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France could cut number of stations served by high-speed TGV trains

French rail chiefs might have to drastically cut the number of rail stations around the country served by the high-speed TGV trains in a bid to cut costs and reduce the debt burden.

France could cut number of stations served by high-speed TGV trains
Photo: AFP

Reports in France on Tuesday said the government was considering the drastic measure which would spell bad news for anyone living outside the country’s biggest cities.

The ministry of transport has tasked Jean-Cyril Spinetta  – a former Air France chief with the mission of balancing SNCF’s books.

The state owned rail operator is in €45 billion of debt and it’s growing by €3 billion a year.

But it appears the minister of transport Elisabeth borne’s plan is to prioritize the TGV for the big urban centres at the expense of towns in the countryside.

She made a comparison with the air industry.

“Airbus A380 planes do not serve Brive (a small town in central France),” Borne told the press on Tuesday.

High-speed TGV trains currently stop at 230 stations across France.

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The problem highlighted in a 2014 report is that in 40 percent of TGV journeys the trains are only running at the speed of regional trains (TER) because they are not on high speed tracks, known as LGV.

That earned some TGV services the nickname “deluxe TERs” but even though passengers were comfortable and local politicians happy, these “deluxe TERs” were costing the tax payer dearly as they are far more expensive to run.

But the idea of cutting TGV services to stations in parts of rural France is clearly a sensitive one and many local economies could lose out if the service is taken away.

Local politicians have fought hard to have stops in their areas and will not just give them up without a battle.

The names of the stations under threat have not been announced but some train drivers have apparently already made their own minds up about where to stop and where to skip.

On Monday the driver of a TGV train bund for are de Lyon forgot to stop at the station of Montélimar, in between Avignon and Valence.

 

SNCF

France to expand low-cost Ouigo train services

France's train operator SNCF has announced the expansion of its budget Ouigo services, while creating a new 'pink Ouigo' with a maximum price of €30 for any journey.

France to expand low-cost Ouigo train services
Photo: JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP.

SNCF, which recently celebrated 40 years of the high-speed TGV train, is now focused on developing a more recent innovation: its budget offer. The low-cost Ouigo trains were first launched in 2013 as a cheaper alternative to the TGV, and have already transported 70 million passengers.

New destinations

SNCF hopes the low-cost service will account for 25 percent of high-speed traffic by 2025, and that means bringing the Ouigo to new destinations, it announced on Thursday.

From 2023, the Ouigo will connect Brest (via Saint-Brieuc, Guingamp and Morlaix) and Quimper to the centre of Paris, while Perpignan too will serve the capital.

La Rochelle will also get a low-cost service to central Paris from Friday to Monday. “This offer will be strengthened during the summer holidays, and will serve Poitiers, Niort and Surgères,” the group said.

SNCF has promised even more destinations from 2025 thanks to the addition of up to 12 new trains.

READ ALSO French train operator SNCF launches new season ticket for remote workers

Low cost, low speed

SNCF also announced on Thursday the creation of the “Ouigo vitesse classique” (Ouigo classic speed) – trains which will take longer and serve more stops than regular Ouigos. They will use old Corail trains, currently used on many TER and Intercité lines, painted pink to differentiate them from the blue high-speed Ouigo.

Starting next spring, the trains will link 14 destinations across two lines: two different Paris-Nantes routes, both serving Paris Austerlitz; and a Paris-Lyon service starting at Paris Bercy.

The new ‘classic speed’ Ouigo routes. Graphic: SNCF.

The low prices will however come at a different kind of cost.

The Paris-Nantes line, which will see three return trips every day, is estimated to take between three-and-a-half and four-and-a-quarter hours, compared to two to two-and-a-half hours on TGV trains. The Paris-Lyon line, running twice a day in each direction, is set to take between four-and-three-quarters and five-and-a-quarter hours, compared to just two hours on the TGV.

The idea is to attract customers away from cars and long-distance coaches by offering low prices which never change right up until departure.

Prices will start at €10 and go no higher than €30, while children under 12 will pay €5 as is already the case on high-speed lines. Tickets will only be available to book 45 days before departure, compared to nine months for high-speed Ouigo tickets.

READ ALSO 5 things to know about the hydrogen trains coming to France

Passengers will also have the possibility of paying extra for bike storage, or extra luggage, and since journey times are longer there will be on-board catering.

The airline model

SNCF has also chosen to adopt a new options-based offer on all of its Ouigo services, similar to those used by low-cost airlines.

The operator has announced that from October 6th, passengers will be able to choose between “Ouigo essentiel”, which will include one cabin bag and hand luggage, or paying €7 extra for “Ouigo Plus”, which adds the possibility of choosing your seat, access to wifi and a selection of multimedia content, and priority boarding. This option will apply to trains running from December 12th, and children under 12 will be offered Ouigo Plus at no extra cost.

You will also be able to select any of the optional extras on their own. The option to choose year seat was introduced earlier this year, and SNCF says almost a quarter of passengers chose to pay extra for this over the summer.

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