Paris-Lyon: Is there a seat for Trenitalia opposite the SNCF TGV?

The Italian operator is launching its red arrow this Saturday to conquer the French market. More with the ambition to make the train cake in France bigger than to shake the SNCF.

Historic moment for the railway in France. For the first time this Saturday, a competitor of the SNCF TGV will run on the very busy and profitable Paris-Lyon axis and will then continue its journey to Milan. Trenitalia and its high-speed train called Flèche Rouge is therefore the first to attack the historic monopoly of the SNCF following the opening up to competition of the end market 2017.

Trenitalia arrives with a differentiating offer thanks in particular to several comfort classes which make it possible to target several targets (from tourists to businessmen) and aggressive prices to counter the very powerful Ouigo of the SNCF .

Interviewed by BFM Business, Roberto Rinaudo, the boss of the French subsidiary of Trenitalia displays excitement and satisfaction: “The first trains are almost full, it works very well, we are delighted with the evolution of sales, our proposal meets its public. We intend to offer a rich offer that meets all the requirements”, He explained to us this Thursday when the SNCF was struggling with to multiple ap pels to the strike now lifted . Did Trenitalia take advantage of this sequence of confusion at the SNCF a few days before the first departures for the Christmas holidays? The manager does not support where it hurts: “A strike is damaging for all stakeholders. We hope that this social conflict will be resolved, it is a shame”


The Italian operator plays the card of humility. It is not, at least for the moment, to seek to carve out croupiers to the venerable national company of French railways which has largely anticipated the competition. “We cannot hurt the SNCF, we are very small,” concedes the manager with a smile.

In fact, Trenitalia is entering the French high-speed market of progressive way. His main handicap facing the TGV? Its low frequency: 2 rotations for the moment against no less than 17 for the SNCF. Between the Ouigo tariffs and the TGV frequency, Trenitalia’s competitive space is further reduced, some observers even speaking of a niche market.

“We will strengthen the offer in the next few years. months with 3 daily rotations only to and from Lyon “, underlines the manager without giving a date for the moment.

Trenitalia intends above all to take advantage of the heavy occupation of the TGV, namely to attract customers who cannot find the right train at the SNCF. Because opening up to competition is not fighting for the same cake and grabbing shares from your competitor, but rather making this cake bigger with more supply. Translation, increase the modal share of the train.

In Italy, competition has boosted the modal share of the train

“Growing our business in France means growing the market in itself “, suggests Roberto Rinaudo. “A richer choice leads to more volumes, it generates benefits for all actors”. An observation which is based on the Italian example where Trenitalia (which is the incumbent operator in the country) is competed on high speed by Italo from the private operator NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori), which landed on the transalpine rails in 2012.

“On the Rome-Milan axis, after a few years of competition, the overall number of passengers has doubled”, he explains.

Indeed, according to a study by Cesip (Center for Research in the Economy and Regulation of Services, Industry and the Public Sector), after the launch of Italo and the opening up to competition in Italy, the modal share of the train increased by 36% in 2008 at 75% in 2017. Today, the train has 74% market share between the largest cities in Italy.

An observation shared by Christopher Michau, Director of Operator Relations for Trainline: “What is important is the additional choice offered by Trenitalia which will address different needs, the consumer wins. It is a complementary offer which will make the cake bigger. competition, the players are not stealing market share, what we can observe is the increase in the modal share of the train even if there are nuances depending on the markets. train”.

An emulation that benefits the quality of service

However, opening up to competition is not always synonymous with an increase volumes and quality. The English example is the perfect illustration . The opening of the market in 75 was organized into franchises leading to additional costs, delays, technical problems. The government has had to renationalize lines in recent years and now intends to completely review the privatization model.

” The rules are really not comparable, retorts Roberto Rinaudo. The Italian model of opening up to competition is very close to what is happening in France at the regulatory level. ” Another benefit, the quality of service has generally been improved thanks to the emulation between the actors. An emulation that we are starting to see in France. Of course, the power and footprint of the SNCF allow the operator to remain calm, which has not prevented it from deploying a new Business Première class in its TGVs to align with the two business classes of Trenitalia: Business and Executive where only 10 Wide-seat leather armchairs 74 cm wide are

Because the professional target is strategic, especially on this link, as much for Trenitalia as for SNCF. Recall that the pros generate overall 40% of the figure SNCF business.

Other lines?

Confident in its model, Trenitalia intends to gradually ramp up: “we want to develop our sales, grow our business, improve and optimize if necessary as part of a long-term strategy”, we explains Roberto Rinaudo.

Are we to understand that the operator is thinking of attacking other lines at high speed? “It is still too early to consider it, it is already very ambitious to launch out on Paris-Lyon”, underlines the person in charge.

In any case, the SNCF and Trenitalia will have to deal with another competitor in Paris-Lyon. The Spanish Renfe has displayed his ambitions . “With the liberalization of rail passenger transport, Renfe is leading actions in France for the launch of high-speed services and the provision of public services”, we can read in a statement. It remains to be seen whether the cake will continue to grow …

Olivier Chicheportiche Journalist BFM Business