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‘Flying ferries’: Plans announced to link France and UK with new 180mph passenger ferry

Cross-channel ferry company Brittany Ferries has announced it's planning to launch zero-emissions, sea-skimming "flying ferries" that would connect France and the UK in future.

'Flying ferries': Plans announced to link France and UK with new 180mph passenger ferry
"Flying ferries" could transport passengers across the Channel by 2025. Photo: Brittany Ferries

The route from Portsmouth to Cherbourg could be covered in as little as 40 minutes; compared to the current eight-hour overnight journey.

Brittany Ferries said the all-electric craft “foils like a hydrofoil, hovers like a hovercraft and flies like a plane…with the comfort and convenience of a ferry.”

The 50-150 passenger craft could be sailing between France and the UK by 2028, but a smaller electric craft could be ready for passengers by 2025.

MAP: Which countries has France placed on its green list for travel?

Photo: Brittany Ferries

“Seagliders combine the convenience of passenger ferries with the comfort of hydrofoils, the aerodynamic efficiency of hovercraft and the speed of aircraft,” said Brittany Ferries. “With the potential to connect existing ferry ports, the craft are expected to fly at speeds of up to 180mph – six times faster than conventional ferries – with a battery powered range of 180 miles.”

EXPLAINED: How does France’s traffic light system for vaccinated travellers work?

Frédéric Pouget, ports and operations director of Brittany Ferries, said: “We hope this may help bring commercial success in the years that follow. Who knows, this could be the birth of ferries that fly across the Channel.”

The concept is being developed by a Boston-based company called Regent.

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STRIKES

UPDATE: What to expect from Tuesday’s strike in France

February 7th marks the third day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. From planes and trains to school, ski lifts and power cuts - here's what to expect on Tuesday.

UPDATE: What to expect from Tuesday's strike in France

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ in the ongoing battle against pension reform is scheduled for Tuesday, February 7th, and will be followed by another one on Saturday, February 11th.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

Tuesday’s mobilisation is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

It will come as French lawmakers debate the bill in the Assemblé Nationale.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance.

We will update this story as new information is released.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Who is winning the battle over French pension reform?

Trains

The four main unions (CGT Cheminots, Sud Rail, CFDT Cheminots, and UNSA Ferroviaire) representing workers with France’s national rail service, SNCF, have all called for strike action on Tuesday, February 7th.

Representatives from SNCF said that they expect that French national rail services will be “heavily disrupted” on Tuesday due to strike action. Only half of France’s high-speed TGV trains will run normally on Tuesday February 7th, representing less disruption than the day of action on January 31st where only one in three TGV lines ran according to normal operating times.

The level of disruption will depend on geographical location. Two out of five TGV trains are expected to run in the north; half will run in the east, one in three will run in the west, and two in five will run in the south east. 

As for low-cost Ouigo trains, two out of five trains will run across the country on Tuesday.

Intercity and regional TER trains operated by the SNCF will also see services disrupted on Tuesday.

Regional TER trains will run three out of 10 trains on average on Tuesday, and services will be heavily disrupted across all French regions. 

As for daytime intercity trains – SNCF will run two return trips on the Paris-Limoges-Toulouse, Bordeaux-Marseille and Nantes-Lyon lines. It will run one return trip on the Paris-Clermont line. No trains will run on the Nantes-Bordeaux and Aubrac (Clermont-Béziers) lines.

Travellers can expect normal services on the Paris-Nice nighttime intercity line. However, no trains will run on the Paris-Briançon, Pyrenean (Paris-Lourdes/La Tour-de-Carol) and Occitan (Paris-Toulouse) nighttime lines.

You can check to see if your journey will be affected by strike action by going to the SNCF website here – updated information will be available at 5pm on Monday, February 6th.

French national rail services told BFMTV that they recommend that travellers either cancel or postpone their trips for Tuesday. 

International rail services will also be impacted by Tuesday’s strike action. The Eurostar will run three trains out of four, and Lyria (which connects France to Switzerland) will see about half of services run as scheduled. Thalys services will be “slightly disrupted”. You can find the list of cancelled Eurostar trains here.

During the day of action on January 31st, 36.5 percent of railway workers went on strike, compared to 46 percent on January 19th.

In addition to Tuesday’s strike action, two of the above unions, CGT and Sud Rail, have also called on workers to strike on February 8th. However, as of February 2nd, the other two primary unions had not made any calls to take part in Wednesday’s action.

City public transport

In the Paris region, the main unions representing RATP (Paris region public transport services) issued a joint statement on February 1st saying they would join calls for mobilisation on February 7th.

Traffic will be severely disrupted on the Paris Metro system, with several lines only running during peak hours and many stations across the city were closed. Buses will experience slight disruptions, and tramline services will run as normal.

Other cities including Marseille and Lyon will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

In Lyon, metro lines A and C will not run from 5pm to 6pm. As for other lines (A, B, C, and D), they will run at slower intervals. Tram services will be partially impacted, with lines T1 and T2 running at a frequency of six to seven minutes, line T4 running every eight to 10 minutes, and line T5 only running every 15 minutes.

