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MAP: The proposed new routes for night trains in France

As the pandemic and increasing environmental concerns change the way we travel, France's transport minister has a dream - 10 night trains by 2030.

MAP: The proposed new routes for night trains in France
Photo: AFP

France already has two night train lines and another two are set to open up by the end of 2021, but for transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari this is only the start.

The minister has commissioned a report into greatly expanding France's night train network, both for domestic lines and inter-European routes and has declared his ambition to have 10 night train routes running by 2030.

 

He told Le Parisien: “I'm convinced that when the means are there, with a good quality of service and the right commercial offer, there is a clientele for night trains.

“With the ecological stakes, 'flyskam' (flight shame) and the pandemic that is reshaping the way we travel, the night train has everything to attract travellers.

“Look at Austria, they have 28 night lines. In France, the development of the TGV has eaten up the night trains and the offer has deteriorated. All that has to change.”

A government feasibility study has now been published and identified 7 possible routes for night trains, with Paris and Nice acting as 'hubs'.

 

The survey proposes the following routes:

  • Paris to south west France and into northern Spain, via Tours, Bordeaux and Bayonne
  • Paris to Marseille in a loop via Tours and Bordeaux before running along the south coast to Marseille
  • Paris to Barcelona via Brive
  • Paris to Toulouse via Orléans with branch lines to Clermont-Ferrand and Albi
  • Paris to Nice via Avignon and Marseille
  • Nice to Quimper in Brittany via Lyon, with a branch line going to Bordeaux
  • Nice to Metz via Strasbourg and Lyon, with a branch line crossing the Swiss border to Geneva and Lyon

Night trains already run between Paris and Briançon in the Alps and Cerbère in the Pyrenees and the two scheduled to begin by the end of 2021 are the Paris to Nice route and Paris to Tarbes in the south west.

 

The EU is also investing in rail connections, with plans for an ultra-rapid network that would make it possible to travel from Paris to Berlin in four hours.

READ ALSO MAP The plan for Europe's ultra-rapid train network

Once the two lines reopen in 2021 – which are funded until 2022 – there is no guaranteed funding or firm plans for other routes.

Djebbari said: “This still needs to be discussed at a ministerial level, with parliament and local authorities.

“These are proposals that need to be refined. Given the major work that needs to be carried out on the network, it will be difficult to open many others before 2025.

“But the history of night trains does not stop in 2022. It is also a question of regional planning. My ambition is 10 night trains by 2030.”

 
 

 

Member comments

  1. We would like to see the car trains put back onto the routes. We used to take the overnight train from Paris to Nice and put the car on the car train. The car train was recently withdrawn which is of no use to us. Will the car trains be reinstated?

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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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