The new double-decker TGV Océane trains offer more leg room and comfier seats for second class passengers and started on the route last month.
Full speed of 320kph will not be hit until July with the opening of the Tours to Bordeaux high-speed LGV link, which will cut Paris-Bordeaux trips from 3hr14 to 2hr04 and Toulouse from 5hr42 to 4hr09.
When the new line opens it will give passengers free Wifi all along the journey with individual USB sockets and shared power plugs. Lyon passengers already have it and in coming months the 3G/4G/Wifi will be extended to other TGV lines to Lille, Strasbourg, Rennes and Marseille.
However, the 302km line has been labelled an ecological disaster after the building firms involved were fined for dumping polluted water in rivers in Indre-et-Loire, Charente, Charente-Maritime and Gironde.
The new line will only be high-speed up to Bordeaux and hopes for the TGV line to be extended to Toulouse to cut the journey from 4hr09 to about three hours are still distant, with the government looking to 2024 as money is still €9.5billion short.
The first four SNCF Océanes – or Alstom TGV 2N2 Euroduplex Atlantique, to give their full title – are the first of a fleet of 40 that will be in operation by 2019 at a cost of €1.2billion. Another 17 new trains will join the fleet in July and 24 older duplex trains will also be upgraded to join them.
First class passengers have a larger, more comfortable work area with an emphasis on leather, wool and wood. Colours are more muted and 90% of the seats swivel to face the direction of travel.
Trains were ordered in 2012 and each has 556 places with 158 in first class and 398 in second, 22% more than in the single-deck Atlantique Lacroix trains.
Services will rise to 33 a day between Paris and Bordeaux while SNCF says ticket prices will not change.
In the south-east a public consultation has just ended on a new Provence Côte d’Azur TGV line and decisions will be made on the route in the Marseille sector this quarter.
Installing a new line will speed both TGV and regional express trains which are the busiest outside of Ile-de-France. The line from Marseille to Nice on the Riviera and Vintimille in Italy has 280 trains a day.
Work will not start before 2022.