US-Paris flights, €9 'TGV' fares, ferry drill: 8 French travel updates

Also in our travel round-up: how the French city of Orleans is experimenting with on-demand public transport

We look at this week's changes in travel
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1. Norse Atlantic offers €155 New York-France flight

Low-cost transatlantic carrier Norse Atlantic is offering one-way tickets between Paris and New York for €155.

The airline, which flies a route between Roissy (Paris Charles de Gaulle) and JFK, is offering the deal on a number of dates between September and December.

The catch is passengers are only allowed to take one piece of cabin baggage, which has to be stowed under the seat. Any additional cabin or checked luggage costs extra.

Norse Atlantic has run a route between the two cities since March 2023 and has seen three months of consecutive passenger growth across all its routes.

The airline, which has been operating since June 2022, recorded almost 60,000 passengers last month.

A return ticket (from Paris to New York) is - at the time of writing - available for €165.

Read also: Flight prices from France keep soaring. How can I find the best deals?

2. Dutch firm bids to run trains on Paris-Amsterdam route

Dutch budget rail operator QBuzz is looking to run trains on the line between Amsterdam and Paris, starting in 2027.

It has applied for permission from the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) to run up to seven trains a day between the cities, as well as a line from Amsterdam to Berlin.

The Dutch government previously stated it would seek to make the Paris-Amsterdam route part of the national rail system unless competitors wished to bid on the line.

QBuzz is the second operator to bid on the route – last week, rival operator Arriva stated its intention to run a line between Paris and the Dutch city of Groningen.

Further confirmation will have to wait, however, with the EU ruling a market analysis of the routes be commissioned to see if government aid will be needed to help keep the routes afloat.

The line is already served by Thalys and Dutch national operator Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Read more: Last train on UK-Paris link, new hybrid ferry: 8 French travel updates

3. Plans to keep Paris car-sharing lanes after 2024 Olympics

Special car-sharing, bus, and taxi-only lanes installed in Paris for next year’s Olympic Games are set to remain in the city after the closing ceremony, much to the chagrin of Parisians.

France’s transport minister, Clémént Beaune, said keeping the lanes after the end of the sporting extravaganza was part of the government's plans to make the event the most sustainable in modern sporting history.

He said maintaining the lanes is "in keeping with history" and "part of a public transport policy that encourages use of public transport and car-sharing”.

Special lanes on the A1 and A13 roads – that will be created in July and August next year whilst the games are on – are set to be kept, as the government worked in tandem with local representatives to plan them.

Temporary special lanes on the Paris ring road, however, will not be kept.

Parisians are unhappy about the lanes, however – a recent survey saw 85% of them against their installation during the event alone, without factoring their continuation after the games.

Mr Beaune added that more than 400 km of cycle lanes would be installed around Olympic venues, and these would remain in place permanently after the event’s conclusion.

Read also: Your chance to be a torchbearer for the Paris 2024 Olympics

4. Renfe offers €9 tickets in France and tickets to Spain for €19

To promote the opening of its new Lyon-Madrid line, Spain’s state-owned rail operator Renfe has announced tickets between French stations on the route will be available for just €9.

Tickets between the ten French stops on the line, including Montpellier, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Avignon, Narbonne, and Béziers, among others, will be available for the knockdown price.

Meanwhile, tickets between Narbonne or Montpellier and Spain will be €19. The cost jumps to €29 for a ticket to the country from Lyon or Marseille.

Six Spanish stations will be served, including Madrid, Barcelona, Girona, and Zaragoza.

Although the prices have been announced, the company did not state when they would go on sale, but assured the date would be made public “in the next few days”.

The new line will stop at 16 stations overall, connecting the two countries with a direct route along the Mediterranean border.

Renfe also recently announced its intention to run a Paris-Lyon train as part of its international operations.

Read also: Pet travel: Can I take my dog or cat with me on a train in France?

5. Passengers evacuated from Paris Metro tunnel after being stuck for over an hour

A number of issues on Paris’ Metro Line 4 left trains on the service stuck at a complete standstill on Wednesday (June 14) evening, forcing passengers on one train to be evacuated from a tunnel after being stuck for more than an hour.

