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Easyjet latest, holiday traffic on roads: 7 French travel updates

We also look at a new airport tax, 2024 ferry reservations, the closure of the Marseille metro and more

Marseille’s metro to close at night, Paris Charles de Gaulle prepares for new tax, Irish Ferries bookings open and a new 100% electric train Pic: Alstom / Twitter / Nicola_K_photos / Digital signal / Alexandre Rotenberg

This week you may have seen our articles on the new rules about winter tyres and snow chains in some departments, the uncertain future of small airports and new plans to let people lease an electric car for €100 a month.

Rail updates

The first in a new line of experimental 100% electric TER trains is being tested in Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

A TER local train originally built in the early 2000s has been retrofitted to draw all of its power from a lithium battery.

The refitted train is now much quieter and emits “up to 85% less CO₂”, says France’s rail company, SNCF.

The replacement of the TER’s original electric/diesel engines is a complex operation since it must adhere to the train’s original weight and power specifications.

However it is much less expensive to refit an old train than to electrify sections of track and adapt infrastructure to service a modern train.

The  battery-powered TER now has a range of 80km, which will allow it to use sections of the track which are not electrified and that previously required diesel engines.

When it is on electrified sections of the track, the lithium battery can recharge via the train’s pantographs.

The initial phase of the project to create battery-powered electric trains uses five TERs belonging to different regions. 

Nouvelle-Aquitaine has spent €5.4m on the experiment.

Once testing is complete, the refitted TER trains will enter service in late 2024, operating between Bordeaux and Mont-de-Marsan.

The Marseille metro is to close at night for two years while upgrades are made to the network.

It will close at 21:30 from Monday to Thursday for the next two years from November 6 to allow for the installation of a driverless system.

The metro will continue to open each day at 05:00.

The new system, called NEOMMA, will cost €600m and includes upgrades to almost all aspects of the metro, including signals, infrastructure, equipment as well as the trains themselves.

During the work free buses will replace the metro link between 21:30 and the normal scheduled closing time of 00:34.

The closure announced by the Aix-Marseille Métropole intercommunal body has provoked anger in Marseille, including among those running cultural activities and the chamber of commerce, but also at the mairie.

“It is completely anachronistic,” Marseille’s deputy mayor in charge of transport told France Bleu.

“It is as if the Métropole has placed the whole city under a curfew”

Air travel updates

Easyjet says its winter capacity to destinations in France has increased this year by more than 400,000 seats. 

The low-cost airline now has a total of 9m seats on winter flights to France, including 2.5m to the winter ski resorts.

The increased capacity positions Easyjet ahead of all of its rivals in terms of flights to the Alpine ski resorts via Lyon and Grenoble airports.

Both airports are now highly connected to the UK:

  • Lyon from Belfast, Bournemouth, Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, Liverpool and Manchester
  • Grenoble from Bristol, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, Southend and Manchester

The company also announced this week that it will operate two flights a week between La Rochelle and Lyon for the next four years.

Easyjet won the contract ahead of Volotea, after Chalair announced its withdrawal from the route.

The flights can now be booked on Easyjet’s website and will begin on December 11, 2023.

Toulouse airport says that the replacement of Air France by Transavia will not disrupt service.

Flights between Toulouse and Paris will be operated by Transavia from 2026.

Toulouse airport says it will ensure that the replacement of Air France by its low-cost subsidiary Transavia will not lead to a greatly reduced service.

The move has upset local officials who are concerned that the airport will have fewer flights to the capital.

Toulouse mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc tweeted against the replacement last week.

“I take this move with extreme scepticism [...] we have to be certain that this development does not lead to a decrease in the levels of service,” he said.

Carole Delga, the president of the Occitanie region, called it a “severe blow for the south”.

Their concern is largely due to the decline that Pau airport has seen since Transavia replaced Air France.

Where there were previously seven flights a day between Pau and Paris Orly, now there are only two.

At present there are 15 daily flights between Toulouse and Paris Orly.

Responding to the criticism this week, Toulouse airport said that it will “begin negotiations immediately to ensure comprehensive coverage continues.”

However, the airport also pointed out that between 2019 and 2023 the number of passengers on the Toulouse to Paris route decreased by 40% one way, and 60% on day return flights.

Passengers will pay on average €1.50 more due to the new airport tax in 2024.

The tax, which is included in the 2024 budget, is intended to finance ecological transition and carbon friendly transport.

However, Augustin de Romanet, the CEO of the Aéroports de Paris group, told France Inter that it will simply be passed on to airlines who in turn will penalise passengers.

“The effect on ticket prices will be around €1.50 on average per passenger,” he said.

Aéroports de Paris, which operates Paris Charles de Gaule and Orly airports in particular, told BFMTV in September that the new tax would cost the group €90m in 2024.

The tax must be confirmed by MPs along with the 2024 budget before December 31, 2023.

Read more: Low-cost airlines unjustly favoured in new tax plan

Ferry update

Irish Ferries has opened reservations for its 2024 crossings to France

Reservations are now open on the Dublin to Cherbourg route up to December 1, 2024.

The W.B. Yeats ferry sails the route, with three weekly crossings in winter months and four every other week in summer.

Tickets are available on the Irish Ferries website from €80 with a 10% discount for passengers who book their trip by December 14, 2023

The company also offers a loyalty card scheme, called ‘Irish Ferries Club’ that it introduced in September 2023. The scheme offers savings and discounts to regular customers.

“[It] is particularly attractive for passengers travelling between Dover-Calais, as it is the only such scheme currently in place and features exclusive promotions, free Club Class passes and priority boarding,” said an Irish Ferries spokesperson.

“We encourage customers to sign up as soon as they can to get the best prices and benefits."

Traffic update

Traffic should be expected if heading south this weekend as people go on holiday for half-term.

The roads are typically busy on the first weekend of the holidays as many people from the north travel to resorts in the south. 

The government traffic website Bison Futé refers to this movement south as the sens des départs, with northern travel referred to as the sens des rétours.

Heavy traffic is expected on Friday across the country, in particular at the access roads to large towns and cities.

People leaving Paris should anticipate long queues at the motorway tolls on the A10 and A6, as well as on the Peripherique and the A86, which could last until 20:00.

On Saturday, traffic should be largely fluid, however expect traffic between 9:00 and 13:00 at the access points to motorways leaving Paris.

Anybody planning to travel this weekend can consult the government’s traffic monitoring website Bison Futé for up-to-date information.

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