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This article is about the Europe based train ticketing agency that formerly traded in the United Kingdom as Rail Europe. For the company's North American sister agency, see Rail Europe, Inc. Group logo.jpg
Type of business Public
Type of site
Available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch
Founded May 16, 2000 (2000-05-16)
Headquarters La Défense, Hauts-de-Seine, France
Area served Worldwide
Industry Internet travel agency
Revenue Increase 4 billion (2013)[1]
Parent SNCF
Alexa rank 1401
Launched May 16, 2000; 16 years ago (2000-05-16)[2] is a subsidiary of the French SNCF selling passes and point-to-point tickets for rail travel around Europe. It has commercial links to major European rail operators including SNCF, Eurostar, Deutsche Bahn, and Thalys, and is made up of four independent companies in distinct geographical areas. It is the number one French electronic commerce website in volume.[3] One quarter of French SNCF tickets are sold by this website.[4][5] In 2013 the group expanded throughout Europe with 14 websites in 6 languages under the brand, incorporating the former Rail Europe Ltd. Rail Europe Continental and TGV Europe.


The Group was founded as an Internet travel agency website in France in June 2000.

In the United Kingdom[edit]

Logo used by Rail Europe Ltd in the UK prior to the December 2013 rebranding as part of the Group.

Until 12 December 2013, in the UK was known as Rail Europe Ltd.

In 1893, the Chemin de Fer du Nord became the first French private railway to be represented in the UK, establishing an office in London's Victoria station. Almost 20 years later, the Chemins de fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (PLM) opened an office at 179 Piccadilly, London.

In 1937 France nationalised its rail network and the Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) was created by the merger of the state railway company with five other principal operators. SNCF created French Railways Ltd, incorporating the UK operations of its predecessors.

In 1995 French Railways Ltd opened a larger public call centre in Leake Street (near Waterloo station) in London, and two years later acquired British Rail International. SNCF subsequently merged French Railways Ltd and British Rail International to form Rail Europe Ltd.

In 2002 Rail Europe Ltd combined its Head Office operations from Piccadilly and the call centre from Leake Street into new premises in Kings Hill, Kent, and in December 2007 the Travel Centre in Piccadilly moved to new premises shared with VisitBritain located within British Columbia House, 1 Regent Street, London SW1. In February 2012, the Travel Centre moved to 193 Piccadilly, London W1.

In December 2013 Rail Europe Ltd rebranded itself as part of the Group in the UK. In November 2015 the Voyages-sncf London Travel Centre closed, since then bookings can be made online, via a mobile app, or through the call centre. [6] The North American, Australian and World websites however still use the Rail Europe brand.

Rail Europe Chartered Operations[edit]

French Motorail Service in Marseille
French Motorail loaded with cars in Calais

As well as selling and distributing tickets for SNCF and other European railways, until 2009 Rail Europe organised two chartered rail services in France. Operated by SNCF using standard French rolling stock, both services were aimed at the UK market and staffed by both French personnel (driver and guard) and English-speaking Rail Europe representatives ("Rail Travel Supervisors").

The Rail Europe Snowtrain[edit]

This chartered service operated between December or January and April to transport passengers directly to the ski resorts of the French Alps.

The journey took place in two stages; the Eurostar on a Friday from London or [Ashford International] to Paris, followed by a transfer to an overnight sleeper service composed of 10 Vu-84 "Corail" coaches with sleeping accommodation consisting of six berth "couchette" compartments. The train included a Bar/Disco coach, with disco lighting and DJ booth. This overnight service called at Chambéry, Albertville, Aime la Plagne and Landry, terminating at Bourg St Maurice early Saturday morning. The return service departed from Bourg St Maurice on Saturday evenings, with passengers arriving by Eurostar in London or Ashford on Sunday morning. The Rail Europe Snowtrain was suspended in 2009 due to economic uncertainty.