Multiple issues descended upon the line in unison, causing a complete halt to trains running along the line.

Some passengers had to be evacuated, as trains filled to the brim were becoming too hot.

Temperatures above ground were 31C and the carriages were at capacity, with some passengers later complaining there was “little air” on the stuffed trains.

Firefighters were present at Montparnasse station to help with efforts to rescue those stuck underground, as trains on Line 13 also saw disruption during the sweltering heat.

It was not until 22:15 on Wednesday that the route returned more to normal, although some issues persisted.

An inquest into the circumstances has been opened, said Valérie Pécresse, leader of the state-owned RATP group that operates the Paris Metro.

“We must radically improve passenger service in the event of disruption," she said on Twitter after the incident.

Read also: Woman dies after getting coat caught in doors of Paris metro train

6. French city Orléans launches ‘public transport on demand’

The French city of Orléans and surrounding communes have initiated a new form of “public transport on demand” where people can book minivans to bring them to their destination.

The €3 million scheme sees around 50 minivans available to book – much as you would a taxi on a ride-sharing app – which collect passengers who request a pick-up.

An artificial intelligence algorithm then creates a route for the van to take, allowing all passengers to be dropped off at their destination.

The scheme has come into force as a replacement service for a number of discontinued bus routes around the Loiret department, which were gutted due to low ridership and expensive upkeep.

This alternative method provides a more consistent service with fewer overheads, allowing passengers to book a van to pick them up when they wish using their telephone.

The cost of a single journey (€1.70) is the same as a ticket on the department’s remaining bus routes.

Read also: French villages fight doctor shortage with medical bus

7. Firefighters conduct ferry fire drill in Brittany

A dozen firefighters from various coastal departments in France came together to fight a mock fire on a ferry earlier this week, to help prepare for any future incidents.

The Brittany Ferries ship ‘Bretagne’ was used for the simulation, which saw the firefighters tackle a mock blaze on the ship.

“When there's a fire on a boat, the first difficulty is the cramped nature of the premises,” explained Major Franck Lefeuvre.

“We’re on a steel ship, so we're going to have to engage teams in particularly narrow and overheated passageways, with very significant physiological constraints,” he added.

The firefighters also had to deal with artificial smoke and raised temperatures during the mission, which saw them rescue a number of “passengers” off of the ship.

The ferry company was “happy to lend its ship for the exercise,” said Lionel Guéguen, head of Brittany Ferries training centre.

“We carry a lot of freight… All it takes is an electrical problem, on a refrigerated truck for example... in a garage, it can go very fast, become opaque very quickly,” he added.

“Our sailors are trained and ready to intervene… but safety is our priority; we have to be able to accommodate the firefighters, as best and as quickly as possible,” he concluded.

In April 2023, a fire broke out on an Irish Ferries ship between the UK and France, which needed three English lifeboats and a French tugboat scrambled to help tackle the blaze, and back in 2019, a fire broke out on Brittany Ferries’ Pont-Aven ship.

In both cases, no passengers or crew were harmed.

Read also: Cruise ship drama as gusts of up to 135km/h cause ferry cancellations

8. French region opens local train services up to competition

Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the latest French region to open railway lines under its jurisdiction to competition, after a vote from local representatives.

It came during negotiations on the state-run operator SNCF’s control of the lines in the years 2024 – 2030, which will see a number of routes made available for other operators to bid on.

The first new operator is not expected to be in place until 2027. At least two other lines, which could include regional trains to and from Bordeaux, will also be up for grabs, with services starting in 2028.

After four hours of debate, the motion – tabled by Socialist Party president of the region Alain Rousset – was passed.

The bill faced stiff opposition from his usual governing allies of the Communist and Green parties, alongside the far-right Rassemblement National party, who all voted against what they saw as the “privatisation” of local trains.

“It will always be a public service completely controlled by the region, entrusted to operators,” said Mr Rousset.

All regional TER services must have plans to open up to competition by December 2023, according to EU legislation on rail competition.

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