Posting in Cities
PARIS -- A line of French trains that broke a speed record in 2007 is setting a new record -- for low-priced tickets that cost a tenth of the regular fare.
PARIS -- Exploring France's countryside from the comfort of the world's fastest conventional train is about to get a little easier -- and cheaper.
The French national train network, SNCF, has unveiled its new low-cost high-speed train dubbed Ouigo last month, with service starting April 2. In just over three hours, travelers can go from the Paris region to Marseille for as little as ten euros in a seat that could normally cost ten times as much.
With tickets maxing out at 85 during high-traffic periods and Ouigo guaranteeing that a quarter of the seats per train will be available under 25 euros, the train is a global first in low-cost rail, and the latest in an overhaul for French transportation that could be preparing the industry for some big changes in the E.U.
While budget airlines seem old hat -- Southwest Airlines has been flying in the U.S. since 1971 and Ryanair in Europe since 1999 -- budget trains, especially high-speed ones, are a novelty. Ouigo trains are modified TGVs (train à grande vitesse), SNCF's high-speed service that set the record in 2007 for the fastest train in the world at 357 mph. While SNCF has enjoyed exclusive access to French railways, deregulation has eroded this monopoly slightly over the years, with the first non-SNCF trains running on limited international TGV lines in 2011. The deregulated lines welcomed trains linking Paris to Milan through Italy's Trenitalia, for example. Things could change for the rest of the rails, however, if the European Commission has its way.
The push for low-cost seems like a preemptive attack, or at least a defensive strategy against further deregulation and upcoming competition on the more numerous domestic TGV tracks in France, where currently only SNCF trains run.
The Commission is proposing legislation that potentially could liberate European railways, meaning German and Italian trains could run on any regional tracks alongside French trains as early as December 2019, according to a recent report in French financial newspaper, Les Echos.
The company, however, insists it's not worried about deregulation. "SNCF has a long tradition of innovation to serve the greatest number of people possible and we never waited for competition to create new transport solutions," Guillaume Pepy, president of the SNCF, said in a press release.
A spokesman from the SNCF told SmartPlanet that pricier German and Spanish trains aren't a concern for the French company and that it introduced Ouigo to appeal to those who would otherwise travel by car. "We are the first to do this in the whole world, to have low cost on the railways. Our goal is to be in competition with the roadways," he insisted.
Ouigo services major cities like Montpellier and Avignon in the southeast, a region that represents 35% of all TGV traffic in France. The schedule will include 62 weekly trips and has generated 100 jobs in France while cutting out some middlemen, as tickets can only be purchased online.
While the ten euro price tag will attract many (plus children will ride for 5 euros), the new budget options come with their own hidden costs. For example, extra baggage and electrical outlets are for sale, as well, while the café car has been removed to increase seating capacity by nearly 20% from a standard TGV.
But the spokesperson for SNCF said that the Ouigo trains are essentially up to snuff with every other TGV train. "Ouigo has fewer services but it's still high speed, with all of the quality, and the security of SNCF," he said. "We got rid of first class, but it's still as comfortable as any second-class TGV," he said.
Also the Ouigo train, while serving major stations in Lyon and Marseille, does not actually stop in Paris. Instead the stop is located outside the city in Marne-la-Vallée, near Disneyland Paris, a 30-40 minute train ride from the city center. These decentralized train stations are cheaper to pull into, and also easier since central stations are often saturated with traffic. Those dreaming of soaring 19th century vaulted Parisian train stations can forget about it. For the moment, at least.
Having just launched, SNCF will wait until the results roll in to set a calendar for expansion. "We don't launch new services just for fun, but if the trains don't fill up, we won't look to develop it further," the spokesman said. "If it's something that interests travelers and responds to their needs, then we can absolutely imagine other routes," he said.
Mar 14, 2013
The French are known to do miracles. How do they manage it.? Gopinathan Krishnan, a Scientist belonging to India, part of the "7 th world":
I have an innovative approach to mass transit which used composite and multiple conduit pipes. I came up with this "mega-system" idea while designing large wind and wave hybrid systems. I'm a fisherman. The pipes, which I call "The Tripe" (Track+Pipe) also carry monorail systems. It's a futuristic design. Utilities carried in the track pipes, such as natural gas, broadband, water, sewage, will help to "carry the freight" financially. The intergration of these systems is cost effective. The pipes will last two hundred years, and can easily carry all maner of our various and futuristic rail system needs. Within the track pipes are two gauges, five and ten feet, of steel rail, with the five foot diameter track pipes at twenty feet. Energy in pipes will be mainly hydrogen and compressed air. Compressed air a common denominator "fuel" that will work well with all sustainable inputs, because its the green energy that can be stored and shipped in the track pipes. Compressed air can power air conditioning, refrigeration, your car blender and washing machine. What this Tripe System ammounts to is a green grid system that does double duty as the backbone for our rail system's future. The system is expensive, but it gets us to a green future. This new system works very well with the old infrastructure. Please have a look at www.environmentalfisherman.com
Lowered operating costs are implied in the article, yet there are no numbers to back up that operating costs were really lowered to justify the lower fares. I wish we could see how the changes made have lowered operating costs compared to full service HSR, but then again no one in Europe will release any operating costs for HSR. So I hold no illusions we will ever see operating costs for this. All we have to go by are the ever escalating taxpayer subsidies to know how high the operating costs really are for HSR in Europe. I fully expect HSR subsidies in France to sky rocket with this change in fares.
