SNCF announced on January 14 that the iDTGV project had struck a resounding chord with its clientele. It revealed that there had been 261000 visitors to the website, generating 57000 ticket sales in the first eight weeks of booking. The first 4000 seats were sold within 24h, and average load factor during the first month of service was 77%.

Using a TGV Duplex trainset, iDTGV was launched on December 6 with a daily round trip between Paris and Toulon with intermediate stops at Avignon and Marseille (RG 11.04 p738); an additional trip operates on Friday evenings, returning on Saturday mornings. Travel is bookable only via the internet, and fares start at €19 for a single trip in second class and €39 in first. Reservations can be made up to four months in advance, with the lowest fares being offered for the earliest bookings. Passengers print their own tickets, which are checked on boarding by staff using optical readers on personal digital assistants.

When making reservations, passengers choose between the iDzen and iDzap zones on board. iDzen is intended for those seeking peace and quiet, while iDzap is for passengers who would like entertainment or some form of activity during the journey.

iDzen travellers can purchase a ’sleep kit’ from the iDzinc bar for €2 consisting of an inflatable cushion, an eye mask and earplugs. iDzap passengers are offered the opportunity to purchase magazines, card games and DVDs, and to hire DVD players; they are also invited to make use of an activity area in one car where they can meet fellow passengers or take part in a programme of animation.

For example, from the launch until January 2 passengers were treated to a taste of zen culture, billed as helping to manage stress and induce a sense of well-being. The activity car was in this case fitted with seats for head, foot or hand massage (right), and five self-service relaxation seats where passengers could enjoy a 30min session. The activity area also featured relaxing music and an ’olfactory ambiance’.

The iDzinc bar offers a range of food, snacks and drinks intended to appeal to a predominantly youthful clientele. Provided by Italian caterer Cremonini, the menu includes draught beer, a choice of ’new’ wines, baguettes, wraps, brownies, espresso coffee and Lao Tsu tea. Hot food available includes pasta, risotto and a croque monsieur. During the first month of service, each trip saw the bar patronised by an average of 120 people, while the activity car attracted 30 people per trip.

Apart from being a direct response to the low-cost airlines, iDTGV is intended as a means of building relationships with customers. This is evident from the website, where passengers are encouraged to make suggestions and to help develop the iDTGV concept further. Future destinations may include Bordeaux and Montpellier