Effective May 23, France has activated a ban on all short-haul flights to destinations where there is an existing train connection that can be reached within two-and-a-half hours. However, the train service has to offer the same degree of flexibility as a flight. In other words, travellers must be able to arrive at the start of the working day, spend up to eight hours in the location, and return to the starting point in the evening, if required.
The law will mostly rule out air trips between Paris Orly airport and regional hubs such as Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux. Currently the train service from Paris to Lyon and Rennes does not meet such requirements, so domestic flights will continue until such time as the train system improves. The existing train systems in place must also be capable of absorbing the extra passenger numbers. The changes are part of France’s 2021 Climate Law and were first proposed by France’s Citizens’ Convention on Climate – a citizens’ assembly tasked with finding ways to reduce the country’s carbon emissions. These measures were contested by the Union of French Airports (UAF) as well as the European branch of the Airports Council International (ACI Europe). The result was an in-depth investigation by the European Commission.
A European Air Services Regulation article states that a member state may, “where there are serious environmental problems […] limit or refuse the exercise of traffic rights, in particular where other modes of transport provide a satisfactory service”. The Commission gave its approval in April this year, making it the first time this article has been invoked by an EU member state.
France is also cracking down on the use of private jets for short journeys in a bid to make transport greener and fairer for the population. A report from Transport and Environment (T&E), the European federation for clean transport, found that private jets are up to 14-times more polluting than commercial flights per passenger mile, and 50-times worse than trains. Despite urgent calls from campaigners, France is unlikely to impose a total ban on jets.