Regional trains cut prices for summer travel in France

The cost of regional train travel will be slashed in France this summer in a bid to encourage more regional travel, as train company SNCF announces that it lost “billions” due to confinement.

15 June 2020
Passengers walk towards TER train waiting at the platform. The network is reducing prices this summer to encourage train travel, post-confinement.Prior to Covid-19 confinement travel on the regional TER network in France had been increasing
By Joanna York

New summer travel measures were announced on June 12 by national train network SNCF and regional train network TER (Transport Express Regional).

This is in response to reduced demand for train travel in France following the Covid-19 confinement lockdown period (which lasted from March 17 - May 11).

They include:

  • 2 million regional train tickets costing under €10 each, which will be available from June 22 and throughout the summer
  • A “young person pass”, costing €29 per month, which will allow travellers aged 12-25 to travel freely on the TER network throughout France until the end of August
  • Free travel on the national TER network for an estimated 130,000 holders of regional TER annual passes until the end of August
  • A new tourism pass offering reduced prices for visits by TER to hundreds of tourist sites in France throughout summer

The train network hopes the measures will encourage a return to train travel in France, especially among young people, who typically make up 40% of regional train customers. 

Read more: SNCF reduces summer trains in France due to lack of sales

Read more: SNCF opens bookings for summer train travel in France

Frank Lacroix, managing director of the regional train service, explained that post confinement, “we are currently at around 25% of normal travel for the TER”.

He said: “In the regions, we are in an exceptional situation, and we need to put exceptional measures in place… to make people in France return to train travel and to the TER.”

Prior to Covid-19, travel on the TER network in France had been increasing.

SNCF financial losses of “billions” during confinement

The measures come as CEO of SNCF, Jean-Pierre Farandou, said the company lost billions of euros due to the Covid-19 confinement crisis.

He told newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche, on June 14: “The loss of turnover is close to four billion euros; TGVs alone represent half of that.”

The TGV is a high-speed intercity rail network in France. Mr Farandou said that during confinement, “only 7% of TGVs were in operation, and they only transported 1% of normal client numbers". 

He added that the SNCF network had also suffered loss of earnings on daily train travel over short distances.

Only freight transport was able to maintain production level above 60% during the crisis, he said.

Reservations for summer train travel in France still low

Although SNCF opened bookings for summer train travel in France on May 15, reservations for travel in July and August are still low.

While some trains were full in June, only 20% of available seats have been booked for July, and 8% for August.

On the issue of passengers appearing reluctant to travel by train following Covid-19, Mr Farandou said: “We are still very far from the speed at which travel [usually] picks up after a strike.”

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