Most bus services will operate normally, though some (C12, C25, 14, 52, 63, and 88) will experience delays.

As the third day of mobilization against the pension reform is coming up on February 7, Lyon’s public transport system (TCL) announced its traffic forecasts on February 5.

In Bordeaux, almost all bus and tram lines will run normally on Tuesday, with just the tram C running slower than usual at every 7.5 minutes.

Air travel

On Sunday, ahead of Tuesday’s strike action, France’s Civil Aviation Authority asked the Paris-Orly airport to cancel one out of five flights.

The leading civil aviation union, USACcgt, had called on “all DGAC (French civil aviation authority) and ENAC (National school of civil aviation) staff to go on strike en masse and take part in demonstrations” on February 7th, according to reporting by Le Parisien.

Disruption at the Paris-Orly airport will likely be similar to that of January 31st, when approximately 20 percent of flights operating out of Paris-Orly airport were cancelled, but other airports were mostly spared. 

Ports

The CGT union chapter representing port and dock workers called on them to walk out on February 7th and 8th. Industrial action will likely have a heavy impact on ports and docks in the Seine-Maritime area (specifically Le Havre and Rouen), according to Paris-Normandie.fr.

Typically strike action in this sector impacts commercial ports rather than ferry ports. 

Schools

Tuesday’s strike will take place during the first round of winter holidays – so students in the Zone A (Besançon, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Dijon, Grenoble, Limoges, Lyon, Poitiers) will already be off school.

You can find out more information about France’s school zones here.

Nevertheless – one of the major unions representing teachers, Snuipp-FSU said in a statement that they hope to see an “amplification” of previous walkouts, as they called on teachers to walk out on February 7th.

Primary school teachers (maternelle and elementary schools) are required to inform students and families at least 48 hours in advance of their intent to strike.

On January 31st, the Ministry of Education reported that about 25.9 percent of teachers walked out, in comparison to the 38.5 percent who walked out on the 19th. Numbers offered by the Snuipp-FSU union were higher – they said that about 50 percent of elementary school teachers walked out, and that 55 percent of secondary school teachers did so as well.

In addition to industrial action by teachers, several student unions, like the “National Student Movement” (MNL), representing high school students have made an effort to mobilise French youth across the nation, with some blocking the entrance to their high schools on strike days. According to the Journal des Femmes, the MNL has called on high schoolers across the country to walk out again on the 7th.

Ski lifts

BFMTV reported on January 31st that a walkout was scheduled for seasonal workers for approximately one hour and thirty minutes on Tuesday, February 7th. This means that in some resorts, ski lifts and stores could be closed. 

READ MORE: What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have also called an ‘unlimited’ strike which began on January 31st, meaning further actions could come later in the month as well.

Petrol stations

French refinery workers have threatened to strike for a 72-hour period beginning on February 6th. Union representative, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions could result in a “lower throughput” for petrol and a “stoppage of shipments.”

This could mean that there may be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

The mobilisation on January 31st saw a significant number of refinery workers walk out – between 75 to 100 percent at some refinery and oil depots, according to the union CGT.

Power cuts 

Workers in the energy sector (electricity and gas), primarily represented by the union FNME-CGT, have announced plans to strike from February 6th through 8th. 

The day of action on January 31st had 40.3 percent of employees at EDF (France’s national energy provider) walk out, in comparison to 44.5 percent on January 19th.

Some workers in this sector have taken what they call “Robin Hood” actions to “distribute free electricity” to hospitals, schools and low-income housing areas.

On January 31st, striking workers brought about significant load reductions in some power plants across the country – approximately 3,000 MW according to La Depeche. However, these reductions in power reportedly did not lead to any power cuts on the 31st.

Demos

Demonstrations are expected in cities and towns across the country.

The demonstration in Paris will begin at Place de la Bastille at 2pm and it will walk toward Place de l’Opéra.

January 31st, the most recent day of large scale mobilisation, saw over 1.27 million people take to the streets according to the interior ministry. In Paris, the number of protesters was estimated at 87,000, higher than the 80,000 clocked last time, the ministry told AFP.

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In Lyon, the route for the demonstration has already been decided, according to Lyon Capitale. It will begin at 12pm in front of the Manufacture des Tabacs. The procession will move toward the Place Bellecour.

In Bordeaux, some roads may be closed around the city centre, as the demonstration will begin around noon and head off from the Place de la Bourse.

Unions are hoping for a similar turnout on February 7th.

Postal services 

The union representing postal service employees, Sud PTT, called on workers to mobilise on February 7th and to “raise the tone”. As a result, mail distribution and postal services may be disrupted on February 7th.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to February 7th only. Unions have also called for more walkouts on February 11th. 

Additionally, the strike by oil refinery workers is expected to run for 72 hours, meaning it will continue into Wednesday, February 8th. There could be more action in later days by oil refinery workers, as they have called for an ‘unlimited strike’.

Other unions have also declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators and truck drivers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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