British skiers wishing to travel by train to the French Alps during the winter can now instead take the Eurostar to Paris and change for high-speed or overnight services to stations like Chamonix, Bourg St Maurice, Briançon, Moûtiers and Megève. Eurostar also runs Direct Ski services during the ski season, calling at Moûtiers, Bourg St Maurice and Aime-la-Plagne, stations which serve ski resorts including Courchevel, Les Arcs, Tignes, Méribel, Aime la Plagne and Val d'Isère.

French Motorail[edit]

'Motorail' services carry cars and motorbikes using car transporters attached to the train. Operating from May to September, Rail Europe's French Motorail service was aimed at travellers wishing to take their cars to the South of France and onwards with a minimum amount of driving.

The train departed from Calais several times every week during the summer months, terminating at Nice (calling at Avignon and Frejus) and Narbonne (calling at Brive la Gaillarde and Toulouse.) The service was cancelled in 2009 due to economic uncertainty.

Those wishing to take their cars to France can now drive to Paris and pick up an 'Auto-Train' service, whereby cars are transported on overnight trains to Avignon, Bordeaux, Brive la Gaillarde, Fréjus/St Raphaël, Lyon, Marseille, Narbonne, Nice, Toulon and Toulouse. Unlike on the Motorail service, passengers may then either travel on the same route with a Lunéa sleeping-car ticket or on a different train such as a daytime TGV.

Rail Europe 4A[edit]

Created in 1995, Rail Europe 4A is a joint venture between the French national rail company (SNCF) and the Swiss national railway company (SBB). The head office of Rail Europe 4A is located in Paris. The company has several local offices and General Sales Agents (GSA) in Asia, Australasia, Africa and South America.

Rail Europe 4A is a leading distributor of point to point tickets and rail passes. In 2012, Rail Europe 4A launched the Rail Europe Connexion [1], a magazine and website for inspirational trips in Europe.

Rail Europe Continentale[edit]

This wholly owned subsidiary of the French Railways is responsible for the marketing and distribution of French domestic and international rail products in continental Europe. Rail Europe Continentale has its headquarters in Brussels and offices in Cologne, Milan, Geneva and Madrid.



The website saw several outages in its history, which were criticized by French medias.[7][8][9]

Anti-competitive behavior[edit]

On 5 February 2009, SNCF was fined 5 million by the French Conseil de la concurrence for "giving a preferential treatment to its subsidiary, created with the American online travel agency Expedia".[10][11]

The SNCF did not appeal the decision, but Expedia did.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Le Groupe, European Rail Expert" (in French). 
  2. ^ " WHOIS, DNS, & Domain Info - DomainTools". WHOIS. Retrieved 2016-10-02. 
  3. ^ "Le site marchand table sur une croissance supérieure à 70 % en 2003" (in French). Les Échos (France). 16 July 2003. Retrieved 11 August 2009. Premier site marchand en France, et parmi les principaux acteurs européens du secteur(First e-commerce website in France, and among the main actors in the European e-commerce economy) 
  4. ^ "L'accès de limité en raison de dysfonctionnements" (in French). ZDNet. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009., premier site de commerce électronique en France, reçoit 700 000 visites par jour, et 38 millions de billets y ont été vendus en 2007, soit le quart des tickets SNCF. (, first e-commerce website in France, see 700 000 visitors each day, and sold 38 millions of tickets in 2007, a quarter of the SNCF tickets sold each year). 
  5. ^ " talonne les guichets" (in French). Le Figaro. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Retour à la normale pour" (in French). 21 November 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  8. ^ "Nouveaux bugs pour le site" (in French). Europe 1. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  9. ^ " : un site très utilisé mais critiqué" (in French). Le Monde. 13 December 2008. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  10. ^ " va saisir le Conseil de la concurrence contre" (in French). ZDNet. 26 May 2004. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  11. ^ "Décision n° 09-D-06 du 5 février 2009 relative à des pratiques mises en oeuvre par la SNCF et Expedia Inc. dans le secteur de la vente de voyages en ligne" (PDF) (in French). Conseil de la concurrence. 5 February 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 
  12. ^ " : Expedia va faire appel de sa condamnation" (in French). 9 February 2009. Retrieved 11 August 2009. 

External links[edit]