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Trains and planes: Ten updates for travel in and around France

SNCF plans website and app, a new tax is approved to help fund a Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed rail link and France’s travel industry gears up for winter ski and city breaks

We take a look at the travel news which has been occurring around France this week Pic: Lukas Wunderlich / katatonia82 / Shutterstock

We take a look at the travel news which has been occurring around France this week.

Maiden name issue solutions for women married more than once 

The Connexion recently asked airlines and ferry companies operating within France what supporting documents a woman would need to be able to travel if her French vaccination certificate were in her maiden name, but her passport showed her married name.

Most stated that presenting a document carrying both names, such as a marriage certificate, would be adequate, although this has not consistently worked for everyone.

Read more: Covid vaccine in maiden name, passport in married name: what to try

Women who have been married more than once are obviously unable to use their current marriage certificate as it will not show their maiden name, so we have asked several travel operators what they should do. 

EasyJet stated that an ID such as a birth certificate, showing only the maiden name, would be acceptable as long as the name and date of birth match the vaccination certificate. 

However, Brittany Ferries said that it would need to see documentary proof of the link between the maiden and current name. 

For example, a woman would be able to travel if she could present her first marriage certificate – containing her birth name – and her second, as she would be demonstrating the “sequence of the name changes,” a Brittany Ferries spokesperson said. 

The UK government advice on the issue also states that: “If your vaccine certificate shows a different name to your passport (e.g. marital / birth name), please also carry any supporting documentation (e.g. marriage certificate) when travelling.”

For women who have been married more than once, carrying both or all of their marriage certificates with them would appear to be the best solution. 

Read more: No refund from BA for woman barred from flight over maiden name issue

Transatlantic traffic nearly back to pre-Covid levels following US border reopening

The reopening of US borders to fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries including France is bringing transatlantic air traffic almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

“Before Covid [these flights] represented 40% of our long haul revenues,” said Anne Rigail, managing director of Air France. “From now until the end of March, we will progressively return to 90% of our 2019 capacity,” which comprises 122 weekly flights. 

In the week of November 1, 13,200 passengers travelled to the US with Air France, but in the seven days after November 8 (the date of reopening), this figure more than doubled to 26,600.

Air Tahiti Nui, which flies from Paris to Los Angeles, reported that 85% of its flights were full in that same week.

Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed rail link to be financed through resident taxes

The high-speed ligne à grande vitesse (LGV) rail link project aimed at linking up Bordeaux and Toulouse is still in need of funding. 

President of the Occitanie region Carole Delga told BFMTV that the LGV – also referred to as the grand projet du sud-ouest or GPSO – should be ready by 2030, but that date depends on whether it obtains the necessary funding.

The State has already committed €4.1billion to the scheme, but a total of €10.3billion is needed to bring it to completion, and the local authorities that it would serve have been tasked with finding the rest. 

Occitanie has promised €1.2billion, while Haute-Garonne has given €747million and Toulouse Métropole €616million. 

However, Lot-et-Garonne has refused to pay the funds that have been asked of it, and the maire of Bordeaux, Pierre Hurmic, has expressed his opposition to the plans. 

Mr Hurmic has stated that: “The project plans to massacre 4,830 hectares of green spaces, farmland, vineyards and the Gascogne forest, while we know that [these pieces of] nature is our best ally against climate change.”  

The funding required for the LGV line has been based on the ongoing Grand Paris Express project, which is being financed through loans, an office tax and a further resident tax added onto the taxe d’habitation and foncière. 

On November 10, the Assemblée Nationale voted in an amendment to the 2022 loi des finances (finance law), which includes a new taxe spéciale d’équipement (special installation tax) for many Occitanie residents. 

The tax will aim to collect €960million over 40 years or €24million per year. It will be paid by everyone who pays the taxe foncière property ownership tax or taxe d’habitation on second homes. Businesses which pay the cotisation foncière des entreprises will also be concerned. 

However, these individuals and professionals will only have to pay the tax if their home or workplace is situated less than sixty minutes by car from a station that will be served by the future LGV.

This includes everyone who lives within an hour of urban centres including Toulouse, Agen,  Montauban and Bordeaux, whose taxe foncière will increase by approximately 0.4%.

The tax – due to come into force in 2023 – has been met with opposition by groups including Europe-Ecologie les Vert de Midi-Pyrénées et Languedoc-Roussillon, who are demanding greater “transparency” on the part of officials leading the project. 

