The Izy trains, it’s over! The cheap travel service between Brussels and Paris will stop on July 10. Does this herald the end of low-cost trains on the Franco-Belgian high-speed network?
The famous green and purple trains of Izy will soon no longer stop at Brussels-Midi station. The service was launched in 2016 by the Thalys group and offered trips at modest prices between Brussels and Paris, one trip per day on weekdays and two on weekends. Tickets thus started at 15 euros, for a folding seat, and were therefore much lower than the prices offered for the Thalys.
The big difference between the Izy and the Thalys is the journey time. The trip took about 2h30 between the two capitals due to the fact that these Izy trains had to use the normal railway line between Arras and Paris. While the Thalys, still en route on the high-speed line, only take 1h20 to connect Brussels to Paris, and vice versa.
The Izy service had been suspended following Covid-19 before resuming timidly, in May 2021, with one trip per day. It will close permanently on July 10, the Thalys group predicted in an email sent to its passengers.
Eurostar Red and Eurostar Blue
The Thalys group announces to L’Écho and the VRT that it wishes to group all its journeys under a single brand and eventually meet on high-speed journeys. The aim is to offer shorter journeys, a wider range of fares, more on-board services for travelers and more possibilities for cancellation and modification. Izy’s low-cost fares will no longer apply, but Thalys is planning promotions, such as preferential fares from this summer, as well as specific prices for young people under 27.
Furthermore, the group will soon merge with Eurostar. And it is denomination that will remain in the long term: the Thalys will become Eurostar Red and will circulate throughout Europe while the Eurostar will become the Eurostar Bluetowards London.
1.2 million passengers in three years
One can wonder about the decision of Thalys: while train travel is more and more popular, why are these cheap trains removed? You should know that the Izy were in fact old Thalys trains, which could still be in circulation for a few years. However, it remains surprising that the service stops while the group was pleased with its success with 1.2 million passengers boarded over the first three years of operation of the Izy.
The objective was to target a leisure clientele and it seemed to succeed. According to a Thalys study, conducted in 2018, 60% of Izy travelers indicated that they would not have taken the train and 30% that they would not have traveled at all without this low cost offer.
The “low cost” policy therefore seemed to work, but was not necessarily profitable for Thalys.
New companies between Brussels and Paris?
Other companies could enter the market. The FlixTrain company, from the same group as the FlixBus green buses which offer cheap trips between European cities, had launched its application to open five Paris-Brussels lines. It was before the Covid, but the project could not be realized. And currently, no other candidate for a launch on these high-speed lines has been announced.
The future Eurostar group, for its part, announces great ambitions with 30 million travelers expected by 2030, compared to 18.5 million before the Covid-19 pandemic. It remains to be hoped that travelers will have a wider price list to allow as many people as possible to take these high-speed trains in the future.
Grégory Ienco – Photo: Izy/Whyte agency