FRENCH National Railways’ (SNCF) has celebrated 10 years of its low-cost Ouigo service, which has carried 110 million passengers since it launched between Paris and Lyon and Paris and Nantes on April 2 2013.

Ouigo carried 24 million passengers in 2022, 5 million of which were travelling in family groups. SNCF says that half of Ouigo passengers would not have used the train if the low fares had not been available and 10% would not have travelled at all. Half of all passengers paid less than €25 per journey in 2022.

Ouigo now serves 50 towns and cities directly and 2000 destinations with a change of train. SNCF is planning to add services from Paris to Brest, La Rochelle and Perpignan this year as well as expand Ouigo Train Classique services, which operate at a maximum of 160km/h using hauled Corail coaches.

The growth of Ouigo is a key element of SNCF’s strategy to grow TGV traffic comprising both Ouigo and TGV Inoui services to 200 million passengers a year by 2030. The low-cost operator will add a further 12 TGV Duplex high-speed trains to its existing fleet of 38 trains in 2027. The trains will feature improved interiors and even greater seating capacity. SNCF says that all existing trains will also be refurbished, including the introduction of more comfortable seats.

Ouigo keeps costs down by restricting ticket sales to the internet, intensive use of its fleet, which cover an average of almost 700,000km a year, conducting all light maintenance at night, offering 25% more seating than a standard TGV, and a no-frills policy - there is no onboard catering while taking larger items of luggage and internet access are subject to a surcharge.

While Ouigo tickets were initially only offered through a dedicated website, it is now possible to book trains through the SNCF Connect website. However, a recent report in the French media pointed out that Ouigo is not always the cheapest option, especially if a passenger holds one of several SNCF reduction cards.

Ouigo Spain

As well as France, SNCF has successfully extended the Ouigo brand to Spain, introducing Madrid - Barcelona and Madrid - Valencia services in May 2021. The network was expanded to include Madrid - Albacete - Alicante services on April 27.

Ouigo is offering two daily return trips on the route with trains taking less than 2h 30min to complete the trip.

Ouigo Spain now offers up to 28,000 seats per week, with ticket prices starting at €9. The operator offers five daily services between Madrid and Barcelona and Madrid and Valencia and has carried more than 5 million passengers in the past two years.

The operator is planning to further expand its network to include Seville, Córdoba and Málaga, eventually offering 30 trains a day trains and carrying up to 10 million passengers per year.