One of these decades, sooner than you think, airline travel will be eclipsed on the Coninent by fast rail. The idiots who rave about Government Control haven't considered the question of, Who else should own the Rights of Way? Surely two private companies building expensive rail networks to serve the same journey cannot do so efficiently?
The devil, as ever, is in the detail. Despite the positive bluster to the article, it basically says............... - Ouigo will be charging â¬85 at peak times, which is not much cheaper than the standard one-way fare - Off-peak, Ouigo will charge "for as little as" â¬10. As with all these headline figures, good luck in securing the deal - They will be as hard to snaffle as a decent Amazon Black Friday deal, with the weasel in the deal being the "for as little", in other word's "Up to" 90% off.. What is peak and off-peak, is highly controlled, and often subject to travel restrictions, usually with an inflexible ticket, and usually non-refundable. -- Several decades of deregulated train travel in the UK has produced a higher capacity network, but with no effective competition in service/price. You pay a premium fare for a quicker service, you pay less for the cattle train which stops at every town. Peak travel is stinkingly expensive, off-peak is affordable, but very inflexible and not an option if you commmute for work.
Obviously this is why France is trying to loot everyone's wealth; so they can subsidize their rail system. Guess what? Your wealth producers are flying out of your stupid little country.
A friend used to take her car by train from Paris to the south of France. I wonder whether Ouigo will be able to cater for vehicles? (even if at higher fares)
...to be a government owned and run operation. Competition forced upon you? No problem. Just undercut them. Since you are owned and subsidized by the taxpayers, actually making money or breaking even isn't a priority, or even a consideration.
No one is afraid of the French, only their socialist tendencies, that will eventually cost all of us. Theoretically, you're correct, one private company should be able to serve the rail right of way most efficiently, followed by government. But in the real world, once you give over the keys to the central authority, the entity becomes sloth-like, burdened with social causes and labor-based dictates, and fails to meet the efficiency level that two private firms would yield. Self-interest and profit-orientation promote efficiency and production where collectivism does the exact opposite.
"Self-interest and profit-orientation promote efficiency and production..." - Yes, to a point. But unfetterd by government regulation the result is exemplified in livid proof by what happened with the economic melt-down of 2008. Thousands of people, from Wall Street bankers to mortgage lenders and servicers all over the country (and, ultimately, over much of the world) were complicit in the runaway housing market, where as long as everybody was getting rich, the people who were supposed to oversee things looked the other way. Nobody wanted to upset the apple cart, until it crashed of its own, costing millions of citizens huge sums of money, homes, jobs and even lives. This is the path of unrestricted Capitalsim. No we don't want socialism, or European-style collectivism. But neither do we want a vanishing middle class due to the ever-widening, even obscene gap between the top and bottom earners in our society. The Banking Act of 1933 (including the oft-quoted Glass-Steagall Act) was enacted to offset the abuses of the financial system by unscrupulous people, but by the 1960s much of that regulation was skirted and by 1999 (during a Democratic administration, no less) the provisions of Glass-Steagal were officially overturned. The old saying - those who can't remember the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them - was never nore true. You can compare the inauguration speech of 1933 by FDR with the situation in 2008 (and since) to find the striking similarities. darudmon is right - and it's time the pendulum began its swing back the other way.
The government is not some disembodied entity. It is by, of, and for the people. Or it should be. So the PEOPLE DO promote their self-interest through government. Moreover, Capitalism works when no one, including no private concern, controls the marketplace. With ONE company controlling things, you have a monopoly. Which is worse than government control. A monopoly will have higher prices to their customers than even the most inefficient government enterprise. But if you don't really understand economics you can always just repeat regressive right-wing talking points. It is easier to memorize than to learn the concepts behind it all.
"But unfetterd by government regulation the result is exemplified in livid proof by what happened with the economic melt-down of 2008." To sum up a long story, government over regulation of the banking industry caused the 2008 collapse. The sick part of it is that the much ballyhooed Dodd/Frank bill did nothing to correct of the root causes of the collapse and actually put in place a system that will make the next collapse far worse. In the decades prior to 2008 key people in the government became obsessed with making home mortgages available to people who did not have the means to pay a mortgage. The height of the lunacy was when the federal government told banks they had to accept unemployment checks and welfare payments as valid income on a loan application. Banks that did not honor those forms of income were subject to massive fines for engaging in unfair lending. And besides, why worry about bad loans? Congress had set laws in place that mandated Fannie and Freddie were to buy up all the mortgages sold, regardless of how risky, so that the banks would not run out of money to lend to people who could not afford mortgages. The repeal of Glass/Stegall, which to the lay man kept regular household banking separate from investment banking since it creation after the 1929 stock market crash, is never mentioned by people who complain of a lack of regulation because the ungainly set of banking laws that replaced it created the very mortgage bundling industry that was at the heart of the 2008 economic collapse. Once again Congressional tinkering over both Democrat and Republican administrations doomed the US financial system. That is the short story, but to anyone paying attention, for 20 years there was never a doubt there would be a crash. It was only a matter of when.