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LIVING IN FRANCE

France launches the beginning of the end of the traditional TGV trains

France's famous high speed TGV trains are on their way out but what does it all mean for rail passengers in France?

France launches the beginning of the end of the traditional TGV trains
Photo: AFP

“The classic TGV is dead”, was how one French newspaper signaled the news this week.

The headline was in relation to the official launch of InOui on Thursday by French rail chiefs SNCF.

InOui trains will now steadily be rolled out across the French rail network to replace the old TGV trains.

Although the change is more to do with marketing than any revolution of the French rail system.

InOui trains are basically rebranded TGVs and will act as SNCF's premium high speed service to go alongside the low-cost Ouigo trains that offer budget rail tickets to various cities in France.

InOui trains will be white, grey and a shade of red rather than the traditional blue TGVs whilst the Ouigo trains are pink and turquoise.

The name change fits in with SNCF's branding of all its services around the word “Oui”, which as we all know means “Yes” in French.
 
SNCF's coach service is called “OuiBus” and its hire car service “OuiCar”.
 
 
Passengers might have noticed the booking website voyages-sncf.com has also be revamped and renamed oui.sncf.com.
 
Some have criticized the choice of name. Jean-Marc Lehu, a lecturer in marketing at Paris Sorbonne university believes that while the “Oui” might be OK for French clientele, it might not strike a chord with international customers.
 
But what does the change mean in reality?
 
SNCF believes having two different services will simplify things for passengers, a bit like how Air France is the country's national carrier but it also has its low-cost carrier Transavia to appeal to different clientele.
 
 
But it is also motivated by SNCF preparing for the French rail system being opened up to competition in 2021, when rival train companies are expected to vie with InOui and Ouigo for passengers on rail routes around France. SNCF wants to beat the competition before the race has even started.
 
As part of its image update, SNCF is aiming to attract 15 million more passengers on its high speed trains before 2020. The current TGV service serves 105 million customers each year. 
 
Currently there are around 330 TGV trains n France but in future there will be 280 InOui trains and around 34 OuiGo trains.
 
While that looks like the number of trains are being cut, SNCF insists the number of places on high-speed trains will actually increase due to the fact all one-level TGV trains will be replaced by double-deckers.
 
Christian Broucaret, a spokesman from France's main rail users association FNAUT believes the move to split the services between Inoui and Ouigo is, in general, positive for passengers.
 
“TGV trains used to be considered only for rich people in France but with Ouigo trains the high speed services are open to another sector of the population,” he told The Local.
 
The spokesman says the move is obviously motivated more by SNCF's need to prepare for the opening up of the railways to competition than by a desire to improve things for passengers but says in general it should be positive.
 
“They want to saturate the market so other operators cannot find a way in.”
 
 
What's the difference between InOui and Ouigo services?
 
Apart from Ouigo (see pic below) offering passengers cheaper tickets, the quality of the onboard service on InOui trains will be superior. For a start there will be a restaurant coach, where as on Ouigo trains passengers must bring their own refreshments.
 
And unlike on low-cost Ouigo trains there will be no restrictions on the amount of luggage a passenger can bring on board. However there is less space for luggage on the newly refurbished InOui trains than on the old TGVs. 
 
SNCF is promising wifi on board all InOui trains although if the quality of the wifi on board the new Paris- Bordeaux trains is anything to go, then passengers shouldn't expect too much.
 
There will also be more plugs to charge phones or plug in laptops and a cleaning service will operate throughout the journey rather than once the train reaches its destination and passengers are off.
 
 
 
And ticket controllers will be transformed into chief stewards like on airplanes. So they will no longer have the job of checking passengers' tickets and will have to attend to their needs instead.
 
The train stewards have been told to be “attentive”, “kind”, “positive” and “pro-active”.
 
Tickets will be checked at automatic gates on platforms at rail stations before boarding the trains.
 
But what about prices?
 
SNCF insists that prices will not be rising despite InOui being presented as the haute de gamme (top of the range) service. 
 
 
“A new customer experience with more comfort, more services and more connections, at the same price,” was how Rachel Picard, the managing director of SNCF Voyages described InOui.
 
For now however rail passengers in France will be forgiven for not noticing much difference to trains at first.
 
Apart from the new high speed trains on the Paris to Bordeaux line the big rebranding will simply involve giving the old TGVs a lick of paint and a spruce up to improve connectivity and comfort.
 
Not until 2023, when 100 new high speed trains are due to be rolled out at a cost of €3 billion, will customers really notice the difference.
 
Currently only 40 TGVs have been rebranded with the InOui design and they are currently only on the Paris to Bordeaux route.
 
The rebranding will be extended to TGVs that serve the Paris – Lyon line as well as Paris to Strasbourg and then Paris to the Mediterranean coast by the end of the year.
 
By 2019 TGV trains that serve the west coast cities such as Nantes and Rennes will have the InOui branding. So by 2020 the traditional TGV will indeed be dead.

Member comments

  1. I used the TGV regularly, mainly for business, for about ten years; however, when I mistakenly used their luggage service between home near Poitiers for delivery to Cannes last year, they lost the case, and closed down their delivery service from lunchtime Saturday to midday Monday; “..it’s the south M’sieu”and this was a business trip. They had collected my case on Thursday, for delivery on Saturday. But it didn’t arrive.
    I had meetings to go to, and had nothing bar the clothes I was wearing; and the luggage service phone rang, and rang and rang, form 11.00 am on Saturday until it was answered at 10.00 am on Monday morning
    No apology, no reaction to my complaint. So, in my humble opinion, they can screw themselves, now I drive, or fly. They can paint the trains any colour they like, the service is amateur at best.

  2. I am a little concerned about the reduction in luggage space. Some of us use these trains to get to and from airports. Luggage space is a NEED not just a want.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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