ON A TESTED – Launched on April 11, the new SNCF offer connects Paris with Lyon and Nantes aboard old Corail wagons. A trip that lasts twice as long but has the advantage of being offered at a reduced price compared to the TGV. We tried.
Doing the new with the old is the commitment that SNCF is launching with its new offer “Ouigo classic train”. Inaugurated this Monday, April 11, it allows travel between Paris, lyons Y Nantesserving about ten intermediate stations such as Le Mans, you will goSaid no Chalon-sur-Saône. If the trip lasts twice as long, it is also cheaper: the prices, fixed, are established between 10 and 30 euros, including the last minute.
The offer is, in short, very comparable to that of the 100% Eco Intercités that circulated until 2019 between Paris and Grenoble, Bordeaux Y Strasbourg. The principle was the same: to offer a slower but less expensive alternative to the TGV by taking the classic routes with less expensive tolls. This service is therefore reborn under another name and in the form of a private subsidiary. A smart legal arrangement which is customary for SNCF, which is denounced by several railway unions. Several dozen of them have also delayed the departure of our train by an hour as it entered the tracks of the Paris-Austerlitz station.
Comfort, service on board, explanation of fares… To assess this new offer, we sat down on one of the first trains that ran between Paris and Nantes.
During a presentation of the trains to the press at the beginning of March, the SNCF had only shown the exterior of the train and its new caramel pink coating, but it was impossible to take a look inside. Why so much mystery? If it is true that the Corail trains (contraction of “comfort on rails”), put into service from 1975, have an old-fashioned look that one can be ashamed to present as a new product, it must be recognized that their seats are undoubtedly the more comfortable that still exist on the French network. In any case, you feel much more comfortable there than in other Ouigos where, like in airplanes, space is optimized to the maximum.
Apart from the windows (no curtains or blinds!), nothing has been updated. Only a few Ouigo color stickers have been added here and there. One detail that may disappoint connected travelers: there’s no Wi-Fi or power outlets. However, the whole train is not homogeneous, some cars are a little better equipped than others. With a bit of luck, you will be able to find a plug depending on the car you are placed in.
The service: 6/10
As you’d expect with a low-cost offering, service is kept to a minimum. While the high-speed Ouigos do not have a bar car, the “slow Ouigos” offer a mobile snack service. Quite appreciable when the trip lasts four hours, but don’t expect to satisfy a great hunger: only chips, chocolate bars and bottles of water or soft drinks are offered… For a full meal, we will make the necessary arrangements.
Travelers can take their bike with them (€5 for a disassembled bike in a cover, €10 for an undisassembled bike), which is not possible in the high-speed Ouigos. In addition to what is included in the ticket, luggage costs €5 (free option throughout 2022). Positive point: boarding takes place up to five minutes before the departure of the train, while Ouigo high-speed customers must arrive thirty minutes in advance.
The course and times: 6/10
As its name suggests, the new Ouigo travels at conventional speed, that is, at a maximum of 160 km/h. While a high-speed Ouigo takes two hours to connect Paris with central Lyon and Nantes, the “slow Ouigo” gets there in around 4.5 hours. In the capital, departures are from secondary stations: Bercy station for trains to Lyon (one daily round trip), Paris-Austerlitz station for those from Nantes (two daily round trips, one via bloisthe other through Le Mans).
Another peculiarity, the trains serve several stations in the suburbs of Paris. During our trip, half of the travelers boarded at the three Ile-de-France stations served (Juvisy, Massy-Palaiseau and Versailles Chantiers). Proof, without a doubt, that this train responds to a demand from passengers who live in the south of Paris.
The price: 8/10
Finally an ounce of simplicity in the SNCF prices ! In the new Ouigo, prices are not set based on demand and fill rate (Performance management), as is the case with other trains (except TER). There is no risk, therefore, that the price will shoot up 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 sales open 45 days before departure. The change costs €10 while the cancellation of the ticket is not possible.
This fixed-price system could appeal to travelers accustomed to leaving at the last minute. The offer shows your real interest in times of great departures (school holidays…), during which a Paris-Lyon or a Paris-Nantes can easily be sold for one hundred euros each way if you don’t have an Advantage card. It’s good to know if you plan to travel to one of these destinations during the long weekends Easter and Pentecost.
With this offer, SNCF seeks more to compete with the road than to compete itself. Goal ? Motorists and regulars of carpooling and long-distance coaches. On the day of our departure, most shared rides between Paris and Nantes were offered at €25, with an advantage, the flexibility of the point of departure and arrival. As for the coaches, Blablabus and Flixbus offered seats at €20 for a journey of more than one hour (that is, 5.5 hours). Our Ouigo was therefore the cheapest (€19) and fastest (4h18) way to get to Nantes.
Final mark: 7/10 for the Ouigo classic train
SNCF takes on its two-speed travel model. The “Slow Ouigo” wants to attract customers who have time but few means. Whatever people say, it is a good way to make the train accessible to all pockets. It remains to be seen whether travelers accustomed to high speed will be willing to double their travel time and sacrifice half a day to save a few euros… Some days, it is more interesting to borrow a high-speed Ouigo, which is offered at € 19 to Nantes and Lyon. On the Paris-Lyon route, travelers can also count on Trenitalia, the new competitor of the SNCF, which offers this trip from €23. SNCF expects to reach 1.2 million passengers in two years with this new offer intended above all as an experiment.
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