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TGV project in west France, new air routes: Eight travel updates

Airlines announce new winter schedule routes, unions to begin negotiations following recent strikes, Eurostar is urged to resume Kent services and more

We look at the news affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: VideoBCN / Markus Mainka / Genova / Paul Briden / Shutterstock

[Breaking: The US government has announced today (June 10) that it will lift its requirement for international air travellers to show a negative test result from the day before their journey on Sunday, June 12 at 00:01.]

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

One of the major stories of the week was that of the strikes which caused delays and cancellations in several French airports. 

Read more: Alert: Strike at French airports, several flights cancelled

Read more: Update: French airport strike primarily affects EasyJet and Air France

Following this industry action, the Aéroports de Paris group – which manages both Charles de Gaulle and Orly – has announced that salary negotiations with unions will begin on June 14. 

“We have been understaffed for the last two years, we are constantly under pressure and the pay does not reflect this,” Oumar Aw, who works for Transdev Vargo, a subcontractor of Air France, told Ouest France.

1. New company seeks to launch interregional TGV services in western France

A new train operator start-up based in Charente (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) is looking to launch high-speed rail services linking up the regions of western France.

Le Train has said that it hopes to begin running trains from Arcachon, Bordeaux, Angoulême, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Tours, Angers, Nantes and Rennes, starting in 2023.

To achieve this, it will have to buy and renovate used TGV carriages. Le Train wants to better utilise the new Sud Europe Atlantique (Tours-Bordeaux) line which was opened in 2017, but which – it believes – is not being used to its full potential. 

This is because SNCF generally uses the line for Paris-Bordeaux trains which do not make many stops. 

Le Train is planning for 50 daily train services, with timetables arranged to allow for straightforward connections with TER trains. 

It says that its tickets will be “a little more expensive than a TER ticket and less expensive than an Inoui [standard TGV] ticket, around the same as a Ouigo ticket [SNCF’s low-cost TGV option].”

Le Train, which was created in 2020, currently employs 20 people, but hopes to increase this number to 150 over time. 

After its initial launch, it hopes to engage in a second developmental phase in 2026, to add extra services and extend its routes towards Toulouse and the Pays Basque.

Read more: New TGV will allow travel from Paris to Berlin in seven hours

2. Ryanair announces 10 new French winter routes 

Low-cost airline Ryanair will be offering 10 new routes from Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Paris-Beauvais, Strasbourg and Toulouse this winter. 

This brings its total number of French routes to 221, from 25 different airports. 

From Bordeaux, passengers will be able to travel to Tenerife twice a week, while Clermont-Ferrand will be linked up to Fès (Morocco).

There will be flights from Grenoble to Edinburgh every Saturday, and every Friday between Paris-Beauvais and Lanzarote. 

Strasbourg will see twice weekly flights to Porto, and people in Toulouse will be able to fly to Bologna four times a week, Krakow twice a week, Luxembourg twice a week, Rabat twice a week and Tenerife, also twice a week.

Tickets for these routes are already on sale.

Read more: France travel: what are the rules for flying with a pet?

3. UK local authorities call for ‘swift’ resumption of Kent Eurostar services

Eurostar is being urged to restart its services in Kent, which have been suspended since March 2020. 

No trains have stopped in Ebbsfleet or Ashford on their way to or from Paris since the first Covid lockdown began, and Eurostar has previously said that it would not begin to serve these stops again until 2023, because of a drop in passenger numbers. 

The leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough, said he was “disappointed” that the stations were still not being served and asked for greater clarity on the conditions which would make stopping at the stations “viable” in Eurostar’s eyes. 

Green Councillor Rich Lehmann also called for the “swiftest” reopening of services, the Local Democracy Reporting Service stated.

Ashford Borough Council leader Gerry Clarkson said: "The prospect that Eurostar services will not return to Ashford International Station until 2023 represents a real challenge for those residents and businesses that rely on the service and those that work at the station."

Eurostar has said that it will review its decision later in the year.

"The decision will be based on general business performance but also looking in particular at how the local market has evolved since Covid,” a spokesperson added.

