First, Expatica reported that the SNCF, the French rail operator, is planning to run some sleeper trains during the day, starting May 21st--so passengers can catch a nap while traveling. The new service, called Téoz Eco, will run for a six-month trial on the line from Paris to Toulouse via Limoges, Brive and Cahors. If succsesful, it will be extended to other long-distance routes. Read the whole story here.
The next item, from This French Life, tells how Eurostar and the SNCF are working to improve the links between London and Provence, with a new trial service that connects in Lille and uses specially reserved coaches. Upon arrival at Lille, passengers are given advice and directions for their onward travel. Tickets for travel to Lyon and Marseille on the new service are on sale now for travel beginning June 1; prices start at £109 roundtrip to Lyon and £119 roundtrip to Marseille. Travel time between London and Lyon is around five hours while Marseille is about six and a half. Eurostar will seek feedback from passengers, and if the service proves popular, extend it to other destinations. You can read that article, along with other French rail news, here.
Most of the year, to travel between London and Avignon by train requires a change in Paris. In summer, however, you can travel direct non-stop...but only once a week. Direct Eurostar trains from the UK to Avignon run every Saturday, July 10 to September 11, 2010. Trains leave St. Pancras at 07:17 and arrive at Avignon Center at 14:08. Passengers may also board at Ashford International. For the return, trains leave Avignon Center on Saturdays at 16:24 and arrive at St. Pancras at 21:09, stopping at Ashford along the way. For info, click here.
Photo: Train wreck at Gare Montparnasse, Paris, 1895.