweeping the paths outside, so they are very tidy. I just wish they were better heated inside!
What do you think of public transport in your country?