France aims to roll out new high-speed TGV trains… with no drivers

Fancy travelling through France at 320 km/h on driverless TGV train? Don't worry, you have a few years to mull it over.

France aims to roll out new high-speed TGV trains… with no drivers
Photo: AFP

French rail chiefs SNCF have revealed ambitious plans for France to become the first country in the world to roll out driverless high speed trains, according to France TV info.

While passengers have a while to get used to the idea – it won’t happen before 2022 and that’s if all the tests go according to plan, it looks like one day they will have to contemplate taking a train from Paris to Marseille or Bordeaux that has a robot instead of an old fashioned driver.

“We will become the first in the world to put into service an autonomous train on a high-speed commercial rail line,” SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy told Le Figaro newspaper: 

However passengers can be reassured than SNCF doesn't plan to leave them alone on the train without someone who knows how to operate it.

SNCF told France TV Info the system will more like the automatic pilot systems used on airplanes rather than scrapping drivers altogether.

The “driver” will be on board to handle any unexpected events but the rest will be done automatically.

Up until now driverless trains have become common on Metro systems around the world, but in cities trains only travel at around 50km/h and are mainly in tunnels.

A TGV hurtles through the French countryside at 320km/h so the technology needed will be somewhat more complex.

“When you automate a Metro, you can put barriers along the platforms and then you are in tunnels,” says SNCF's Matthieu Chabanel.

“A train is going to run on a high-speed line for 1,000 km, in a completely open environment with trees, animals, people, who can get onto the tracks and so we need a driver to handle all the possible disruptions.”

SNCF say driverless trains are not about saving money on personnel but on making the service more effective and getting more TGV's onto the tracks.

By 2019, SNCF hopes to be able to test a prototype but only on trains carrying freight.


Why is France bidding adieu to its famous TGV trains?



Where can you travel by international train from Switzerland this Christmas?

If you feel like getting away over the holidays, Swiss Federal Railways and its European partners offer many international travel options. Here's a run through of what's available.

Where can you travel by international train from Switzerland this Christmas?
You can travel by train to multiple destinations. Photo by AFP

After being mostly suspended due to border closures during the first wave of the coronavirus outbreak in the spring, the trains between Switzerland and neighbouring countries have gradually resumed their operations.

The timetable for various destinations indicated in this article shows just some links between Swiss and foreign cities.

You can see the complete schedule here.

READ MORE: Covid-19: What you need to know if you are travelling abroad from Switzerland


TGV Lyria, which is jointly operated by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and Société nationale des chemins de fer français (SNCF), will have several trains circulating both ways between Switzerland and France: Geneva and Paris, Lausanne and Paris, Basel-Zurich and Paris, and Geneva and Marseille.

These are some of the connections:

  • TGV 9764 depart Geneva 08:29 am, arrive Paris Gare de Lyon 11:42 am
  • TGV 9768 depart Lausanne 09 :44, arrive Paris Gare de Lyon 13:42
  • TGV 9770 depart Geneva 12 :30 pm, arrive Paris Gare de Lyon 15 :42
  • TGV 9230 depart Zurich 17 :34, arrive Paris Gare de Lyon 21:38
  • TGV 9230 depart Basel 18 :34, arrive Paris Gare de Lyon 22 :38



Trains between Switzerland and Italy will also run, with two pairs of EuroCity trains operating on the Gotthard axis and two pairs on the Simplon axis.

  • • EC 313 depart Zurich 07:10, arrive Milan 10:50 am
  • • EC 316 depart Milan 11:10, arrive Zurich 2:50 pm
  • • EC 34 depart Milan 13:05, arrive Geneva 5:21 pm
  • • EC 37 depart Geneva 07:39, arrive Milan 11:40 am
  • • EC 50 depart Milan 07:20, arrive Basel 11:32 am
  • • EC 57 depart Basel 12:28, arrive Milan 4:40 pm

READ MORE: Travel in Switzerland: Geneva airport launches more Christmas flights


More than 35 trains are running daily between Switzerland and Germany.

High-speed trains connect Zurich, Basel and Bern to Berlin, Munich, Köln, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart.

  • EC97 depart Zurich 07:03 am, arrive Munich 11:04
  • IR2366 depart Zurich 10:53, arriverFrankfurt 15:08
  • IC764 depart Basel 9:53 am, arrive Berlin 17:27
  • IC984 depart Bern 20:04, arrive Stuttgart 00:21 am


There are also 18 daily trains running between Zurich and the Austrian cities of Vienna, Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Graz.

  • EC163 depart Zurich 08 :40 am, arrive Innsbruck 12:11, and Vienna 16:30
  • RJX367 depart Zurich 16:40, arrive Salzburg 22:06

International rules

Whether travelling abroad by air, rail, or car, be aware of most recent regulations and restrictions that are in effect at your destination.

First, familiarise yourself with the health measures in each country, such as mask and social distance requirements. 

Also, learn about entry rules at the time of your trip.

Some countries require you to be tested for Covid-19 prior to arrival and present a negative result. Others have a compulsory quarantine.

Switzerland also requires arrivals from certain countries to self-quarantine for 10 days.