New air routes, train ticket sale, ferry deal: 8 French travel updates

We also look at a billion-euro upgrade to France’s train network and a city’s plans to make public transport free for some drivers

We look at the news affecting travel to, from and around France this week
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This week we reported on summer and Olympic train tickets going on sale, how the coming changes to the EU border will affect British residents in France, and that an EU vote could pave the way for mega trucks on French roads.

Here are other travel updates affecting France.

Road travel updates

Lyon to offer three months of free public transport for giving up your car

The city of Lyon is to give three months’ worth of free public transport – or a year’s free use of the Velo’v city bikes – to drivers of the most polluting cars who agree to ditch their vehicles.

Drivers of cars that have a Crit’Air 4 or 5 rating, or are unclassified, are eligible for the scheme.

Crit’Air certificates indicate the level of pollution a vehicle produces. Categories 4 and 5 are the worst polluting, while vehicles made before 1996 are deemed such big polluters that they are unclassified.

Read more: A guide to Crit’Air stickers in France

The €2million Découverte Mobilités scheme will be available to all Greater Lyon residents from April 2. Its aim is to encourage people to use their cars less as the city expands its low-emissions zones.

People will be able to subscribe to a service including the TLC public transport network, car sharing, carpooling and city bikes, as long as they are not already signed up.

Rail travel updates

Ouigo opens booking for summer tickets

Low-cost TGV operator Ouigo opened reservations for summer tickets on March 13 with prices starting at €16 for adults and €8 for under 12s. Children under 4 travel for free.

Ouigo also offers a flexible reservation service for people unsure of exactly when they will be able to travel. This service, called Ouigoflex, allows travellers to book a train by paying an an advance payment of €9, they can then swap this ticket for another - or keep it - by paying the remaining balance (€7 for an adult ticket)

Read more: Ways to save money on train travel in France

France’s rail network to get €1.8 billion upgrade

Rail operator SNCF has awarded one of its largest contracts worth €1.8 billion to upgrade France’s rail network over the next seven years.

The company wants to embark on “massive track renewals” on conventional lines and a renewal of points and ballast on high-speed lines, it said in a statement.

With an average age of 30 years, France’s rail network is due an upgrade. The government has committed to increasing its investment to €1.5billion a year for regeneration and modernisation, SNCF said.

The company plans to invest €3.2 billion in 2024 to improve ageing infrastructure, including more than 1,000km of track.

Read more: New EU border checks: Eurostar wants backup plan in case of chaos

SNCF union announces plans to strike in May

The Sud-Rail rail workers’ union has given strike notice for the period between April 30 and May 31 amid ongoing negotiations for improved retirement benefits.

"We have been reasonable so far, but if the management keeps taking advantage of us we really will make things difficult for them and cause some chaos,” one union member told RMC

The month of May is particularly busy for the SNCF as there are four bank holidays.

However, strike action is by no means certain. The union has a legal obligation to declare its plans to strike and it can then decide whether to do so or not. The union can withdraw this notice by April 10, or could leave it unused or, alternatively, find that it has little traction among workers.

The SNCF was hit by a major strike by ticket inspectors during the half term holidays that saw up to half of TGV cancelled in some areas.

Government scraps plan for unlimited rail ticket

A plan that previously garnered the support of President Macron and former Transport Minister Clément Beaune to offer an ‘unlimited rail pass’ for €49 a month that would allow travel on most trains across the country has been shelved, reports Les Echos.

The idea, inspired by similar tickets in Germany and Austria, proved too expensive as the government looks to make savings to its budget. It also failed to win great support in France’s regions, the media report.

Current Transport Minister Patrice Vergriete has instead suggested the idea of a ticket for young people valid during the summer that would be valid on regional and inter-city trains and allow them to explore “all the regions of our beautiful country”. He said he will propose the plan to the president of the Association of Regions of France.

Ferry travel updates

Ireland to France offer from Stena Line

Ferry company Stena Line is offering short breaks on its Rosslare to Cherbourg route this spring or autumn from €295 (£270) return for a car and two people, staying in a cabin.

The deal is valid for mid-week travel only, up until May 26 and between September 9 and November 29.

Read more: How will new border checks affect British residents of France?

Air travel updates

EasyJet announces new destinations from Nice

EasyJet has announced four new international routes from Nice Côte d'Azur Airport.

The budget airline will fly to Agadir, Athens, Prague and Malta.

Flights to Agadir, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, will take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from September 3.

Flights to the Greek capital Athens will run on Tuesdays and Saturdays for the summer season from May 28.

Malta flights will operate on Thursdays and Sundays from June 27, while flights to the Czech capital of Prague will be on Thursdays and Sundays from October 10.

Air France gives eco-friendly boost to flying during Olympics

Air France has announced it will match customer donations to sustainable aviation fuel during the Paris Olympics this summer in a bid to promote more environmentally-friendly travel.

The airline, an official partner of the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, said the offer will be valid for all flights between July 18 and September 9 to destinations in mainland France and French Polynesia.

Since 2022, customers have been able to contribute to the purchase of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) when buying Air France flights on the company’s website or app.

Read more

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Where in France is it cheapest to repair a car?

Watch: French farmers clash with police and dump manure in Bordeaux