Thalys - is it always underwhelming?

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by 455refurb, 14 Aug 2015.

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  1. 455refurb

    455refurb Member

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    I travelled on Thalys recently - an extremely poor experience as a passenger.

    It was a Sunday afternoon journey in Comfort 1. The stock seemed tired. Food offering on departure was measly - the tiniest filled roll, a single drinks run - and that was it. I wondered if this was because it was a Sunday, but on chatting with a fellow passenger, apparently this was normal on the route into Germany.

    There was then an issue with my ticket. Despite having a valid printed ticket for travel, which clearly displayed all the required information (seat, train number etc), when scanned my ticket was not registered on the conductor's hand held device. He was rude, obnoxious and gave the impression that this was all my fault. He was unhelpful and started demanding that I buy a new ticket. If I were not a more relaxed person, I'd have got quite agitated and had I been a nervous traveller it would have been a very worrying experience.

    Eventually, by negotiating with him in French I managed to convince him to check with his control centre. He took my ticket, and returned an hour later saying "everything is fine" before walking off.

    The toilets were disgusting and smelt foul - myself and another passenger reported this, but the crew were not interested.

    I would not choose Thalys again, and wish I'd altered my plans slightly so I could travel by ICE (the times weren't favourable).

    Very poor for an international rail service, and sadly, an e-mail complaint to them has gone unanswered. I understand they have a monopoly on the route from Paris to Amsterdam - perhaps this is the reason for my experience, or maybe I was just unlucky? :(
     
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  3. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Not overly surprised - it was a half-baked service in the 1990s, no great surprise it has deteriorated further since then.
     
  4. Harpers Tate

    Harpers Tate Established Member

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    That's probably a step up from some places here then where "demanding that I buy a new ticket" might become "demanding a penalty" or "taking my name and address and telling me to expect a nasty letter".

    I agree with the train standard. It's a few years ago, but I thought precisely the same; tired and unexceptional. And that was First Class (or whatever they call it).
     
  5. anme

    anme Established Member

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    I don't really agree that the trains are tired, although the design does feel cramped and the catering is bad (sadly a trend on all trains at the moment). Your ticketing problems are unfortunate, but not a typical experience.

    Having said that, I would recommend the ICE instead when it's an option.
     
  6. Groningen

    Groningen Established Member

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    In my eyes the conductor should be able (as an international train) be able to speak English. Do you really think that if it is a french national that he is able to speak. The same applies to the ICE from Frankfurt to Amsterdam. The germans; will they speak dutch? Often it than better to know your English.
     
  7. bunnahabhain

    bunnahabhain Established Member

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    I know on Eurocity trains the Conductor(s) must speak the native language of the countries the train calls at an one of French, German or English. Whether this would apply to That's I don't know but would be surprised if it didn't.
     
  8. Western Lord

    Western Lord Member

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    Try telling this to the moaning minnies who maintain that our trains are awful and that everything on the continent is wonderful.
     
  9. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    From recent experiences I think Europe is heading the wrong way generally, and I'd take our railway over theirs.
     
  10. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    Is Thalys always underwhelming?

    Yes. I won't be using it again unless I rally have to. Twice is more than enough.
     
  11. anme

    anme Established Member

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    Depends on your expectations and what journey you want to make really. The very regular service between Paris and Brussels taking 1h22 is very good, and short enough that poor catering is hardly a problem.

    Between Belgium and the Netherlands the Thalys a bit of a waste of money and much less flexible than using the Intercity train. I wouldn't recommend it unless someone else is paying and committing to a specific service isn't a problem.

    Between Belgium and Germany, the ICE is nicer but it's not very frequent. If the time and price of the Thalys are convenient, I'd recommend to use it. Perhaps some will find it "underwhelming". If so, just bring a good book and the train will still get you to your destination.

    BTW, I would be very surprised if any customer-facing Thalys staff couldn't speak English.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Presumably you mean "the rest of Europe". The UK is actually a part of Europe.

    Also are you referring to the railways of all 47(ish) countries apart from the UK by "theirs", or just some of them?
     
  12. Greenback

    Greenback Emeritus Moderator

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    I haven't used Thalys for a shorter journey such as Paris to Brussels. It may be better suited to such a role. I much prefer the ICE's between Brussels and Germany, and if I'm able to be flexible enough to use them in my timings, that's what I'll go for.

    Whenever I've used Thalys, it's been very crowded, so it must be doing something right. However, it's also reminded me of a UK train, being cramped and uncomfortable in comparison to the majority of European trains. The staff do speak very good English, but even so, it's not an experience I wish to endure unless I have no alternative that works.
     
  13. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    I'm aware of that.

    I don't believe any other European country has a UK style rail system (high frequencies, shorter trains etc).
     
  14. atillathehunn

    atillathehunn Established Member

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    I think you have a pattern here, OP! The Thalys is a half baked idea, and doesn't really know what it wants to be. However, I've never been on an empty one so I suppose that means it's better than the alternative.

    The advantage of Thalys between Brussels and Schiphol is that it has a flight number. You can book your 'flight' starting in Brussels and avoiding the tax at Schiphol, and join a Thalys train that has both an AF and KL flight number, as well as a train number. Used it many times, very convenient.

