Rail firm attacked on "caste system"

Thalys operates segregated seating for low-cost passengers - to give business travellers cheap tickets and peace to work

19 March 2012

HIGH-SPEED train company Thalys is to introduce a new fares system that will separate those with cheap tickets from those paying full price.

The move comes as the company, which runs services between Paris, Belgium, Holland and Germany, has raised fares for the second time in six months. But it has been attacked by Belgian Euro-MP Marc Talabella who said the company was launching its own "European caste system".

Thalys has introduced three new ticket prices: Flex, Semi-flex and No-flex which give different advantages.

The €141 Paris-Brussels Flex fare (or €205 Paris-Amsterdam and €169 Paris-Cologne) gives full flexibility of travel on the first-class "Comfort 1" service plus high-speed internet, a meal, taxi reservation and free international newspapers.

Semi-Flex tickets give reduced flexibility and are offered for both Comfort 1 and Comfort 2 classes. In Comfort 1 the tickets (€59 Paris-Brussels, €79 Paris-Amsterdam and €69 Paris-Cologne) give all the benefits of first class but in second-class Comfort 2 passengers get only free high-speed internet.

Passengers will be separated into full-cost and lower-cost seats and carriages so, Thalys says, that those who wish to work can do so in peace and quiet.

In No-flex passengers will get only the "speed and comfort" of the Thalys train in Comfort 2 with fares from €29 to Brussels (this formerly cost €25) and €35 to Amsterdam. They will also be seated furthest from the bar and food areas.

Thalys says it is responding to pressure from hard-pressed business travellers who are facing spending cuts - and want cheaper fares while still getting the internet access and peace to work while travelling. It added it was "not a caste system, just grouping business people together".

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