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Christmas strikes, Paris-Madrid trains: 10 France travel updates

We also look at holiday traffic, a ferry company anniversary celebration and a decree allowing Father Christmas to fly over a French commune

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Kevin Shipp / Lukas Wunderlich / Jaromir Chalabala / Alexandre Rotenberg / Shutterstock

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

Transavia to launch seven new summer routes 

Low-cost Air France-KLM group subsidiary Transavia has announced the launch of seven new routes for the summer 2023 season. 

In summer 2022, Transavia boosted its offering by 71% in comparison with 2019. 

Next summer, the airline will be expanding the list of destinations it serves from Paris-Orly. It will fly to Venice four times a week – on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays – from March 26, and Oslo four times a week – on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays – from April 20.

It will also be running flights from Orly to Almeria three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from April 22 and Paphos on Saturdays from April 22.

In addition to this, Transavia will begin flying between Lyon and Antalya (Turkey) on Mondays from April 10, between Nantes and Antalya on Saturdays from April 15 and between Marseille and Yerevan (Armenia) on Tuesdays from June 27.

Finally, Transavia is also extending its Orly-Lamezia Terme (Italy), Lyon-Dakar (Senegal), Lyon-Hurghada (Egypt) and Nice-Tunis (Tunisia) routes. 

New Paris-Madrid high-speed rail link on cards

Italian train operator Trenitalia has announced that it could launch a new Paris-Madrid high-speed train service by the end of 2024, Euronews reports.

Since December 2021, Trenitalia has been running services between Paris and Milan and Paris and Lyon, and since November 2022 it has been linking up Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid. 

The new train link would take passengers from Paris to Barcelona, from where the existing line already runs to Madrid. 

Italy’s high-speed trains can reach up to 400km/h (249m/h). It currently takes passengers around seven hours to get from Paris to Milan. 

It is not yet known how long the new Paris-Madrid service would take.

UK to relax cabin luggage liquid restrictions 

The UK government has announced that it is planning to relax the restrictions it currently places on liquids being transported in cabin luggage. 

At the moment, passengers can carry several different types of liquids but each must be in a container for 100ml or less and all of these containers must fit in a clear plastic bag of a specific size. 

Liquids in larger containers – such as a 250ml shampoo bottle, for example – must go into check-in luggage. These rules are echoed in dozens of countries around the world. 

The relaxation would take place in June 2024, and would be the result of technological advances which would reportedly enable up to two-litre bottles to be checked safely and approved at security. 

The new rules would also mean that electronic devices such as laptops would not need to be taken out of a passenger’s luggage to be checked. 

The new technology, which is being trialled, would provide three-dimensional images of the contents of bags, using algorithms to detect any threat.

Government ministers say that this would reduce queuing times at UK airports.

‘Slight disruption’ expected on trains this weekend 

Rail services will be “slightly disrupted” tomorrow (December 17) because of an SNCF signal workers strike, the national operator has warned. 

On the TGV Atlantique network, nine in every 10 trains will be running, while two in three trains will be running on Paris-Sud-Ouest services. 

On all other high-speed lines, SNCF is expecting a “normal or almost normal” service.

In all, around 20 of 650 TGV trains scheduled for tomorrow will be cancelled. 

Transport Minister Clément Beaune has told France Inter that, even though various strike notices have been issued for December 15 to 19, “the majority of services will be guaranteed”. 

He added: “We will try to minimise the disruption but in general we will have trains for most families and people in France this weekend.” 

However, Julien Troccaz, federal secretary of the SUD-Rail union, told Franceinfo that: “The minister is doing a PR exercise. There will be TER – everyday trains – cancelled [and] replaced by buses. There will even be lines closed” in some regions, he claimed. 

Read also: Christmas travel France: latest on air and rail strikes

Traffic around Paris on this first Christmas holiday weekend 

This weekend children in France break up for their Christmas holiday, and so national traffic forecasting service Bison Futé has warned of some traffic issues today (December 16) as families head off on breaks. 

People trying to get out of Ile-de-France today may find that conditions are “difficult” and are therefore advised to leave the Paris region before 14:00. 

Bison Futé has also stated that there may be heavy traffic around other big cities as well.

However, no traffic alerts have been issued for tomorrow or Sunday (December 17-18), suggesting that people attempting to make long journeys around the country should not experience any significant difficulties. 

Brittany Ferries celebrates 50 years with French-themed party

Brittany Ferries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its first crossing from France with a French-themed party in Plymouth on January 2, 2023.

The first Brittany Ferries voyage docked at Millbay on January 2, 1973, carrying cauliflowers and cognac from Roscoff, the Plymouth Herald reports

Twinning committees from towns and villages across Brittany have been invited to travel on the Pont-Aven ferry to Plymouth, and will be met at Millbay by their British twinning counterparts. 

