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SNCF confirms Bordeaux trains to Brussels and London

There may soon be a direct train link between Bordeaux and London, SNCF has said, as a new Bordeaux-Brussels link is confirmed, and the current Paris-Bordeaux line is deemed a success.

A new report on the Paris-Bordeaux high-speed train line has confirmed that 25% of the line’s traffic now comes from SNCF’s low-cost TGV (train à grande vitesse) service, Ouigo; and that the number of passengers was higher than initial estimates had predicted (3.7 million in 2018, compared to the 3.5 million estimated).

It is 18 months since the line, which is operated by concessionary group Liséa, was launched, offering journey times of just two hours and four minutes between Bordeaux and Paris.

TGV use in France has also grown by 15% over the same time, SNCF said.

Alain Juppé, president of the Bordeaux Métropole, said: “We expected a lot from this train line, and that has now been proven.”

Alain Rousset, president of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, added: “This is a monumental success that outstrips all of the figures given at the time.”

Rachel Picard, journey director general at SNCF, said: “25% of the Paris-Bordeaux traffic takes place today on Ouigo, with tickets from €16. [Before Ouigo], Ouigo clients travelled by car, or did not travel at all. More than half of Ouigo passengers would not have taken a TGV if Ouigo did not exist.”

The Ouigo service was launched in 2017. It offers a TGV option without any extra frills, on-board food, or luggage services.

It is primarily aimed at passengers who may not otherwise have chosen to travel on a TGV, and tickets start at €16 per journey. The average cost of a return journey between Paris and Bordeaux is €85.

SNCF has now said it is planning a 2019 promotion on the line, including the launch of four million Paris-Bordeaux tickets that will cost from €39 per return journey.

In light of the success of the new service, and also that of the Tours-Bordeaux line since its launch in 2017, SNCF has confirmed that more services to Bordeaux are imminent.

From June 29 2019, a new Thalys train service will run between Bordeaux and Brussels in Belgium, every Saturday, the company confirmed. Tickets will cost €40, and the journey will take around four hours.

SNCF also said that it was “working on the feasibility” of a high-speed, cross-Channel service between Bordeaux and London, in the near future.

This includes working on the current infrastructure at the Bordeaux Saint-Jean train station, the possibility of a dedicated London platform, and the management of international customs. There is also the question of whether another company - apart from Eurostar - may take on the project.

Stéphane Lambert, from the Gare et Connexions branch of SNCF, which is working on the plan, spoke of a “cross-Channel project”, rather than a “Eurostar” deal.

He said: “Today we have Eurostar, but there may be other operators tomorrow.”

Yet, he confirmed: “We are working on the possibility of welcoming trains between Bordeaux and London. It is obviously quite complicated, because going to London - especially in the context of Brexit - requires some administrative formalities and extra customs, and it is a little more difficult to get on a train bound for England than it is to Belgium or Paris.

“But this study is underway, and should allow us to offer this service towards Great Britain within a few years.”

The estimated journey time between Bordeaux and London is expected to be around four and a half hours.

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