January 26, 2022

the match on the Paris-Lyon route can begin

The Italian operator will launch its “red arrow” on December 18th. The opportunity to establish a first comparison of the offers.

It is a historic moment. For the first time in its history, SNCF will lose its monopoly on high speed in France. On December 18, the first Trenitalia France train, the Frecciarossa (the Red Arrow), will run on the Paris-Lyon axis (and as far as Milan). Reservations are open since Monday.

la Frecciarossa (la Flèche rouge) from Trenitalia
la Frecciarossa (la Flèche rouge) from Trenitalia © Trenitalia

Should the SNCF shudder at this first competitor who comes to titillate it on its most profitable axis? This launch is in any case the opportunity to make a first comparison of the offers.

• Frequency

This is a key subject to stand out, especially among professional travelers who are very numerous to take this line between the two cities.

For the moment, the advantage is clearly on the TGV side with 24 departures per day (ie one train every hour) against two round trips for the Italian operator.

However, Trenitalia intends to ramp up quickly (once its economic model has been validated?). The group plans to add 3 daily rotations only to and from Lyon without giving a date for the moment.

Trenitalia intends above all to take advantage of the high occupancy of the TGV, namely to attract customers who cannot find the right train at the SNCF. Because opening up to competition is not fighting for the same cake, but rather making this cake bigger with more supply.

• Comfort

In order to set itself apart from the SNCF, Trenitalia intends to play the card of comfort and high-end with a Business class equipped with large leather armchairs (69 cm) reclining at 109 ° and an Executive Class where only 10 leather armchairs wide seat 74 cm wide will be offered.

A high-speed WiFi internet connection will be available free of charge and an electrical outlet will be fitted to each seat. There is even a meeting room equipped with electrical outlets and a 32-inch flat screen, to organize meetings of up to 5 people. A real added value for the business customers very present on this line.

The Frecciarossa Executive Class
The Frecciarossa Executive Class © Trenitalia

SNCF anticipated this attack by deploying the new Business Première class before the arrival of its competitor, which includes a personalized welcome at the station and on board the TGV and new free services (personalized welcome, Wi-Fi, meals instead, more comfortable seats, USB sockets …). But in the opinion of the first users, this proposal is still a notch below that of Trenitalia.

SNCF Business Première class
SNCF Business Première class © SNCF

On the other hand, when the SNCF has reduced the supply of places to a minimum of 4, Trenitalia seems on the contrary to favor it.

• The rates

The Italian company promises attractive prices: from 23 euros in standard class (equivalent of second class) and from 29 euros for a Paris-Milan in “business comfort” (equivalent of first class).

Executive Class is offered at a fixed price of 139 euros for Paris-Lyon and 165 euros for Paris-Milan.

On the entry level, Trenitalia is trying to align itself with the very aggressive first tariff of Ouigo from SNCF (16 euros). However, as for Ouigo, these call prices are not the most numerous.

Like its competitor, the Italian operator applies the “yield management” model invented in the airline industry, which consists of changing prices according to the filling of trains.

Arnaud Aymé, transport specialist at Sia Partners notes that the first price for a Saturday departure is already 39 euros for the Italian.

However, with few trains in circulation, Trenitalia seeks above all to attract premium and professional customers with added value.

On this ground, Trenitalia seems a priori the best bidder. For a departure next Monday to Lyon, the SNCF is offering a ticket at 94 euros in 1st class and 142 euros in Business Première against 39 euros in “Business Silenzio / Allegro” and 139 euros in Executive at Trenitalia.

• Conditions of exchange, reimbursement, compensation

The two operators have two different approaches. At Trenitalia, the ticket can be changed (with adjustment to the current rate) free of charge up to one hour after departure and refundable up to the time of departure with 20% retention.

At SNCF, reimbursement is free of charge until D-3 in general and until the day of departure for professionals.

As for compensation in the event of a long delay, it is the SNCF which is the most generous with 75% of the ticket reimbursed in the event of a delay of more than 3 hours compared to 50% for Trenitalia.

• Punctuality

We cannot yet measure it at Trenitalia for the Paris-Lyon link, but we can compare the averages of the two operators in their countries.

As Thomas Le Gouezigou, a former SNCF Networks employee on Twitter reminds us, Trenitalia has a punctuality of its TGVs of 66.3% in 2019 against 77.9% for SNCF TGVs.

Olivier Chicheportiche BFM Business journalist