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New UK-France flight, ferry tailbacks: eight France travel updates

SNCF develops more flexible services for rural travel, Marseille-Nice trains cancelled for Easter weekend, new France-Ireland ferry crossings added and more

We look at the news affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: nitpicker; VanderWolf Images; Photoagriculture; Milan Sommer / Shutterstock

We look at the news affecting travel to, from and around France this week.
1. P&O Ferries still suspended, passengers told to rebook with another operator

P&O Ferries services between Dover and Calais remain suspended this weekend, and the firm has told passengers that they will no longer be able to transfer to a DFDS crossing.  

It had previously been suggested that P&O would be able to resume cross-Channel services this weekend but this is not now the case.

The company Tweeted that: “For travel [on April 8, 9 and 10] please rebook directly with another operator before arriving at the port. 

“DFDS will not be able to transfer P&O customers onto their services.

“We will provide a full refund of your ticket. We will also pay back the difference in cost between your P&O Ferries ticket and your new booking with another operator. 

“Claims should be sent to help@poferries.com” 

There have already been reports of long tailbacks at Dover for the last week, with DFDS warning of delays of up to two hours on its services. 

DFDS’ director Chris Parker said that the company was running its ferries as “fast as we can,” but the Easter holidays mean that the firm has 50% more passengers booked in this weekend than last. 

2. Eurostar competitor to be operational in ‘three to five years’

Passenger train services owned by Getlink in competition with Eurostar could be launched within “three to five years,” the company boss has told BFM Business.

Read more: Getlink plans to rival Eurostar with cross-Channel services

Getlink, which runs Eurotunnel, is in advanced talks with Spanish rail operator Renfe, who would rent and run the trains, Jacques Gounon said, although he added that in the end it could be “Renfe or another” company in charge of the services.

“For the infrastructure management, the more trains there are, the better it is. I am doing my job as a manager and opening up the Channel Tunnel so that the maximum possible number of users can pass through,” he added. 

“Eurostar is working very well but a certain number of investors are also ready – if we give them the legal permissions needed – to buy trains in order to rent them to operators.” 

Mr Gounon added that opening the route to competition would “push prices down,” and also “improve the quality of the service which passengers like so much.” 

3. EasyJet launches Nantes-Birmingham route 

EasyJet has announced a new seasonal route between Nantes and Birmingham, which will run from June 27 until September 2. 

Passengers will be able to choose between two weekly flights on Mondays and Fridays.

EasyJet will be the only airline operating this route. 

4. No trains between Marseille and Nice on Easter weekend 

There will be no trains running between Marseille and Nice on the Easter weekend of Saturday, April 16 and Sunday, April 17 because of works at Marseille-Blancarde station lasting from Friday until Monday. 

For this reason, train services will be “severely limited” on this route from Saturday until 08:19 on Monday.

“Works never fall at the right time,” SNCF told Actu Nice, but once they are started they cannot be paused. 

Marseille-Blancarde is also on the line from Aix, which means that trains coming from there will be affected as well.

“Paris - Marseille - Toulon - Nice TGV Inoui trains will begin and end in Marseille,” SNCF added. 

Trains running between Aubagne and Nice will operate as usual unless they are coming from Paris, and elsewhere replacement buses will be transporting passengers. 

The route will reopen during the week, but there will be further disruption the following weekend of April 22-25.

5. Brittany Ferries increases Cork-Roscoff sailings 

Brittany Ferries has announced that a new midweek crossing between Cork and Roscoff is to become a permanent fixture on its sailing schedule. 

The company has signed a three-year deal with the Port of Cork, in addition to its current Saturday crossings. 

The new sailing – which will run from April to October – will be carried out by the Amorique boat on Wednesdays and will take 14 hours overnight. 

Brittany Ferries’ President, Jean-Marc Roué, Honorary Consul for Ireland in Brittany stated:

“Our relationship with Cork and indeed with Ireland has always been a happy and successful relationship.

“While the last two years have been difficult for us all, I am delighted to be in a position to confirm that this year our early bookings are up by over 35% on 2019 which was our last normal year due to Covid.

“While most commentators focus on our numbers of Irish holidaymakers heading for France, the reality is that Brittany Ferries makes a larger contribution to Irish tourism. 

“This year, once again, the split in our tourism traffic is 55% / 45% in favour of the French taking a holiday in Ireland. I have no doubt that our expanded service will enhance these figures even more.”

According to Tourism Ireland CEO, Niall Gibbons, the new sailing has the potential to generate €4.3million in additional tourism revenue.

“France is one of our top four markets for Irish tourism and in 2019, we welcomed 557,000 visitors from France to the island of Ireland, whose visits delivered €283 million to the economy,” he said. 

“We are rolling out an extensive programme of promotional activity in France throughout 2022. Our message is very simple: Ireland is open for business again and we cannot wait to welcome back visitors from France.”

6. SNCF considers smaller trains to simplify rural travel 

SNCF has announced that it is in the process of developing three new trains – which would be shorter and more flexible than its current TER models – for its smaller lines.

The ‘Train léger innovant’ (Light, innovative train or TLI) with 100 seats, the Draisy with 80 and the Flexy shuttle would potentially allow for greater frequency on small train lines, and would cost less to run.

The Flexy shuttle would be able to leave the tracks. Pic: SNCF

 

SNCF is developing the TLI with 10 partners, including Alstom and Thales, in the hope of “rethinking the train for region[al transports].”

By 2029, this type of train could replace the TER in less busy areas, making tickets 30% cheaper for passengers. 

SNCF hopes to have the battery-powered Draisy in operation 2027, so that it can replace the diesel trains which will be exiting circulation in 2035. The Draisy will be able to travel 100km before needing to be recharged, and will be 60% less expensive than a TER train.

The rail operator has designed the Flexy shuttle to be able to leave the rails to pick passengers up by road, before returning to the smaller tracks of the countryside.

Pic: SNCF

7. Union calls for better working conditions at Carcassonne Airport to avoid strike

The CGT union has called for improvements to working conditions at Carcassonne Airport, saying: “We hope that this will not come to strike action, we want to negotiate.” 

CGT delegate Christophe Dreux is meeting the airport’s director Cyril Dall’Ava today to discuss the “decline in working conditions and the lack of respect for the collective convention, despite several alerts,” Mr Dreux said. 

“I have been alerting the direction to the morose atmosphere which reigns [in the airport] for some time,” he added. “When you walk through the halls, there are no longer smiles, jokes.” 

The CGT is calling for fixed pay grades, claiming that: “For 15 years there have been people with the same job and not the same [pay] rate.

“Some people on CDD (fixed-term) contracts earn more than the lads who have been here for 15 years. We have been issuing warnings about this for a month but nothing is happening.” 

8. French Bee announces new Los Angeles route 

Low-cost, long-haul airline French Bee is launching a new Paris-Los Angeles route at the end of this month. 

From April 30, there will be three flights a week between Orly and the Californian city, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

French Bee will be in competition with Air France and Air Tahiti Nui on this route, although both of these rival airlines fly from Charles de Gaulle. 

“After the success of the launch of our route to New York and the resumption of San Francisco [flights] on November 10, we are excited about the idea of starting Los Angeles [flights],” said French Bee president Marc Rochet.

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