    On the other side note, Britain has some of the finest and the worst rail services in Europe. The offerings on our core mainline routes are well above par in terms of comfort, services, frequency and price. Our wonderful services hanging over from another age with restaurants and buffets on board and silver service. And, somehow, our sleeper services are not just running, but improving for the future.
    Our commuter networks are dire. London is trying to fit the 21st century into the 18th century. We spend no money on logical projects to improve services, simply throwing money keeping worn out bits going. We don't bother to spend big projects to change entirely our mode of thinking on the network, we accept the status quo.
    And our fare policy is entirely illogical. Compare our fare structure with Belgium and the Netherlands and you find that those who need the cheapest fares suffer. And services in the North West are a joke. Trains with rain pouring through, late, cancelled, (yes Mid-Cheshire line, I'm looking at you).
     
  15. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Around London that's not entirely true - the south WCML 12-car project, Thameslink programme, Crossrail...

    I agree with regard to commuter networks outside London, though, possibly except Merseyrail.

    Anyway we're heading OT...
     
  16. davetheguard

    davetheguard Member

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    The only time I've ever used Thalys was as part of an organised trip that used this operator from Brussels to Cologne. Like others commenting here, I was not greatly impressed.

    Perhaps also affecting expectations on this route, (unlike on domestic TGV routes in France), is the competition of comparison: the ICE between the same points is in my opinion far superior in terms of ambiance, space, and comfort. And if you've just got off a Eurostar at Brussels, and been lucky enough to be travelling "first" the catering offer on the Thalys is inferior too.

    When I book travel independently, I always go for ICE travel between Brussels & Cologne; and for those of us who normally travel "second" there's always the possibility of having a civilised break in Brussels for lunch between your arriving Eurostar & departing ICE - which also removes any concern about viability of 20 minute connections at Brussels Midi to boot!
     
  17. LesS

    LesS Member

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    On my recent visit I used the ICE services between Koln & Brussels and Paris Est and Frankfurt. Particularly the Paris Frankfurt tri a Thalys would have been more convenient.

    I travelled 1st class on a sunday and the first stop out of Paris is Saarbrucken (3hours). During the sector a meal was served and cleared away. Whereupon the train staff an trolley disappeared not to be seen again. At Saarbrucken the train was mobbed and it was standing room only with the corridors and vestibules packed with people. This was in 1st class and it was impossible to move throughout the train. The situation remained until Mannheim.

    I do not think this was good service at all.
     
  18. reb0118

    reb0118 Established Member Fares Advisor

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    Auto-correct for Thalys?
     
  19. DaiGog

    DaiGog Member

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    I actually don't mind Thalys since the sets were refurbished a couple of years ago. The seats are comfy, there is enough legroom and the air con generally works now.

    That said, I try to avoid them where there is an ICE alternative, usually on the Brussels - Cologne route. I much prefer the German trains, and being a FIP traveller you have to pay for Thalys where for ICE you don't on that route if you have valid FIP coupons (any reservations aside). The Thalys services seem to be busier than the ICEs as well, particularly those on through workings to/from Paris.
     
  20. Mag_seven

    Mag_seven Established Member

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    If I'm travelling from Brussels to Germany I normally just take my time and use local trains.
     
  21. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    It's a shame the D-Zuege were lost, they were a genuinely civilised, cheap and flexible way to make the journey.
     
  22. Polarbear

    Polarbear Established Member

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    My only experience of Thalys was a day return from Paris to Brussels some years back. For that leg, it's an impressive 1'25" dash which is not a bad way to get through the less scenic bits of northern France! Catering wasn't an issue for me.

    I do think that given Thalys is a prime international carrier, it could be better than it is though. Would also be tempted to choose an ICE over a Thalys & it's a pity DB never managed to operate a Koln-Paris service via Brussels (which was an idea knocking around when the high speed line was being built) .
     
  23. STEVIEBOY1

    STEVIEBOY1 Established Member

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    I presume that was an ICE service you are describing here? Do they now include meals on the Paris/Frankfurt route in 1st class.?

    On the Brussels / Koln route, on Thalys in first class there is some type of meal and bar services included but not on the ICE trains on this route. However I would say that the ICE trains are better, more roomy. ICEs are often very busy on many routes. I presume people turn up without seat reservations.
     
    Last edited: 18 Aug 2015
  24. k-c-p

    k-c-p Member

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    As the Deutsche Bahn has reduced the number of long distance trains running between Saarbr├╝cken and Mannheim, the ICE/TGV act as the last resort for many travellers. They are usually pretty crowded.

    The TGV/ICE services between Stuttgart<->Paris and Frankfurt<->Paris include a small meal offering in 1st class. In the morning its a breakfast with croissant, jelly, juice and coffee.
    In the evening its a little salad, meatballs and stuff like that. A glass of wine is offered too.
     
  25. dutchflyer

    dutchflyer Member

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    Yes they do-actually its mostly bi-pairs: 1 Dutch, 1 Deutsch. Many of the Germans speak better Dutch as English.
    Impression of Thalys as in main topic-as said so many times now-is tipical standard. Just another badly run state-railway.
     
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