Dince the beginning of the month, Trenitalia’s offer with Frecciarossa, the “red arrow” TGV, is no longer anecdotal. Three round trips Paris-Lyon have been added to a first Paris-Lyon-Milan schedule which was started on December 18 with only two daily newspapers. From now on, a Parisian can spend a day of twelve hours in the capital of Gaul, or only a morning or an afternoon. The converse is true for the Lyonnais. Travel during the day is possible by staying 8 hours on site in Chambéry, or 3.5 hours in Turin.
At the end of May, 280,000 passengers had been transported by Trenitalia. This remains modest compared to SNCF Voyageurs, which has a very complete range of trains (and fares). It starts with the OuiGo classic train at midday at 16 euros (case of a trip on June 16) or the TGV OuiGo at 25 euros via TGV inOui at 52, 68 or 97 euros depending on the hours of traffic. . The incumbent operator departs from Paris Gare de Lyon at least one TGV every hour, even half an hour to Part-Dieu and Perrache, not to mention the services from the Paris region which pass through Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport.
SNCF launches cheaper trains… but slower!
“Trenitalia has not imported its Italian tariff model with discounts and loyalty, but has created a product adapted to France where the traveler is looking for simplicity”, explains Roberto Rinaudo, President of Trenitalia France which, according to the principle of yield management, only varies the fare depending on how full the train is. That day, the first price of the Frecciarossa starts at 29 euros in standard class. A service like Trainline, federating the commercial offers of the various operators, makes it possible to compare the prices then to reserve without additional cost.
Silenzio and Allegro areas
Three comfort classes – Standard, Business and Executive – are offered on the eight-car red train that has just entered Gare de Lyon in Paris, track A of Hall 1, the one dedicated to Trenitalia activities. If the first two classes correspond to what we know on SNCF TGVs, the Executive is atypical with only ten swivel seats in the direction of travel and a catering service in place offered at the price of 130 euros from ticket. At the entrance to the car, glass partitions isolate a meeting room for five people. This offer of around fifteen seats that can be privatized for business travel is unique in the rail sector.
It is 8:33 a.m. The passengers disembark from this first service from Lyon. The same train leaves at 8:59 a.m. on time. In less than thirty minutes, four hundred passengers disembarked, and as many embarked. Between the two movements, the train was cleaned and reconditioned. And this will happen four times a day. A recipe widely tested by low cost Ryanair, easyJet, Transavia, etc. which chase away the minutes spent on a stopover. For the passenger, the signage indicating their seat is clear and, in all classes, the choice of seat is free. Like the Business, the Standard class is divided into two zones Silenzio and Allegro, an essential concept in Italian culture… The Standard class is not overly dense with seats arranged 2-2 with armrests and luggage storage space.
A faulty wi-fi
A car and a half (shared with the bar) is dedicated to Business class with 46 seats similar to those of the previous generation in airlines. Under the modestly reclining seat, power outlets and USB are not immediately visible but work well. This is not the case for the wi-fi during the outward journey despite several resets carried out by one of the two flight attendants.
If 4G allows you to keep access to the Internet more or less correctly with your smartphone, the digital offer of the Frecciarossa train is absent. Too bad because, unlimited in all classes, it is rich with music, books and a generous newsstand with three national dailies, about fifteen magazines, etc. The same interface allows you to order a meal (paying) served instead, without the prior reservation that is generally required by other land or air carriers. This service is provided by four or five service and cleaning agents. On an SNCF TGV, the controller is sometimes alone with the waiter at the bar.
Numerous video screens placed on the ceiling of the cars broadcast information on the trip with maps showing the route, the GPS speed, the arrival forecast. The air conditioning, without excess, renews the air in the car every three minutes.
Particularity of the Freciarossa, the access doors are different for the descent and the ascent but are dedicated. It is an Italian anti-Covid measure to prevent flows from crossing. It has been maintained, which improves fluidity and can reduce stopping time in stations such as Lyon-Part Dieu, Chambéry, Modane, when passengers get off and others get on.
Reservation at six months
Roberto Rinaudo is optimistic about the rise of the Italian TGV in France. “We are not aiming for profits but first of all the consolidation of these five A/R Paris-Lyon then growth. It would be possible to double the supply by running two trains in multiple units, i.e. twice 462 seats,” he calculates. “New paths, which take a long time to set up, could make it possible to increase frequencies. Finally, we could be interested in other lines of the French TGV network. The example of Milan-Rome is interesting. By lowering fares by 30 to 40% and doubling supply, train use has increased by 49%.
Other advantages of the Italian TGV, reservations are open six months in advance (compared to four for the SNCF) and tickets can be exchanged free of charge in an unlimited manner.
The TGV internationally
Each TGV relationship between France and its neighboring countries corresponds to a different economic model. The veteran Paris-Geneva opened in 1981 at the same time as the first TGV Paris-Lyon services. Today, Lyria offers 8 return trips from Paris to Geneva, 6 to Lausanne and 6 to Zurich-Basel. Its capital is held by SNCF for 74% and by CFF for 26%. The personnel on board are French and Swiss. SNCF and DB have just celebrated the fifteenth anniversary of their high-speed cooperation. 24 daily TGV inOui and ICE trains departing from Paris, Lyon, Strasbourg and Marseille serve ten German cities.
Recently announced, the merger between Eurostar and Thalys results in the creation of a holding company owned by SNCF Voyageurs (55.75%), the Caisse de depot du Québec (19.31%), the Belgian National Railway Company (18.5%) and funds managed by Federated Hermes Infrastructure1 (6.44%). For the traveler, the unique transport offer between France, the United Kingdom, Benelux and Germany will arrive in a year.
Another model, that of Spain with a classic TGV SNCF Paris-Barcelona offer. Ten daily trains from the low-cost subsidiary OuiGo Spain connect Madrid to Barcelona, with stops in Zaragoza and Tarragona. The Spanish railways are not yet present in France.