Germany’s Flixmobility is better known for its bus subsidiary Flixbus.

Now Flixtrain, the rail version, is beginning to compete with state-owned operators in mainland Europe. New EU rules mean these rail incumbents must accept competition.

Since last year Flixtrain has opened several routes in Germany in competition with Deutsche Bahn.

Now it wants to do the same in France in competition with SNCF.

The news comes after Italy’s Thello said it wanted to rival SNCF on the Paris-Milan high-speed (HS) line, as Business Traveller reported a fortnight ago.

Flixtrain has applied to France’s rail regulator Arafer to operate five routes effective January 2021.

What will concern SNCF (and the operators of France’s HS lines) is that not only is much extra capacity being proposed but Flixtrain wants to use classic lines to save money (HS lines have costly access fees which feed through to higher fares).

It means that both SNCF and the operators of HS lines (which have been constructed at a cost of many billions of Euros) stand to lose revenue.

Daytime Flixtrain services would accommodate between 400 and 1,000 passengers. They would be loco-hauled and comprised of conventional rolling stock.

Railway Gazette reports the five routes are:

  • Paris (Nord) to Brussels (Nord) seven returns daily
  • Paris (Austerlitz) to Bordeaux (St Jean) two returns daily.
  • Paris (Bercy) to Lyon (Perrache) five returns daily
  • Paris (Bercy) to Toulouse (Matarbiau) two returns daily
  • Paris (Bercy) to Nice (Ville) one overnight service

In The Local France MD of Flixbus France Yvan Lefranc-Morin said “We are not a TGV model but rather an offer to France’s Intercities [Intercity trains] with more affordable prices.”

The Paris-Brussels route will be of more interest to readers. It is already served by Thalys (using HS lines) and by low-cost Izy (using  TGVs but running over classic lines). Both these train firms are majority-owned by SNCF.

SNCF has known competition is coming its way.

Since 2018 it has been getting prepared by extending Ouigo (SNCF’s budget TGV product) to more and more routes.

And just as we see in aviation SNCF has been acquiring scarce slots at Paris’ termini such as [Paris] Lyon to thwart new [rail] entrants.

As you see above Flixtrain intends to operate from Paris Bercy rather than the natural terminus at Lyon for planned services to southern France.