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Trains, roads, flights, ferries: Ten travel updates for France

Strike action lifted at Paris airports, France-US air routes, traffic alert, Ryanair strike, British Airways cancellations - and more

We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week Pic: MisterStock / David Peter Robinson / Alexandre Rotenberg / Maurizio Milanesio / Shutterstock

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

1. Heavy traffic as school holidays begin 

Traffic will be heavy across France this weekend as the school summer holidays begin and families set off on breaks. 

Read more: Heavy traffic expected this weekend in France as summer holidays begin

Conditions will be “difficult” across the whole country today for people setting off on trips and “very difficult” in Ile-de-France and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. 

National traffic alert service Bison Futé advises that people try to get out of Ile-de-France before midday and avoid parts of the A1, A10, A7, A62, A13, A84, A7 and A8 during the afternoon and early evening. 

Bison Futé has also warned that the A20 is closed in both directions around Limoges because of a roadworks incident.

On Saturday (July 9), the traffic will worsen with regards to departures, being “very difficult” across all of France apart from Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, where it will be “extremely difficult”. 

Drivers are advised to avoid trying to get out of Ile-de-France until after 16:00, and to steer clear of parts of the A10, A11, A84, A63, A62, A61 and the Mont Blanc tunnel. 

Traffic conditions will still be “difficult” in southeastern France on Sunday (July 10) but should return to normal across the rest of the country. 

Further details can be found on the Bison Futé website. 

As many people take to France’s roads this weekend, SNCF Voyageurs CEO Christophe Fanichet has also said that he is expecting a record number of passengers on trains this summer. 

“We are expecting 1.3 million French people in our stations and trains” this weekend, he said. “People want holidays, tourism, and we think we will see 10% more travellers than in 2019 [...] There are no trains in the yard, they are all out.” 

2. Brittany Ferries opens bookings for 2023 

Brittany Ferries has this week opened ticket sales for 2023 sailings to and from France and Spain. 

The French routes available are: 

  • Portsmouth-Caen
  • Portsmouth-St Malo 
  • Plymouth-Roscoff
  • Portsmouth-Cherbourg
  • Poole-Cherbourg 

It is worth bearing in mind that some routes – Plymouth-Roscoff and Poole-Cherbourg – only start sailing in the spring. 

The operator has flexible options available meaning you can amend a reservation at a later date. 

Prices vary depending on the time of year but generally appear to be cheaper when booked further in advance. 

3. Trenitalia considers launching more French lines 

Italian train operator Trenitalia has floated the idea of opening new lines in France to join its existing Paris-Lyon route. 

Roberto Rinaudo, the head of Trenitalia’s French subsidiary, said: “Our ambition is of course to develop: we are in the process of studying [the possibility] of other lines.

“The regional market is very significant and it is an enormous opportunity for the whole railway system [...] We do not intend to have a presence in all regions but to choose some strategic regions depending on the synergy that we can create with our high-speed lines.”

He said another line would take two years to develop. 

Trenitalia launched in France in December 2021 with two daily return trips between Paris and Milan via Lyon, Chambéry and Turin.

It has since added three additional daily services on this route.

4. New French air routes to Turkey, Iceland and the US 

Several airlines are launching new or returning routes from France in the coming months. 

Transavia France has opened a new Paris-Bodrum (Turkey) service, which will run until September 18, once a week. 

Icelandair is offering a Nice-Reykjavik link, its second French route after Paris. 

Read more: City of Nice to bring back masks on public transport

Flights will run until August 27, with two services a week. Icelandair is the only airline to offer this route. 

Vueling is offering flights from Paris-Orly to Los Angeles and San Francisco via Barcelona. The Los Angeles will be served on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and flights to San Francisco will run on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

5. French Ryanair staff to strike again this month 

The SNPL union representing French Ryanair pilots has issued a strike notice for July 23 and 24, demanding higher salaries. 

The strike will involve pilots at Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Paris-Beauvais airports. 

Spanish Ryanair staff have already announced 12 days of strikes this month, from July 12 to 15, 18 to 21 and 25 to 28.

6. British Airways announces another wave of cancellations 

British Airways has cancelled an additional 10,300 flights from the start of August until the end of October, after announcing that it would be cutting its summer schedule by 11%. 

Most of the cancellations involve flights from Heathrow on routes which often have several flights running each day so affected passengers may be able to book onto another service a few hours earlier or later. 

BA’s highest frequency routes from Heathrow include services to Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Nice and Geneva, so customers travelling to these destinations could see cancellations at various points over the summer. 

However, BA would not tell The Connexion exactly which French routes are affected. 

