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Red travel alert on France’s roads as summer holidays draw to a close

Another busy weekend on France’s roads is in store, as the summer holidays begin to draw to a close.

Red travel alert on France’s roads as summer holidays draw to a close
Photo: Jeff Pachoud / AFP)

The country’s roads watchdog Bison Futé predicts very difficult travel conditions on major routes across the whole of the country, as holidaymakers head home on the penultimate weekend of les grandes vacances.

On Friday, the traffic monitor advises forecasts no particular problems for anyone travelling to holiday destinations, but advises road users heading home from popular resorts to:

  • Avoid the A13 between Rouen and Paris, from 5pm to 7pm;
  • Avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 12pm to 2pm;
  • Avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence, from 2pm to 6pm;
  • Avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Orléans, from 11am to 3pm;
  • Avoid the A61 between Narbonne and Toulouse, from 4pm to 7pm;
  • Avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in direction of France, from 1pm to 9pm.

Image: Bison Futé

Saturday travel, however, looks set to be more complicated, with Bison Fute predicting ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ conditions in both directions.

For outward journeys, it recommends that motorists should:

  • leave or cross the Île-de-France before 10am;
  • avoid the A13, between Paris and Rouen from 11am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A11, between Paris and Le Mans from 12pm to 6pm;
  • avoid the A10 freeway, between Orleans and Tours from 10am to 5pm, and between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 11am to 4pm;
  • avoid the A6 between Beaune and Lyon from 10am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 8am to 6pm;
  • avoid the A20 between Limoges and Brive-la-Gaillarde from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Orléans and Clermont-Ferrand from 10am to 4pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 11am to 5pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Toulouse and Narbonne from 10am to 3pm.

For return journeys on Saturday, road users are advised to:

  • return to or cross the Île-de-France before 2pm;
  • avoid the A11 between Le Mans and Paris from 11am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A10 between Bordeaux and Poitiers from 10am to 3pm;
  • avoid the A6 between Lyon and Beaune from 1pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A7 between Orange and Salon-de-Provence from 9am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence from 10am to 1pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Spain and Orange from 10am to 2pm;
  • avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Bourges from 3pm to 6pm, and between Bourges and Orléans from 9am to 12pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Narbonne and Toulouse from 10am to 3pm;
  • avoid the A75 between Montpellier and Clermont-Ferrand from 12h to 14h;
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in direction of France, from 4pm to 9pm.

Image: Bison Futé

Traffic levels ease a little on Sunday for those heading towards popular French tourist resorts, but are still considered ‘very difficult’ for those heading back home

The following advice is in place for outward journeys in France on Sunday

  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Orange from 3pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A9 between Montpellier and Narbonne from 3pm to 5pm;
  • avoid the A62 between Bordeaux and Toulouse from 4pm to 9pm;
  • avoid the A61 between Toulouse and Narbonne from 3pm to 5pm.

For return journeys, the advice is:

  • return to or cross the Ile-de-France before 12pm,
  • avoid the A11 between Le Mans and Paris from 3pm to 9pm,
  • avoid the A10 at the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines tollgate from 4pm to 8pm, and between Bordeaux and Poitiers, from 11am to 5pm,
  • avoid the A6 between Lyon and Beaune from 11am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A7 between Lyon and Salon-de-Provence from 10am to 6pm,
  • avoid the A8 between Nice and Aix-en-Provence from 10am to 9pm,
  • avoid the A71 between Clermont-Ferrand and Bourges from 10am to 12pm,
  • avoid the Mont-Blanc tunnel in the direction of France from 2pm to 7pm.

Image: Bison Futé
 
The government will be back in Paris next week for the first Ministers meeting on August 24th, while schools start the new academic year the following week on Thursday, September 1st. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The French boss of Eurostar has laid out how the combination of the pandemic, Brexit and ongoing uncertainty over new EU travel rules have left the company in a very precarious position.

How Brexit and Covid have derailed Eurostar services between France and UK

The Eurostar CEO Jacques Damas has laid out the company’s woes in a long letter to British MPs, stating that as things stand “Eurostar cannot currently pursue a strategy of volume and growth. We are having to focus on our core routes . . . and to charge higher prices to customers”.

He said that two things have significantly damaged the company – the pandemic (worsened by the fact that the company received no state aid from the UK government) and Brexit which has made travel between France and the UK considerably more complicated with more checks required at stations.

Damas said that peak capacity at both London St Pancras and Paris Gare du Nord is 30 percent less than it was pre-Brexit, because of the increased infrastructure needed to check and stamp the passports of travellers.

He said: “Even with all booths manned, St Pancras can only process a maximum of 1,500 passengers per hour, against 2,200 in 2019.

“It is only the fact that Eurostar has capacity-limited trains and significantly reduced its timetable from 2019 levels, that we are not seeing daily queues in the centre of London similar to those experienced in the Channel ports.

“This situation has obvious commercial consequences and is not sustainable in the mid to long-term.”

He added that the increased passport checks and stamping needed since Brexit adds at least 15 seconds to each passenger’s processing time, and that automated passport gates are less efficient.

The other factor that has hit the company hard was the pandemic and subsequent travel restrictions, leading to revenues being cut by 95 percent for 15 months.

The London-based company struggled to access government financial aid due to its ownership structure, with both the British and French governments reluctant to assume sole responsibility for bailing out the company.

It began as a joint venture between the British and French governments, but then the British sold off its share to private investors.

Damas said: “Contrary to the £7 billion in state aid given to our airline competitors, Eurostar did not receive any state-backed loans”. 

By May 2021 the company was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and was eventually bailed out to the tune of €290 million in loans and shareholder-guaranteed loans and equity – although this saved the company it has now left it with huge debts to be repaid.

The CEO’s letter was responding to questions from British MPs on the Transport Select Committee who wanted to know when trains would again stop at Ashford station – which has been closed since March 2020. Damas said there was no immediate prospect of that, or of reinstating the route to Disneyland Paris, while the company grapples with these financial problems.

He added that there is also “considerable uncertainty” around the new EU travel systems known as the EES and ETIAS, which are due to come into effect in 2023 and which will require extra checking of passports at the EU’s external borders – such as the UK/France border. 

READ ALSO Fears of ‘massive travel disruption’ in 2023

Many Eurostar passengers have commented recently on increased ticket prices, and it seems that there is little immediate prospect of prices going back down to 2019 levels. 

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