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Rail strike, new UK-France air route, EU checks: Eight travel updates

TGV restaurant meal prices, one region offers €1 train tickets, Dover boss reiterates fears of delays with EU Entry/Exit System and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Jerome Labouyrie / kamilpetran / S Kozakiewicz / Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

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

Ryanair launches new Toulouse-Birmingham route

Ryanair is set to launch seven new routes from Toulouse as part of its 2022/23 winter programme. 

These are: Birmingham, Krakow, Luxembourg, Rabat, Rome, Tenerife and Venice. 

In all, Ryanair will be running 23 routes from Toulouse this winter, with its new services generally operating twice a week. 

This comes as Spanish airline Volotea announces it is to open a Nantes-Copenhagen route in March 2023. 

Flights will run on Mondays and Fridays and tickets are already available. 

Rail strike planned for Tuesday, October 18

A strike is expected to affect RATP and SNCF railway services on Tuesday, October 18, as the CGT, FO and FSU unions call for pay rises and protest against government orders requiring some striking refinery staff to go back to work. 

The CGT has called for this transport strike to be expanded into an interprofessional movement in solidarity with refinery workers. 

Read more: French fuel shortages: Union calls for wider national strike next week

Tuesday’s strike may now also affect sectors such as healthcare, care homes and other public services. 

The extent of the disruption expected to occur on Tuesday is not yet known. 

France urges travellers from UK to fill up cars before arrival 

France is urging people planning to travel to the country by car from the UK this month to fill up their vehicle with fuel before they cross the Channel as around one in three French petrol stations experiences shortages due to refinery strikes. 

The UK Foreign Office has also updated its advice to this effect.

Fuel shortages are being felt most keenly in the north, with Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France and Centre-Val de Loire most severely affected.

Read more: French fuel shortages: Progress made to end strikes but no deal yet

Read more: Around a week for French fuel shortages to end, Macron estimates

Port of Dover boss reiterates concerns about Entry/Exit System delays

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister has again expressed concern over the potential for long delays for travellers as the EU’s new Entry/Exit System (EES) is introduced. 

He told MPs in the transport select committee that the new system – which will require British citizens entering the EU to provide biometric information such as fingerprints and photographs – could mean that checks take up to 10 minutes per car as opposed to two at the moment. 

Read also: Dover Port boss warns of safety issues and delays with new EU checks

Read also: Logistical concerns over EU Entry/Exit System

The EES is due to come into effect in May 2023 but Mr Bannister said that there have not been any trials designed to work out how the checks would be carried out in Dover. 

“We have not seen what the process will be, what the technology will be,” he said. 

"So it is very difficult to estimate what the [waiting] time will be for passengers. “What we have heard is that it will take two minutes per person to register plus two minutes per car."

It has previously been suggested that a tablet-like device could be handed into the cars so that passengers could also provide their fingerprints and photographs themselves but this has not been tested out or confirmed. 

This method could also prove problematic, for example, if a family has a sleeping or uncooperative child sitting in the back seat, or someone is unable to work the tablet technology.

"We need a sufficient amount of time to test and trial and train for the new technology,” Mr Bannister said. 

“But if [new checks] come in in the worst possible way we fear they will, it is going to have significant and continued disruption for a very long time.”

He then called on the UK transport minister to provide further information on the matter so that the port knows how to act. 

Mr Bannister has been invited to Calais this month to view tests being carried out there regarding the implementation of the EES.

“So I know activity is ongoing but, as I sit in front of the panel today, we don’t have that answer,” he said.

Read also: Five questions on how UK’s new border scheme could impact EU tourists

TGV restaurant car prices rise by up to 91% in 10 years 

Some 80% of passengers now avoid buying food in TGV restaurant cars because of the high prices. 

This is according to information collected by France Télévisions, which states that the cheapest sandwiches are €6.70, having risen in price by 91% over the past 10 years. 

A meal deal including a sandwich, drink and dessert currently costs €12.20, marking an increase of 76% over the same period. 

Hot meals are €10 on their own and €15 in a meal deal. These prices can be explained by the fact that the menu was created in collaboration with high-profile chefs including Thierry Marx. 

Prices are also pushed up by the costs of transporting and storing the meals.

TGV-Intercités has said that the meals “don’t cost anything in comparison to what they provide”.

Occitanie regional train tickets at €1 this weekend 

Tickets for trains operating on the Occitanie regional network will be priced at €1 this weekend (October 15-16), to help people who are struggling to fill up their cars as a result of the ongoing refinery strikes. 

Read more: French fuel shortage: How to check stocks at your local petrol station

This measure was announced by the region’s president, Carole Delga, who also called for unions and refinery bosses to work towards a solution as quickly as possible. 

If strike-related fuel shortages continue, the region may renew the €1 offer next week.

Direct trains to Germany’s Europa-Park to launch in December

People in Paris and Grand Est will soon have the opportunity to catch a direct TGV train to Europa-Park, the largest theme park in Germany. 

A high-speed TGV will travel from Paris-Gare de l’Est to Ringsheim/Europa-Park – which is less than five kilometres from the theme park and accessible by bus – via Strasbourg and two other stops, from December 11.

A second class ticket from Paris starts at €49, with the journey taking about two hours and 37 minutes. 

From Bordeaux, the journey will take six hours and 23 minutes.

Europa-Park celebrates Europe through themed sections representing different countries. It has been voted the best theme park in the world since 2014. 

Each year, it welcomes five million visitors. 

Until now, it has only been possible to get to the nearby Lahr station from Paris, after which passengers have needed to take another train to Ringsheim. 

Ile-de-France Mobilités considers upping Navigo pass price

Ile-de-France Mobilités will be forced to increase the cost of a Navigo pass if the government does not offer assistance with the €2billion debt the operator accumulated during the Covid crisis, its president Valérie Pécresse has said. 

Ms Pécresse has also estimated that Ile-de-France Mobilités (IDFM) will have to spend an additional €950million on electricity in 2023, and that the operator has already found €200million through internal savings in order to help cope with this.

On Monday, it was agreed that IDFM would receive an additional €100million from local authorities, along with the €100million it is set to receive both from SNCF and from RATP.

“We therefore need to find €450million more,” Ms Pécresse said, adding that IDFM will “ask that the government advance for the losses [caused by] Covid could be transformed into a subsidy.” 

If the government accepted this idea, IDFM would no longer have to find the €130million that it is supposed to be repaying each year until 2036. 

“The ball is in the government’s court,” Ms Pécresse said. 

She added that if an agreement cannot be found, the price of a Navigo pass will likely be increased to €100 per month as opposed to €75.20 currently.

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