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Brittany Ferries, new air routes, prices: Six France travel updates

With the summer approaching, we look at reopening ferry and air routes and Air France’s price hike

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: MarkUK97, Rebius, Obatala-photography, Spech / Shutterstock

The biggest travel story of the week has undoubtedly been the storm over P&O Ferries’ decision to sack 800 of its British staff in a move to cut costs. 

This has not gone down well with many politicians, unions, public figures and Connexion readers expressing their anger.

Read more: P&O Dover-Calais line still cancelled, readers plan to boycott service

The company’s Dover-Calais route remains suspended since the announcement on March 17. 

But in positive news for ferry travellers, several of Brittany Ferries’ routes are set to open, beginning tomorrow (March 26) with the Saint-Malo-Portsmouth service. 

Brittany Ferries’ summer season begins

Brittany Ferries' Roscoff-Plymouth route starts up again on Monday, March 28, after a winter break, with the ship the Armorique making daily trips. 

And the Cherbourg-Poole route will reopen on April 4. 

Brittany Ferries’ CEO Christophe Mathieu said the company was “delighted” to bring back the services after the closures.   

Air France-KLM ticket prices rise amid surging fuel costs

Air France-KLM is increasing its long haul ticket prices to help it manage the rising cost of fuel.

Read more: Air France raises prices: Will Ryanair and EasyJet follow?

The “amount varies according to the destination,” a company spokesperson has told Actu.fr.  A ticket for a flight from Paris to Havana, for example, is now €40 more expensive. 

Air France-KLM has been one of the slower airline groups to put rates up. It said last week that it had “good fuel coverage,” having already bought 72% of its supplies for the first quarter of 2022 and 63% for the second. 

The airline added: “Thanks to this, we are not yet seeing a correlation between the price of fuel and of tickets, but we are following the situation.”

Read more: French airline passengers face 20% rise in fares due to fuel costs

While it increases its prices on long-haul routes, Air France is also putting other tickets on sale, offering cheaper fares for passengers booking before April 4. A return flight between Lyon and Bologna, for example, now costs €88.

At the beginning of March, Thomas Juin, head of the Union des Aéroports Français, said that fuel now represented “a quarter of airline costs.” 

Montpellier Airport unveils summer schedule 

Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport has announced its summer schedule, with flights to 35 destinations in 17 countries. 

“What’s more, low-cost offerings have never been so strong at Montpellier,” the airport said.

Passengers are able to fly to 10 French destinations – Ajaccio, Bastia, Brest, Caën, Lille, Nantes, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Rennes and Strasbourg – from the airport.

They can also reach Berlin, Split, Copenhagen, Seville, Athens, Heraklion, Mykonos, Santorini, Rome, Luxembourg, Oslo, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Lisbon, London-Gatwick, London-Luton, Stockholm and Basel-Mulhouse-Freiberg in Europe. 

Finally, Montpellier has seven longer-haul destinations on offer: Algerian capital Algiers, Moroccan cities Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech, Nador and Oujda and Tunisian capital Tunis.

Sniffer dogs deployed in greater numbers in Ile-de-France stations 

SNCF’s Ile-de-France security services are doubling the number of sniffer dogs deployed in its stations in order to reduce the likelihood of a bomb disposal squad having to intervene in the case of a suspicious package being found.

Suspicious packages and the procedure that station teams must follow on discovering one are the principal cause of train delays in France. 

However, this disruption can be reduced by sniffer dogs, who can go straight to inspect the bag in question and so speed up security interventions. 

“While a bomb disposal squad will take at least one hour, dogs take about 20 minutes,” said Muriel Dugué Vossart, director of communications at SNCF’s Sûreté ferroviaire security service.

If a dog detects something, the police can decide to evacuate the station, but “this turn of events is rare.” 

In Ile-de-France, SNCF is recruiting 10 new sniffer dog teams to join its existing 10 ahead of the Olympic Games in 2024.

These chiens explo (which loosely translates as ‘explosion dogs’) are Belgian shepherds, labradors and springer spaniels who are trained to detect explosives.

In 2021, some 41,000 abandoned bags were picked up by SNCF in Ile-de-France, almost seven times more than in 2018. This meant around 40 disposal procedures each day, causing delays of around 30 minutes each time. 

SNCF estimates that eight million passengers were affected by suspicious package-related disruption last year alone.

SNCF retains Intercités contract for next 10 years

The French government has announced that SNCF will continue to operate its 10 subsidised Intercités lines until 2031. 

The Intercités network includes Paris-Limoges-Toulouse, Paris-Clermont Ferrand, Bordeaux-Marseille, Nantes-Lyon, Nantes-Bordeaux, Toulouse-Hendaye and Clermont Ferrand-Béziers, as well as three night train services from Paris to the south of France.

SNCF will receive €1.73billion to continue operating these lines until the contract runs out in 2031, but the state is asking for a 20% increase in passenger numbers in return.

The contract also states that certain Intercités lines will be gradually opened up to competition over the course of the ten-year period.

Currently, Intercités services accommodate around 8.4 million passengers each year, with 80-90 services per day. 

Lyon considers how best to develop metro services 

The city is now considering creating a ‘tramway express’ or ‘light metro’ instead of the previously planned expansion of the metro, which it deems too expensive. 

Four projects were outlined as part of a recent consultation, which sets out development plans for after 2026. 

Respondents stressed the importance of extending the metro Line B towards Caluire and Rillieux-la-Pape and the creation of a Line E to serve the fifth arrondissement and the west of the city.

However, the city authorities have now said that these projects may prove too costly, especially as passenger numbers have still not returned to their pre-pandemic levels, resulting in an expected loss of €850million by 2040.

“If we maintain the same level of investment as that which was expected before the crisis [€2.5billion], we will take 17 years to reimburse the debt, instead of eight years,” said Bruno Bernard, who is president of the Lyon and Sytral local authorities.

“The question is how much we can finance a project and which option to retain,” he said, adding that the city is now looking at “alternative solutions.” 

One of these ideas relates to a ‘light metro’ (métro léger) or ‘tramway express’, a form of transport that is between a classic metro service and a tram, which would travel above and below ground.

“The size of the vehicles would be smaller than metro trains but the capacity of the transport service would be identical.”

This idea would cost the city authorities half as much as the metro options, saving money by avoiding building tunnels. It would take eight to 10 years to complete, compared to 11-13 years for the classic metro projects.

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