We look at some of the stories affecting travel around France this week.
One big update to bear in mind is the fact that the UK’s day two testing rules have now been dropped for fully vaccinated travellers, who now need only complete a passenger locator form in order to visit the country.
Unvaccinated travellers from France to the UK will now only have to take a pre-departure test and day two PCR test, as well as filling in their passenger locator form. They will no longer need to self-isolate on arrival.
The French government has also indicated that it will be lifting pre-departure testing requirements for fully vaccinated travellers, within the next week, but the final details of this relaxation have not yet been announced.
Be prepared for traffic hold-ups this weekend
Drivers moving around France this weekend may be affected by traffic jams as people set off on February holiday breaks.
Schools in Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Dijon, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon and Poitiers) will break up for their winter holidays today, and national traffic forecast service Bison Futé has predicted that conditions will be “difficult” today (February 11).
Drivers are therefore advised to leave big cities by 16:00 if possible and to avoid the A13 between Paris and Rouen, the N165 between Nantes and Vannes and the A43 between Lyon and Chambéry this evening
This weekend, Zone A families will be joined by those from Zone B (including Marseille, Amiens, Lille, Nantes, Nice, Rennes and Strasbourg), who have already been on holiday for a week and so may be going on or returning from holiday.
Tomorrow (February 12), traffic conditions are expected to be “very difficult” in both directions in the east of France around the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, as people travel to and from France’s ski resorts.
Traffic will be particularly heavy on the A40, A43 and N90 for people heading on holiday and on the A6, A71, A40, A43 and N90 for those coming back.
Conditions should return to normal on Sunday (February 13).
People who live around Nice should also be aware that the Carnaval de Nice is beginning at 18:30 tonight (February 11), and will result in traffic and parking disruption in the city.
Certain tram stops will be suspended while the carnival is taking place, and sections of roads including the Promenade des Anglais, the Tunnel Liautaud and Boulevard Jean-Jaurès will be closed.
Nice’s mairie recommends that visitors come via the Voie Mathis and the A8, and then opt for public transport when inside the city.
You can find further information on this on the Lignes d’Azur website.
Air France to resume Orly-New York route in March
Air France will relaunch its daily Paris-Orly to New York flights on March 27, meaning that there will be as many as seven daily flights from the French capital to the Big Apple this summer.
On the same day, the airline will also be resuming services from Charles de Gaulle to Dallas, which will run five times a week.
Finally, on May 4 Air France will be bringing back its Charles de Gaulle-Denver route, for which passengers will be able to choose between three weekly slots.
SNCF Connect alternatives for booking train journeys in France
SNCF has recently launched a new Connect app, which brings together various different ticket purchase, traffic update and journey planning services in one place.
However, there are other ways to reserve French train tickets online which, although perhaps containing less contextual information on traffic and alternative forms of transport, may be simpler to use.
These include Trainline, Kombo and Tictactrip. The first allows you to create a profile, buy train tickets and download them to an iPhone wallet, which is not possible through SNCF Connect. You can also modify and cancel bookings through the app.
Kombo works in a similar way to Trainline and also allows you to factor an SNCF advantage card into your purchases. It also makes it easier to book a train journey with various different connections, which has proved to be difficult for some SNCF Connect users.
Finally, Tictactrip is not an app but a website which enables you to combine train, bus and car sharing services in the same itinerary. It also allows for the addition of a SNCF discount card.
Paris transport workers to strike in call for higher salaries
Unions representing Paris public transport operator RATP have called for strike action next Friday (February 18) to demand pay rises for staff.
The CGT union is asking for an annual 3% increase in worker pay for the next three years, to compensate for the pay freezes which have lasted for the last 10 years.
RATP has offered a total increase of 0.4%, while unions claim that in 2021 “pay rises were 2.1% on average for workers in general” and the minimum wage has also gone up by 0.9%.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine boosts Bordeaux-Toulouse LGV train project fund
The Nouvelle-Aquitaine region has contributed a further €225million to the future Bordeaux-Toulouse LGV high-speed train line, after other regional authorities refused to provide funding.
Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie had already committed to financing 40% of the Grand Projet du Sud-Ouest (GPSO), with the state contributing another 40% and the EU the final 20%.
However, after Occitanie approved its €2.2billion share, certain departments and city authorities within Nouvelle-Aquitaine, including Lot-et-Garonne and Gironde, refused to provide the funds that had been asked of them.
Their reluctance had frustrated France’s national government, with Prime Minister Jean Castex threatening to cancel a TGV station project in Agen (Lot-et-Garonne) if the department did not contribute to the Bordeaux-Toulouse LGV line.
Eventually, it was the Nouvelle-Aquitaine regional council that was forced to fill the funding gap.
Work on the new line is therefore expected to begin in 2024, and services should start between 2030 and 2032. The LGV will save passengers travelling between Toulouse and Bordeaux around an hour, meaning that they will be able to reach Paris from Toulouse within three hours.
Marseille and Paris are two of the most congested cities in the world
Marseille and Paris have been included in a list of the 50 most congested cities in the world, according to research carried out by satnav company Tomtom.
Paris was 37th on the list, with Marseille not far behind in 42nd place. Tomtom estimates that drivers in Paris lose around 144 hours – or six days – a year to rush hour traffic jams.
Both cities came above New York – in 43rd place – Hong Kong – in 47th – and London, which did not feature in the top 50. The city judged to be the most congested in the world was Istanbul, followed by Moscow and then Kyiv.
In Paris, 1.85 of the 13.8 megatonnes of CO2 emitted in 2021 were due to traffic congestion.
The Covid pandemic caused traffic levels to drop in 2020, but by September 2021 French congestion had risen 8% above 2019 levels.
Other French cities in the top 100 most congested cities were Toulon, Bordeaux, Lyon and Nice.
Eurotunnel vehicle traffic rebounds after Covid restrictions
Eurotunnel Le Shuttle freight and passenger vehicle traffic was considerably higher this January when compared to January 2021, thanks to the easing of UK-France travel restrictions.
Le Shuttle transported 113,917 HGVs in January 2022, a figure 38% higher than January 2021. Eurotunnel says that this is “thanks to the success of the Border Pass [which] allows the necessary information for the passage of goods to be transferred from the carrier to Eurotunnel and then from Eurotunnel to the authorities of both countries.”
Passenger vehicle numbers also rose 44% to 66,875, although it should be noted that in January 2021, the UK was in a full Covid lockdown so traffic was significantly reduced. Despite the increase, passenger vehicle demand is still being impacted by the pandemic.
Eurostar cleaners to strike over pay
Eurostar train cleaners will join their colleagues at Thameslink, Southern and Southeastern in a strike on February 23 as part of a battle for higher salaries.
The cleaners are all employed by a contractor called Churchill Services, and are all paid the UK living wage, which is rising from £8.91 to £9.50 in April (for people aged over 23).
Employee support for the strike action was reportedly at 100% in two of the ballots cast by the RMT union.
The RMT claims that workers on minimum wage are effectively £1,000 worse off now than they were a year ago because of inflation.
Volotea launches new Bordeaux-Florence flights
Spanish airline Volotea will between May 27 and October 28 be running two weekly flights between Bordeaux and Florence.
Passengers will be able to travel on Mondays at 20:10 and Fridays at 19:45, and return flights from Italy will depart at 22:20 on Mondays and 21:55 on Fridays.
Volotea is the only airline to be operating this route, which it adds to an Italian offering that already includes Cagliari, Olbia and Venice.
It is also possible to fly to Florence from Charles de Gaulle with Air France and Orly with Vueling.