IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover

An art project sees Paris's RER trains transformed into replicas of the Palace of Versailles, so you can travel (almost) like a king.

IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
Feel like a king on the Versailles-inspired commuter train. Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

The Palace of Versaille is decadent, luxurious, beautiful, colourful and a highlight of many people's visits to Paris.

The RER, the city's commuter train line, is, well, the complete opposite.

But that's about to change, as five trains on the RER C line are set to get a royal makeover and be transformed into different parts of the grounds and gardens of the palace.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

To complete the transformation, the AdKeys agency painstakingly apply a thin plastic film to the carriages, turning them into the spitting image of the palace – a process that rail operator SNCF says was like “a delicate puzzle”.

Different carriages recreate the gardens, fountains or interiors, including details such as flowers, books and ceiling panels. The trains will hit the tracks from Wednesday, May 25th.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

It's all part of Art in Transit, an annual project by rail company SNCF to beautify its trains. Previous years have seen the trains recreate Impressionist paintings and tourist favourite Musee d'Orsay, but this year they have taken inspiration from the “richness” of Versailles.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

The RER C takes passengers from central Paris to the Palace of Versailles, taking in numerous other tourist destinations along the way – in fact, tourists make up ten percent of its passengers.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

SNCF said the aim of Art in Transit was to “make the conditions more pleasant for tourists and daily commuters” and it is also an innovative way of promoting a key heritage site. So you'll be able to feel  like a king as you ride the train – if you can ignore the fact that you're crammed into a carriage with dozens of strangers.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

Over seven million people visit the palace – France’s third most visited tourist site – every year, which was the principal residence of French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. In 2003, a huge restoration project was launched, which is scheduled to continue until 2020.

Photo: Maxime Huriez/SNCF

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Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.