“This new tax has been proposed to the government without its [future] contributors even being informed of the financial repercussions,” its opponents said in a statement.

Read more: Controversy erupts around Bordeaux-Toulouse high-speed train line

SNCF to launch a new website and app for everyday journeys

SNCF is planning to launch a new website and app which will allow passengers to organise their everyday journeys across France. 

‘SNCF Connect’ will launch in early 2022, aiming to combine the sales platform with train traffic monitoring service Assistant SNCF. 

It “will combine in the same space all tickets, subscriptions and information [to help] organise, reserve and manage your journey with TGV, Inoui, Ouigo, Intercités, TER, Thalys, Eurostar, TGV Lyria, Ile-de-France transports, long-distance buses and car-sharing… from the first to the last kilometre,” SNCF Voyageurs wrote in a statement.  

Where are French people heading for their Christmas holidays? 

It is estimated that 20 million people in France will go on holiday during this year’s Christmas period. 

France’s mountainous regions are of course proving popular, with one in two reservations being made for Savoie, according to TF1. People are also willing to spend more this year, as travellers pay an average of €1,600 for their accommodation compared to €1,300 previously. 

SNCF has already sold 2.3 million train tickets for the Christmas holidays, 15% more than in 2019. Its most popular destinations are Lyon, Brittany and southeastern France.

Bookings for foreign trips are also on a level with 2019, although demand is lower for Asian countries, many of which have not yet reopened to travellers. 

Chalair resumes Quimper-Pau flights

French regional airline Chalair is relaunching its Quimper-Pau route in order to facilitate journeys to the ski resorts of the Pyrenees. 

Flights will run every Saturday between January 22 and February 26, operated by a small ATR 42-500 48-seater plane. 

In this way, people in Brittany will be able to reach the Pyrenees in 1h40. 

French bee adds a Paris-Los Angeles route

Low-cost airline French bee is launching a new route between Paris and Los Angeles in spring 2022. 

From April 9, passengers will be able to fly from Paris-Orly to the City of Angels four times a week: on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Then in July, further Wednesday and Sunday flights will be added.

In launching this route, French bee will enter into competition with Air France and Air Tahiti Nui, who both fly to LA from Charles de Gaulle.

Taking a look at Marseille’s airport extension project

Work is underway to transform the currently empty space between Terminal 1 and 2 of Marseille Airport into the “heart of the airport.”

Between now and 2024, when Marseille will host some Olympic events, a 22,000m² building will be constructed, at a cost of €180million. 

This will allow Terminal 1’s check-in, security and baggage reclaim areas to be moved into a much bigger central space with more shops and restaurants after security. 

Certain climate protection organisations have opposed the idea, saying that it “goes against objectives regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” These groups fear that this project will only contribute towards an increase in air traffic from Marseille, which is already a busy airport. 

The Toussaint holidays prove ‘better than expected’ for French businesses

A new study by ADN Tourisme has shown that 87% of destinations welcomed more visitors over this year’s Toussaint holidays than they did in 2020. 

Although the number of holidaymakers was still lagging behind that of a ‘normal’ year, 54% of tourism sector businesses said that Toussaint had gone better than expected. 

Coastal and urban destinations were particularly popular, with 92% of cities reporting an increase in visitors compared to last year. 

Departures to European destinations from France were up 66% this year in comparison to autumn 2020, but still 31% lower than 2019 figures. 

ADN’s study was carried out between November 4 and 10, asking regional tourism offices about the number and demographic of visitors they had welcomed. 

Most common source of TGV delays is forgotten baggage

Forgotten bags cause more delays than anything else on TGV and Intercités, according to SNCF figures revealed by Ville, Rail et Transports

The amount of luggage that is accidentally left on trains has tripled in the last three years. In 2021, nearly 9,000 trains were affected, and 1,000 had to be cancelled as a result. 

In 2018, 3,750 hours of delays were caused by forgotten bags, but in 2021 this figure has already risen to 8,330 hours. 

Bags left – normally innocently – on platforms or in trains can be flagged up as being suspicious, sometimes requiring stations to be evacuated while the police assess the situation. 

It is believed that the Covid pandemic has made people more likely to accidentally leave their bags behind, as they struggle with face masks and health passes while boarding their train. 

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