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How will France's version of the German €49-a-month train ticket work?

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How will France's version of the German €49-a-month train ticket work?
TER trains at Lille train station. (Photo by Philippe Huguen / AFP)

France is to get its own rail pass, modelled on Germany's famous €49 ticket - although some details are still TBC, here's what we know about how it will work.


“I am in favour of creating a Rail Pass based on the existing model in Germany. All the regions that are ready to do it with the State,” French President Emmanuel Macron said recently in an interview. 

He was talking about a single subscription-rate rail ticket that would allow holders to travel affordably across France.

READ ALSO French government announces plans for nationwide transport pass

Here’s what we know - and what we don’t - about the scheme.


That’s unconfirmed. Transport Minister Clément Beaune said that he hoped the Rail Pass will be available from next summer.


"We want a very simple system, open to all, which allows unlimited travel throughout France, for a single, low price", he said in an interview on France 2.

There’s a lot of track between hope and reality, so we’ll have to wait for a more concrete announcement.

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How much?

That’s another thing we don’t know. Beaune hinted that it would be “similar to what the Germans are doing”.

The recently launched "Deutschlandticket" costs €49 a month. The scheme, financed equally by the federal government and individual regions in Germany, will cost the authorities there - and therefore taxpayers - €3 billion a year up to 2025.

Who pays?

Also a good question. And still very much under discussion. The €49-a-month bill for individuals will cover some but far from all of the costs. For the plan to succeed, the government needs to get the regions onside, as they have had the authority to set their own fees since 2017. 

Some regions have launched their own discount cards, and things get even more complicated for passengers moving from one region to another, depending on whether they buy a return ticket at the station of arrival or departure.

The reaction of the regions is, perhaps, telling.

"I say to the President of the Republic, 'Go for it! But it's your idea and you're the one financing it," said Franck Dhersin, head of transport in Hauts-de-France, who said that TER trains in the region are already subsidised to the tune of €530 million a year.

And Carole Delga, President of Régions de France and Occitanie, said: "Yes, this model can and must be duplicated at national level [...] I would also point out that in Germany, the state contributes 50 percent of this low-fare policy. It must be the same in France if we want to change habits and really support the decarbonisation of our modes of transport."

That all looks to mean the taxpayer. But we live in France. We're used to that, right?


Where will the €49 ticket be valid?

Under the plan - and based on the German model - the  new travel card will be valid on all local and regional trains - Intercité and TER routes - and trams and buses across the country. 

TGV and international services, however, are unlikely to be included.

And there’s an entire 4D maze of fares to negotiate a route through on France’s regional trains. Some regions have launched their own discount cards, which will have to be factored in, and things get even more complicated for passengers moving from one region to another - already the price they pay for a return ticket can change depending on whether they buy their return ticket at the station of arrival or departure.

Meanwhile, the SNCF Avantage card, purchased by 4.5 million French people for €49 annually, offers a range of discounts depending on the region, holder, and date and time of travel. And it is not accepted in the the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region.

How do you get one?

You can’t yet. It's still very much in the planning stage. Last week, Beaune announced a 'hackathon' with a single aim - to create a digital travel pass that can be used on all types of French public transport.

The intention is to develop a billet unique that can be used on long-distance SNCF trains, local transport services and - eventually - city public transport such as the Paris and Marseille Metro.

But, under the German model, the ticket will be available in the form of a monthly, digital subscription. It will be automatically renewed at the end of each month unless transport users cancel their subscription, which they will be able to do at any time. This being France, a paper version is also under discussion for anyone not au fait with digitalisation.

Will there be further discounts for benefits recipients or young people?

Who knows? That will have to be part of the development of the Rail Pass - and probably part of the negotiations with the regions. Local and regional discounts could remain in place, for example. But, all that has to be confirmed.


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