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Thursday 22 September 2022
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Traffic, Dover delays, new air routes: Eight France travel updates

France prepares for record traffic on road and rail, tips for saving fuel on summer car trips, Eurostar is denied boost to train frequency and more

A split image of traffic, a Brittany Ferries ship, an SNCF train and the Port of Dover

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: Mathis Boussuge / Bluebox Photography / Peter Titmuss / Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

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

Record weekend ahead for train travel but tickets still available

SNCF has said that there are still six million tickets available for summer train journeys around France in August, despite 14 million tickets having already been sold. 

This represents a record for the operator, with ticket sales for July and August being 10% higher this year than they were in 2019.

Today (July 29) could be the busiest of the year for SNCF, as 400,000 passengers are expected to board trains across the network. 

In total, more than 1,000,000 passengers are expected to board an SNCF train this weekend (July 29 - July 31).

This weekend, the most popular destinations are the Mediterranean coastline, the south west and Brittany. 

Having predicted an increase in demand this summer, SNCF has provided an additional 500,000 seats over the coming weeks.

Some 60% of the tickets bought so far for the summer were obtained through the SNCF Connect app.

Read more: We try out SNCF's new app for French train tickets and traffic updates

Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Marseille and Avignon remain the most popular destinations on the SNCF network, but there is also a growing demand for other cities including Nancy and Reims.  

Trains heading for Nancy have seen ticket sales rise by 56%, while for Reims they have risen by 63%. 

Brittany Ferries sees booking spike as passengers look to avoid Dover 

Brittany Ferries has observed a 50% increase in bookings following the queues which built up at the Port of Dover last weekend (July 22-24), where some passengers waited up to six hours to get through border control and a critical incident was declared.

Read more: Dover traffic backlog now cleared but warnings of future delays

Read more: French minister’s reaction to Dover: Don’t blame us for Brexit

Brittany Ferries ships leaving Portsmouth, Plymouth and Poole did not see the same issues, and spokesman Nigel Wonnacott told Portsmouth News: “It was smooth sailing through our ports [...] and onto ships this weekend.”

Ian Diaper, head of operations at Portsmouth International Port, said: “Fortunately we have not faced any disruption at the port, with passengers heading off on their holidays and freight travelling through the port as we would normally expect for the summer season.

“We do not have juxtaposed controls like they do in Dover, [where] French authorities undertake border control checks in the UK before boarding rather than on arrival. 

“This means they are feeling the impact of checks at the port itself, as opposed to it happening at the destination country.

“Portsmouth has a longer stretch between sailings and a variety of destinations to France and Spain, which means more time on the other side to process passengers and also spreads the volume across a greater area.”

Read more: Port of Dover queues: A one-off or a long-term problem?

Amber traffic warning in UK, concerns over second weekend of queues at Dover

The AA has issued an amber traffic warning in the UK for this weekend, with roads approaching Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone expected to be particularly busy. 

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: "With holiday let switchover day starting on Friday mixed with train strikes and a huge weekend of sport, we are concerned that drivers will experience delays across the network with the south of England particularly vulnerable.

"All eyes will be on Dover and Folkestone, but we believe changes have been made throughout the week, and we will keep our fingers crossed for a smoother trip across the Channel."

DFDS Ferries is currently advising passengers to leave at least one hour to get through border controls in Dover, where traffic had already begun to build yesterday (Thursday, July 28).

Over the weekend, Dover is expecting 140,000 passengers in 45,000 cars to pass through the port.

The Port has said that French border control booths will be “fully resourced” this weekend, after it described staffing as “woefully inadequate” last weekend.

“The Port has had significant dialogue with UK Government and French officials over the past few days and has increased confidence in their plans to provide the required resource throughout the coming weekend,” it said in a statement.

Heavy traffic expected across France as July and August holidaymakers cross over 

People driving on French motorways this weekend should expect heavy traffic, as the country’s juilletistes come back from holiday, and its aoûtiens set off. 

Read more: Explainer: who are France’s ‘juilletistes’ and ‘aoûtiens’?

Last year, this Saturday saw 1,000km of traffic jams across France.

Today (July 29), state forecasting service Bison Futé states that conditions are “very difficult” in the sense of departures from big cities. In terms of return journeys, the traffic will be “difficult” across the whole of France apart from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, where it will be “very difficult”. 

