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.

Now lesechos.fr reports that SNCF could launch “very low price trains” which would operate over classic lines. Rail consultant Vernon Baseley carries an English language version in Outre-Manche.

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?

Open access setback in France for Flixtrain

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?

Eurostar ‘light’ option feasible for London-Paris