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UK-France ferries boost, new flights: Eight France travel updates

We also look at a financial incentive to encourage drivers to avoid rush hour, resident complaints over night flights, the success of Italy’s rail operator in France and more

We look at the stories affecting journeys to, from and around France this week Pic: Mystic Stock Photography / M G White / olrat / nbnserge / Shutterstock

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

One major story this week relates to the French ticket inspector strikes affecting Christmas weekend journeys across the country. 

Today (December 23), one in every three scheduled trains is cancelled on average, while on Saturday and Sunday it will be two in five. 

Unions have now accepted an offer relating to pay, working conditions and career progression from SNCF, which means that the strike should not continue next weekend (December 31-January 1).

Read more: French rail strike: unions lift their New Year’s weekend strike notice

Read more: France rail strikes: Two in five TGV trains cancelled this weekend

Brittany Ferries to resume Portsmouth-Le Havre services 

Brittany Ferries has announced that it will reopen Portsmouth-Le Havre crossings for car and foot passengers from March 1, 2023. 

The firm has only served this route for freight since the Covid crisis began, but now individuals can buy tickets for the crossing, which will be carried out by the Cotentin ship.

Crossings will run from Sunday to Thursday, leaving Le Havre at 17:30 and arriving in Portsmouth at 22:00. The return journey will begin at 23:30 and arrive at Le Havre at 08:00.

Cotentin can accommodate 114 passengers in cabins and 30 dogs in cars. 

Cotentin will also be transporting passengers from Le Havre to the Irish port of Rosslare, departing from France on Saturdays at 19:00 and returning at 17:45 on Sundays.

“This is excellent news for travellers and the city of Portsmouth,” Brittany Ferries marketing and sales manager Paul Acheson said.

UK Border Force strike begins today  

Some 1,000 UK Border Force officials have begun a strike over pay pensions and job security today (December 23), which will run until December 26 at 07:00 and then again from December 28 until December 31 at 07:00. 

This industry action is affecting Heathrow (Terminals 2-5), Gatwick, Glasgow, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester airports, as well as the Port of Newhaven. 

Read more: UK Border Force to strike for eight days over Christmas

The Home Office and Border Force have trained military personnel, civil servants and volunteers to check the passports of people arriving at these transport terminals and reduce the waiting times for passengers. 

“While the government is taking action to minimise disruption, travellers due to arrive in the UK over the Christmas period are warned to expect delays and disruption over the strike action affecting border control,” the Home Office has said.

“Passengers should be prepared for longer wait times and should check with their travel agents, tour operators and airlines/carriers about possible disruptions to their journey prior to travelling.

“Our eGates will continue to function as per normal and we encourage all those eligible to use them to do so, as the quickest and most efficient way to pass through border control.”

However, Gatwick and Heathrow passengers have reported minimal disruption so far today.

This comes as Air France cabin crew also begin strike action set to run up to January 2. However, the airline has stated that all scheduled flights will run as normal today and tomorrow, with forecasts for the coming days being published 24 hours in advance. 

Read more: Air France promises that all flights will run despite strike

Read also: Privatised Eurostar security will raise terror risk, says French union

Lyon Airport to open seven new routes 

In 2023 it will be possible to fly to seven new destinations from Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport. 

The new routes are: 

  • Amman (Jordan) with Jordanian Airlines 

  • Hurghada (Egypt) with Transavia 

  • Stockholm (Sweden) with Transavia 

  • Tirana (Albania) with Wizzair 

  • Krakow (Poland) with Wizzair 

  • Milan (Italy) with Twinjet

  • Belgrade (Serbia) with Air Serbia 

Other airlines are also increasing flight frequency to destinations already served by the airport. EasyJet, for example, will be flying to Funchal (Madeira) from September, Wizzair will be going to Rome and Transavia to Dakar (Senegal), Tenerife, Istanbul and Las Palmas (Gran Canaria).

Lyon Airport is running flights to 100 different destinations this winter, 90% of its 2019 offer. 

Emirates will also start offering a daily flight to Dubai once again from February, and EasyJet will open a Malaga route from June.

From January, Wizzair will link Lyon up to Gatwick four times a week. 

This comes as British Airways opens flights every Saturday from December 24 until April 15 between Edinburgh and Chambéry-Savoie-Mont-Blanc. 

Heavy Christmas traffic around Ile-de-France today

Today will bring “very difficult” conditions for drivers trying to get out of Ile-de-France for the Christmas weekend, national forecaster Bison Futé has warned. 

Congestion is expected to reach its peak between 15:00 and 18:00 today. People are advised to avoid the A10 around the Saint-Arnoult toll between 10:00 and 15:00.