The situation will worsen on Saturday (July 30), with departures being “extremely difficult” and return journeys “very difficult” across the whole country. 

On Sunday, the roads will begin to quieten, with conditions being “difficult” in terms of departures – and “very difficult” in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes – and normal for return journeys apart from in southeastern areas, where it will be “difficult”. 

You can find out more about the situation on different motorways around France in our article below: 

Read more: France’s July and August holiday crossover: heavy traffic this weekend

Five tips for saving fuel on summer holiday trips 

With people in France setting off for and returning from summer holidays this weekend in the context of high fuel prices, we look at several things you can do to save petrol or diesel while driving.

  • Keep your vehicle in a good condition. It is worth checking your vehicle before you set off on your journey for factors such as tyre pressure. If your tyres are underinflated, the vehicle will need more engine power to move and will use up to 10% more petrol or diesel. 

Equally, your car will burn more fuel the less aerodynamic it is. If you have an unused bike or roof rack on the vehicle, it is better to take it off so that the body is more streamlined. 

  • Drive smoothly. Driving in a consistent manner, without heavy braking or sharp acceleration, can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40%, which will also limit your exhaust emissions.

  • Reduce your speed. Cutting your speed by 10km/h can help to save a litre for every 100km travelled. Driving at a slightly slower pace can also help to reduce the need for harsh braking and acceleration.

  • Keep away from traffic jams. It goes without saying that it is best to choose the GPS route which avoids road works and traffic hold ups. 

If you do find yourself in slow-moving traffic, it is sometimes better to pull over into a motorway services or rest area where you can get out, instead of sitting in a queue with the engine running and the air conditioning blasting.

  • Turn off the engine if in a queue. If you come to a standstill because of heavy traffic, it is better to switch your engine off, because even when not moving the car will consume 0.5-one litre of fuel per hour. 

Transavia announces nine new routes from Lyon, Paris, Nice and more

Air France-KLM subsidiary Transavia has announced nine new routes from French airports, which are set to launch in the autumn. 

From Lyon, the low-cost airline will be flying to Dakar (Senegal), Hurghada (Egypt), Istanbul (Turkey), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) and Tenerife. 

It will also be offering flights from Paris to Istanbul, Marseille to Marrakech, Montpellier to Madrid and Nice to Tunis.

These new routes will start operating in October and early November.

Eurostar tries to increase London-Paris services, France says no

France has prevented Eurostar from increasing the number of trains it runs daily between London and Paris because of staff shortages. 

Eurostar sought to boost services to 17 per day in response to the ongoing problems at UK and French airports and at the Port of Dover. 

However, French border control and Gare du Nord in Paris have both said that they can only handle 13 trains per day because of a lack of staff, Schengen Visa Info reports.

Before the Covid pandemic saw international travel grind nearly to a halt, there were 25 Eurostar trains running between Lonodn and Paris each day. 

Eurostar has seen a significant increase in passenger numbers as a result of the recovery of business travel following the end of Covid restrictions, and the disruption being felt at European airports.

Ryanair reports profit for first quarter of 2022 

Low-cost airline Ryanair has reported a net profit of €170million for the first quarter of 2022, compared to a net loss of €273million for the same period last year.

However, this year’s result is still less than the €243million made in the first quarter of 2020 – just before the Covid lockdowns began – because ticket prices have been lowered as a result of the pandemic.

“While traffic has recovered strongly,” reaching pre-pandemic levels, “the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February impacted reservations and prices” over Easter, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said in a statement. 

Ryanair has said that ticket sales have multiplied fivefold over the past year, to 45.5 million passengers.

The airline has so far been protected from the rise in fuel prices caused by the war in Ukraine because it had already bought 80% of its kerosene supplies in advance.

Despite its “strong” recovery, Ryanair and other airlines “remain vulnerable” to “the risk of new variants” of Covid in the autumn.

It therefore judges that it is too early to make predictions about its total profits for the year.

From the air to the rails, French train operator SNCF has also recorded a profit of €928million in the first half of the year, after having lost €780million in the first half of 2021 and €2.4billion in 2020.

Related articles 

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MPs pass amended bill to allow France to impose Covid border checks

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