Black jacket, smiling behind the mask, the hostess pushes her little cart down the aisle and questions the travelers one by one. “Hello, what am I going to serve you for a drink?” Here is the box with your snack inside and, on the napkin, a QR code that allows you to access the press online, and to book a taxi online. This service, which is reminiscent of that of the airlines, is exclusively reserved for customers traveling by first company.
This new class was introduced on Tuesday by SNCF on board its TGV Inoui on the Paris-Lyon line. Objective: to counter competition from the Italian Trenitalia, which should arrive by the end of the year, with its gleaming Frecciarossa (literally “red arrow”) with four different comfort classes on this strategic line for the SNCF. The Paris-Lyon being both the most thought-out high-speed line in France and one of the most commendable.
The ticket price will be set at 142 euros
After launching two daily return trips to this destination by Ouigo, its low-cost TGV, in July 2020, and announcing low-cost, low-speed Ouigo trains for March 2021, SNCF is now tackling customers business, which represents one in three travelers between Paris and Lyon.
More than real news, the first company actually reuses first class seats, but equips their customers with additional services, at the quay and on board. They benefit from a dedicated space in the Grand Voyageur lounge at Gare de Lyon, reserved “express” files to access the platforms and free snacks served on board, which vary according to the time of day: brioche and juice in the morning, spelled salad and chocolate tartlet for lunch, slice of cake in the afternoon, appetizer biscuits in the evening. For now, everything is cold, alcohol-free and vegetarian.
The price of the ticket in the first company is fixed: 142 euros, regardless of the time chosen. For comparison, on this Tuesday afternoon, the price was 87 euros for a ticket in first and 76 euros in second.
100% new trains within a year
“We believe in it a lot. For me, the real plus of the first company is the flexibility it brings to professionals, slice Alain Krakovitch, the director of Voyages SNCF. It allows you to change your ticket for any train during the day, even if it is full. »
Depending on the needs, between half and two cars per train will be dedicated to the first company. Always to counter the arrival of the Italians, the SNCF will gradually renew all of its frames of the Paris-Lyon line. Its 22 daily high-speed round trips are currently provided by 17 trains, only half of which are new. The objective is to achieve “80% new executives by the end of the year and 100% by mid-2022”.
Thanks to the reduction in the number of “squares”, these four-seater spaces facing each other, the capacity of the new trains goes from 510 to 556 seats, including four disabled people. “There is a USB port per person, in first and second class, and, in first class, a wider seating arrangement, with a real table and the possibility of a small tablet, and adjustable lighting. There is even a courtesy mirror to adjust the tie or the lipstick”, describes Jean Rouche, director of the TGV Sud-Est axis.
Soon other connections in France
How to resist the onslaught of Trenitalia? “I am convinced that the competition will increase the cake, says Alain Krakovitch. Two examples prove this: each time a Ouigo is launched on a line in France, there is a 20% increase in traffic and, in Spain, the arrival of the Ouigo between Madrid and Barcelona has resulted in a 17% increase in activity. This offer with three classes is consistent with what we have already offered on Eurostar, Thalys and Lyria. »
Moreover, the SNCF does not hide that it could, if the test is conclusive, extend the first company to other destinations such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Rennes or Nantes. “Our objective, displays Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, is to remain the long-term benchmark for high speed in France and Europe. »