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How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?

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How punctual are trains in France compared to other countries?
How punctual are trains in France? People walk past a giant clock displayed outside a railway station on April 27, 2017 in Cergy Pontoise, outside Paris. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

We all know that France has a pretty impressive network of high-speed trains. But it's all very well being able to go at over 200km/h if your train is then stuck in the station - so how punctual are French trains?


Figures from France’s Autorité de la Qualité de Service dans les Transports (AQST) paint a mixed picture of France’s rail services.

Its most recent Europe-wide study of train punctuality, published in 2021, looks at how many trains arrived within five minutes of their scheduled arrival times - and therefore includes both trains that were delayed and trains that were cancelled.

In the period covered by the study, France has seen regular rail strikes that have led to cancellations on the railways.


They survey found that 89.4 percent of all French trains arrived within five minutes of schedule in 2014. That figure had dropped to 87 percent by 2018 and rose again to 91 percent in 2019 - after peaking at 92 percent in 2020 (although the study's authors caution that 2020 figures  figures should be taken with caution because of the pandemic). 

The punctuality rate in neighbouring Germany was 94.4 percent in 2014, 94.1 percent in 2018, 94.5 percent in 2019 and 96 percent in 2020. 

Overall, France is below average according to the study. In 2019, it was ranked eleventh out of 16 countries. Switzerland tops the podium with 97 percent of trains arriving on time in 2019, followed by the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria. 

At the foot of the table, the countries where the risk of not arriving on time is greatest are Great Britain, Italy and Portugal.

Up to 2019, France’s TGVs and Intercités were well behind Spain and Netherlands, countries that run their high-speed services on dedicated lines rather than sharing them with less rapid services, for punctuality.

In 2019, however, Netherlands’ inter-city services ran within five minutes of schedules 96.2 percent of the time, compared to France’s 75.7 percent. Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Norway and Poland were all above France in the rankings.

Comparisons for long-distance rail services with Germany are harder to calculate because it does not distinguish between its high-speed services and other long-distance rail services. 


But, consolidating long-distance services shows that France offered more punctual services than Germany until 2019. By Covid-hit 2020, however, German long-distance services ran better than French ones.

As for regional services, the Netherlands topped the rankings there, too, with 97.6 percent of services on time to with five minutes. France (91.9 percent, including RER and Transilien services) was seventh, behind Finland, Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Germany and Ireland.

And, at a city level, Copenhagen, Madrid, Berlin, Stockholm, Helsinki, Warsaw, and Dublin’s urban services were more efficient - and more punctual - than Paris and Ile-de-France’s regional rail services.


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