French train company SNCF will make five million discounted train tickets available from today as part of a drive to encourage people to travel France by train as Covid restrictions are lifted.
The tickets will go on sale at a maximum price of €39 for TGV Inoui, Ouigo and Intercité trains from today until May 19.
The most expensive tickets for one-way journeys on the same services in May are (current prices) €77.70 for Paris to Marseille, €45 for Paris to Lyon and €71 for Paris to Bordeaux.
Head of SNCF Voyageurs, Christophe Fanichet, told Le Parisien the low-price tickets “would be spread between different destinations” and would make up a quarter of all TGV tickets.
Tickets will be fully exchangeable and refundable up to three days before departure.
In addition, children aged under 12, will pay a flat rate of €8 for train tickets until August 29 to all destinations.
Tickets to be released on sale every week
In a further measure, SNCF will start releasing tickets on sale every Wednesday for travel the following weekend, as part of a promotion called “Un mercredi oh oui!”.
This comes as travellers are increasingly likely to buy last-minute tickets, due to changing travel rules during the health crisis. Restrictions on travel between regions in France have been lifted from today (May 3).
The Wednesday promotion begins on May 5, and the train company hopes it will help support strong demand for travel over the May bank holiday weekends.
In anticipation of demand, eight out of 10 TGV trains will start running, as opposed to the four out of 10 currently running. The number of Intercité trains will also increase.
Mr Fanichet said “many trains are already full” for travel this coming weekend.
He added that a health pass would not be needed for train travel within France this summer, but that SNCF was studying this option for international train travel.
End to overbooking
SNCF will also end its practice of overbooking trains to increase ticket sales.
Overbooked tickets specify that a seat has not been reserved for the passenger (they are labelled sans place attribuée or sans reservation in French) as the train is already technically full. They account for 5% of all ticket sales.
You can board a train with an overbooked ticket, as they are meant to help make up for last-minute no shows and cancellations, but you will have to ask the train manager if there is an available seat you can use.
If no seats are available the train manager can offer you a discount voucher for future travel.
Ouigo passengers will also be able to reserve a seat of their choosing for journeys this summer, an option which has previously only been available to TGV Inoui passengers.
Long-term plan to help train travel recovery
SNCF reported a loss of 48% of passengers on high-speed trains in 2020, as a result of the health crisis.
However, over the summer 2020 period traffic did recover somewhat, reaching 85% of total volume during the same period in 2019.
SNCF is hoping this summer will help boost its 2021 travel figures.
In the long-term it is also considering introducing travel packages complementing working-from-home.
And it plans to improve the clarity of TGV pricing, and offer more professional packages with greater flexibility to encourage a return to business travel.