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New UK-France air routes, EU checks alert: Nine France travel updates

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We look at the stories affecting travel to, from and around France this week.

New air routes announced including UK destinations 

Several airlines have announced new routes from French airports, including to British destinations. 

Low-cost airline Ryanair has announced five new winter routes from Bordeaux-Mérignac, to Barcelona, Malta, Tenerife, Santiago de Compostela and Birmingham.

This is the first time that Santiago de Compostela has been served from Bordeaux and passengers will be able to travel on Mondays and Fridays.

Flights to Birmingham will run on Thursdays and Sundays. This winter schedule will last until the end of March. 

Ryanair will also be launching a new link between Leeds-Bradford and Perpignan, which will run between June 1 and October 26 on Mondays and Thursdays.

The Irish airline will be the only one operating this route. 

Air France has also announced that it will be bringing back its Paris-Charles de Gaulle – Hong Kong route from January 9, 2023. 

This service was suspended due to the Covid pandemic, but will now return with three flights a week, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. 

EU countries predict long waiting times with new border checks

EU member states are warning of significantly increased waiting times for travellers when the bloc’s Entry/Exit System (EES) is introduced next year, according to comments compiled by the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU. 

This comes as French airports also warn that the implementation of the system will be “complicated” and result in longer queues at border control for non-EU arrivals.

Read also: French airports worried about extra waiting due to EU Entry/Exit plan

Read also: New EU border checks for entry to France: plans at standstill in UK

EES, which is set to come into effect in May 2023, will record at the border their name, type of travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and date of place of entry and exit, automatically calculating the amount of time they are permitted to stay in the Schengen area.

The collection of biometric data will only happen on the first occasion that someone enters the EU (after the new system launches). The information will then be saved for three years. Officials have suggested that distinguishing between those who need to record their data and those who do not – including EU citizens and permanent residents – may cause confusion and delays.

In addition, from the end of next year, when a person travels to, for example, France from outside the EU, they will need to apply for prior entry authorisation through Etias via an online form. Etias will then check their details against EU information systems. 

This will cost €7 for authorisation lasting three years, with under-18s and the over-70s exempt from paying.

EU member states’ feedback on EES system tests run so far suggest that border processing times will increase. Germany, for example, warns that some of its airports will need to find ways to increase their immigration check capacity.

Austria has said that waiting times will double when the biometric system comes into force.

The Slovenian authorities, meanwhile, have predicted that the introduction of EES will mean that passport checks take four times longer than they do now. 

EU countries have, however, largely stated that they are planning to automate border controls by using e-gates, which should speed up the process somewhat.

Single sail and rail ticket deal for young Ireland-France passengers 

Young people will be able to travel to France from Ireland on a single sail and rail ticket from next summer, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said. 

In this way, young passengers would be able to go from Dublin to Paris on one ticket on trains and ferries. 

“Our officials have been working on that and we’ve a very ambitious target of hoping to do it next summer, but we have to work hard to make systems work in relation to that. That is a sustainable way of travel into the future, it dovetails into the climate agenda,” Mr Martin said.

The ages at which people will be able to benefit from this scheme have not yet been confirmed.

TGV fares to rise by 5% but some offers to be retained 

TGV high-speed train ticket prices will increase by 5% on average from January 10, 2023, because of the increasing cost of energy, French rail operator SNCF has announced.

This rise will affect last-minute tickets, the most in-demand routes and business journeys.

Intercités tickets for first class, Liberté, business and Max actif subscription fares will also be 5% more expensive if the state votes in favour of this change. 

However, SNCF Voyageurs is also putting in place a ‘bouclier tarifaire’ (price cap) on the cheapest TGV Inoui and Ouigo tickets, which will not be included in the price rises. 

The capped prices which are guaranteed for people who hold a carte Avantage or a Max jeunes or Max senior subscription will not increase either.

“We are facing a significant rise in our costs for 2023, of around 13%, most notably as a result of the rising cost of energy,” SNCF Voyageurs CEO Christophe Fanichet said. 

He added that the operator will absorb half of these increased costs, which equates to hundreds of millions of euros, to “protect buying power” and “maintain the attractiveness of train travel”. 

“Our objective is that more vulnerable groups and young people are protected” from price increases, he said. 

From February 1, the rules surrounding ticket exchanges and refunds will also change. From that date, exchanging a ticket will cost €19 from one week before departure.

Alain Krakovitch, director of TGV Intercités has said that the objective of this new rule “is to free up places early enough that other customers can buy them.” 

The relaxation of the exchange and refund rules during the Covid crisis – when it was free to change one’s tickets up to three days before the journey – led to a surge in the number of trains departing with a large number of empty seats, SNCF Voyageurs has said.

This comes as a new study reveals that SNCF costs French taxpayers €18.5billion each year, or €276 per resident. This represents a 10.8% increase in taxpayer funding since 2020.

40,000 extra tickets for trains to Strasbourg Christmas market 

SNCF has released 40,000 additional tickets for passengers wishing to travel to Strasbourg for the city’s famous Christmas markets, which open today (November 25) and will last until December 24. 

Some 15,000 extra tickets will be available from Paris, and 25,000 from Lyon, Nantes, Marseille and Bordeaux collectively. 

This represents a 15% increase in the number of tickets available, with many of the extra seats falling on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 

Train comes off rails in Occitanie, services suspended 

An incident in which two wagons of a freight train were derailed at Carcassonne has led to the suspension of all trains between Narbonne and Castelnaudary until Saturday at the earliest (November 26).

The two cars broke away from the other 26 being transported by the train around Trèbes, and when the train braked at Carcassonne station it hit the platform and caused considerable damage. 

It is not yet known how the accident occurred but there is no suspicion of foul play.

Rail replacement bus services have been put in place for passengers needing to travel between Narbonne and Castelnaudary, on Intercités trains between Marseille and Bordeaux and TGVs between Toulouse and Lyon.

Lyon métro line B project reaches important milestone 

Work on an extension to Lyon’s métro line B between Gare d’Oulins and Hôpital Lyon Sud is to reach a key milestone on Monday (November 28), with the welding of the final stretch of the track. 

The extension project began in 2018, and the new section of the line is set to be in operation by the end of next year. 

After the tracks are completed, engineers will need to install signalling and security devices to guide the automatic trains, a task which will take several months. 

This will be followed by trial runs on the line in spring 2023, and a public launch later in the year.

Some 180,000 people travel on line B each day. This new extension will be 2.4km long and will have cost nearly €400million by the time it is finished.

100 new self-service bag drop machines at Paris airports 

Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports are to install more than 100 new self-service bag drop machines over the coming months, in order to respond to the surge in passenger demand following the Covid crisis.

These new machines will join the 360 already in operation, and will mean that passengers will be able to drop their bags using self-service at more than half of check-in desks. 

Aéroports de Paris has said that this will “reduce queues and improve the performance of the airports”. 

A self-service bag drop normally takes 37 seconds to complete on average. 

How much will a Navigo pass cost from 2023? 

The monthly cost of Navigo passes for the Paris transport network is set to increase in 2023, the president of the Ile-de-France region Valérie Pécresse has said. 

The exact price rise has not yet been confirmed, but BFMTV reports that the cost could rise to €80.80 or to €90. The monthly rate is currently €75.20.

To keep the increase as low as possible, Ile-de-France Mobilités needs greater funding from local authorities, and Ms Pécresse has said that the region’s communes have agreed to put their contributions up by 7.5%. Ms Pécresse has also called on the state to boost its funding. 

An announcement on the final price is to be confirmed on December 7, with assurances already made that the price will not rise as high as €100. 

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