Whammy in SNCF: Those travelers who refer to rival Trenitalia
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Whammy in SNCF: Those travelers who refer to rival Trenitalia

Some travelers had to abandon their flight with SNCF due to the controllers’ strike, and this weekend some travelers tested out Transalpine Trenitalia’s offer of 5 round trips a day between Paris and Lyon.

Every hit has its solution. While a social movement by the controllers disrupts SNCF traffic this weekend with only one in four TGVs circulating, more and more travelers are testing the service offered by the national rail company’s Italian competitor: Trenitalia.

“My train, initially scheduled for Friday evening, was canceled, so we had to reschedule,” testifies a traveler at the Gare de Lyon, in Paris. “We had to find a workaround and Trenitalia still had seats, so I took a Trenitalia ticket,” says another.

There is a workaround that can however prove expensive when you book at the last minute: “We had to pay the high price because there weren’t many places. We’re losing out from a financial point of view,” admits the forced-to-bid couple on their trip with the SNCF. Many already are those who rushed on the TGV Trenitalia, most of them completed on Sunday.

Successful launch

Since December 2021, Trenitalia has been operating 5 daily round trips between Paris and Lyon and 2 round trips to Italy, mainly via Chambery and Modane. To this day, the Italian company remains the only railway company to enter the French market since opening high-speed lines to competition in 2020.

And success is there. In May, the operator’s director in France, Roberto Rinaudeau, noted at BFM Business that 210,000 passengers had already taken the Trenitalia train “especially on the Milan-Paris train”, with an occupancy rate of 89%, “above (his expectations”). The choice to strengthen links between Paris and Lyon in the weeks that followed was not trivial, given that the Paris-Lyon line is one of the most popular in France.

Competition is still limited

Will Transalpine’s successful arrival encourage it to conquer other avenues in France? “At the moment our goal is to enhance the existing offer but we will soon analyze the possibility of developing more. If there are opportunities, why not,” explained BFM Business Roberto Rinaudo.

What seriously threatens the SNCF? Not really, at this point. According to a study by Trainline and OpinionWay, less than half (40%) of French people say they know Trenitalia and three-quarters (75%) of respondents who were asked about the openness of the railway market to competition spontaneously mentioned the service. from SNCF. Many travelers accustomed to the national carrier also see this alternative as offering a solution just in case of a strike.

A sign that competition is not yet worrying SNCF, Trenitalia has secured financial assistance from SNCF Réseau in the form of very generous toll rate cuts to make it easier to open up the passenger market, with a 37% discount in the first year. , 16% detected the second and 8% the third Parisian in April.

This made the railway workers of the National Railways jump up, denouncing the “breaking of shareholder equity”. For his part, Roberto Reinaudo defended himself, explaining that “there is a differentiated pricing system that helps encourage openness to competition, given the fact that new entrants have additional costs.”

The respective regional trains from 2023

Away from Trenitalia, the competition against SNCF’s TGV is struggling for visibility. Expected for several months, the commercial launch of the French company Le Train will continue to be delayed. Initially scheduled for September this year, it will not be held until the end of 2024 at best. The young company, which aims to operate 50 TGVs per day from the first year between Arcachon, Bordeaux, Angoulême and Poitiers, regrets the difficulty used equipment from the SNCF and condemns the lack of “political impetus”.

“The ball is no longer in our court. And things still aren’t moving forward with the SNCF. We’ve been offered equipment that doesn’t meet our expectations, we’re not there,” Alain Jetroux, General Manager of LeTrain, expressed his regrets to the BFM Business. SNCF, for its part, makes clear that European regulations prevent it from selling or transferring the kind of equipment its future competitor is seeking.

Regional lines are expected to open for competition in 2023. And while calls for tenders have already been launched in many regions, commercial offers are scheduled to be launched between 2024 and 2040. But SNCF does not intend to give it up. Its chief executive Jean-Pierre Farandeau declared: “SNCF will be everywhere. We will fight every call for bids.” In response to Trenitalia, the national company also plans to boost its high-speed offer from France to Italy by 2026-2027.

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