Travel news was again dominated this week by strike action, as France’s second national day of protests over pension reform plans saw increased numbers take to the streets on Tuesday (January 31).
Over three-quarters of trains outside of the Paris region were cancelled and more dates – February 7 and 11 – have been proposed for further industrial action. The first date coincides with a joint CGT-Cheminots and SUD-Rail proposal for rail strikes across February 7 and 8. You can find out more here.
Travel disruption is also looking likely on cross-Channel routes during the school holiday period after a UK Border Force union called for four days of strikes from February 17-20, and warned that it will ‘have consequences’ for people travelling on those days. The movement will affect Calais, Coquelles, Dunkirk and Dover, with more than 1,000 staff expected to walk out. You can read more here.
Read also: Why more people are supporting the retirement strikes in France
Future of Channel Island ferry operator in jeopardy unless post-Brexit passport rules are relaxed
A ferry service between the Channel Islands and France could stop next year unless rules requiring French passengers to present passports are dropped.
Jean Morin, president of the Manche department, said tighter border regulations brought in after Brexit have reduced the number of people travelling from France to the islands, and the Manche Iles Express ferry is now running at a loss.
Read more: UK-France Eurostar capacity cut by a third due to post-Brexit checks
Identity cards are sufficient for French nationals to travel within Europe and many do not have a passport. ID cards used to be accepted when entering the UK Common Travel Area.
Read more: Plan to ease launch of EU Entry/Exit system with app pre-registration
“We will never make money on these routes, but we must not make too much of a loss," Mr Morin told Ouest France.
He said the department has issued Channel Island officials with an ultimatum, threatening that local authorities will stop funding the ferry’s parent company, DNO, if current restrictions continue.
“Our final deadline is May 1, 2023. If the passport obligation is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025.”
In a statement, Jersey’s Home Affairs Minister, Helen Miles, said: “Securing a mechanism whereby French nationals can travel to Jersey using identity cards is a key priority of mine.
“Jersey Customs and Immigration officials have been considering the relevant operational, legal, policy, and economic issues – all of which must be considered when making changes to existing policy for the Common Travel Area. We will continue to cooperate closely with our colleagues in the UK as we work towards this objective.”
Government urges more people to apply for fuel aid
The government has issued another reminder that some seven million eligible drivers in France are yet to benefit from €100 in fuel aid which is being paid out this month.
On Wednesday (February 1), government spokesman Olivier Véran confirmed that only "three to four million" taxpayers had applied so far. He echoed fears expressed by Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire in January that the total falls far below the 10 million eligible for the scheme.
Read more: Millions of drivers in France yet to claim their €100 fuel aid
The reminder comes as FranceInfo reported yesterday (February 2) that the price of a litre of fuel is now over €2 in some areas.
Over the past month, pump prices have risen by between 15 and 25 cents, depending on the distributor.
France’s €100 fuel aid launched last month and targets lower-income drivers who need to use their vehicle to get to / for work. It is paid by bank transfer. The deadline for applications is February 28.
Read more: France new €100 fuel aid applications now open: who is eligible?
Dubbed the ‘indemnité carburant travailleurs’ (workers' fuel allowance), it replaces the previous universal at-the-pump fuel rebate, which was in operation between April and December 31, 2022.
Lyon takes a stake in new passenger train to Bordeaux
Efforts to revive a Lyon-Bordeaux rail link via Limoges have received a massive boost after Lyon invested €80,000 in the cooperative looking to get the scheme off the ground.
It follows the city’s €20,000 contribution to the Railcoop initiative in December.
Railcoop was due to start running the Bordeaux-Lyon line, which state rail company SNCF shut in 2012, late last year, but had to delay after struggling to get sufficient funding.
Read more: Rail co-op uses disused SNCF train lines to reconnect French cities
It wants to operate a twice-daily service costing around €37-€40 for a journey of seven hours and 30 minutes, travelling via the Massif Central, Limoges and Montluçon.
Railcoop says its proposal is "complementary" to SNCF's TGV passenger service via Paris, rather than competing with it.
In a statement, Lyon’s deputy mayor, Sylvie Tomic, said: "This cooperative has set itself the task of strengthening the use of trains in order to contribute to ecological transition.
“The estimated potential number of passengers is 690,000 per year. This would provide the people of Lyon and the west of France with an alternative to the car and the plane. The positive impact would be significant, both in terms of reducing pollutant emissions and accidents.”
Read more: New resident tax to help fund high-speed rail link in southwest France
Railcoop already runs a freight service between Toulouse, home to Airbus, and the Lot Valley, a hub of aeronautical-component manufacture.
