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€1 trains, new France-Ireland flight: 9 French travel updates

Plus a new French law on Channel ferries set for more debate, the grand opening of a new France-Spain high speed train and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Kemal Taner / Hadrian / kamilpetran / Mirko Kuzmanovic / Shutterstock

1. €1 trains in northern France

An SNCF deal is proposing train tickets for only €1 in the Hauts-de-France region in the north of the country. 

The éTER scheme sees hundreds of thousands of tickets available for regional (TER) trains at the symbolic low price. 

The tickets are applicable on all TER routes, through the five departments covering the region but are mostly used to visit the coastal regions for holidays. 

Last year, 80% of tickets bought on the scheme went towards Calais or Dunkirk. 

“Every year, we add 10,000 tickets [more than the year before]. We know that everything will go,” said Franck Dhersin, vice-president of the region. 

The regional council is funding the scheme with around €500,000, with the main benefactors being low-income families from the region itself – but everyone is eligible to purchase the tickets. 

This year saw the addition of a special train between Paris and Mers-les-Bains, and free buses between the station and seasides have also been put on by the region. 

Tickets are being sold in two stages – since June, tickets for July travel at the €1 price have been available.

A second round of tickets – for journeys between August 1 and August 27 – will go on sale on July 25.
Tickets can be purchased using the SNCF Connect website, the region’s TER site, price comparison sites like Trainline or Omio, as well as at stations in the region. 

Read also: All aboard! Thousands of cut-price French rail tickets put on sale

2. Eurostar to take three teams to 2024 Paris Olympics 

Three European countries will send their competitors to 2024’s Paris Olympic Games using the Eurostar. 

Athletes from the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands will travel via train to Gare du Nord station in Paris from their respective countries, instead of flying. 

“The Paris Games have the ambition to be the most environmentally friendly so we are very happy to support teams by offering them the most sustainable journey possible,” said Gwendoline Cazenave, CEO of the Eurostar Group.

The Paralympic squads of the three nations will also travel using the trains, with the Paralympic Games set to be held in Paris in August and September 2024. 

The news follows confirmation from the French government that temporary car-pooling lanes installed for the games – as well as cycle lanes – will remain in place after the end of the games.

Read more: Paris 2024: Olympic flame’s route through France is revealed

3: Channel ferries' new law debate

A new French law reinforcing worker rights on board Channel ferries using French ports is set to have a second debate by French MPs next Wednesday.
The ‘Law to fight against social dumping on Channel crossings’ was introduced by an MP for the Renaissance party in January and was voted through unanimously at the end of March. In recent weeks it was also voted through – with tweaks – by the senators.

It says crews of ships doing regular Channel trips serving a French port must at least be paid the French minimum wage, wherever the ship is registered. The workers must also be guaranteed rest time on shore at least equivalent to time on board.

Fines are planned in the event of rule breaking and six months’ prison for a repeat offence.

The senators, however, took out a ban on entering a French port in the case of a firm breaking the law three times, that the MPs had voted for. They said the law should apply from January 1, 2024.

The proposals arose after the sudden sacking of 800 British seafarers in 2022 by P&O, a firm which sails under the flag of Cyprus, and which took advantage of this to hire new foreign workers on low wages.

It comes as the UK has passed a similar law, that is also expected to apply from the start of 2024.

4. Eurotunnel sees June passenger increase 

The number of passengers who used the Eurotunnel (now known commercially as Le Shuttle) in June to travel between the UK and France saw an increase compared to last year. 

A year-on-year rise of around 5% means 214,000 vehicles used the service in June.

Passenger numbers for 2023 so far are up 16% compared to 2022’s figures with over 1 million passenger vehicles making the journey since then. 

Freight numbers are down, however, thanks in part to a reduction in UK household consumption caused by the current economic conditions. 

Just over 100,000 trucks made the crossing in June, with the reduction further exacerbated by lingering effects from P&O Ferries 2022 layoffs on freight travel between the countries. 

Ferry companies have likewise reported significant increases in freight traffic between Ireland and France, bypassing the UK as a hub for imports and exports between the EU Member States. 

Read more: New French flights, Brittany train boost, ferry row: 8 travel updates

5. Ryanair boosts winter flights to and from France

Low-cost carrier Ryanair is set to see its biggest winter in France  with 5.7 million seats on sale to and from the country. 

The airline – which serves 26 airports in France – will be looking to bounce back from a host of summer flight cancellations due to plane shortages. 

Flights starting from €29.99 are already available to book for the winter period to a number of destinations although the full roster of winter flights is not yet available. 

Four new flights from the airline’s Paris Beauvais operating base have already been announced for this winter, to Tirana (Albania), Stockholm (Sweden) and Bucharest (Romania), as well as to Cork in the Republic of Ireland. 

Starting from October 29, three flights per week – on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays – will be available between Paris and Cork, with the first batch of tickets already on sale.

