January 1 saw an agreement between French National Railways and the national travel agents’ association SNAV come into force, with the immediate effect of increasing commission paid to agents by 0·4%. In an effort to boost sales of rail tickets, an identical rise is scheduled for January 1 1998, when the rate of commission will have reached 7·8% and the two parties will review their trading arrangements.

SNCF has also undertaken to shoulder some of the costs of credit card transactions, and to assist travel agents equipping with the Amadeus Rail computerised reservations system by paying Fr1 for each reserved and confirmed passenger journey. For their part, the agents have agreed to move to end the practice of charging customers a fee for railway ticketing and help SNCF to promote group products and to train agency staff.

Both parties have agreed to future discussions on the practice of charging deposits and, at a regional level, the opening of SNCF ticket offices in town centres and installation of ticket vending machines in travel agencies. With SNAV approval, SNCF is to carry out a survey of its business customers using travel agents; these account for 20% of ticket sales for inter-city and long-distance travel. o