1. What do you think about it
They're too often on strike
not that it is only workers from the SNCF, other sectors of activities do the same, but it really is annoying when you're a commuter and have to go everyday to Paris to work/study and that a strike occures during a period of exams at school for instance
2. Are the fares and timetables the same throughout the country
For the TGV i guess timetables vary from a region to another.
As for the RER and the Transsilien (suburban trains in Paris like gab said) it varies too depending on the line.
For instance when I wait for a train in Paris to go home, there are trains every 4 or 5 minutes. They follow the same rails for quite a while, then the line splits into 3. One of them lead to a "rich" city and they have trains every 5 minutes. Of course all of them are half empty
While for my area there are trains only every 10 minutes although the population of all the cities around has exploded in the 20 past years, with a lot of youngsters (my city stayed for long in the top 5 of French cities with the youngest population - 75% of people were under 25yo), that makes a lot of people going everyday to Paris or other suburbs to study...
So not only do we have to wait longer, but also the trains are overcrowded and sometimes you just feel like banging your head against the wall until it explodes and frees you from hell (that is if you have enough space to move and are thus able to bang your head
The politicians here tried for years to obttain more trains for us and reduce trains for the other area, but since the other area is "wealthy" the local politicians there did everything so that nothing would change, and they influenced the SNCF officials for long and the schedule wasn't modified. (it finally happended this year
3. Thoughts on TGV
Fast, not too expensive, cool special tickets to get discounts (like the 12-25 card that Gab mentionned)
4. Customer service at SNCF
Wait, you mean there IS one?
5. What are the trains like
TGVs are good.
Suburban trains are... it depends. Some are very old, slow. Some are modern, with air conditionning, light colors inside...
6. Is it reliable and always on time
TGVs maybe, probably.
Suburban trains no. At least once a week there's something happening: trains are late, or cancelled, or suddelny stop in the middle of nowhere and you're stuck there for 10 minutes
7. How safe is it
I think it is. It's one of the good point compared to privatised rails
8. Who pays for the rail
I think customers pay a part through tax on tickets. Maybe the State pays a part too
9. Any other thoughts???