Train tickets in France soon sold in tobacco shops

Passengers will now be able to buy SNCF tickets at tobacconist shops, it has been confirmed

Train passengers in France will soon be able to buy SNCF tickets from tobacconist shops, it has been confirmed, in the same week as SNCF announced more station sellers in response to huge queues.

The measures come amid recent furore over waiting times of up to two hours - simply to buy or change a ticket - in major stations across the country, especially in Paris.

Now, tobacconist shops (buralistes) will be permitted to sell normal train tickets, starting with TER services, and eventually progressing to TGVs.

The system will be tested first this summer, in the regions of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est, Pays de la Loire, Normandy and Provence-Côte-d'Azur.

Shops that volunteer to participate will need to be equipped with a special app and a ticket printer, and their suitability to offer the service will be agreed in consultation with local authorities and train company SNCF.

Tobacconists will receive a fixed fee for offering the service, as well as a variable amount depending on how many tickets they sell.

Director general of TER services Frank Lacroix said: “This is a large-scale increase of our distribution network. Everyday, 10 million French people visit one of the country’s 24,500 tobacco shops.”

The measure was signed by Mr Lacroix, along with Guillaume Pepy, president of SNCF; and Philippe Coy, president of tobacconist group la Confédération des Buralistes. It comes in the same week as Mr Pepy also confirmed the provision of 150 more ticket sellers in Paris stations, in response to recent furore over queues and waiting times of up to two hours.

Mr Pepy admitted that SNCF had “made errors” over waiting times at stations, and said that the company had taken “all the necessary measures to increase the number of ticket sellers”.

He said: “We were a bit overwhelmed. Firstly because we had more clients that expected, and also because after the heatwave, lots of clients came to the counters to change their tickets, to alter their journeys, or to get a refund, and this caused an influx [of queues].”

An increase of 150 extra ticket counters represents an increase of almost a third. Currently, there are around 500 SNCF ticket sellers in the capital’s major stations.

Mr Pepy added that SNCF was attempting to avoid the problem elsewhere too, saying: “[SNCF] is continuing to build more counters in new stations”, such as the new hub in Rennes (Brittany).

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