A spokesperson said: “We took pre-emptive action earlier this year to reduce our summer schedule to provide customers with as much notice as possible about any changes to their travel plans. 

“As the entire aviation industry continues to face the most challenging period in its history, regrettably it has become necessary to make some further reductions. 

“We're in touch with customers to apologise and offer to rebook them or issue a full refund.”

British Airways is reducing the number of flights it is running in response to the ‘slot amnesty’ being offered to airlines, allowing them to temporarily give up some take off and landing slots without losing them permanently.

The cancellations will affect a total of one million passengers, who should all be notified individually.

They will be entitled to an alternative flight as soon as possible, and can seek to fly with another carrier if it is more practical than travelling with BA. 

If there is no alternative available and the delay lasts more than five hours after the originally stated flight time, it is possible to cancel and be refunded in full.

Although cancellations may affect holidaymakers this summer, a BA strike planned for this month has been called off after unions secured an improved pay offer from airline bosses. 

7. A new Rennes-Redon train line? Local councillors object 

The French government and train operator SNCF have suggested the possibility of creating a new train line between Rennes and Redon in a bid to improve Brittany’s high-speed rail links.  

In 2020, the government launched preliminary research into the possibility of a new line but local councillors are concerned by the idea. 

“It would be a real blot on the landscape,” said Pierre-Yves Reboux, president of the Vallons de Vilaine local authority. 

The Vallons de haute Bretagne and Porte de Loire councils calculate that the line would take up 11 to 12 hectares of land per kilometre. 

This would mean a total of around 600 hectares “of agricultural or natural land [being used] for 50km of tracks, gaining 11 minutes between Rennes and Nantes at an estimated cost of €1.25billion.” 

These local authorities have dubbed the idea a “heresy” and said that: “This project will never be accepted by residents”. 

Local councillors are expected to give their final judgement on measures aimed at opposing the plans in the coming days. 

The state is also aiming to make it easier to get from Quimper and Brest to Paris, and increase the number of Nantes-Rennes TGVs to one every half hour. 

8. Paris airport workers call off strike this weekend

Firefighters working at Aéroports de Paris – Charles de Gaulle and Orly – have lifted their strike notice after reaching an agreement with airport bosses. 

Unions had planned to strike today (Friday July 8), Saturday and Sunday, but after a week of negotiations, they have accepted the latest proposal from Aéroports de Paris, which involves a €200 gross bonus for the fire crews, the CGT Transport union said.

Other Aéroports de Paris workers have been offered a 3% pay rise, and have also decided not to strike. 

Although there will be no strike this weekend, “other strike notices could be published regarding other issues [such as staff shortages] over the summer,” said CGT Transport’s Fabrice Michaud. 

Read more: SNCF announces pay rises after strikes in France, unions want more

9. Nearly 20,000 suitcases lost at Paris-Charles de Gaulle 

Videos have been circulating in the media of thousands of suitcases left piled on top of each other in Charles de Gaulle Airport following the baggage handler strike that took place there last week.

The strike led to several flights being cancelled, and others setting off without any cases in the hold. 

This meant that baggage began to accumulate in the airport storage spaces, and cases coming off the first long-haul flights to arrive that day could not be distributed. 

A computer bug occurring the same day further slowed the baggage handling operation. Since then, the system has struggled to return to normal.

“At the moment, we estimate that there are 20,000 cases which have been lost: around 17,000 on Air France flights, and around 3,000 others,” Claire Cazin of the CGT union told BFMTV.

Air France has said that it has brought in reinforcements to clear the backlog, but the CGT claims that some people will not see their cases for several months.

10. Lille Airport extension given green light

Nord’s prefecture has granted its approval for a project aiming to modernise and extend Lille-Lesquin Airport. 

The plans have been continually opposed by several different groups because of the pollution it is expected to cause. 

The prefecture’s authorisation relates to the environmental impact that the project will have, and follows the approval issued by an inquiry committee earlier this year. It came on the condition that the airport works to limit noise pollution, conserve fauna and flora around the airport and offset its greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, the airport will not be allowed to increase its night flight schedule so as to reduce noise pollution for residents. However, the prefecture did not impose a curfew as several residents had requested.

Lille-Lesquin claims it is looking to improve its infrastructure so as to offer a better service to passengers as it expects traffic to grow by 17-25% over the next few years. 

In 2019, 2.2 million passengers passed through the airport, which reached saturation point on some busy summer days. The management expects passenger numbers to grow to 3.9 million per year by 2039.

The Non à l’Agrandissement de l’Aéroport de Lille (NADA) association has called the decision “intolerable”, saying “It is not possible to commit to reducing emissions by 45% while not reducing air traffic.” 

More than 12,500 people have signed a petition opposing the move.

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