Traffic conditions are expected to be normal across the rest of France.

On December 26, conditions will again be “difficult” in terms of departures and return journeys, as people travel back from Christmas visits.

People are advised to get out of Ile-de-France before 10:00 if leaving and to avoid the A10, A6 and A13. Those driving back into Ile-de-France should aim to get there before 14:00.

Further details can be found on the Bison Futé website.

Grand Paris metro system will miss 2030 completion target

The Grand Paris Express rapid transit project will not be finished in 2030 as originally planned, the Société du Grand Paris (SGP) has said. 

The organisation’s president, Jean-François Monteils, has told AFP that there will “probably” be a delay of a “few months”. 

The SGP is charged with building 200km of automatic metro tracks, with four new lines – numbered 15 to 18 – set to be opened, and the line 14 extended.

The new system will form a circular network, with several branches linking up Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, the Saclay scientific facility and Seine-Saint-Denis to the centre of Paris.

Each line is expected to be launched at different dates, and the majority of the system is now expected to begin opening in 2031.

However, the line 14 extension is still “perfectly on time” and should be ready for the Olympic Games in 2024. The line will eventually reach Saint-Denis Pleyel in the north and Orly Airport in the south. 

Financial incentive to avoid driving at rush hour in north France

The city of Lille has voted in favour of an ‘écobonus’ financial incentive aimed at encouraging drivers to avoid certain roads at rush hour. 

Drivers will be able to earn up to €80 a month through a ‘péage positif’ (positive toll) or ‘péage inversé’ if they help to reduce the bottlenecks that develop on the A1 and A23. 

The scheme will be introduced in spring 2023, and drivers will be eligible for the payment if they agree not to drive alone in their cars – instead car sharing or opting for public transport – at peak times on those roads.

Each solo journey avoided – and declared through an app – will result in a €2 payment. Automatic number plate recognition will be put in place on the participating roads to verify people’s claims. 

Read more: Northern French city to offer cash bonuses for carsharing on motorways

Read also: Six changes for drivers in France in 2023

The city region council hopes that this scheme will reduce the number of cars on the A1 by 750 (of a current total of 12,000) at morning peak times. 

The scheme will be trialled for three years and is expected to cost around €9million.

Green councillors voted against the measure, calling it a “usine à gaz” (a convoluted project) costing a lot of money for a “highly uncertain result” that will have “no effect on greenhouse gas emissions or pollution”

“The people who are going to benefit from this ‘écobonus’ can simply delay their car journey to an off-peak time,” and therefore still create the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions, Europe Écologie - Les Verts councillor Pauline Ségard said.

Read also: ‘Usine à gaz’: this French phrase describes a big, complicated system

Bordeaux the only major airport not to limit night flights 

Bordeaux-Mérignac is the only major airport in France to have not imposed limits on night-time take-offs and landings, despite campaigns by local residents. 

Activity continues at the airport at night, causing noise pollution for people living in the nearby communes of Haillan and Eysines, who are pushing for a ban on night flights.

In its 2022 report, the Autorité de contrôle des nuisances aéroportuaires (Acnusa) listed the French airports with nighttime restrictions, which includes Beauvais, Orly, Nantes, Mulhouse and Toussus-le-Noble.

All of these airports have committed to reducing noise pollution between midnight and 06:00.

Bordeaux Airport has, however, stated in a new plan for making its activities more sustainable that it will “commit to reducing night flights by putting in place an increasingly graded tariff for airlines, favouring daytime flights.” 

Simon Dreschel, the director of Bordeaux Airport, has said that banning night flights does not depend on his organisation but on the state and that: “We have committed to reducing nighttime flights but we cannot stop them completely.” 

Trenitalia Paris-Lyon services have pushed prices down 

Since Italian rail operator Trenitalia launched Paris-Lyon and Paris-Milan services in December 2021, ticket prices have fallen and reservations increased. 

Trainline stated that prices have dropped by 8% from an average of €46 in the last quarter of 2021 to €42 in the last quarter of 2022 on the Paris-Lyon route. 

On the Paris-Milan route, prices came down by 17%, from €72 to €65 on average.

Trainline also noted that on the lines where SNCF is still without competition, fares have risen. 

The Paris-Lille route, for example, went up in price by 14%. 

Trainline stated: “It shows that the arrival of competition a year ago is indeed a lever to increase the purchasing power of the French.” 

Reservations through Trainline have also increased on the Paris-Lyon and Paris-Milan routes, by 172% and 291% respectively.

Related articles 

Christmas strikes, Paris-Madrid trains: 10 France travel updates

French Christmas rail strikes: 200% ticket refunds for cancellations

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