Thalys apes budget airlines with Izy service

7 Mar 2016 by Alex McWhirter

The Franco-Belgian high-speed train operator has taken a leaf out of the budget or low-cost airlines (LCCs) book.

From next month it will introduce a new product Izy or “easy” – get it. This is slower, no-frills service between Paris Nord and Brussels. Although Izy has a longer journey time it will cost a fraction of the normal Thalys cost (see below).

The timings may not prove convenient for every business traveller. But Izy may be worth considering for anyone seeking an economical fare or just needing a bargain one-way trip.

As with SNCF’s Ouigo service launched in 2013 (see news  Feb 25, 2013), rail operators in Europe are finding some travellers are switching to LCCs, or they might decide to drive or “car share.” More recently the newly deregulated bus services have also snared travellers away from rail.

Rail firms are finding not every traveller needs, or is to prepared to pay for, a 300kph sprint between cities.

From April 3 Izy will operate only a couple of times a day between Paris Nord and Brussels Midi. It is leasing two TGV trainsets from SNCF.

So whereas Ouigo apes the Ryanair business model (by having some trains operate from out of town stations) we find Izy taking a different approach.

Rather than sprinting between Paris and Brussels over the high-speed line it will instead take the original but slower “classic” route. 

Whereas Thalys takes just 1 hr 22 mins between the two cities, Izy will accomplish the trip in under 2hrs 30 mins.


Illustration from Izy Twitter page

It might sound strange but there is logic to Izy’s routing. Not only is the high-speed line already busy (remember it must also handle Eurostar besides other TGVs) but rail operators must pay track access charges and,  according to Railway Gazette, these will be less when using the classic line.

So what will it cost? First (branded XL by Izy) fares start at Euros 29 with standard priced at Euros 19. There are cheaper fares for those not wanting a reserved seat or who are prepared to accept a “tip down” seat.  These cost as little as Euros 10.

Last minute bookings with Izy will cost as much as Euros 69 for first and Euros 59 for standard class. But Thalys costs considerably more. Tickets booked within a few days of travel typically cost Euros 99 or Euros 149 first, Euros 99 standard class.

All prices are one-way but are inexpensive by UK standards seeing as Paris and Brussels are over 300km apart.

Also note that luggage is limited and that bookings can only be made online. Details are available on the Izy website.

Speaking to Railway Gazette, Thalys’ CEO Annes Ogier, said, “All studies confirm that most people prefer the comfort and speed of Thalys to driving. We have a new solution. Reducing the speed and simplifying onboard service to a minimum enables Izy to offer a journey at a low price but one which is still faster, safer, more sustainable and more comfortable than by car.”

Finally a word about check-in times. Security measures now in place mean passengers must report well before the train departure. Check times when booking your ticket.

Alex McWhirter

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