Jean Castex inaugurates the return of the Paris-Nice night train

“We are reopening this evening things that we had perhaps sacrificed a little too quickly”, threw Jean Castex going up in the Paris-Nice night train, left Thursday evening May 20 after more than three years of hiatus.

“Exceptionally, it is not your captain who speaks to you, but the Prime Minister. ” Passionate about trains from the nocturnal Toulouse-Paris of his youth, the Prime Minister took advantage of this inauguration to go to Nice in a bunk.

Six hours longer than a TGV

Departing on time from the Gare d’Austerlitz at 8:52 p.m., the train should arrive at 9:11 a.m. on Friday on the Côte d’Azur. That’s six hours more than the high-speed train.

With this nocturnal escape of 1,088 kilometers in his agenda, Jean Castex wants to highlight a “Rapid realization of the recovery plan” French, which devotes 5.3 billion to the rail sector, including 100 million for night trains.

The government also wants to relaunch Paris-Tarbes and a Paris-Vienne at the end of the year.

“The rebirth of this mode of transport”

“This first night train is a strong symbol, which signifies the rebirth of this mode of transport that some considered obsolete”, launched the CEO of SNCF Jean-Pierre Farandou, before also getting on the train.

The night train, “It is also the return of the + slow life +, we take our time and we find the taste for travel, it’s like a small cruise”, while “The health crisis has also accelerated climate awareness”, continued Mr. Farandou.

The Intercités Paris-Nice, whose operation ceased in December 2017 for lack of profitability, will connect Paris-Austerlitz and Nice-Ville every day and in both directions, with six stops including Marseille, Toulon and Cannes.

“In the ‘head to tail’ position ”

This first Paris-Nice was full but was far from crowded: due to the pandemic, occupancy of the sleeping quarters is limited to four travelers instead of six in second class. “Head to tail” position to maximize distances between travelers “, said SNCF.

In the immediate future, the Paris-Nice will leave with seven of the cars that normally go to Briançon (Hautes-Alpes), a link currently closed for works, and cars for Modane.

If they have been refreshed, the compartments are in their own juice, with sockets in the hallway, and not a wifi bar.

A “different art of traveling”

“It’s exactly the same comfort as when I took the train in the 1970s to go to Berlin”, launches Christiane Déquence, of the National Federation of Transport Users. If she welcomes the resumption of this journey, which represents a “Another art of traveling”, it also wants the SNCF to develop the Intercités de jour, to connect the territories.

Nicolas Forien and Alice Billon, from the collective “Yes to the night train”, do not hide their pleasure. “It’s ideal for traveling in Europe. There are a lot of young people motivated not to travel by plane anymore », underline the two Marseillais.

After the stop at the end of 2017 of Paris-Nice, heir to the prestigious “Blue Train” launched in 1886, a call for expressions of interest to find a buyer had been launched, in vain.

A first in a possible new series of lines

The relaunched link could be the first in a new series of night lines.

Emmanuel Macron had caused the surprise in July 2020 by announcing “A policy of promoting and revitalizing night trains”.

The Minister of Transport Jean-Baptiste Djebbari now aims to have “Ten night trains in 2030”.

There were no longer – excluding stops linked to the pandemic or to works – than two night train lines in France, from Paris to Briançon, and from Paris to Rodez, Cerbère and Latour-de-Carol (Pyrénées-Orientales ). The cars of these surviving lines must be completely renovated by 2023, for 44 million euros.

Like Austria

Night links Dijon-Marseille, Bordeaux-Marseille, Paris-Toulouse and Tours-Lyon may follow one day, according to a version of a government report that leaked Tuesday in the Mobilettre newsletter.

The rapporteurs take as a model the success of the Austrian company ÖBB with the creation of a real network (Vienna-Amsterdam or Munich-Rome, among others).

This report on “The development of new regional balance train lines” has been transmitted to Parliament, the Ministry of Transport announced Thursday evening.

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