Hi does anyone know how the rail system works? We are in Charente and wanted to go to St Malo which is a straight drive North for about 4 hours by car. However, by train my friend had to firstly get a train to Paris, wait, change trains to Rennes and change again to St Malo making a total journey time of about 7 hours. As she has no car she had to use the train but it seems mad doesn't it?
Essentially it's because of the shape of France and the distribution of population. All roads lead not to Rome but to Paris. Cross hexagon traffic is not easy. It's not so dissimilar to UK. Travelling from Birmingham to Norwich direct was a slow nightmare by rail. It was faster to go via London. More expensive of course but this was in the days of British Rail. Nowadays to go via London would probably be prohibitively expensive as one has to satisfy the greed of the different rail companies whereas British Rail allowed any practicable route for the same price in many cases.
The shortest journey time from Poitiers to St Malo is 4h 43 TGV all the way but changing at Montparnasse 1 and 2 in Paris. This service is not frequent so your friend had to use the route involving TER and changing in Paris and Rennes.
The other problem is even if there's a railway, there may not be the necessary connections or train!
it's a big problem is certain areas of France, we have similar difficulties on the massif central, my students want to go off visiting places and they have to go back down to Toulouse before going to the mediterranean for example. Have a look at this: