France’s SNCF launches new ticket scheme for sold-out low-cost trains

France's national rail service has made it easier for train passengers to cancel their low-cost tickets so other passengers can take up the seats. Here's what you need to know.

France's SNCF launches new ticket scheme for sold-out low-cost trains
A SNCF's low-cost Ouigo TGV trains passes at high speed in the direction of Paris (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

When travelling by rail in France, many opt for Ouigo, which offers low-cost TGV trains on certain popular routes.

It is often a great option for getting a more affordable train, but unfortunately it has not historically offered refunds or exchanges – part of the reason it is low-cost.

Even so, 10 percent of people still miss their trains, and with a summer marked by huge passenger numbers on trains, many are seeking to take those unoccupied spots.

Passengers will be happy to hear that on Monday SNCF launched “Ouigoswap”, which is essentially a service for those looking for Ouigo tickets when trains are officially sold out.

It allows passengers to add their names to a waiting list for when tickets become available when other passengers can’t travel.

Screenshot of Ouigo website

Travellers can now go to the Ouigo website and application, and search location they are seeking to travel to. If the time they are seeking is not available, then the passenger can add themselves to the waiting list. 

Those who have bought tickets but want to get rid of them because they cannot travel can sign up and register for a new option that allows them to pass on their tickets to those on the waiting list. If they is a taker then they are reimbursed 80 percent of their ticket price.

It works on a first come first served basis.

Passengers are not obligated to buy tickets that become available, so simply adding yourself to the waiting list does not mean you have to purchase one. If the seat becomes available, the customer will then be contacted either by email or notification on the application or website. Then, they will be invited to purchase the ticket, which will be listed “at normal price” (full fare).

You can register for a waiting list up until the day before the train is set to depart (until 11:59M). 

For more information and to look for low-cost train TGV train tickets in France you can visit the Ouigo website.

Member comments

  1. Companies should try to fill up every seat available. Swapping tickets makes sense and that should be available for airplane tickets too.

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


Trains, ferries and schools: What to expect from France’s ‘general strike’ on Thursday

Unions are calling for a 'general strike' in France this week, demanding wage increases to cope with the cost of living. Here's how the strike action will affect services.

Trains, ferries and schools: What to expect from France's 'general strike' on Thursday

What are the demands?

The inter-union group that is organising the strike is calling for salaries to be indexed at a rate of at least 10 percent for civil servants. The government previously increased the rate by 3.5 percent, but unions say that this “falls short of the urgent need to raise all salaries” and “preserve living conditions of all.” 

As the mobilisation is across several sectors, there are more specific demands within each field, but most return to the question of the cost of living crisis.

When and where will mobilisation take place?

Industrial action will take place across the country on Thursday, September 29th.

How widespread will the mobilisation be?

The impact of French strikes all depends on one thing – union solidarity. 

There are many different unions in France and even within a single profession – for example train drivers – there are often five or six different unions representing staff. It’s only when all or most of the unions agree to strike on the same day that we usually see major disruption of the kind that brought transport in the country to a standstill in late 2019.

The unions participating in Thursday’s action are; CGT, Solidaries and FSU.

There will also be notable absences, including the union FO (Force Ouvrière) who said they are not interested in marching alongside political parties. The union Unsa will also not take place in industrial action this Thursday. 

France’s largest union the CFDT will also be absent, with the head of the union, Laurent Berger, telling AFP: “Who is going to believe that it is because you are all going to demonstrate together in Paris that this is going to settle the question (of wages)? It is company by company, professional branch by professional branch that we must act.”

This suggests that disruption will be more limited, although it’s likely that some services will be worse-hit than others.

Which sectors will be impacted?

The industrial action will primarily impact a few sectors, such as transport, education, and civil servants. 


SNCF – Railway unions are calling on SNCF employees to take part in the strike, which is likely to mean that some services will be cancelled. Train traffic forecasts (TGV, Ouigo, TER, Intercité, Transilien and international lines) will be available 24 hours before the strike. 

Urban transport – City transport networks (buses, streetcars, metros) could be impacted both by striking drivers and by route detours linked to demonstrations. To know the traffic forecasts, check the website of your transport service.

Paris – As for Paris public transport operator RATP, workers represented by the CGT union will take part in the strike, although workers represented by other unions will not. On September 19th, CGT RATP published a strike notice that “covers all staff in all categories and in all services from Wednesday, September 28, 2022 at 10 pm until Friday, September 30th 2022 at 7 am.” RATP will publish a revised strike timetable 24 hours before the strike.

Truck drivers –  Some truck drivers will stop work. The road transport federation of SUD Solidaires is calling on its members and truck drivers to join Thursday’s actions. However, it should be noted that the SUD Solidaires union does not have a majority in the “road haulage collective agreement” and is not part of the mandatory annual negotiations.

Maritime traffic – The CGT national federation of ports and docks is calling for a four-hour work stoppage. The hours will vary from port to port. In Marseille, for example, workers will walk out from 9 am to 1 pm, thus maritime traffic could be impacted. Ferry passengers should check with their operator.


Several teachers’ unions (SNES FSU, SNUipp-FSU, SUD Education) have published strike notices on their websites.

For pre-schools (maternelles) and primary schools, teachers must declare themselves as strikers ahead of time, so parents should be aware prior to Thursday. In each case, parents will be contacted by the school if classes are going to be closed. 

Extracurricular activities, cafeterias and crèches – Services managed by the cities such as school cafeterias, extracurricular activities and day care centres could also be impacted, as civil servants represented by the three unions listed above were called to mobilise. To know the disruptions that will impact you or your child specifically, you can contact your local mairie (city hall).

Public servants

Civil servants (fonctionnaires) were called to participate in the strike, which could have an impact on some public services. Healthcare workers are also staging industrial action, although in their case this will involve demonstrations rather than walking out of work. 

Refinery workers 

Finally, some refinery workers employed by TotalEnergies will walk out on Thursday, as they seek salary increases, as well as the “unfreezing of hiring” and “a massive investment plan” in France. 

They will also be staging a blockade at certain refineries to prevent fuel leaving – the main sites to be affected will be the La Mède biorefinery (Bouches-du-Rhône), the Normandy refinery in Le Havre, Donges (Loire-Atlantique), Carling (Moselle), Feyzin (Rhône) and Oudalle (Seine-Maritime), as well as the fuel depots in Grandpuits (Seine-et-Marne) and Flandres (Nord).


On Thursday there will also be marches and demos held in around 200 towns and cities in France.

The largest is likely to be in Paris, where between 3,000 and 6,000 demonstrators are expected in the march which sets off at 2pm from Denfert-Rochereau in the direction of Bastille. 

Other strike days coming up 

On October 16th, the leftist party La France Insoumise has called on all political and trade union forces on the left to mobilise. However, as of September 27th, CGT said it would not participate in such action.

Additionally, there have been calls for industrial action in the early childhood (nurseries) sector scheduled for October 6th.