Read more: EasyJet cancels 1,700 summer flights amid fears of further strikes

6. New Lyon-Barcelona train begins service

A new train line linking Lyon and Barcelona is now in service, with a travel time between the cities of a little over five hours.

A previous train was jointly run by the state-owned rail operators of France (SNCF) and Spain (RENFE), but the Covid outbreak and disagreements on the service brought it to an  end. 

The new service is being run solely by RENFE, and will see the two cities linked in around five hours, as well as stopping at a number of other cities in the two countries on the way.

Over 30,000 tickets for the route have been sold before a RENFE train even left a platform, thanks to an introductory deal with tickets starting at €29.

On July 28, a service linking Marseille and Madrid is set to launch, run by the same firm.

Other cities the new trains will stop at include Béziers, Narbonne, Perpignan, Montpellier on the French side, and Girona, Zaragoza, and Figueres in Spain. 

The Connexion also recently reported on the company’s plans to run five trains per day on the Paris-Lyon rail corridor, some of which could be extended down to Marseille. 

These routes should be in place by the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

In addition, next year will also see direct Paris-Barcelona and Lyon-Madrid trains, as the current lines are expanded to stop at more cities.

Read more: Boost for southern France as launch dates set for new ‘TGV’ routes

7. SNCF workers take part in July 14 military parade

For the first time since the tradition began, a number of SNCF rail workers are taking part in the July 14 celebratory parade in Paris. 

Out of the roughly 1,000 SNCF workers who double up as reservists, 49 of them represented the company in the traditional march down the Champs-Élysées. 

An additional ten workers also joined the parade, bringing the total number to 59. 

One worker who took part called it “an honour” to be amongst the first SNCF cohort to do so. 

The workers include security staff, drivers, ticket inspectors, and are reservists in the Air Force, Army, and Navy.

“Taking part for the first time in the 14 July parade alongside the national defence and security forces is recognition of the day-to-day tasks carried out by SNCF staff, who are vital to the essential functioning of the nation,” said the SNCF in a press statement. 

“The aim of this partnership is to promote the operational reserve within the signatory company and to encourage the commitment of its employees, taking into account the constraints linked to their professional activity,” it added.

The army wants to double the number of reservists in France by 2030, as well as increase reservist participation in civil society.

Read also: ‘France’s July 14 military parade is no Russia or North Korea’

Read also: France’s July 14 national day: What happens and why? What is new?

8. SNCF bites back over price rise claims

Ticket prices for train travel – particularly on high-speed TGV routes – have risen by 8% since last June, reports the state statistics agency Insee - however the SNCF has contested the figures. 

The rail operator argued that the figures do not take into consideration tickets purchased using the numerous advantage cards owned by around five million travellers. 

The company conceded that ticket costs have risen by “around 5%” but says the figure would be closer to 13% without the ‘price shield’ that it implemented to keep costs low for travellers. 

It also claims that one in two tickets for high-speed trains in the summer season have been sold for less than €45, and that one in two tickets for low-cost Ouigo trains have been sold for €25.

On top of this, it said that first release tickets for TGV trains, and the first 20% of Ouigo tickets sold for a route, have not increased on last year’s prices. 

Despite the SNCF asking customers to book early to get the best prices, seats are filling up for routes quicker than ever – because of a lack of trains. 

Whilst more and more people are choosing to take the train for ecological or economic reasons, the number of high-speed train sets owned by the operator – about 400 – has remained the same since before Covid. 

The SNCF is hoping to remedy this with a new set of rolling stock, known for now as the TGV M, which are currently being tested. 

The operator hopes they will be available for use on the rail network before the end of 2024, which will help to alleviate the issue by offering more seats (the TGV M has 20% more seating than current models) and by running more routes. 

Read more: Greener, faster, higher capacities: see new French TGV being tested

9. Public transport curtailed for July 14

Trams, buses, and even metro stations will be closing early on July 14 in a number of cities across France. 

In light of the recent tensions after the death of teenager Nahel, the government is keen to prevent a further outbreak of riots. 

The Interior Ministry has ordered bus and tramways in the country to finish their service by 21:00 or 22:00, 

Major cities including Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nice will see their services stop by 22:00 latest. 

In Paris, a number of stations on Line 1 of the Metro – Tuileries, Concorde, Champs-Élysées Clemenceau, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Georges V and Charles-de-Gaulle Étoile – will not be served due to their proximity to the parade. 

Other stations in Paris will see services close at 19:00 – Dupleix, Alma Marceau, École Militaire, Bir-Hakeim, Passy and Trocadéro – and others may close at 23:00. 

Buses and tram services in the Île-de-France region will also stop before 22:00, and 45,000 police will be mobilised nationally to quell any trouble. 

Read more: France bans fireworks for July 14 celebrations amid violence fears

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