Open access and sub contracted operators - a growing problem for Interrailers?

  • 30 September 2022
  • 12 replies
  • 102 views

Userlevel 6
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Is the low-cost plane model is coming to a railway near you, to compete with or even replace National operators

There are now 2 new competitors to Renfe on main routes in Spain, part operated by Trenitalia and SNCF.

SNCF now operate some TGV routes as Second Class only Ouigo brand ( via a shell company I believe).

I have read of some trains in Czech Rep (I think) operated by Arriva.

Most of us will have seen Italo trains in Italy.

And so on…..

Many of these are outside the pass network .and offer low cost fares.

Many of these are owned at least in part by national operators (SNCF even operate in France as a competitor to itself).

Most, if not all, of these do have alternatives in the pass network, but is that enough to keep us interrailing?

For Newbies this will cause even more confusion, getting worse not better.

For regular interrailers, particularly those who like to go in a free from schedule way, is it an issue that you are finding causes you problems.

Or is pay as you go rather than interrailing the way of the future?

Personally, as a retiree with a bit of spare cash, I am happy using IR as a cost effective way of civilised land cruising, travelling long and fast in first class, staying in decent hotels and with well planned reserved seats, whilst always having a backup just in case.

Pay as you go + a pass does not appeal to me for the 2000 + km adventures we have started doing.

So will this surge in trains outside the network eventually kill off the traditional backpacker model of Interrail?

Or will it force Eurail/Interrail to adjust its pass prices?

Or any other thoughts?


12 replies

Userlevel 7
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@Nanja @Jody Here are some interesting thoughs by @Yorkie 

Userlevel 7
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Side remark:

Some of the Ouigo trains in France replace former TGVs. SNCF effectively (slightly) reduced its network on which the pass is valid.

Userlevel 7
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On the other hand Regiojet and Leoexpress (now owned by RENFE) in Czech Republic accept Interrail. 

Userlevel 5
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Westbahn e.g. in Austria accepts interrail if I recall. Quite some others do as well (like Arriva, Conexxion, Keolis, Veolia in the NL).

Those different “private” operators (usually it are national operators operating in another country, under another brand) isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It sometimes leads to better services, a bit more diversity in type of trains and travel comfort.

The app makes it really easy to check which operator you took for the journey, and makes it able to split the funds they get from it accordingly. They can miss out on quite some clientèle, if they keep refusing it.

I think it should be a question of pressuring those operators or mobility and transport decision makers to accept interrail on all services. Trying to avoid them or make trip planning more difficult with pay-as-you-go and pass stretches is an “easy” solution, but not a good one.

If Interrail/Eurail board should read with us and wants to mobilise us to help exerting pressure, just ask. Guess plenty of us will be eager to help, making it more convenient for all future Interrailers.

Userlevel 7
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RJ and LEO in CZ ONLY accept the passes (you have to read through all very carefully) on the few minor lines that since a yr or so they now also run on contract-in lieu of former CD. On their old -and indeed private enterprise- lines (mostly CZ-SK) they do NOT-except RJ as its quite rail-friendly in its lowest class and without garantee on seat.

THese lines that Yorkie mentions are mostly additional, so do not really replace older lines. It may mean they take many pax from the old services and hence may even free more seats on them for passholders (but this is just theory). It also applies to FLIX in DE and SE and MTR in SE.

IF you look at it more carefully it is much more worse in PL, RO and CZ: since they have there also started to contract out various minor regional lines, many of these are now run by new comers-though mostly not that ´private´ and these do not takes passes. In PL nearly half the regional lines are now run by the likes as KM, KW, KS, ARRIVa-without passes being valid.

OTOH in other countries where they have started to contract out (SE, DE, NlL, NO) passes remained valid.

In quite a few countries various minor regional lines have always been out of the national system and never taken passes-like in IT, CH, FR (Provence), AT, ES.

Userlevel 6
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Thanks to all for the discussion.

I am looking forward to a few years of using more trains and I hope we can continue to expand the community beyond the valuable but routine answering of questions.

I can see the day rapidly approaching where Interrail will finally re-invent itself, moving from a predominantly student gap-year offer to a much wider user profile, in line with the modern world.

We are all looking at the post-covid, global warming and ever more expensive flying World. Rail travel is a real winner and investment in much of Europe suggests that will remain the case in the next decade or so.

I do hope that some if not all the new operators join the network and add capacity for all interrailers.

Please feel free to extend the subjects discussed so our partners at Eurail/Interrail can see our ideas and comments, and hopefully give us their ideas and aspirations.

