French Double-Decker Is a la Mode

Reed Travel Features

PARIS -- France's TGV Duplex is the latest in a series of high-speed rail innovations in northwestern Europe.

The bilevel cars began service last month on the TGV southeast route between Paris and Lyon, which became Europe's first high-speed rail line in 1981.

The journey between France's two largest cities takes two hours.

The TGV Duplex makes one roundtrip run daily Monday through Thursday, with more frequent service on the weekends.

A one-way ticket costs $101 in first class, $84 in second class.

Each TGV Duplex train carries eight passenger cars.

First class passengers can order meals at their seat.

France already had increased from 22 to 36 the number of high-speed trains servicing Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport daily.

The completion of the Paris high-speed rail bypass affords leisure and business travelers more flexibility in making direct rail connections with Lyon; Bordeaux; Marseille; Lille; Poitiers; London; Brussels, Belgium; Geneva, and other cities, without making the time-consuming trip to Paris.

In mid-1996, Europe's latest high-speed rail network, the Thalys line, began serving northwestern Europe between Paris and major cities in Belgium and the Netherlands, including Brussels, Antwerp, Liege, Amsterdam, Amsterdam Airport, Rotterdam and the Hague.

Currently, 13 daily round-trips are offered between Paris and Brussels. Four of these new TGVs will go on to Amsterdam and two to Liege.

The new red-and-gray trains completely replaced conventional trains on the Paris-Brussels route.

The cars feature improved safety features; reclinable, push-button-operated seats, and telephone service.

Unrestricted one-way first class fares on Thalys are $90 Paris-Brussels, $122 Paris-Amsterdam. Weekend and roundtrip rates are lower, and reductions are available for holders of Eurailpass, Europass, France Railpass and Benelux Tourrail.

The Paris-Brussels run currently takes two hours, Brussels-Amsterdam takes two hours and 40 minutes and Paris-Amsterdam takes four hours and 47 minutes.

Although the Netherlands has no plans to install high-speed track, additional track laid along the route eventually will reduce the time between Paris and Amsterdam to three hours and 15 minutes

By the turn of the century, according to Rail Europe officials, the Thalys line will be extended to Cologne, marking the first time France and Germany will be connected by high-speed rail.

Advance booking is required on most high-speed trains.

For details on TGV trains in France, call Rail Europe at (800) 438-7245. Rail Europe also can provide reservations on Thalys trains.

For information on Eurostar trains between London, Paris and Brussels, call (800) 387-6782.

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