The scheme – being piloted on two routes between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne in eastern France and Paris – is aimed at regular commuters travelling to and from the capital who want to make better use of the trip.
“It’s much more constructive than having a weekly two-hour lesson,” said businessman Jérôme, who has signed up for 40 lessons at a cost of 690 euros.
“Doing it four times a week means I will be learning a lot of new vocabulary that I can put to use as soon as I get to the office,” he told Europe 1 radio.
And despite the distractions of noise, the jolting of the train and the passing scenery, the SNCF’s new pupils seem to be enjoying the ride towards better English as they take their classes in small groups of three sat around a table with their teacher.
“Sometimes you get a bit scared of sounding like an idiot in front of all the other travellers,” admitted one pupil.
The courses, run by SpeakWrite English-language school, come in two flavours – the intensive “Locomotion” course of forty 45-minute classes, and the more relaxed “On Track”, comprised of thirty 60-minute sessions.