Ports prepare for new border checks and 5 other France travel updates

Our round-up also looks at new Ryanair flights, plans for new UK-France ferry service, icy motorway conditions and TGV-M delays

Clockwise from top left: DFDS to sail to Rosyth, the Cherbourg ferry port, biometric border controls and a new Ryanair flight from Beauvais airport
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You might have seen our recent articles on Eurostar’s €39 flash sale, France’s new urban speed cameras and the rising price of parking for SUVs in Paris. Below are other updates involving travel to and from France.

Ferry travel updates:

French ports prepare biometric border controls for the Entry/Exit system

Biometric border controls are set to begin at French ports from October 2024 as the EU’s new Entry/Exit System (EES) is introduced.

The EES will track the arrivals and departures of non-EU visitors to the Schengen area. In theory it should streamline the process for passengers to enter France by using biometric data.

Read more: New European Entry/Exit System: 9 key things to know in advance

The system is currently scheduled to start on October 6. However, the roll-out of the new EES has already been pushed back several times and still requires significant work before it is ready.

The much-delayed introduction of the EES has been compounded by fears of long-delays processing the data of the millions of passengers.

British travel association ABTA told Euronews in May 2023 that there was “widespread concern” that the EES would “add minutes” to the border checks for each passenger rather than streamlining the process.

While the port of Calais has been preparing for several years, running trials of the new system since 2022, smaller ports are still scrambling to adapt their facilities.

The port of Cherbourg, which is a base for Brittany Ferries’ routes to Portsmouth and Poole, has seen major renovation work since August as it prepares separate queues for traffic from the UK and Ireland as well as biometric customs kiosks.

“It’s an enormous project and we can’t back out of it,” Port director general Frédéric Pingret-Kerjean told Ouest France. “Until now, nobody was ready”.

The new system also concerns UK ports. In Dover, port authorities have invested £2million and are developing an app to help passengers provide their details before their arrival.

Read more: Port of Dover extension could ease new checks on UK-France crossings

Ferry route between France and Scotland looks set to reopen

DFDS is expected to reopen its route between Dunkirk and Rosyth this spring.

The route was closed to passengers in 2010, then closed to freight in 2018 after a fire onboard.

MP Douglas Chapman (Dunfermline and West Fife) met with representatives of DFDS and the port of Dunkirk in Rosyth last November to discuss the plans.

"The economic, environmental and connectivity benefits… could be transformational for Scotland, and we’re delighted our French counterparts agree.”

DFDS vice-president Kasper Moos told The Courierthat he “firmly” believes that the route can operate sustainably with one vessel sailing three return trips a week.

“For this to happen there remain some obstacles to be overcome with port infrastructure, border force and, not least, start-up funding.”

Air travel updates:

New Ryanair route to UK from Paris Beauvais airport

Ryanair is opening a route between Birmingham and Paris Beauvais (Oise) from March 31.

The low-cost airline already operates 67 routes from Beauvais airport, including flights to Leeds, Manchester, and Dublin.

While it is far smaller than Paris Charles de Gaulle or Orly, Paris Beauvais airport is a major hub for a number of low cost airlines.

However, despite its name, the Paris-Beauvais is actually over 100 km from Paris.

Ryanair is also set to begin flights from Bordeaux to Athens on April 4.

Driving updates:

Weather alert for motorway travel due to ice and snow

Several motorways are still on alert due to the cold weather, with speed restrictions in place for lorries.

In the Rhone valley, which is particularly affected by the icy conditions, Vinci Autoroutes have warned that lorries may be banned from driving on the A72 and A89 should conditions deteriorate.

The current cold spell is expected to reach its peak on Saturday.

Drivers are advised to tune in to the Vinci Autoroutes alerts on radio 107.7 to stay up-to-date.

Read more: How to see road updates in France and tips for driving in snow and ice

Rail travel updates:

Rail travel between Paris and Normandy set for many weeks of disruption

Up to 21 weeks of disruption is expected on the Paris-Caen-Cherbourg, Paris-Rouen-le Havre and Paris Granville routes.

The disruption is largely due to renovation work on one of France’s oldest rail tunnels, the 181-year-old Rolleboise tunnel near Bonnières (Yvelines).

Weekend trains will be replaced by buses for the duration of the work, starting from January 20.

The work is expected to last until the end of June.

New TGV hit by delivery delays

The new TGV-M will not enter service this year due to delays.

The SNCF has ordered 115 of the faster, more efficient and more spacious TGV-Ms at a cost of €3.5Billion to upgrade its current fleet of TGVs, many of which are now 30 years old.

The trains developed by Alstom, which were initially scheduled for delivery in time to transport passengers to the Olympic Games, are now expected to enter service in 2025.

The delay is reportedly due to the supply of the trains’ energy storage unit, developed by TotalEnergy subsidiary Saft.