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SNCF opens ticket sales for Christmas but Covid rules remain

French train company SNCF has today (October 6) opened bookings for TGV and Intercités services over the Christmas holidays, with Covid cancellation and travel rules still in place.

Tickets are now available to book online for TGV Inoui and Ouigo services, and Intercités trains, for journeys between December 13, 2020 and January 4, 2021.

For Ouigo services - the low-cost TGV option - booking is even available for journeys up to July 2021.

Due to Covid-19, all tickets to January 4 will be refundable and exchangeable without fees. Passengers who wish to change their journeys will only need to pay the difference - if there is one - between their original ticket and new ticket, with no extra fee on top.

This will also apply to Ouigo reservations, up to 90 minutes before the train departs, for all journeys up to and including January 4.

SNCF normally sees record sales over the Christmas period. In 2018, it sold 40 tickets per second on the day Christmas sales opened. Last year, more than 1.5 million tickets were sold on the morning sales opened. However, strike action by SNCF staff disrupted services.

This year, SNCF will be hoping for increased sales to boost revenue during a difficult year.

In September, the company’s CEO admitted that “customer numbers were going up, but slowly”, and that sales had dropped 30-40% due to the Covid-19 pandemic, of which 10-15% was due to a drop in business traffic as more people continue to work from home.

SNCF trials new temperature checks

The Christmas ticket announcement comes as the company is set to introduce voluntary temperature checks for passengers travelling on its Toulouse-Paris TGV line.

Also from today, passengers aged 18 and over will be invited to have their temperature taken at a “borne santé" health terminal, with a thermal camera, before getting on board.

The test takes just four seconds, and is contact-free. If the passenger has a temperature equal to or higher than 38.5C, SNCF staff will receive an alert on their screens and will approach the passenger just after they board the train. They will then offer the passenger a clean surgical mask, sanitiser gel, and remind them of the importance of physical distancing.

The passenger will also be invited to take a second test using an oral thermometer, and be offered the chance to change or cancel their journey without fees if they wish.

For privacy purposes, the temperature taken will not be shown on any screens - neither to passengers nor staff - and an alert will only go off if the 38.5C threshold is breached. The data will not be stored anywhere.

The 38.5C level was adopted by SNCF on advice from health council le Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique (HCSP), which has said that a “normal temperature is between 36.8C and 38C, but temperatures can vary, even if someone is not ill, hour-by-hour, due to emotions or activity - so the threshold we have chosen is 38.5C”.

SNCF tested the system in three Paris stations over the summer, and has now installed it at Toulouse Matabiau. It will be in use in Toulouse for 10 days - from October 6 to 16, except on weekends - and be tested at Paris-Montparnasse from October 6-23.

Read more: SNCF to offer temperature checks for French train passengers

Yet, SNCF said that this does not mean that the system will definitely be “introduced in future” as standard. The 10-day test is to “check the flow of its use in real boarding conditions, before getting on the train, in case we install temperature checks before boarding”.

In a statement, SNCF said: “95% of people questioned approved of having their temperature taken.”


SNCF safety rules

While SNCF is encouraging more people to travel, there are still some Covid-19 restrictions and rules in place.

These include:

  • You must wear a mask when travelling on a train and in the station
  • Anyone not wearing a mask will not be allowed to board
  • Masks will be on sale in the station and surrounding areas for anyone who needs one
  • All staff on board will wear masks
  • Hand sanitiser - if not proper handwashing facilities with soap and water - will be available for staff and passengers in stations and on board trains
  • Passengers must have at least one seat between them and another passenger in order to respect social distancing rules. Only 50% of seats are on sale, and each passenger will therefore have two seats each (even if they have only purchased one ticket).

SNCF has also said that all trains are disinfected, fumigated and cleaned between journeys; and that plexiglass has been installed in its SNCF boutiques.

Related stories

No-mask passenger removed from Paris-Nice TGV train

Eurostar to provide contactless travel from UK to France

SNCF extends free coronavirus cancellation scheme

UK quarantine: Eurostar cuts services by 80%

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