September is a critical month in France, as the country begins La Rentrée - the big return to school, work, and beyond. We list some of the key changes happening next month.
The pensions reform comes into force
France’s highly-controversial pensions reform is set to come into force from September 1, having been adopted by parliament five months ago.
It begins the gradual increase of the minimum pension age from 62 to 64 by 2030. This will begin with 62 years and three months for the 1961 generation. The minimum working time required to qualify for a full pension will increase to 43 years. New rules will also apply to careers officially recognised as ‘long’ as well as to those combining a pension with continuing to do some work.
Also from September 1, the minimum pension for a complete career will rise to start at €848 per month. Most of the – previously numerous – ‘special pension regimes’ have now been ended and a boost for certain mothers will aim to avoid negative effects from the reform, the government has said.
Work Minister Olivier Dussopt said in a statement: “These decrees help to firm up even more our aim that the reform, which will be deployed from September 1, should be fair and balanced.”
Fall in gas prices
Gas prices are expected to fall from September 1, after the French energy regulation commission (CRE) published updated benchmark prices.
These benchmarks are intended to guide suppliers and consumers after regulated gas prices ended in July.
For September, the CRE suggested that the price for cooking and hot water contracts should be on average €0.10512/kWh for cooking and hot water, down from €0.10700 in August. For heating contracts, it recommended €0.08218/kWh, down from €0.08406 in August.
These prices include tax but not subscription costs.
Anyone who is signed up to a contract that is indexed on the CRE’s benchmark price will benefit.
High-speed Spain-France trains to begin
Spanish train operator Renfe is to begin its high-speed daily AVE service from Lyon to Barcelona from September, with the Marseille-Barcelona-Madrid services set to follow in October.
The service will begin on September 4. The direct journey will take five hours.
Tickets for the new route first went on sale on July 13.
The AVE (high-speed) service between Barcelona and Lyon will connect Lyon Part Dieu to Valence TGV, Nîmes, Montpellier-Saint-Roch, Béziers, Narbonne, Perpignan, Figueres Vilafant, Girona, and Barcelona Sants.
Services will leave Lyon at 14:30, and from Barcelona at 08:22.
The Marseille service continuing to Madrid will add Avignon-TGV, Aix-en-Provence TGV, Marseille Saint-Charles, Guadalajara Yebes, Zaragoza Delicias, and Camp de Tarragona to the route.
Motorway repairs to begin on problem motorway
Roadworks are to begin on the A68 motorway in Tarn from September, after months of issues and delays on the problematic road.
For three months (until December 1), only the right-hand lane will be open for a stretch of 3km, roads authority DIR Sud-Ouest stated on August 17. It thanked “drivers for their understanding for the disruption caused by this work”.
The work will take place on the A68 motorway (which links Albi, Tarn to Toulouse, Haute-Garonne) between exit 7 at Rabastens and exit 8 at Lisles-sur-Tarn. It will cost more than €700,000.
It comes after this stretch of road has had problems for months; in 2022, France 3 estimated that traffic on the A68 had been disrupted for 436 days over the previous seven years (an average of 62 days every year).
Mont Blanc tunnel to close for repair
The Mont Blanc tunnel is set to close from September 4 until December 18 for major repairs to the structure and safety systems. It is also scheduled to close periodically next year for continued work.
This is the first time that the tunnel will undergo in-depth repairs since it was built six decades ago, and part of the work is a test project to see if these repair methods are adequate.
The 2023 work will focus on a 600m section, while the 2024 work is set to cover a further 640m.
The tunnel will need to be closed for the work as it involves safety system cables which cannot be dismantled and re-installed every day. The project will also focus on waterproofing.
Tunnel operator Tmb-Geie has published a map of alternative routes between France, Switzerland, and Italy. The closures have been scheduled for autumn because traffic through the tunnel during these latter month
of the year is typically lower than at other times of the year.
Schools are set to change several elements of their programme from September.
The changes were first signed off by former Education Minister Pap Ndiaye, and are being implemented by the new minister Gabriel Attal, who took up the post on July 20.
- New educational priorities, including extra maths teaching; more reading, writing, grammar and spelling practice; and a new approach in sixième (the first year of secondary school) focusing on ‘deeper learning’
- More artistic and cultural teaching and access. The ‘pass Culture’ will be extended to the classes of sixième and cinquième, to a value of €25 per pupil per year
- New elections for parent-teacher associations, using a new electronic voting system
- Reforms at lycées professionnels, to help train students to enter the workplace more easily, and improved pay levels for paid internships