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RAILWAYS

Five major rail routes in France could soon be run by German firm

Five train routes in France could soon be run by a German transport company as part of the government's plans to open up the country's major lines to competition, it has been revealed.

Five major rail routes in France could soon be run by German firm
Illustration photo: AFP
The German company FlixTrain has made bids for five routes which have been made public by French rail regulator Arafer.
 
If they get the go-ahead, the company will operate trains on the following routes: Paris-Lyon, Paris-Toulouse, a night train from Paris-Nice, Paris-Bordeaux and Paris-Brussels, according to the documents published by Arafer. 
 
This would all take place as part of the plan to open up France's major commercial passenger transport lines to outside competition, which is set to happen by the end of 2020 – a move which has proved controversial among rail unions. 
 
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Everything you need to know about taking the train in FrancePhoto: AFP

FlixTrain, a subsidiary of the FlixMobility group, is the only company to have applied for these five lines while earlier in the year SNCF Réseaux had indicated at that two parties were intending to file for them. 
 
“We are not on a TGV model, but rather an offer equivalent to France's Intercités trains, with more affordable prices,” Yvan Lefranc-Morin, Managing Director France of FlixBus, told AFP. “Using our 'data', we know that there is a strong demand for cheap offers on these lines.” 
 
FlixTrain, which has been operating in Germany since April 2018, will focus on network planning and ticket sales, and intends to work with partners who will own and circulate the trains. 
 
Before approval can go ahead, European regulation gives the regional authorities a period of one month to ask Arafer for a “test of economic equilibrium “if they think that these new services compromise the viability of an existing public service, in particular the TER (regional trains).
 
Under the controversial rail reforms, introduced in June 2018, France's national rail operator SNCF is officially protected from privatisation while its subsidiaries, which includes SNCF Mobilités (responsible for managing the trains) and SNCF Réseaux (which manages the infrastructure) is not. 

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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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