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French Railways (SNCF) has launched Ouigo, a new cut-price service with a simplified booking process for TGV trains and increased capacity through extra seats.
The new brand means that SNCF can drive down its operating costs by 30 per cent and 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 due to be launched on April 2. One-way fares range between €10 and €85 depending on demand for the service being booked.
Journey times are as fast as for normal TGVs with Paris-Marseilles, for example, taking 3hrs 15mins.
But with the lower fares come a range of new conditions which are listed below:
SNCF is using modern but converted duplex (double-deck carriages) TGVs for Ouigo. The one-class layout plus the removal of the bar and baggage areas will allow each train to accommodate a total of 1,268 passengers - 20 per cent more than for a conventional duplex TGV.
By comparison, an 18-coach Eurostar train running to Paris or Brussels from London St Pancras accommodates a maximum of 750 passengers in a two-class layout.
In line with budget airline practises, Ouigo passengers at Paris must also use an alternative station – Marne-la-Vallee in the outskirts of the French capital instead of the central station of Gare de Lyon used by the traditional TGV services.
Ouigo tickets cannot be interlined (ie combined) with other train services, which means that passengers intending to use other train connections on the same trip must buy separate tickets.