French Railways’ (SNCF) is fighting back to the budget airlines with Ouigo. The new cut-price service sees SNCF simplify the booking process for TGV trains and increase capacity with extra seats reported Business Traveller Magazine.
It means SNCF can drive down its operating costs by 30 per cent and so offer passengers lower fares to compete with low cost air travel.
According to a report in the Railway Gazette, the first two routes, from Paris to Marseilles and Montpelier, are launched on April 2. One-way fares range between €10 and €85 depending on demand.
Journey times are as fast as for normal TGVs with, for example, Paris-Marseilles taking 3hrs 15mins.
But with the lower fares come some drawbacks. Passengers taking Ouigo: Must book online, Have to accept a high density one-class layout, Can only take one bag free. Extra pieces of luggage must be paid for, Must note that no catering is provided, Must check-in at least 30 mins before departure
SNCF is using modern but converted duplex (double-deck) TGVs for Ouigo. The one-class layout plus the removal of the bar and baggage areas will allow each train to accommodate a whopping total of 1,268 passengers which is 20 per cent more than for a conventional duplex TGV.
By comparison, an 18-coach Eurostar train running to Paris or Brussels from London accommodates a maximum of 750 passengers in a two-class layout.
In line with budget airline practise, Ouigo passengers at Paris must use an alternative station.
Not for them the convenience of the Gare de Lyon (the city’s centrally located station for regular TGVs), Ouigo passengers have to trek 20 miles to Marne-la-Vallee in the city’s outskirts
Ouigo tickets cannot be interlined (ie combined) with other train services. So passengers intending to use other train connections on the same trip must buy separate tickets. ouigo.com