MENU. Paris-Tours, an overpriced TGV line? Users demand accounts

TGV tickets between Paris and Tours at 90 euros, it’s rare, but it does exist. In any case, this is what regular users of the line have seen. Prices that they consider exorbitant, and which would be among the most expensive of the French high-speed network. Every day, they would be around 2000 to take the Paris-Tours, to believe some The Parisian.

David Charretier is from Tours, and is a very frequent user of the TGV. Working in Paris as digital director for a large international group, he commutes “several times a week“for years, and knows the situation well. Since 2004, he has been the president of the TGV Paris-Tours association, which claims 950 members, regular passengers of the line. A line on which he had already been able”noted skyrocketing ticket prices to 80 or 85 euros“. For his student daughters in Paris, he wants to book tickets for Friday evening the 15th, and comes across an offer of 90 euros in second class.”This is a first for 30 years“, he says.

The most expensive line in France?

A first, but not so much of a surprise for him. According to a 2017 study by UFC-Que Choisir, which calculated the average price per km of a TGV trip on many routes, the Paris-Tours would be one of the most expensive lines in France, only exceeded by the Toulon-Aix en Provence link and by the special case of Eurostar to London.

To obtain these averages, the UFC-Que Choisir retained one train per journey studied. We have chosen to verify these figures with more data (see the methodology at the end of the article), spread over six targeted journeys:
– Paris-Tours,
– Paris-Le Mans, which uses the same rails as the Paris-Tours on three quarters of its route,
– Paris-Lille, same number of kilometers as the Paris-Tours,
– Paris-Lyon, the first open high-speed line and the busiest in France,
– Paris-Reims,
– Reims-Strasbourg.

If the map is not displayed, click here.

The connections from Paris to Tours, Le Mans and Reims all turn, according to our averages, around 26 cents per km. Paris-Lyon and Reims-Strasbourg seem slightly cheaper, with 20 and 23 centimes respectively. And although its length is equal to Paris-Tours, Paris-Lille is much cheaper with 16 cents per km. According to UFC-Que Choisir, the national average for journeys of one to two hours is 18 cents per km. Consequence of these differences: for a Friday of vacation departures (October 22), the ticket to the North is on average 38 euros, against 60 euros for Tours. It even happens that Ouigo tickets (supposedly low-cost) reach 65 euros between Paris and Indre-et-Loire.

On the road again

The 90 euro ticket in any case dissuaded David Charretier from making his daughters travel by train last weekend, preferring to pick them up by car. “The SNCF is a public service, it is not normal with all the ecological issues, and completely unsuitable”, he insists.

These tariffs, the LREM deputy of Tours Philippe Chalumeau does not judge them “not very fair“neither, and said”do not understand Why“The prices vary as much from one line to another. He claims to have followed the file for several years, being himself a very frequent user of Paris-Tours. It is also from the platform of the high-speed train that ‘he explains, by telephone, that “the TGV must be a better asset for Tours, for Indre-et-Loire, for Vendôme“, by becoming more”competitive with other modes of transport“. He feels that it is not normal to”put diesel vehicles on the roads because the train is too expensive” while “efforts must be made towards ecological transition“, and wishes the TGV to be”accessible to everyone“.

On board the limited Paris-Tours

Contacted, the SNCF explains for its part that the tickets at 90 euros “remain very rare“and generally follow”a massive influx of people into our trains due to one-off events such as a trade fair in Bordeaux“, or a day of going on vacation for example.

The national society nevertheless recognizes that, structurally, “tickets on Paris-Tours are a little more expensive than on Paris-Lille“. In question according to her: a series of small difficulties which, combined, lead to greater loads. She cites in particular the major difference between the two, namely the profile of the services:”On Paris-Lille, the TGVs leave from Paris and arrive in Lille, sometimes they stop in Arras. Point. For Paris-Tours, Tours can be a terminus with stops at Massy or Vendôme, or the train can simply stop at Saint-Pierre and continue towards Bordeaux.“The result is a number of seats”simply occupied between Paris and Vendôme or completely between Paris and Bordeaux“who mechanically”do not return to Tourangeaux“.

The result, according to SNCF, is simple:

There are fewer places, so the supply is lower, so prices go up.

