FRANCE: SNCF President Guillaume Pepy and Director of the long-distance passenger business Barbara Dalibard unveiled details of the national operator's 'Ouigo' branded low-cost TGV service on February 19.

From April 2 Ouigo services will run from Marne-la-Vallée Chessy station on the eastern outskirts of Paris to Marseille and Montpellier. There will be three return services a day and four on Sundays.

Tickets can only be booked on line, with fares for the single class priced according to demand and ranging from €10 to €85. Children accompanied by an adult pay a flat fare of €5 and SNCF says that 25% of the seats will be sold at less than €25.

Four double-deck TGV Duplex sets have been refurbished at SNCF's Bischheim workshops to operate Ouigo services, operating in pairs to offer a total of 1 268 seats or 20% more than a standard formation. No catering facilities are provided and the bar area has been replaced with additional luggage space. Each Ouigo passenger is entitled to take one piece of baggage free of charge, up to two extra items being charged at €5 or €10 each.

To enable tickets to be checked before boarding, passengers are required to arrive at the station at least 30 min before departure. SNCF says at least four on-train personnel will be present during the journey.

'The challenge that we have wanted to meet is to reduce our operating costs by 30%', said Dalibard. According to Pepy, 'with unbeatable value for money and more choice for everyone, SNCF has created the model for hyper-accessible high-speed travel'.