The Paris-Biarritz at 130 euros but record sales, why is the SNCF so successful?

The Paris-Biarritz at 130 euros but record sales, why is the SNCF so successful?

If you want to stretch your toes at the beach this summer on the train and haven’t picked up your tickets yet, be prepared to empty your PEL. Excluding Ouigo, reduction card and night train, for Saturday July 2 and Saturday August 6, a one-way Paris-Barritz ticket costs at least 124.50 euros. A Paris-Nice on July 2, at rush hour, costs 135.60 euros. And a small Lille-Perpignan on July 13, just before the bridge, is charged 139 euros.

Despite these prices, the train is far, very far from being shunned. The SNCF is even counting “a record summer, in the words of its CEO, Jean-Pierre Farandou, this Thursday on France 2. We have already sold 8 million tickets for July and August, that’s 10% more than in 2019”, summer of the previous record. “We are on our toes, we add oars, we make double compositions with two oars at the same time,” he continues. And the fire in the kitchen is such that 500,000 additional places will be offered. A trend that has nothing to do with summer but which confirms the good health of rail in 2022: the SNCF indicates a 10% increase in sales on high speed in May and June – leisure and weekend attendance of TER , without reservation, having at the same time increased by 20%.

The old-fashioned plane, the fashionable train

The train will therefore be the hit of the summer. “Yes, it’s expensive, but luggage is unlimited there, the destinations are pretty well served, and there’s nothing to do: just sit down,” notes Camille, 30, leaving for Nice in July with his friends. The choice of the train quickly imposed itself in the face of the plane, “an ecological aberration”, and the car. “We went down to Biarritz in a car last year. Never again ! “, she notes. “A long car journey is conducive to arguments, unlike the train, which involves no one. And then, that necessarily means taking the car of one of us, a big source of tension and fear of damaging it. Besides, the train is tranquility. And tranquility, on vacation, is priceless”. Even at more than 100 euros, therefore.

We award a 17/20 to this very interesting argument, but make no mistake, Camille’s opinion is in the minority. “The car remains largely the number 1 transport in summer in France, cuts Jean Viard, sociologist specializing in social times and distances. It symbolizes freedom, independence and improvisation, characteristics that we want to find on vacation”. And this despite soaring fuel prices. According to an Ipsos survey, 65% of holidaymakers will leave by personal car this summer, compared to only 24% by public transport (train, bus/coach, carpooling) and 20% by plane. “If the train grabs few shares from the car, it increasingly replaces the plane”, recognizes the expert. Because while the plane is “outdated” because of its ecological cost, “the train is coming back into fashion”, pleads Jean Viard: “Ten years ago, to say that you came to Venice by night train made you look like a nerd and a stingy. Today, the same route sounds chic”.

Cocorico and simplicity

Let’s continue on this rail comeback. First, the train entered a virtuous circle. To understand this, let’s go back to this Venetian night train: “Ten years ago, it was almost empty, which gave a feeling of insecurity and fear. Now that it is full, we feel peaceful inside. A reassuring train is a full train”. But it is above all the success of the stays made in France which is beneficial to him: according to a study by Ifop, 80% of French people who will leave this summer will do so in France. In 2020, at the height of the health crisis, 94% of them did not leave the borders. However, before the coronavirus, in the summer of 2019, “only” 67% chose a French destination. It is therefore mathematical and geometric: in fact, the train, which mainly serves French destinations, benefits from this craze for blue-white-red holidays. Better still, the foreign countries that come out on top – Spain and Italy – are partly accessible by rail.

“The French have simplified their holidays and shortened the distances, while still wanting to leave. The destinations have become more train-compatible”, supports Jean Viard.

Plan better, pay less

These holidays that smell good of pastis, bouillabaisse and the Mediterranean coast are imagined with a single watchword: sim-pli-ci-ty. “After two horrible years of Covid from hell, we don’t want to take our heads off, speak another language, change our euros or try to make it complicated. Just a beach and mojitos, that suits us very well”, confirms Alice. Holidays so simple that the car becomes superfluous: “We tank in Palavas-les-flots and stay there. Three years ago, we would have visited the region, gone on hikes, other cities: the car made sense. But there, we are exhausted, we just want to rest and not move. »

Jean Viard reminds us: “the train arrived as a means of transport long before the car, and was for a long time the tool of the working classes to leave. It therefore maintains a positive image. » With a novelty compared to the previous two years, the possibility of planning. “In 2020 and 2021, we were too afraid of a new confinement or geographical restrictions to dare to take tickets in advance. There, when we saw that at 400,000 cases per day in January, nothing was closing, we said to ourselves that nothing would ever close again, ”smiles Thomas, 29, who bought his tickets in March.

Jean-Pierre Farandou recognizes this: the trains are already full on the days of the big departures. But “there are places left” outside these periods. Especially since Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, recently explained that 75% of tickets purchased for this summer were at reduced prices, thanks in particular to promotions and offers for tickets taken in advance. So understand that if this Paris-Biarritz costs an arm and a leg in July, it’s not so much the price itself that is in question, it’s rather you who are behind the fashion of the summer. Fashion faux pas.