4. Protests against Bordeaux-Toulouse LGV planned this weekend 

Several campaign groups will be holding a demonstration against the Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed LGV train line project this Saturday (June 11), mostly in Gironde.

A group called Stop LGV Bordeaux métropole pour les transports du quotidien is organising a protest in front of the Gare Saint-Jean in Bordeaux between 12:00 and 13:00.

The protestors are opposed to the ecological damage that they believe will be caused by the construction of the new line. 

They want to prioritise commuter train services which transport people to work and school, and advocate the implementation of a Bordeaux RER [a ‘regional express network’, as used in Paris] which would increase the frequency of such services. 

The LGV project was signed off by then Prime Minister Jean Castex in March. Work is expected to begin in early 2024, for completion in 2032.

5. Restos du Cœur collects confiscated toiletries from Nice Airport

Toiletries and other liquids that are confiscated from air passengers by Nice Airport’s security officers at Terminal 2 are now being donated to Restos du Cœur. 

“Even a shampoo or a deodorant which has been used is useful for us,” a Restos du Cœur spokesperson told France 3. “Those who receive them are happy, and with the cost of these products, it is always very much appreciated.” 

It is also hoped that this new scheme will come as a comfort to passengers who have their liquids taken from them in security.

Restos du Cœur are also accepting unopened water, wine, jams, tapenades, spreads “and even cans of sardines”. 

For the moment, volunteers are collecting the liquids from around two in every 12 flights, but are in talks with the airport to extend its operation to Terminal 1 as well. 

Read more: US potato-dish fan in France now raising money for Restos du Coeur

6. Vueling launches new Paris-Ireland route 

Spanish airline Vueling has announced that it will open a new route between Paris-Orly and Shannon (Ireland) on September 12. 

Services will run over the winter until March 24, with two flights a week. 

Vueling is the only airline offering this route; Aer Lingus had been expected to link up Paris and Shannon but never did because of the Covid pandemic.

Mary Considine, CEO of the Shannon Airport Group, said: “We are delighted to welcome our new carrier Vueling [...] to the airport.

“This service is another major boost for the commercial and touristic interests coming into and out of the region.

“We have worked closely with Vueling to provide the service and we are excited to see our passengers take off for the world renowned city [of Paris].” 

7. New study ranks European airlines on popularity among passengers

Air passenger rights association AirHelp has used TripAdvisor reviews to create a ranking of the 50 most popular carriers in Europe, and Air France does not make the top 10. 

The list was topped by Turkish Airlines, which received an average rating of four stars out of five. It was followed by KLM, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Swiss International Air Lines, Aegean Airlines, Edelweiss Air, Luxair, Air Astana and Air Dolomiti. 

Transavia, which is the low-cost subsidiary of KLM and therefore part of the Air France-KLM group, came 10th, but Air France itself was 14th, behind EasyJet, British Airways and Lufthansa.

Ryanair came 29th, while Vueling and Wizz Air were at the bottom of the table, with an average rating of 2.5 stars.

AirHelp used over 700,000 reviews to make the ranking, basing its results on the comfort, service and value for money of the different airlines. 

8. A breakdown of the works disruption expected on Paris transport services this summer 

Ile-de-France Mobilités has scheduled various maintenance work projects in the Paris region this summer, affecting RER, métro and tram services. 

The RER Ligne A between Auber and La Défense will be suspended between August 13 and 19 inclusive. 

The northern part of the RER B will also be closed on July 2-3 and August 13-15, making it difficult for people to reach Charles de Gaulle airport.

RER E trains between Gare de l’Est and Haussmann-Saint-Lazare will not be running between July 18 and August 22. 

Travel may also be difficult on the H, L, J, L, N and P lines, where various closures are also planned.

As for métro services, the Ligne 10 will be suspended between Duroc and Boulogne from June 27 until July 3 and on July 14, and between Châtelet and Olympiades from July 31 until August 20. 

Tram line 1 will also be suspended between Asnières and Hôpital Delafontaine from June 20 until August 31.

An information campaign will also be run by Ile-de-France Mobilités to warn passengers about the planned closures.

Nearly €4.8billion has been invested in this year’s works. 

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