Farmer roadblocks intensify, holiday traffic: 5 France travel updates

We also look at new luggage rules for trains and proposed compensation for people affected by recent rail strikes

Clockwise from top-left: SNCF compensates passengers for ticket inspector strike, more warnings of dover queues, farmers prepare for more protests, busy weekend traffic forecast
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This week in travel news we have covered the problems UK drivers face hiring vehicles at French supermarkets, the debate on obligatory medical tests for European drivers and how the French government’s electric car schemes are changing.

Below we look at other changes related to travel and France.

Road travel updates:

Busy weekend traffic forecast

Pic: Bison Futé

Motorway traffic is expected to be particularly busy on Saturday (February 24) as many families set off for their half-term holidays - and others return.

This is the first weekend of half-term when all three of France’s school zones are on holiday.

In particular, it is the last weekend of the holidays for Zone C (Créteil, Montpellier, Paris, Toulouse and Versailles) and the first weekend for Zone B (Aix-Marseille, Amiens, Lille, Nancy-Metz, Nantes, Nice, Normandie (Caen, Rouen), Orléans-Tours, Reims, Rennes and Strasbourg).

France’s official traffic monitoring website, Bison Futé, says that drivers should anticipate heavy southbound traffic around the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region headed towards the mountain resorts.

In particular, the A40 and A43 are expected to be heavily congested all day long.

In the Paris region, heavy traffic is forecast on the A6 from early morning.

Northbound, traffic will also be particularly busy on the A6 and on the access roads into Paris from early afternoon to evening.

The coach industry warns of delays due to Entry/Exit system

A major UK coach company has added its voice to the chorus of concerns about the rollout of the EU’s new border control checks scheduled to launch in October.

Acklams Coaches said it had “grave concerns” about potential delays and that the Entry/Exit system (EES) “could discourage tourism and negatively affect the entire coach industry.”

“The system would not be capable of processing current car and coach volumes, which are still lower than before (and recovering from) the pandemic.”

It made the comments in a written testimony to the European Scrutiny Committee.

The EES involves the digitised logging of data on travel in and out of the Schengen area by non-EU citizens. French residency card and visa holders will be exempt but might be caught up in queues.

EES will automate the checking of non-EU citizens compliance with the EU’s 90/180-days rule (ie. not spending more than 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen area without a visa) among other issues.

Concerns on both sides of the Channel revolve around the launch when all users must have photographs taken and fingerprints scanned.

Read more: Alarm grows over new digital checks at UK/France borders from autumn

Farmers step up protests for Paris Agriculture Show

Farmers are resuming their protests around the country to put pressure on the government as the Paris International Agricultural Show opens on Saturday (February 24).

Several demonstrations are expected in Paris on Saturday as many farmers travel to the capital for the show, while other protests are already ongoing around the country.

Roadblocks are currently present on:

  • The A62 motorway in both directions between Valence d’Agen and Montauban (Tarn-et-Garonne)
  • The A4 motorway - partially blocked at Charenton (Val-de-Marne)
  • The N124 between the roundabouts at Lafourcade in Gimont and Saint-Cricq in Auch (Gers).
  • Paris ring roads with tractors from members of the Coordination Rurale farmers’ union which has begun rolling barricades

Rail travel updates:

SNCF introduces new rules - and fines - for baggage size

New rules on luggage size have been announced by the SNCF for its TGV Inoui, TGV OUIGO and Intercités trains. The rules vary according to the train type.

On TGV Inoui and Intercités trains each passenger is allowed (dimensions in cm):

  • Two bags of 70 x 90 x 50
  • Hand luggage of 40 x 30 x 15
  • Pushchairs and scooters of 130 x 90
  • A folded bicycle (€10 fee for non-folded bicycles)
    • Passengers with a non-foldable bicycle are only allowed to take one piece of luggage
  • Musical instruments in a hard case of 130 x 90
  • Skis in a bag

On TGV OUIGO trains each passenger is allowed:

  • One bag of 55 x 35 x 25
  • Hand luggage of 36 x 27 x 15

Passengers who buy OUIGO Plus tickets are permitted to bring an oversize bag or one extra bag. They can also pay €5 for an extra luggage option to cover:

  • Skis in a bag
  • Musical instruments in a hard case of 130 x 90
  • Sporting equipment of 130 x 90.

All of these pieces of luggage on TGV Inoui, TGV OUIGO and Intercités trains must be labelled with the passenger’s name.

Passengers who do not respect the new rules could face a fine of €50 to €150, however the SNCF says that there will be an adaptation period until September 15, during which fines are unlikely to be applied.

SNCF to offer 50% discount to people affected by strike

People affected by the mass cancellations on the weekend of February 17 are to be offered a 50% reduction on their next train tickets.

Affected passengers will receive the reduction by email or text message, irrespective of whether they found a replacement train or not, the SNCF has announced..

“We are still working on it,” SNCF Voyageurs told Le Parisien. “Everyone will receive the reduction within a month”

People who receive the discount code will have 30 days to use it to book a trip.

OUIGO passengers will receive a voucher for 50% of the value of their cancelled ticket.

The French Federation of Passengers' Associations said that the offer was unsatisfactory.

“The devil is in the details,” federation president Michel Quidort told Le Parisien. “Sales for the summer holidays have not opened yet and many passengers have no use for a train ticket now, so they might end up never using this discount”.

The strike by ticket inspectors, which caused half of TGVs to be cancelled last week, is still ongoing, however the SNCF says it does not expect significant disruption this weekend.