SHARE
COPY LINK

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.

Member comments

  1. I’m amused to see – post-Brexit (no, that isn’t amusing at all) – French trains called Ouigo (we go?) and in nearby Angers the trams are Irigo (Here I go?)

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

TOURISM

How to find cheap train tickets in France

Travelling by train is one of the best ways to see France - even with a mandatory mask on. Here - from railcards to sales - is how you can make it even better by cutting the cost of your ticket.

A blue high-speed Ouigo low-cost TGV train arriving at  de l'Est railway station in Paris, with the the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in the background
From cheap services to railcards, here's how to save money on train travel. Photo: Joel Saget / AFP

Railcards are the most common way to cut the cost of a ticket. In some cases, the card can even pay for itself in one journey. France’s rail operator SNCF has a range of cards available for everyone from impoverished students to regular business travellers with an expenses account to burn.

But if you’re not a regular traveller there are also a range of offers plus cheaper services to opt for.

Let’s start with the railcards.

Liberté card

This one’s really for business travellers, who use the TGV or Ouigo and Intercite trains regularly. And it comes with a price to match – €399 for a year. This guarantees cardholders 60 percent off SNCF’s Business Première fares when travelling standard class, and  45 percent off Business Première fares when travelling 1st class. Plus, there’s between 25 percent and 50 percent off TER fares in certain regions, and it’s valid for use in other European countries.

Forfait pass

Effectively a season ticket, this one’s for commuters who regularly use TGV INOUI or Intercité services to get to work. Prices vary based on how much you travel, and you can get annual, monthly or weekly passes. Click here for a calculation of how much you will have to pay.

Avantage Senior 60+ card

SNCF relatively recently rebranded its railcards under the Avantage umbrella. If you’re aged 60 or over and travel occasionally with TGV Inoui, Intercités or TER in France, you will save 30 percent on first and standard class travel, for an annual fee of €49. And there’s 60 percent off ticket prices for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11.

In fact, standard fares are capped for all destinations in France, no matter when you book. And that’s on top of a 30 percent guaranteed discount on 1st- and standard-class train tickets. 

You’re guaranteed affordable fares, even at the last minute. They’re currently capped as follows:

  • €39 or less for a short journey (under 90 minutes)
  • €59 or less for a medium-length journey (between 90 minutes and three hours)
  • €79 or less for the longest journey (over three hours)

Plus, there are savings on food and drink prices on the train – as well as other perks that are worth looking into.

Avantage Adulte Card

If you’re aged 27-59 and take TGV Inoui, Intercités or TER trains often, it’s worth looking into the Avantage Adulte card – which has replaced the Avantage Weekend and Avantage Famille cards – because you’ll save 30 percent on first and standard class tickets for the annual €49 fee.

Discounts extend to accompanying adults, and there’s 60 percent off ticket prices for up to three accompanying children aged between four and 11.

As with the Senior card, standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France. And you get the onboard perks too, including 15 percent off food and drink from the trolley.

Avantage Jeune Card

For anyone aged 12 to 27, the Avantage Jeune card will save you 30 percent on TGV Inoui and Intercité services that require booking for the annual €49 fee.

Standard class fares are capped for all destinations in France. And you get the onboard perks too, including 15 percent off food and drink from the trolley.

Other ways to save money

If you’re not a regular travellers and don’t want a railcard, there are other ways to save money when travelling.

Ouigo trains

SNCF’s low-cost TGV service offers high-speed cut-price travel in and out of Paris to 17 French destinations. There are drawbacks though, the trains have fewer on-board services and some of them only go to stations close to a city, rather than the city-centre station – so it’s worth checking when you book exactly where you will end up.

Children under 12 years of age can travel for €5 all year long, or €8 to or from a station in Paris.

Railcards are valid on Ouigo trains, cutting ticket prices further.

Happy Hour

Be aware of last-minute ‘Happy Hour’ deals on available on select days for selected Intercité trains to a selection of destinations around France. You could save up to 50 percent on ticket prices. And, yes, railcards are valid.

Ticket sales

Watch out, too, for announcements of when tickets are available for sale. From November 3rd, for example, rail tickets are available up to March 27, 2022 – and up to July 2, 2022, for Inoui tickets.

Early booking may get you a good deal, and SNCF offers regular deals particularly around peak travel times such as summer and Christmas. Downloading the SNCF app will get you advance notification of sales.

SHOW COMMENTS