Air France adds new destination in Canada from Paris
A new service to Ottawa in Canada will launch this summer by Air France from Paris-Charles de Gaulle.
Due to take off on June 27, it will operate five times a week on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays and make Air France the only airline flying non-stop from Ottawa to Europe.
Read more: New UK-France air routes launched from Nice and Montpellier
Canada is the airline's second largest long-haul market in terms of available seat capacity.
With Ottawa, it now serves five destinations there, including Quebec City (introduced last year), Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver.
Toll badge drivers warned over potential scams
Drivers who use the Ulys motorway toll badge are being warned to look out for fraudulent messages purporting to be from the company which runs the scheme.
Ulys emailed customers this week to tell them the brand is currently being used in a phishing campaign and to warn people they may receive communications imitating its colours and logo and asking for personal or bank card information.
Read more: Car plate recognition replacing France’s ‘slow’ motorway toll barriers
It reassured customers that the client data that may appear on these fraudulent emails is not the result of a data leak from Ulys.
Recipients should not be tempted to reply to suspect emails, nor to click on any links or attachments they contain.
Read more: Why you need to remain vigilant about Crit’Air fine texts in France
Ulys reminded customers it would never ask them to communicate their login details, passwords or credit card number by email, SMS or telephone.
All its emails are sent from a sender address ending with @___.vinci-autoroutes.com (for example, @facturation2.vinci-autoroutes.com, @e.ulys.vinci-autoroutes.com).
Customers who suspect they have received a scam message can report it to firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘phishing alert’ in the subject line.
Four new flights from Lille, including to Spain and Croatia
Tour operator TUI France has teamed up with Aegean Airlines to open four new routes to Montenegro, Croatia, Menorca and Barcelona from Lille this summer.
It is part of a three-year agreement, signed last week (January 26), to position an Aegean A320 aeroplane at Lille airport.
Tui now offers Lille passengers flights to 23 destinations in 10 countries between April and October.
"Lille airport is a strategic platform for TUI France as it represents 20% of the tour operator's seats and is therefore the number one airport in the region," the tour operator said in a statement.
Hydrogen train goes on trial in Centre-Val de Loire
Hydrogen trains could become a reality in France within four to five years after being trialled this week.
Last year, Germany became the first country in the world to have a fleet of hydrogen trains in regular operation. China has since launched one and Italy and India are set to follow suit by the end of the year.
But France is not far behind. French manufacturer Alstom, which made the German ones, has been testing its hydrogen-powered Coradia iLint train on an open network in the Centre-Val de Loire region this week (February 1-3).
The trains, which can carry 120 passengers and are a greener alternative to diesels, are specially designed for use on non-electrified lines. Almost half of the French network is not electrified.
Read more: See France’s superslick and eco-friendly TGV of the future
They are powered by a hydrogen fuel cell and the only by-products are steam and water. Any heat created is recycled to power the trains’ air conditioning systems.
"On our daily lines, we need to replace our diesel trains,” said François Bonneau, president of the Centre-Val de Loire region.
“We are in discussion with Alstom… We are thinking about buying them within five years.”
Read more: The steam train in France which runs on coal – and olives
This week’s trials, which took place on the Tours-Loches line, aim to lay the groundwork for future certification of the model in France
Four regions have already ordered hydrogen trains – Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est and Occitanie. However, these will be dual-mode hydrogen/electric and heavier than the model on trial this week.
The Centre region is interested in a simpler and lighter version, powered solely by hydrogen, of which around 20 are already in operation in Germany.
According to Alstom, some 1,200 diesel trains are currently in circulation in France and are due to be replaced between 2028 and 2038.
Gare de l’Est almost totally closed this weekend for works
After an arson attack closed Gare de l’Est last month (January 24), the Paris station faces further disruption this weekend (February 4-5) with major track and ballast renewal work planned.
It will be virtually closed while the work is carried out with TGVs to eastern France, Germany and Luxembourg diverted to the Gare du Nord. However, 40% of high-speed trains will be cancelled.
Read more: French TGV train tickets for spring holidays now on sale
TER trains linking Paris and Châlons-en-Champagne will also be disrupted, with rail replacement buses on offer.
Suburban trains will be severely impacted as well. Here again, replacement buses will be provided to cater for disruptions on RER E and Line P.
The engineering works concern some 260 metres of track between Bondy and Gagny in Seine-Saint-Denis.
"This work is part of the modernisation of the Île-de-France rail network in order to improve performance and maintain a high level of safety," said SNCF.
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