By train to Avignon

The train station Gare Avignon TGV was opened in 2001 on the outskirts of Avignon as part of the new LGV Méditerranée, the high-speed railway line from Lyon to Marseille. Like most of the new TGV stations (such as the ones near Reims, Belfort and Besançon), this station has four through tracks. The two outer tracks have platforms where trains can stop, and the two inner tracks are fenced off so trains can barrel through at over 300 km per hour.

Train approaching the station TGV Avignon

This TGV train is just arriving from Paris. Most of these trains also stop in Lyon, but a few travel non-stop from Paris to Avignon, a distance of over seven hundred kilometers.

Arrival at Avignon TGV

In March 2012 the German and French railways inaugurated a direct high-speed train connection between Frankfurt am Main and Marseille via Mannheim, Karlsruhe, Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Belfort, Besançon, Chalon sur Saône, Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. For the time being there is only one such train per day — but that’s much better than none! My first trip on this new train was to Marseille, but I have since also taken it to Avignon, Besançon and Belfort. 

Passengers at the station Avignon TGV

The trains that stop here only do so for a minute or two, so passengers have to make sure they are waiting at the exact spot on the platform where their coach will stop. Reservations are compulsory, so everyone knows exactly where they will be sitting. 

The twin viaducts as seen from the TGV station

The newest “Bridge of Avignon” is actually a pair of railway viaducts spanning the Rhône River and Valley as part of the LGV Méditerranée (‘Mediterranean line of great speed’).

The twin viaducts as seen from Rocher des Doms 

Avignon as seen from the train

There has been some attempt at landscaping at the front of the station Avignon TGV, in an effort to mitigate the effect of the monstrous parking lots that dominate the site.

Landscaping at the TGV station

When this station was opened in 2001, it was surrounded by four huge parking lots for automobiles and six pavilions for car rental companies — but it had no train connection to the Avignon central train station. Passengers without cars had to take a bus, which reportedly took up to 45 minutes to get into town if it got stuck in traffic.

The new shuttle line

A dozen years later, with great fanfare, a new shuttle line (‘Navette’) went into operation in December 2013. Now there are 35 shuttle trains a day in each direction, connecting the two stations in five minutes, with one stop along the way. The shuttle trains run from before six in the morning until after eleven at night, and they are timed to provide convenient connections with the high-speed TGV trains.

Most of the tracks used by the shuttle trains were in place all along. The only thing missing was a curve to connect the new tracks to the old ones. This cost 37 million Euros to build, which sounds like a lot of money to us normal folks, but is actually quite modest compared to the huge amounts that are routinely squandered on overblown infrastructure for automobiles.

For most TGV passengers, the five-minute ride on the shuttle train does not cost anything extra. Since I was not sure, I asked the conductor on my TGV train, and he said it was included in my fare. I have since read that only those who have a cheap “Prem” ticket have to pay an additional € 1.50 to use the shuttle. 

Inauguration of the new shuttle line

This poster has a schematic representation of the new shuttle line and the slogan: La ligne qui vous transport! = The line that transports you, in both meanings of the word transport. It moves you from one place to another, and it fills you with exaltation. I must admit that I did not feel much exaltation but rather bewilderment about why it had taken them so long to get the shuttle train running.

Shuttle train on the left

The shuttle train is the one on the left, on track A. The train on the right is a TGV that has just arrived. 

Avignon Central Station

After five minutes on the shuttle train, you arrive at Avignon’s traditional train station, Gare Avignon Centre, located just outside the city walls at Porte de la République.

The station was built in 1860 by an architect named Louis-Jules Bouchot (1817-1907), who also designed railroad stations in Milan, Valence, Nice and Toulon. His station in Milan no longer exists, however, since it was replaced by the current station Milano Centrale in 1931. 

A regional train in the Avignon Central Station

This station is served primarily by regional trains, designated “TER”, but also by a few of the high-speed TGV trains, namely those that have Avignon as their final destination.

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2018.

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