SNCF, Ouigo, IDTGV, Inoui. Branding confusion reigns supreme.

Back to Forum
Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)

  • capetonianm

    As this was raised in another thread, I thought I’d post it here, as it’s of greater relevance.

    The French Railway system, generally known as SNCF, seems to have created a lot of confusion with various branding attempts.

    I use trains a lot, all over EU and particularly in France as many main routes cross France, and I was confused about IDTGV. It seemed to be a couple of coaches tacked onto the normal TGVs and I never quite got the point, except that it was cheaper. What I found particularly strange was that a couple of years ago some friends who had purchased IDTGV tickets from Nice to Paris tried to board the train at Antibes (which for the benefit of those who don’t know the geography is a shorter journey) and weren’t allowed onto the train, missed it, and had to buy full fare tickets for the next TGV. Consequent upon that they missed their Eurostar from Paris Nord to London and were left considerably out of pocket and inconvenienced. When they asked for an explanation, and I might add that they speak fluent French, they got the Gallic shrug and ‘parce que c’est comme ca’ which is infuriating, and not an answer.

    It now seems that as well as the main SNCF branding, they are competing with themselves with brandings called Ouigo and Ouibus. I am not sure if IDTGV still exists.

    The SNCF website has become so complicated that when I book rail journeys to/from/via/within France I use a third party website (Loco2 if it’s OK to mention the name) or the websites of neighbouring countries rail networks such as SBB, RENFE, SNCB, which are clear and simple and above all they work. As another poster correctly said of SNCF :
    “it definitely created confusion. Its purpose isn’t clear and there are indeed already too many brands.”

    Looking at some BT news items, I note that some dated 2017 state that SNCF will be rolling out Wifi on the TGV networks. As far as I know, they haven’t, which surprises me since even the local trains I use in the UK, despite their often filthy and disgusting state, have free and efficient Wifi.


    Hello capetonianm – Thanks for the detailed posting.

    I take my work very seriously and strive for total accuracy. In December 2016 that was SNCF’s wi-fi plan but I did note that as SNCF operates several hundred TGVs it wouldn’t happen overnight.

    Remember it took BA some *six years* to retrofit fully flat beds in Club World.

    SNCF finally launches onboard wifi

    Some TGV are already fitted with wi-fi. Others will follow. See link below.

    In addition:

    * SNCF recently sold loss-making Ouibus to BlaBlaCar. IDTGV no longer exists.

    * Ouigo (about which BTUK has reported many times) is taking more of the traditional TGV market. Ouigo is now operating from Paris’ downtown termini. It’s good news for travellers (they need no longer trek to out-of-town departure points) but on the other hand rail experts are saying that SNCF (just as airlines do) wants to grab more slots at these key termini to frustrate future market entrants. Whether or not the unions agree France is obliged adopt rail liberalisation.

    * Another brand not mentioned is IZY (see BTUK report from 2016 below) in which SNCF is the majority shareholder.

    Thalys apes budget airlines with Izy service

    * The issue with Eurostar not *always* honouring passengers coming off late-running connections at Paris Nord has been well documented by @seatsixtyone It’s been a particular problem for UK-bound travellers arriving in Paris Lyon off the overnight Thello train which can be delayed en route from Italy. Thello is owned by Italy’s Trenitalia.

    * Online agent Loco2 started life as an independent rail agent 10 years ago. But it was acquired by SNCF some 18 months ago. Loco2’s founders departed last month.


    IDTGV was designed in part to compete with airlines.
    For some reason, SNCF decided that on the train you took, the fare would be available from Nice (big low cost airline hub) but not from Antibes. It is basically the same concept as buying a Washington-Philadelphia-Paris flight (this route was offered by Air France years ago) booking from Washington and trying to board in Philadelphia instead. Most likely, your ticket would not be accepted at the Philadelphia check-in counter.
    Lots of people play the game with hidden cities, deplaning at a connection point when the beyond point for which they are booked is actually cheaper than the closer destination where the traveler is actually going. This, of course, requires travelling without luggage.
    Thanks for posting though.
    I did not know SNCF was savvy enough to have thought about defeating the reverse scheme.
    If I need to do this one day, I will take the commuter train to Nice first.


    IDTGV was designed in part to compete with airlines. For some reason, SNCF decided that on the train you took, the fare would be available from Nice (big low cost airline hub) but not from Antibes

    If I remember correctly IDTGV was established soon after EZY entered the French domestic market.

    In recent times SNCF (as BTUK has reported) has been losing TGV customers to domestic LCCs, the newly deregulated bus companies and car-sharing.

    That is why SNCF is now fighting back with Ouigo. Each trainset accommodates 1,000+ passengers (even more than Eurostar whose Siemens’ trainsets carry 900+ passengers).


    Thank you for the replies. Alex, I hope you did not think that my comment was in any way meant to imply that you don’t take your work seriously!

    Now I think about it, my son travelled on a Ouigo service a few weeks ago from Lille to Marseilles, said it was very comfortable but crowded, and paid a few Euros extra to sit upstairs and have wifi, but the wifi didn’t work. I have yet to go on a French train that has wifi that works. The plans and the reality don’t seem to match up, or perhaps I have just been unlucky.

    The website says ‘oui’ to Wifi. I say ‘non.!


    Of course not, capetonianm. I was trying to help by explaining matters.

    Ouigo only started serving Lille last month.

    Ouigo is just like a budget airline. Ticketless, online booking only, some other fees etc.

    Some are saying Ouigo ought to extend its network through the Tunnel to London. I am sure it would prove popular with millennnial travellers. But would Eurostar (majority owned by SNCF) wish to cannabalise its existing services ?

    Another issue is that Ouigo’s TGVs are not certified for the Tunnel.

    It is true that in 2012 SNCF demonstrated one of its yellow La Poste TGVs at St Pancras.

    But most people did not realise that the La Poste TGV was towed from Calais to London through the Tunnel (using a couple of Eurotunnel’s special Krupp diesel locos).


    Lots of research in the above posts. Thanks.

    I haven^t taken ouigo yet but have seen it in operation in my local station. I would just say that it is a bit different from taking a regular french train or TGV because:

    * you have to arrive well in advance
    * you have to queue behind a barrier and then go through a personal security check before you get onto the platform
    * you are only allowed limited baggage – rather like ‘hold’ and ‘hand’ baggage when flying
    * friends and family members not travelling are not allowed onto the platform to say goodbye and wave you off.

    Very popular trains because the fares are so much cheaper than the parallel SNCF service (even though they are owned and run by the same company).


    I thought I’d add the other train companies which, for various reasons, I have become aware of operating within, and to/from France. These may not all be current, nor all they all French. Some are just SNCF brandings.
    In addition, passenger coaches of DB, RENFE, SNCB, SBB, and FS can sometimes be seen on crossborder services.

    TER (some of which are liveried as ‘Principaute de Monaco’)

    The French seem to have an obsession with giving mundane services fancy names which serve only to confuse. Maybe it’s a way of sending you to complain elsewhere

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    In addition, passenger coaches of DB, RENFE, SNCB, SBB, and FS can sometimes be seen on crossborder services.

    Indeed. DB operates its ICE trains into Paris Est from a number of destinations in Germany. It operates a JV with SNCF.

    Spain’s Renfe operates HS trains into France in cooperation with SNCF.

Viewing 9 posts - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Business Traveller September / October 2020 edition
Business Traveller September / October 2020 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below