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ENVIRONMENT

Map: The towns in France where you can travel around for free

Paris might be considering making public transport free but did you know a growing number of French towns have already taken the radical step. Here's a map of where in France you can travel without coughing up the cash.

Map: The towns in France where you can travel around for free
Photo: AFP
While Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is seriously examining whether it would be possible to make public transport free, but other towns across France, albeit far small than the capital have already made the move.
 
The seaside town of Dunkirk in northern France, whose network extends to 200,000 people, is the latest town to announce plans to make travelling around on public transport completely free.
 
After making bus tickets free at the weekends in 2015, Mayor of Dunkirk Patrick Vergriete called this next step — set to happen September 2018 — will be nothing short of a transport “revolution”. 
 
 
“Not only are we redistributing spending power,” he told Le Parisien. “But we are getting rid of inequalities by providing better access to jobs and leisure facilities.”
 
Last summer Niort in western France became the 15th town in France to introduce completely free public transport (see map below for full list) in a bid to crack down on traffic problems and boost the local economy.
 
 
Photo: AFP
 
There are also nine other French towns offering partially free public travel, with users paying only on certain days or in certain areas.  
 
These are Compiègne (which started the ball rolling way back in 1975!), Neuves-Maisons in eastern France, Carhaix in the north west, Vitre in the west, Gap in the east, Manosque and Aubagne in the south east, as well as Libourne and Muret in the south west. 
 
Supporters say the scheme encourages people to use public transport instead of cars and boosts economic activity in town centres
 
And a study showed that once Dunkirk made it free to travel by bus on weekends, the number of users increased by an average of 5,000 users a day, with families, young people and the elderly benefiting the most.
 
There is also the argument that it provides a car-free solution for the future.
 
And this is no laughing matter for local authorities, with the French government promising in October to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040 and ban them in Paris by 2040, something which is likely to put more pressure on public transport. 
 
However detractors, including France's national transport network GART, say that towns should be introducing means tested travel rather than making it free for everyone. 
 
“It’s important to remember that even if transport is free for users, it is not for the city. When users don’t pay, it has to compensate for those losses,” GART said in a statement. “In order to help people with fewer means, we would prefer fees to be income-based rather than fares based on the sole status of being an individual.”
 
These are the towns in France where you can travel for free: 
 
Map: Map Customizer 
 
1. Compiègne
2. Noyon
3. Pont-Sainte-Maxence
4. Crépy-en-Valois
5. Chantilly
6. Carhaix
7. Mayenne
8. Senlis
9. Vitré
10. Châteaudun
11. Neuves-Maisons
12. Saint-Brevin-les-Pins
13. Issoudun
14. Niort
15. Châteauroux
16. Gap
17. Libourne
18. Figeac
19. Nyons
20. Gaillac
21. Manosque
22. Castres
23. Muret
24. Aubagne
 
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Question: Can Paris really ban petrol cars by 2030?Photo: AFP

CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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