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Airport extension, Eurostar disruption: Eight France travel updates

A northern train route is temporarily closed for works, a station in west France is voted prettiest in the country, Air France in top 10 best airlines and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Adri1 / Lukas Wunderlich / Kevin Shipp / EQRoy / Shutterstock

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.

Air France in top 10 best airlines in world, according to new ranking

Air France has appeared in a list of the top 10 best airlines in the world, along with Asian and Middle Eastern companies. 

The list was put together by a consultancy firm called Skytrax, which puts together an airline and airport review each year. This year, it asked 14 million travellers about the quality of the services proposed before, during and after their flight, including Covid-related measures. 

Qatar Airways came top of the ranking for the seventh time since 2011, with Singapore Airlines and Emirates in second and third place.

Air France came in eighth, and second in Europe behind Turkish Airlines. 

The airline performed especially well in terms of its first class and premium economy services. 

Brittany Ferries: need for ‘refocused’ attention on worker conditions

Brittany Ferries has called on the UK government to push forward with legislation on worker pay and conditions on cross-Channel ferries through the Seafarers’ Remuneration Bill.

The bill was first proposed after P&O Ferries announced that it was sacking 800 of its UK workers with no notice and rehiring cheaper agency workers. 

It is currently in the committee stage in the House of Lords, but Brittany Ferries has said it fears concerns over the UK economy and cost of living has distracted the government from its contents. 

Christophe Mathieu, chief executive of Brittany Ferries, said: “We welcomed former transport secretary Grant Shapps’ determination to drive up standards in the ferry sector and to set minimum wage requirements for ferry workers.

“Now we urge the new Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan to take up the baton with the same vigour.

“As a business we want a level playing field for all seafarers, but as a society we must not allow companies to behave without regard for the well-being of key workers.”

Brittany Ferries operates under the French flag, which it says means a higher minimum wage and better working conditions. 

Some other ferry companies, however, are registered in countries where the wage requirements are lower. P&O Ferries, for example, is flagged in Cyprus. The company said when it sacked its UK crews that new workers would be paid £5.50 an hour, while the UK minimum wage for workers over the age of 23 is currently £9.50 an hour.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We take seafarer welfare seriously and we have a nine-point plan to improve their working conditions irrespective of flag or nationality, including changing the law to prevent employers undercutting wages.

“The Seafarers’ Remuneration Bill is a vital part of that plan and is currently progressing through Parliament.”

Read more: French P&O staff protest in Calais over sacking of British colleagues

Eurostar trains affected by British rail strikes 

A British rail strike planned for tomorrow (October 8) will affect Eurostar trains, as the company reduces its timetable in response to adapted hours on the line it uses. 

Up to 40,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union went on strike last weekend, and will renew the action this weekend, demanding better pay, job security and working conditions.

Eurostar has asked customers to allow extra time for their journeys to London St Pancras, and has stated: “Although the strike doesn’t involve Eurostar staff, it will have an impact on our timetable as running hours have been reduced on UK rail lines, including the high-speed line we use.”

If your train is cancelled you can move to another service for free, subject to availability, or cancel the booking in return for a Eurostar voucher or a refund.

While some trains are cancelled, others have been moved to different times, so customers may have to download their ticket again to see the amended time.

You can follow updates on Eurostar services on the company website.

Nice Airport extension approved 

A plan to extend Nice Airport’s Terminal 2 has been approved by an administrative court in Marseille, despite opposition from environmental organisations. 

Thierry Bitouzé, the co-founder of a group called Collectif Citoyen 06, has released a statement reading: “While citizens and associations have for the past three years been fighting against this harmful project [...] the most climaticide plan has been bolstered by our administrative justice.”

Plans for the Terminal 2 extension include two extra buildings containing an entrance hall, check-in area, baggage reclaim zone and six new gates. It will be 25,000m² in size.

The development has been supported by the city hall, which is eager to encourage more tourists to choose Nice. The new buildings will be able to accommodate three million additional passengers. 

Before Covid began, Nice Airport saw a record 14.5 million passengers pass through it. 

“The adaptation of Terminal 2 will enable passengers transiting through the facility to benefit from greater safety and comfort.”

The airport added that “it has always been a pioneer in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It was the first airport in France to reach, in 2016, carbon neutrality by offsetting.”

Mr Bitouzé responded that: “A plane taking off is a tonne of CO2,” adding that no airport can be carbon neutral.

“Climate change has therefore won, along with air pollution, noise, waste, pressure on water resources and local biodiversity, because of the 20,000 extra flights each year.” 

Mr Bitouzé added that he and other organisations will continue to fight against the airport extension.

Read also: Nice airport donates confiscated travellers’ goods to French charity

Port of Dover to fund study on potential zero-carbon route

The Port of Dover has successfully bid to fund a study looking into the possibility of creating a zero-carbon cross-Channel trade route. 

The Green Corridor Short Straits’ feasibility study will also involve Calais and Dunkirk ports.

“The UK has always been a proud seafaring nation and helping the maritime sector to be more environmentally friendly will mean it continues to play a key role in the UK’s economy for generations to come,” said Transport Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan.

“The Port of Dover is leading the way on Port decarbonisation, and more broadly, on recognising the role we will play in the decarbonisation of the UK supply chain,” said Christian Pryce, Port of Dover’s Chief Commercial Officer.

“We can adapt to a diverse traffic profile and the flexibility, capacity and resilience of the route are unmatched in the UK, making us, and our French sister ports, the prime option for the first Green Shipping Corridor.

Limoges-Bénédictins station voted prettiest in France 

Limoges-Bénédictins station has been voted the most beautiful in France, beating the stations of Saint-Brieuc and Troyes to the top of the podium.

Limoges’ station gained 15,337 votes on Facebook and Instagram, out of a total of 71,000, while Saint-Brieuc garnered 11,699 and Troyes got 4,754.

Other stations to reach the final selection included Paris-Gare de Lyon, Nice-Ville, Montpellier-Saint-Roch, Rouen-Rive-Droite and Belfort-Montbéliard.

Limoges’ station has been classed as a historic monument since 1975. In 2009, it was the scene of a Chanel N०5 advert, which starred actress Audrey Tautou.

No trains between Rouen and Amiens for three weekends 

SNCF will be suspending trains between Rouen and Amiens for three weekends in October and November because of maintenance works. 

SNCF Réseau will be renewing nine signal boxes in Poix-de-Picardie station, and so there will be no trains running on Saturday or Sunday (October 8 and 9). 

This suspension will be repeated on the weekends of October 15-16 and November 12-13. However, on the last weekend the trains will only stop at 14:30 on the Saturday and will begin again at 14:30 on the Sunday.

Rail replacement buses will be put on for passengers needing to get between the two cities. 

Further information on the Assistant SNCF app, the TER Hauts-de-France website or by calling 0800 099 565. 

Toulouse monument to be moved for metro works 

The Monument à la Gloire des Combattants de la Haute-Garonne war memorial in Toulouse is going to be moved to allow for work on the metro Ligne 3. 

The monument will be shifted 35 metres back and turned 90⁰ so that the new line can be connected to the François-Verdier station on the existing Ligne B.

It will be kept in that position for four years before being moved back to its original spot in 2027 and restored.

“The monument weighs 1,373 tonnes, it is 15 metres tall, 17 metres long and 12 metres wide,” Mickaël Massaad, who is leading the operation, told La Dépêche

After being dismantled, the memorial will be reassembled on a wheeled platform and moved to its new position.

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