The TGV, flagship of the SNCF, in competition for the first time

A thousand times announced, expected, delayed, hoped for, feared… the competition is now real. Saturday, December 18, at 7.26 a.m., for the first time in the history of the SNCF, a passenger train from a rival company, carrying passengers from one French station to another, was to set off on its rails . Quite a symbol: the high-speed Frecciarossa (“red arrow”) of the historic Italian operator Trenitalia comes to rub shoulders with the TGV, flagship of the French railway company, on the very site of the inauguration of the tricolor racing car. It was between Paris and Lyon, forty years ago and dust.

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Trenitalia France, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trenitalia, has not indicated the level of reservations for this first trip, but is satisfied with already registering several full trains for the end-of-year holidays, while the sale of tickets only started since December 13th. The company will run five trains in two daily round trips on the Paris-Lyon-Chambéry-Turin-Milan route and announces its intention to add three Paris-Lyon round trips by June 2022. Between Paris and Lyon , the SNCF offers twenty-two round trips.

Frecciarossa is distinguished by the TGV inOui and Ouigo by its bright red color, but also by an unprecedented offer and comfort levels. The TAV (High Speed ​​Train), as they say in Italy, offers four classes, including a very comfortable business and executive, with reclining leather seats and unlimited Italian cuisine. At 139 euros a place between Paris and Lyon, this offer crushes the new “business premiere” of the SNCF, which, for 142 euros on the same journey, offers a classic first-class seat and a snack.

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Trenitalia therefore opens the ball to this competition of domestic rail passenger transport, which had been long overdue (liberalization has however existed in freight since 2006 and on international links since 2009). It was the 2018 rail reform that put an end to the last monopoly of the incumbent operator, organizing two kinds of market opening: on the one hand, public service delegations awarded through calls for tenders for subsidized regional trains. ; on the other hand, direct commercial competition between operators, as in the case of Trenitalia.

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The “red arrow” may however be alone for at least a few months to come and taunt the SNCF. Because, in concrete terms, access to the French rail network for an alternative operator is extremely complex. If Trenitalia gets there today (despite a final straight line made, according to our information, with a good dose ofimprovisation)is that she has been plowing the land for years. “Under the name Thello, Trenitalia arrived in France ten years ago to offer a Paris-Venice night, says a good connoisseur of the company. The offer ended in 2020, due to the Covid-19 but also because of the poor quality of the slots. One in five trains did not have an acceptable working schedule, mainly due to night work. “

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