|Franchise(s):||Wholly owned subsidiary of SNCF|
|Other stations(s):||Lyon Part-Dieu, Lyon Perrache, Valence, Nîmes, Avignon, Aix en Provence|
|Stations called at:||10|
|Ouigo route map|
Times shown are approximate
Ouigo (French pronunciation: [wiˈɡo]) is a French low-cost train service between Marne-la-Vallée (near Paris) and the south east. It is a subsidiary of the French national rail company SNCF, but it is independently run from its parent company. The service was announced in by the head of SNCF, Guillaume Pepy on 19 February 2013, and it launched services on 2 April that year.
Reason of creation
Unlike Europe's relatively liberalized airline market (open skies), high speed railways in France (and generally in Europe) are a monopoly owned and operated by the government. However ongoing talks about high speed railways liberalization, targeted for as early as December 2019, and competition from low-cost airlines, led to the creation in 2013 of the Ouigo service.
- Tickets can only be bought on-line through a dedicated website ouigo.com or mobile app, not from ticket machines, ticket counters or through the regular SNCF website. They have to be bought a least 4 hours in advance of your journey. Four days before passengers travel, they receive a e-mail of the ticket which they print out at home or they use the mobile app to get a e-ticket, which consists of a QR code.
- Since October 2013, customers can also book tickets via the non-affiliated booking agent Captaine Train.
- Ouigo uses modified double-decker TGV Duplex trains, which are single 2nd class made up of either 2x2 or 3x1 abreast, and lack a buffet car. This leads to the train carrying up 1200 passengers, which is 20% more passengers than regular TGV trains
- Similar to some low cost airlines, whilst a piece of hand luggage (maximum size, 35 cm×55 cm×25 cm) is allowed free of charge, larger bags must be paid for.
- Like the low-cost carriers' use of secondary airports like Paris-Beauvais instead of major airports like Paris-Charles de Gaulle, the company uses some non-major railway stations like Marne-la-Vallée for Paris instead of Paris-Gare de Lyon, and Lyon Saint-Exupéry for Lyon. The reason for this is that like the low-cost carriers which uses the secondary airports due to lower fees, Ouigo uses the outgoing stations due to lower fees imposed by the rail network company, RFF.
- The trains carry fewer members of staff, which like the low-cost carriers are tasked as well to do basic maintenance of train as well as serving passengers.
- The company sweats its assets by using the trains for up to 13 hours a day, compared to just seven on a regular TGV.
- Like some carriers, the only way you can contact the company is via their website. There is no customer service phone number or e-mail address, if you need to contact them, you use a webform.
Ouigo offers trains stopping at a number of stations. Unlike standard TGV services, and in order to offer lower fares, the company uses non-major stations for main destinations such as Paris or Lyon. The stations served are: Marne-la-Vallée, Lyon Saint-Exupéry, Lyon Part-Dieu, Lyon Perrache, Valence, Nîmes, Montpellier, Avignon, Aix en Provence and Marseille.
|Service from||to||Weekly Circulation|
|Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||Marseille Saint-Charles||14|
|Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||Montpellier Saint-Roch||8|
|Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||Lyon-Part-Dieu||6|
|Marseille Saint-Charles||Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||17|
|Montpellier Saint-Roch||Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||7|
|Lyon-Perrache||Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy||4|
Pricing & Fees
In order to offer significantly lower prices than on standard TGV trains, Ouigo trains lack a buffet car, have a greater number of more tightly packed seats, and use non-major stations. Adult fares can vary from as little as €10 to a maximum of €85 per journey depending on the time of the journey and how far it is booked in advance.
Supplementary fees are as follows:
- Children that are 11 or under, a flat fee of €5 is charged no matter the journey.
- Baggage (per piece) is €5 if booked at the time of booking, €10 prior to travelling on-line, or €40 if purchased at the station immediately prior to travel.
- Pets can be taken on board, however provided that they are under six kilos and they are in the carry case as part of the hand luggage they travel free. If not, they are charged a fee of €40 per animal, or €30 if they are booked at the same time as owner.
- Seats next to plug sockets can be reserved for a supplementary fee of €2 per person.
So far reactions to the service have been mixed. In the few months between announcement to the commencing of journeys, Ouigo has sold 200 000 tickets and its website has been visited by over 2 million times.
In the first few months, Ouigo sent passengers a short questionnaire after each trip, and has had a 20% response rate. The response surprised the company with half of passengers saying they came from the regular TGV service, short of the 70% that the company envisaged, while a quarter of respondents said they would have not made the trip without Ouigo. The survey also reported that about 90% of passengers would recommend Ouigo to a friend or family member.
Commentators such as the travel writer Simon Calder have said that it is a third-class train service, and rail writer Mark Smith from Man in Seat 61 said it is a rail service for flyers. The head of the rail division of the left wing trade union CGT Bruno Charrier, said that it is a train created for the poor. Initially non-French customers were have issues trying to book tickets, as the service requested from its users a French mobile phone number and postcode. However, since October 2013 to website has been changed to allow foreign customers to book tickets.The phone number is needed to provide information by text message for passengers in case of any issues.
Among English-speaking high-speed rail advocates, opinion is divided. The British HSR lobbying group, Greengauge 21 is keen on the idea of a low-cost high-speed rail service, and with it the possibility of employing underused stations such as Stratford International and Ebbsfleet International. The California High Speed Rail Blog finds the concept "troubling".
On 12 September 2013, SNCF announced that a milestone of sales of over one million tickets have been sold. They also mentioned that of those tickets being sold, 35% were sold for less than €35.
In an interview with CNN's Business Traveller, Guillaume Pepy hopes that if Ouigo is successful, he hopes to expand and in the future provide services beyond France to Brussels, Amsterdam and London.
- IOVENE, Franck. "La SNCF présente ses TGV low cost Ouigo à la conquête de nouveaux clients". AFP. Google. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- "Carl". "Travel Cheaper by Train in France with OUIGO". Captaine Train Blog. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "contact - Vous avez des questions ? Nous vous répondons.". Ouigo. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- "Ouigo low-cost TGV service off to a good start". International Railway Journal. 3 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
- Briginshaw, David (2013-06-04). "Ouigo leads the way in low-fare high-speed rail". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Calder, Simon (23 March 2013). "Ouigo: welcome to troisième classe". The Independent (London).
- "Quand la CGT dénonce le TGV low cost Ouigo de la SNCF". Challengers. dailymotion.com.
- "Ouigo Trains". tripadviser.co.uk.
- "Why cheap and cheerful makes good business sense". Greengauge 21. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Cruickshank, Robert. "We Go More Cheaply Across France on High Speed Rail". California High Speed Rail Blog. Retrieved 13 April 2013.
- Briginshaw, David. "First 1 million Ouigo tickets sold". International Railway Journal. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
- "Part 1: Europe's high speed rail future". CNN Business Traveller. Retrieved 12 April 2013.
- Ouigo’s website (French and English only)