France’s public train transportationsystem is comprehensive, on time (generally), relatively inexpensive and easy to use. I have always wondered why the U.S. hasn’t yet gotten on-board (pardon the pun) to offer the public an efficient, expansive rail alternative to driving.
As reported recently in The Connexion newspaper “Cheaper fares, better discount cards and low-cost TGV tickets are part of a new SNCF campaign to get more people to take the train.
The state-owned rail firm will also hire 40,000 new staff before 2017, with 10,000 of them this year.
Rail travellers have long complained about high SNCF fares and the company has reacted with new offers, including a million under-€25 tickets each year on the Paris-Lyon-Marseille-Montpellier route.
And the company has taken a page out of Ryanair’s book by launching low-cost TGV services – labelled TGV éco – which use basic no-frills, single-class trains serving out-of-the way stations. Just as Ryanair uses Charleroi for Brussels, SNCF has Marne-La-Vallée for Paris as the costs for using the station are less than for Gare de l’Est or similar in the capital.
Today SNCF also launches a new range of young people’s discount cards, targeting the 12-17 and 18-27 age groups. The old 18-25 card has been dumped and the new ones offer similar reductions, ranging from 25% to 60% discount. The card costs €50 for a year.
People who buy in advance will also benefit from the cheapest tickets but the 18-27 card will also give access to cheap last-minute tickets – with 10,000 available each month.
Families get help, too, with the €75 Enfant+ card giving reductions of between 25% and 50% for a child of up to 12 and four others in the party.
The over-60s can get a €65 Senior+ card that gives a 40% reduction in first class, against today’s 25%. It is valid on all trains at all times, said Voyages SNCF director-general Barbara Dalibard.
Company president Guillaume Pépy said it would hire 500 non-qualified young people under the government’s “jobs for the future” scheme before the end of the year. They would be employed in customer service, track maintenance and cleaning, tourist welcome and digital technology.
The company will also take on 40,000 new staff up to 2017, in part to compensate for retirements but also to cope with new passengers switching from car travel.” ###
Montons à bord!