Success for Trenitalia France

24/01/2023 – By Frédéric de Kemmeter – Railway signalling and freelance copywriter – Suscribe my blog

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A successful bet for Trenitalia France: its Paris-Lyon route reached its one millionth passenger last December. This was important because the Italian company’s arrival on French soil was a risky move in a country that has never been convinced by multiple operators on the same network.

On 18 December 2021, for the first time in France, a foreign railway company competed directly with SNCF. Trenitalia launched two round trips by high-speed train between Milan and Paris, passing through Turin, Modane and Lyon.

The ‘Frecciarossa’ trains, the name given by the Italians to their high-speed trains, differ from the SNCF’s TGV inOui and Ouigo as they offer different levels of comfort, according to Trenitalia France. But most importantly, this Italian arrival will see Trenitalia selling Paris-Lyon tickets, i.e. on domestic services. This is something that the SNCF must have feared.

A successful gamble

One year later, Roberto Rinaudo, CEO of Trenitalia France, can pride himself on having succeeded in his gamble. In December 2022, the millionth passenger was welcomed in one of the beautiful Frecciarossa trains that the operator operates in France.

The result is a 15% increase in the number of trains on a line that is already considered saturated and whose market is relatively mature.

So far, there are only 5 round trips between Paris and Lyon, 2 of which are extended to Milan. The SNCF, on the other hand, has 33 round trips, 11 of which are on Ouigo, the low-cost brand of the French company. Trenitalia’s average load factor is 70%, but only 50% on the Paris-Lyon segment alone.

Impact on prices

Looking at ticket prices, Trenitalia’s average price is €37.40 compared to €54.20 for SNCF, but with large disparities: the TGV Ouigo offers an average of €20.10 while the more expensive TGV Inoui goes up to an average of €78.40.

The new entrant Trenitalia is said to have lowered prices by around 20% on the Inoui SNCF TGV and by around 13% on the Ouigo TGV, which proves that the arrival of a competitor can have an incentive effect.

It should be remembered, however, that French law provides for a significant discount on tolls for any new entrant in the first year (-37%), then decreasing thereafter to become zero in 2025. The question remains whether Trenitalia’s current prices can be maintained in two years’ time. However, the increase in energy costs, which was not foreseen in the law and the French toll system, must be taken into account.


Experience also played a role

Trenitalia in France may seem something new, but in reality, the Italian company already knew the market. In 2011, it took over the night train service between Paris and Venice under the brand name Thello, and was therefore able to experiment the French clientele and the day-to-day operational problems.

Thello disappeared from the scene in June 2021, a victim of the covid and, above all, of a repositioning of Trenitalia, which is betting internationally on high speed. The gamble was won in France, and in Spain where the Italian company operates in a joint venture with Ilsa and Globalvia.

Rolling stock

Moreover, Trenitalia did not come with an unknown train. The Frecciarossa is based on the Zefiro V300 platform following 25 years of experience gained by ADtranz, then Bombardier, and also in the development of the ICE-1 and ICE-2 in Germany and the Talgo S-102 in Spain, where the Canadian firm designed the traction components.

The Zefiro V300 followed these experiences through a contract for Bombardier to supply 70 high-speed trainsets to China, to be built in a joint venture with CSR Sifang Locomotive, which entered service in 2014 as the CRH380D series.

In China, the train was designed for 380km/h commercial speed, surpassing anything previously available in high speed. Bombardier could boast about to be a member of the elite club of high-speed rolling stock manufacturers.

The ‘Frecciarossa’ has been in service in Italy since 2015, and the Italian operator has had time to tame all its facets, both good and bad.

In the meantime, Hitachi Rail made a double move by taking over of AnsaldoBreda in 2015, followed by the high-speed business of the former Bombardier in 2021. The Japanese company thus has the complete railway architecture, signalling + train, all fully compatible with the European TSIs.

Today, Trenitalia swears by this train. After the 50 trainsets, which were only suitable for Italian territory, Trenitalia has recommended them for its operations abroad. The Italian operator and Hitachi Rail are thus gaining solid experience in high-speed rail in Europe, and are becoming capable of meeting all the national requirements that the arrival of such trains still entails.

It is almost certain that the Italian company will not stop there. Frecciarossa and Trenitalia, two names that you must now remember well… 🟧

(photo Trenitalia France)

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24/01/2023 – By Frédéric de Kemmeter – Railway signalling
Suscribe my blog

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