CHANGES to the shuttle bus service at the Mont-Saint-Michel are planned after tourist visits dropped 20% this summer.
The body in charge of running the World Heritage site (the Syndicat Mixte de la Baie Mont-Saint-Michel) has given the go-ahead to its president, Laurent Beauvais, also president of the Basse-Normandie region, to renegotiate the bus pick-up point with contractor Véolia.
There have been growing complaints about the bus service since it was put in place in April as part of changes meant to better set off the famous beauty spot. Car parks next to it were closed and people were obliged to park at new ones three kilometres away and take a shuttle bus. However, controversially, the shuttle pick-up point is a 900m walk from the car park, requiring people to walk through a shopping area.
A pick-up point next to the car park will now be discussed. Such a change is likely to mean a rise in parking charges to fund related works.
The issue caused a falling out between councillors for Normandy and Brittany on the syndicat mixte, with vice-president of Brittany regional council Maria Vadillo saying “the current system is a catastrophe from every point of view”. The new proposal is “acceptable and goes in the right direction,” she has said.
The proposed changes come as the mayor of the Mont-Saint-Michel, Eric Vannier, is to appear in court to face charges that he improperly served his own interests by seeking to influence the current location of the bus pick-up point which requires people to walk past shops he owns. The charges follow allegations by former Mont-Saint-Michel mayor Patrick Gaulois.
Mr Vannier has said he is “beyond reproach” and that 80% of his businesses are at the Mont itself, not in the shopping area next to the carpark.
He said on France 3 that Mr Gaulois may have made the allegations because he “doesn’t like” Mr Vannier’s business success or the fact he (Vannier) has been mayor three times and Mr Gaulois once.
Mr Vannier abstained from the vote on changes to the pick-up point, saying afterwards that he thought tourism could be boosted by other methods such as making the car parks free at night (when tourist numbers have dropped the most).