Increasingly travellers who book SNCF’s Ouigo TGV are no longer compelled to board their service at an out of town station.
From December Paris Lyon will join Paris Est and Paris Montparnasse as Ouigo departure points from the French capital, reports IRJ.
SNCF launched Ouigo TGV some five years ago. Its business model emulates that of low-cost airlines (LCCs) with no-frills, ticketless travel and online booking only. Even ouigo.com is modelled after those LCCs.
Originally Ouigo operated from stations just outside the city such as Marne-La-Vallee, Massy and Roissy (CDG airport).
Why? Because, as budget airlines have found, it costs less to run services from less busy stations. And there would be less likelihood of Ouigo cannibalising SNCF’s traditional TGVs.
Although these out-of-town services will remain, SNCF has adopted a change of tack.
In December last year it began operations from Paris Montparnasse Nantes, Rennes and Bordeaux. Last July saw Ouigo offer departures to Nancy, Metz and Strasbourg from Paris East.
And from December 2018 Ouigo will be present at Paris Lyon. Although destinations have not been finalised one assumes they will include Lyon, Marseilles and Toulon.
It means both business and leisure travellers can take a more economical TGV at a fraction of the prices charged by the regular [TGV] services.
However rail experts maintain SNCF’s decision is designed to thwart newcomers from establishing themselves at the capital’s busy termini.
The EU wants new rail entrants to compete with state-owned incumbents. So far Italy, Germany and parts of the former East Europe have these new services. But nothing has happened in France.
A spokesperson for All Rail Europe (an alliance of new rail entrants) told Business Traveller:
“It means SNCF will be making use of maintenance facilities [for Ouigo] near these main termini. Therefore non-incumbents [new entrants] will be forced to spend more money and time to shuttle their empty rolling stock further for servicing.”
Adds rail consultant Vernon Baseley who also edits the “Outre-Manche” blog:
“Ouigo will have night-time maintenance. This is also the time that any new operator would wish to use such facilities. At present [traditional] TGVs avoid night-time maintenance which is one of the reasons for their low productivity.”