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A limited SNCF is trying to restart its passenger traffic

Flashy pink – to the point of causing many jokes among active railway workers on social networks – the new “Ouigo classic train” would make its maiden journey, Monday, April 11, from Austerlitz station in Paris, towards Nantes. This is the SNCF’s new weapon for attracting travelers to the track: a renovated traditional Corail train that uses the classic tracks, not the TGV lines. This latest addition from the railway company certainly travels longer than “Ouigo high speed”, but offers low fixed prices whatever the time of year and even if you buy your ticket at the last minute.

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The experience starts modestly at two destinations – Paris-Lyon and Paris-Nantes – with ten trains a day, compared to the 15,000 daily trains of the SNCF or the more than 60 TGV Ouigo and inOui that commute between Paris and Lyon during the day. For example, round trips that cost travelers 60 euros to go to Lyon at the weekend in May (about five hours one way) or 40 euros to go to Nantes during the week (just over four hours per trip), and 5 euros for children.

Strong financial pressure

“Ouigo classic train” will not disturb the fate of the SNCF, but the experiment is symbolic of the desire to restart passenger traffic. This strategy, which is part of the public railway group’s ambition to double the share of the train in transport modes in France (from 10% today to 20% in 2030), is far from sound. It even takes place on a narrow ridge, surrounded by constraints: in addition to the upheaval in mobility habits caused by the pandemic, come the incentive of competition and strong financial pressure: the legally enshrined obligation to generate positive cash flow across the entire SNCF group from the end of this year.

TGV activity is down 15% compared to 2019 and the corporate clientele, the most profitable, represents only half of what it was before Covid-19

The company wants to have confidence about the resumption of passenger activity. “Q1 confirms the momentum of the traffic recovery, said Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, during a press conference on Friday, April 8. Leisure and occasional mobility are picking up strongly, we are almost back to normal in this segment. At Easter we sold 5 million tickets, which is the same as before the Covid-19 epidemic. †

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