Two weeks from now, at 09.38 on 6 July, a double-deck excessive-pace will escape from the joyless gloom of Montparnasse station in Paris to make the maiden voyage of the Ouigo logo to Toulouse.
Five hours later, loads of passengers will arrive in a great deal extra agreeable surroundings of Matabiau station, the city’s good-looking rail hub. They will be happy on counts: they’re inside the sunny southwest of France, and they may have paid drastically less than the standard fare on French Railways (SNCF) for an adventure of around 450 miles.
Looking two weeks ahead, the fare with Ouigo, the low-fee subsidiary of SNCF, is €65 (£58) – barely 1/2 the same old charge between the towns.
You might imagine that anything that reduces the fee of rail journey might be welcomed with the aid of the main proponent of visiting by using the train in Europe: Mark Smith, founder of the Seat61.Com global rail internet site.
He campaigns energetically to persuade guests to transport from air and street to rail. But he is unimpressed with Ouigo.
“People like teach travel due to the fact it is so an awful lot much less stressful than journey by way of finances airline,” he says. “So applying all the matters human beings hate approximately finances airlines to a training carrier, unnecessarily, can’t be properly.”
As with out a-frills airways, cheap rail travel in France includes a series of hurdles, beginning with reserving online. You are intended to turn up at the least half-an-hour before departure, as with Eurostar. However, there is no safety greater passport test to go through. Its actual purpose, suspects Smith, is: “Discouraging SNCF’s present clients from buying and selling right down to Ouigo.”
Anyone hoping to tour on Ouigo with an Interrail skip can have as much good fortune as they might have been they to bowl up at a Ryanair desk with the equal document. And there aren’t any ensures on connections to different trains (or planes).
Strict bags assessments are imposed, with a length limit that is less than British Airways’ cabin baggage allowance. Extra cases price €5 booked in advance, or €20 on the station.
A price of €2 applies for passengers who want to plug a pc or smartphone into the on-board mains. Ouigo says: “C’est le Prix dun café!”
Talking of espresso: you gained’t be buying any onboard. One huge distinction from finances airways is the absence of any ambitiously priced meals or drink, even at the 5-hour journey among Paris and Toulouse. (No scratchcards, both.)
Smith warns specifically of the center seat of the 3-abreast row downstairs. “These seats haven’t any center armrests so can get pretty snug.”
But he is asking at Ouigo from an expert, pan-European angle. For a distinctive view, I sought a few comments from guests who use the cheap trains and work in a worldwide business enterprise.
One British traveler describes Ouigo as: “Very a great deal harking back to the ugly factors of the Ryanair enjoy. Queueing in the station, scrum to get scanned and via gates, no coffee bar on the train.”
Another Brit reinforces the price range airline resonance: “Once I felt sorry for a family who wasn’t allowed to board a train due to the fact they’d arrived after the reduce-off time, even though the train become still at the platform.”
“Limited baggage, specific instances, however appealing charges,” says one French respondent. Another provides: “I don’t suppose that there has been a massive drop in great of carrier, comfort or punctuality.”