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what is the new “Ouigo classic train” worth?

WE TESTED – Launched on April 11, the new SNCF offer connects Paris to Lyon and Nantes on board old Corail cars. A journey that takes twice as long but has the advantage of being offered at a reduced price compared to the TGV. We have tested.

To make new with old, the bet is that the SNCF launches with its new offer “Ouigo classic train”† Inaugurated on Monday 11 April, it allows travel between ParisLyon and Nanteswhile serving about ten intermediate stations such as Le Mans, angerDijon or Chalon-sur-Saone† If the trip takes twice as long, it is also less expensive: the prices, fixed, are set between 10 and 30 euros, even at the last minute.

The offer is ultimately very similar to that of the 100% Eco Intercités that circulated between Paris and Grenoble until 2019, Bordeaux and Strasbourg† The principle was the same: to offer a slower but cheaper alternative to the TGV by taking the classic routes with less expensive tolls. This service is therefore being reborn under a different name and in the form of a private subsidiary. A smart legal arrangement common to SNCF, which has been denounced by various railway unions. Several dozen of them also delayed the departure of our train by an hour by going on the tracks of the Paris-Austerlitz station.

Comfort, service on board, explanation of fares… To assess this new offer, we were on one of the first trains in circulation between Paris and Nantes.

Comfort: 8/10

The Corail trains assigned to the new Ouigo have not been renovated. Jean-Marc De Jaeger / Le Figaro

During a presentation of the trains to the press in early March, SNCF had only shown the outside of the train and their new candy-pink coating, but impossible to see inside. Why so much mystery? If it is true that the Corail trains (contraction of “comfort on rails”), in use from 1975, have an old-fashioned appearance that one can be ashamed to present as a new product, it must be recognized that their seats are certainly the most comfortable ones left on the French network. In any case, you feel much more comfortable there than in other Ouigos where, just like in airplanes, the space is optimized to the maximum.

Except for the windows (without curtains or blinds!), nothing has been renovated. Only here and there are some Ouigo-colored stickers applied. One detail that can disappoint connected travelers: there is no wifi or power outlets. However, the whole train is not homogeneous, some wagons are better equipped than others. With a bit of luck you can find an outlet, depending on the car you are in.

Service: 6/10

As you would expect from a low-cost offer, service is kept to a minimum. While the fast Ouigos don’t have a bar cart, the “slow Ouigos” offer a mobile snack service. Quite noticeable if the journey takes four hours, but hope you don’t satisfy your hunger: only chips, chocolate bars and bottles of water or soft drinks are offered… We make arrangements for a complete meal.

Travelers can bring their bike (€5 for a disassembled bike in a cover, €10 for a non-disassembled bike), which is not possible in the fast Ouigos. In addition to the ticket included in the ticket, baggage costs €5 (free option throughout 2022). Good point: Boarding is done up to five minutes before the train departure, while Ouigo high speed customers have to be present thirty minutes before.

The route and times: 6/10

The Ouigo Classic train serves 14 destinations on the Paris-Lyon and Paris-Nantes axes. SNCF Travelers

As the name suggests, the new Ouigo travels at conventional speed, ie at a maximum speed of 160 km/h. While a fast Ouigo takes two hours to connect Paris with the center of Lyon and Nantes, ‘slow Ouigos’ get there in about 4.5 hours. The secondary stations depart from the capital: Bercy station for trains to Lyon (one daily return), Paris-Austerlitz station for those to Nantes (two daily return flights, one via bloisthe other via Le Mans).

Another special feature: the trains serve various stations in the suburbs of Paris. During our trip, half of the travelers boarded at the three stations of Ile-de-France (Juvisy, Massy-Palaiseau and Versailles Chantiers). Undoubtedly proof that this train meets the demand of passengers living in the south of Paris.

The price: 8/10

The trains consist of eight Corail carriages, all repainted in fuchsia pink. Jean-Marc De Jaeger / Le Figaro

Finally an ounce of simplicity in the SNCF prices † On the new Ouigo, prices are not determined based on demand and degree of filling (revenue management), as with other trains (except TER). So no risk of seeing the price rise as the start approaches. All passengers on the same train are guaranteed to pay the same fare, between €10 and €30 (fixed price of €5 for children under 12), regardless of when the reservation is made, knowing that the sale starts 45 days before departure. The exchange costs 10 € while canceling the ticket is not possible.

This fixed-price system could appeal to travelers who are used to leaving at the last minute. The offer shows his real interest in times of large departures (School holiday…), where a Paris-Lyon or a Paris-Nantes can easily sell for one hundred euros one way if you don’t have a discount card† Good to know if you are planning to travel to one of these destinations during the long weekends Easter and Pentecost.

With this offer, the SNCF wants to compete more with the road than with itself. Goal ? Motorists and regular customers of carpooling and long-distance coaches. On the day of our departure, most of the carpooling between Paris and Nantes was offered for €25, with the advantage of the flexibility of departure and arrival point. As for the coaches, Blablabus and Flixbus offered seats for €20 for a journey longer than an hour (ie 5.5 hours). Our Ouigo was therefore both the cheapest (€19) and the fastest (4h18) way to reach Nantes.

Final score: 7/10 for the classic train Ouigo

The SNCF is based on its two-speed travel model. The “Slow Ouigo” aims to attract customers who have limited time and resources. Whatever people say, it’s a good way to make the train accessible for all budgets. It remains to be seen whether travelers accustomed to high speed are willing to double their travel time and sacrifice half a day to save a few euros… Some days it is more interesting to have a quick Ouigo loan, offered for €19 to Nantes and Lyon. Travelers can also count on Paris-Lyon Trenitalia, the new competitor of the SNCF, who offers this trip from €23. With this new offer, SNCF hopes to reach 1.2 million passengers within two years.


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