Userlevel 7
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RJ and LEO in CZ ONLY accept the passes (you have to read through all very carefully) on the few minor lines that since a yr or so they now also run on contract-in lieu of former CD. On their old -and indeed private enterprise- lines (mostly CZ-SK) they do NOT-except RJ as its quite rail-friendly in its lowest class and without garantee on seat.

@mcadv 

Please stop spreading fake news and check your info before you post something.

Leo Express accept Interrail and Eurail on all their services:

https://www.leoexpress.com/en/services/tickets-and-tariffs/interrail-eurail-tickets

Regiojet accept Interrail and Eurail on all their services except the one to Rijeka/Split:

https://regiojet.com/our-tickets/interrail

Userlevel 6
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As an extension subject does anybody agree that Interrail/Eurail needs to make finding basic information on their website a lot easier?

As an example does anybody know where the reference list for First Class equivalents country by country is? (e.g. Eurostar first class is standard Premier, Trenitalia trains are all different names and so on.)

I know I saw one a few months ago but I can’t find it now.

Userlevel 7
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Only Trenitalia and Renfe has fancy names for classes and SNCF on international Routes like on Thalys, Eurostar and TGV Lyria.

Trenitalia: Standard 2nd, Business 1st. Premium 2+ and Executive 1+ is not possible to use with a pass.

TGV Lyria: Standard 2nd and standard 1ere is 1st class. Business 1ere is 1st class with eating but not for pass users.

Thalys: Standard 2nd and Comfort 1st. Premium 1st class with eating (not for pass users?)

Eurostar like you said, Standard 2nd, Standard  Premier 1st and Business Premier (last one not for pass users).

Renfe: No idea how they name their classes now. 

Railjet of ÖBB and CD: Economy 2nd, First 1st and Business 1+ (15€ reservation fee to use this seats in Austria or Czech Rep.), maybe via CD it cost less.

 

Userlevel 6
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THese lines that Yorkie mentions are mostly additional, so do not really replace older lines. It may mean they take many pax from the old services and hence may even free more seats on them for passholders (but this is just theory). It also applies to FLIX in DE and SE and MTR in SE.

I

There is the alternative consideration that as more competition arrives the national operator contracts their offer (as SNCF have done with Ouigo), sheds old stock and increases prices to those wanting their premium trains - with a knock-on effect on Interrail pass prices.

I understand Ouigo is old stock TGVs with no frills. 

I also saw the rolling stock used for the cheap ALEX trains from Munich/ Schwandorf  to Prague - redundant D-bahn stock. (I believe these are usable with a Global Pass but do not show in the planner possibly because currently a bus replacement for a few weeks).

Userlevel 5
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Ouigo is no old stock- except for their “train classique”. They’re quite okay, fairly recently refurbished TGV Duplexes. The difference is that they cut down on the costs a lot. The trains have very early (or late) departures. The trains have on average much more kilometres in comparison to other TGV-sets, no 1st class and no bar, luggage is also limited. Which means you have plenty of extra (smaller seats) than ordinary TGV, which lowers operating cost with 50%.

The limited luggage might be the main raison they don’t accept interrailers on Ouigo.

The atmosphere on many other ordinary TGV’s feels much “older” than Ouigo.

It’s a bid for competition with buses and low-cost airlines, and quite succesfully so. I would say their complimentary to ordinary TGV network, not a competition.

If you can score a “carte avantage” for a year, often discounted at 50% (for 25 euro’s) you have tons really affordable TGVs in France. It can save you a lot of money, especially last minute! The French are usually quite good in getting an extra bit of money from unknowing tourists, but if you watch out you can get really good value for money ;)

I’m not against a bit of competition, when properly done, it can lower prices quite a bit. But the contracting out of certain regions, granting natural monopolies  to dedicated routes instead of competition on the same routes, isn’t proper competition and detrimental to all travelling by rail. Since it makes everything more complex. Like we get to experience when interrailing through Europe.

Userlevel 7
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As is obvious, the interrail group is unwilling or unable to put manners on it’s fully signed-up members with regards to quotas, excluded trains and intentional blocking of online reservations for their interrail customers.

 

There is zero chance of it having any sway with open access operators that do not wish to allow passholders, especially considering that in many cases it is the problem operators behind many of these ventures.

 

The reports of the new Sweden-Denmark-Germany night train also having passholder quotas adds yet another operator onto the list who want both sides of interrail; taking their revenue split portion but excluding the inconvenient interrailers so they can sell the spaces at a higher rate.

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