A mechanism observed, according to our figures, on Paris-Le Mans and Paris-Reims, which are in similar configurations over short distances.

The train is just passing, on the road to Biarritz

The logic of the SNCF is to use less TGV to save money, not to manage according to demand and to say that the motivated will pay 90 euros“, thunders David Charretier of the Paris-Tours association. The SNCF, for its part, points to a saturation of the Montparnasse station in Paris. In the current situation, with”a departure every 4 minutes in rush hour at Montparnasse, we cannot add trains for safety reasons“, assures the public company. In short,”we have increasing demand, but supply cannot keep up“, she assumes.

Not sure, therefore, that the service can increase from a simple decision from above. MP Philippe Chalumeau nevertheless hopes that the opening of the rail network to competition in 2023 will serve as a lever in the coming years. If he describes himself “for the public service“he said to himself”sure that competition will play on prices, by switching to a European offer“. Since “Tours is on the route to Biarritz, Spain, Portugal“, the link with Paris could benefit from more attractive offers than those of the SNCF. The company could be forced to lower its tariffs. Assumptions impossible to verify at present, while the opening to competition of the network in 2023 remains a subject much criticized and debated (Economic alternatives, reserved for subscribers).

For the moment, the SNCF is redirecting to monthly subscription offers, or to the Advantages card at 49 euros, unveiled on June 1 and which caps the price of tickets at 39 euros for journeys of less than 1.5 hours. From “pricing efforts” for “stop saying that the train is too expensive“, pleads the SNCF.

We move forward, it’s obvious (or not)

David Charretier greets “good initiatives“to lower prices overall, but regrets the price of the monthly subscription. The latter, which would concern around 4,000 people on the Paris-Tours, costs around 600 euros per month, and allows subscribers to book a ticket for 1 euro 50. “When you have to pay half the minimum wage to take the TGV, it’s a luxury. The TGV is the Vuitton of transport“, he quipped.

And while waiting for the opening to competition, he says that only “a real mobilization of local elected officials in Tours“could lead to a reduction in prices. Like the recurring pressure from the mayor of the northern city, Martine Aubry, to lower the prices of TGV Paris-Lille. The president of the TGV Paris-Tours association would like”the state imposes a cap around 55 or 60 euros in second class“.

Alerted on the subject since the start of his mandate in 2017, Philippe Chalumeau has already reported the problem to Elisabeth Borne when she was still Minister of Transport, visibly without success. He nevertheless promises to broach the subject with Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, successor to Elisabeth Borne, during a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with “elected representatives of the Loch region to talk about the Tours-Loches line“. “I am going to fight“, he assures, hoping”a negotiation“between the State and SNCF on a reduction in prices. It must also send a letter, written by David Charretier, to the minister to summarize the complaints of users.”The minister has weight“, asserts, optimist, the deputy. As if to be convinced of the salutary success of a crusade which, however, does not cease to fail.

Methodology of our figures

To calculate our prices per kilometer, we have noted the second class fares of all TGV and Ouigo available on the six routes, in both directions, on the dates of Friday 22, Sunday 24, Tuesday 26 and Friday 29 October, from same computer on the morning of Thursday, October 21. We obtained an average of the ticket per day per trip, and an average of the ticket over the four days, divided by the number of kilometers traveled.

We were able to raise the prices by:
– 111 trains between Paris and Tours,
– 118 trains between Paris and Le Mans,
– 165 trains between Paris and Lille,
– 185 trains between Paris and Lyon,
– 108 trains between Paris and Reims,
– 51 trains between Reims and Strasbourg,
making a total of 738 TGVs.

Several stations have been selected for each terminus:
– In Paris, the Montparnasse stations for Tours and Le Mans, Nord for Lille, Lyon for Lyon and Est for Reims,
– In Tours, the Tours and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps stations,
– In Reims, the stations of Reims and Champagne-Ardenne TGV for Paris, and only Champagne-Ardenne TGV for Strasbourg,
– In Lille, the Lille-Flandres and Lille-Europe stations,
– In Lyon, the Perrache, Part-Dieu and Saint-Exupéry airport stations,
– In Mans and Strasbourg, city stations only.