If you thought UK rail was confusing enough then look at the situation across the Channel.
Over in France national rail operator SNCF already operates a two-tier mainline service but now it might add a third.
Tier 1 is SNCF’s flagship TGVs which connect Paris with many towns and cities within France. TGVs are renowned worldwide for their speed and comfort but this comes at a price.
Tier 2 is Ouigo, a budget TGV service operating over an increasing number of busy high-speed routes. Ouigo adopts the business plan of low-cost airlines, aiming to compete with domestic air and deregulated bus services.
This tier 3 would consist of conventional loco-hauled Corail rolling stock.
Although Corail coaches are 45 years old they are considered some of Europe’s finest, offering a smooth comfortable ride.
This third tier of mainline trains could be introduced in 2022-2023. It would charge lower fares than Ouigo because, by using classic lines, it would avoid having to pay high-speed track fees.
Initial routes would link Paris with Lyon and Marseille to be followed later by Paris-Bordeaux and destinations to the capital’s West.
The downside of course would be longer journey times, but not everyone needs to flash between towns and cities at a speed of 300 km/h.
So Tier 3 is really aimed at cost-conscious rail or bus users or those who car-share.
However one cannot help thinking there could be another motive.
Is SNCF’s Tier 3 aimed at thwarting Germany’s Flixtrain should it later decide to enter the French market?
I commend SNCF for its innovation but I wish France’s rail operator would do something with Eurostar (SNCF is the major shareholder).
Eurostar holds a monopoly of cross-Channel passenger services. Wouldn’t it be good, when things return to normal, if Eurostar were to operate a “light” product?