They will then attend an afternoon reception and gala dinner on board the ship.

“Since our first sailing, Brittany Ferries aim has been to enrich regions by connecting people and boosting trade,” Christophe Mathieu, Brittany Ferries’ CEO, said. 

“We want to strengthen the entente cordiale between people who are closer to each other culturally and geographically, than they are to centres of power in Paris and London.”

Demonstration in Limoges calling for better Paris rail links 

A demonstration was held on Monday (December 12) in front of the station in Limoges to call for SNCF to develop better rail links between the Limousin region and Paris. 

The event involved business leaders, local officials, unions and individuals, with around 250 people present.

The demonstration came days after the CEO of the electrical giant Legrand group questioned the “interest” in keeping a company base in Limoges after the 06:00 morning train link to Paris was removed. 

Participants were protesting against the delays, cancellations and disruption on some services, as well as the reduced frequency of services on the Brive-Limoges-Paris line.

In response to the opposition provoked by the removal of the morning train service, SNCF reinstated a Paris-bound train at 06:26.

However, this service will take three hours and 51 minutes. Pierre Massy, president of the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie, commented: “That’s the time it takes to get from Paris to Aix-en-Provence. They haven’t given a damn for years and Limoges’ isolation is becoming ridiculous.” 

Strasbourg inaugurates RER service 

Strasbourg launched its Réseau express métropolitain européen (Reme) service on Sunday (December 11), making the city the first in France outside Ile-de-France to have an RER network. 

The RER system has been in the works since 2018. There will be 800 train services available each week at first, increasing to 1,000 from summer 2023. This represents a 43% rise in the city’s transport offering.

In 13 stations in and around Strasbourg, there will be a train running every 15 minutes, and it will be possible for people to travel between different towns outside the city without having to change in the centre. 

Express bus services will also help to link up different locations around the city region. 

The opening comes two weeks after President Emmanuel Macron announced that he hopes to develop RER networks for 10 French cities. 

This RER project required €700million, according to the regional council. A further €600million will be needed over the next five years to build new links to Germany. 

Strasbourg’s new RER has been criticised by some SNCF unions, which have commented on delays in the delivery of trains and the recruitment of staff.

“We were already failing to meet the 2022 transport plan for the Reme, we met it on 15 days over the year at most,” Alexandre Welsch of SUD-Rail said. “So with 130 extra trains each day, with almost the same number of staff, will not be feasible.”  

EasyJet strike officially off but French Bee strike could affect US flights  

French EasyJet cabin crews have officially accepted a salary offer aimed at preventing a strike over the Christmas period. 

Air stewards and stewardesses were offered a 7.5% increase to their baseline salary and a 3.5% boost to variable components, as well as a prime Macron bonus of €3,000. 

Unions representing the workers have accepted this and so there will not be a strike at Christmas. 

“The management came back to us with a new proposal that we could not refuse,” the SNPNC said, while the Unac union also confirmed having signed an agreement.

However, unions representing low-cost, long-haul airline French Bee have issued a strike notice for December 22 until December 25, which could affect flights to the US. 

French Bee flies to Los Angeles, Newark and San Francisco, as well French Polynesia, the Dominican Republic and Reunion Island. 

Cabin crew represented by the CGT and SNPNC-FO are protesting against their working conditions and pay, and calling for their pay scale to be increased by 12%, considering that it has “not changed since 2016”.

“Now the first six bands on the grid are below minimum wage,” the unions said. 

“After two years of colossal efforts from air stewards and stewardesses, the loss of more than 21% of their salary through the Accord de performance collective, general inflation and the rise in the cost of living during stopovers, working conditions have really declined.” 

The movement could be renewed if the unions deem it necessary.

Read more: Pay rise agreement averts French EasyJet Christmas strike

French mayor authorises Father Christmas to fly over airport 

The mayor of Saint-Aignan-de-Grand-Lieu (Loire-Atlantique) has signed a decree authorising Father Christmas to fly over his commune during the nighttime curfew imposed on Nantes Airport. 

Since April 2022, planes have not been allowed to land at the airport between midnight and 06:00 so as to prevent local residents from being woken in the middle of the night.

However, the children of Saint-Aignan can sleep safe in the knowledge that Father Christmas will be exempted from this rule over Christmas. 

In doing this, the mayor Jean-Claude Lemasson hopes to remind airlines that might ignore the rules that there is a curfew in place. 

“We have detected more than 200 rule breaks since April,” Mr Lemasson said. “We are observing a significant number of landings between midnight and 01:00, followed by some take-offs between 03:00 and 03:30.

“We want to show that we still exist, at the end of the runway. We are asking for our sleep to be respected by the government and airlines, that they do not go too far with their rule breaking.” 

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