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Macron wants new suburban train network in France’s main cities

Sometimes counting over 1.3 million passengers per day, Paris' suburban transport system - the RER - helps people get in and out of the city without having to rely on a car. According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be duplicated in other French cities too.

Macron wants new suburban train network in France's main cities
RER trains on tracks in Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, a south-eastern Paris suburb. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Those commuting in and out of Paris, as well as tourists looking to enjoy a day at Disneyland, are familiar with the region’s extensive suburban train network (RER). According to French President Emmanuel Macron, it might soon be replicated in other French cities in the coming years.

In the latest in a series of short-videos answering constituents’ “ecological” questions, the President responded to the question “What are you doing to develop rail transport in France, and offer a real alternative to [travelling by] car?” by offering plans to duplicate Paris’ RER system elsewhere.

You can watch the full video here;

Macron said that building suburban train networks in other cities would be “a great goal for ecology, the economy, and quality of life.”

While he did not name any locations in particular, the president did say that the plans would concern “the ten main French cities.”

While reminiscing about his grandfather, a former railway worker, Macron added that the project would help to decarbonise transport and ease congestion in city centres.

The RER (Réseau Express Régional) system in Paris is a network of trains running across the region, connecting the suburbs to the city. The network has been expanding since the 1960s. While it now covers a large area, the network is notably less reliable than the city-centre Metro services, with users often complaining of delays and poor infrastructure.

According to Le Figaro, cities such as Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Grenoble, and Aix-en-Provence have already expressed plans to develop similar suburban train networks.

Lyon, France’s third-largest city and second-largest metropolitan area, has already discussed plans for the Lyon RER, with hopes that it will be fully operational by 2035, at an estimated cost of between €1.4 and €7 billion.

As for when, the President did not give a timeline, but the Elysée told Le Figaro that the first step would be for “the orientation council for transport infrastructure” to identify which projects could be “launched first.”

The project will also be steered by France’s Prime Minister, Elisabeth Borne, the former Minister of Transport. When she was in this role, Borne had submitted plans to develop RER systems in different French cities.

The project to add suburban train networks across the country was met with support from the current Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, who welcomed the plans as a “major ecological and social transformation for the coming decade.”

However, not everyone is convinced. Some, like the Mayor of Cébazat in Puy-de-Dôme, have already questioned whether the Paris region concept, which would require heavy investment, could effectively be replicated smaller cities.

“It must be fully efficient,” the Mayor, who is also an expert in transportation, told Le Parisien.

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TRAVEL NEWS

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

Injuries and even deaths while skiing in France have seen a sharp rise in recent years - leading the French government to create a new ski safety campaign.

France launches ski safety campaign after rising number of accidents

The early part of the ski season in France was dominated by headlines over the lack of snow in popular mountain resorts – but, now that climatic conditions have started to improve for skiers and there is at least some snow, the winter sports season is in gearing up to hit full swing.

READ ALSO Snow latest: Have France’s ski resorts reopened?

Heading into the winter holiday season – French schools in ‘Zone A’ break up for two weeks on February 4th, followed on February 11th by schools in ‘Zone B’, while schools in Zone C finish for the vacation on February 18th – the government has launched an awareness campaign highlighting skiing good practice and how to avoid accidents.

READ ALSO What can I do if I’ve booked a French skiing holiday and there’s no snow?

The Pratiquer l’hiver campaign has advice, posters and videos highlighting safety on the slopes, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents on France’s mountains – where, every year, between 42,000 and 51,000 people have to be rescued, according to the Système National d’Observation de la Sécurité en Montagne (SNOSM)

The campaign, with information in a number of languages including English, covers:

  • on-piste and off-piste safety advice (signalling, avalanche risks, freestyle areas, snowshoes, ski touring, etc.);
  • Help and instructions for children explained in a fun and educational way (educational games, games of the 7 families to be cut out, safety quizzes, advice sheets for sledding, skiing, prevention clips, etc.);
  • physical preparation (warm up before exercise, prepare your muscles and stretch well, also how to adapt the choice of pistes and the speed to your physical condition);
  • equipment and safety (helmet, goggles, sunscreen, etc.);
  • marking and signalling on the slopes (opening and marking of green, blue, red and black slopes, off-piste).

There are 220 ski resorts in France, the world’s second largest ski area, covering more than 26,500 hectares of land, across 30 departements.

In the 2021/22 ski season, totalling 53.9 million ‘ski days’, according to SNOSM, emergency services made 49,622 interventions in France’s ski areas, and 45,985 victims were treated for injuries.

The results show an increase in the number of interventions by ski safety services – a rise of 13 percent compared to the average of the five years prior to the pandemic – and the number of injured, up 8 percent. 

A few incidents on the slopes made the headlines at the time, including the five-year-old British girl who died after an adult skier crashed into her in the Alpine resort of Flaine, and the French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died at the age of 37 after an accident while skiing in La Rosière, Savoie.

In total, 12 people died as a result of skiing incidents in France in the 2021/22 ski season. Three died following collisions between skiers, two after hitting an obstacle, and seven as a result of a fall or solo injuries. SNOSM also reported “a significant number of non-traumatic deaths, mostly due to cardiac problems” on France’s ski slopes.

The injuries due to solo falls – which represent 95 percent of all injuries –  on the ski slopes increased 2 percent compared to winter 2018/2019. Collisions between users fell, however (4.8 percent against . 5.6 percent) as did collisions between skiers and other people, and obstacles (0.7 percent compared to 0.85 percent).

The number of fatalities caused by avalanches, however, is at a historic low over the period 2011 to 2021, in part because of a relative lack of snow – leading to a drop in the number of avalanches and fewer people going off-piste, while awareness campaigns are hitting their mark, according to SNOSM.

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