Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Rail

France and Germany Promise Direct Paris-Berlin Trains From 2024

6 days ago

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Sunday unveiled plans for a high-speed train route connecting their respective capitals, Paris and Berlin, beginning next year.

“As a tangible initiative illustrating our will to push forward on decarbonizing our economies and our societies, as well as our cross-border links, we support the deployment of the high-speed train route between Paris and Berlin, as well as the night train liaison, both announced for 2024,” they said in a joint statement. They did not provide additional details, for example which country’s rail operator — France’s SNCF or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn — would operate the planned service.

TGV and ICE trains at Munich station
A French TGV and German ICE train at the Munich station. (Deutsche Bahn)

A direct Paris-Berlin high-speed rail service would eliminate the need for travelers to change trains in either Cologne or Frankfurt. However, as rail blogger Alon Levy noted, without additional infrastructure improvements the new direct service will likely take about the 8 hours in travel, or about the same as the current connecting services.

Flights between Paris and Berlin take roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes, according to Diio by Cirium schedules.

Deutsche Bahn and SNCF operate 24 trains between France and Germany daily, according to the latter’s website. Trains directly connect Paris and other French cities with Frankfurt, Munich, Stuttgart and other German cities.

Rail

Spain’s Renfe to Launch New Through Train Service to France by Summer

2 weeks ago

Spain’s rail operator Renfe has begun testing two new cross-border high-speed rail routes to France that could begin carrying passengers by summer.

Renfe tested through AVE train service from Madrid Atocha to Marseille on Tuesday, and from Barcelona Sants to Lyon on Monday. Once driver training and familiarization is complete, the operator aims to begin initial revenue service of three weekly trains on each route by summer. Renfe plans to increase the number of trains on both routes to twice daily — or 28 high-speed trains a day between France and Spain — under its second phase service plan.

A Renfe train at the station in Lyon, France.
A Renfe train at the station in Lyon after a test run from Barcelona. (Renfe)

Renfe did not disclose the expected duration of both routes. However, the Madrid-Marseille service would make 13 intermediate stops, including in Barcelona; and the Barcelona-Lyon route would make seven stops, including in Perpignan.

Expanding cross-border rail links is a goal of European Union authorities as they aim to cut the bloc’s carbon emissions. While many individual countries have invested in their own high-speed rail networks, connections between the networks are limited. Only about 7 percent of cross-border trips in Europe are made by rail, according to the European Commission’s DG Move department.

The rail link between France and Spain first opened in 2013. Renfe and France’s SNCF previously cooperated on cross-border rail service between Barcelona and both Lyon and Marseille but terminated their partnership in December. The SNCF operated Barcelona-Lyon trains made the trip in roughly 5 hours. Renfe’s new through trains will replace some of the services previously operated under the partnership.

SNCF operates three daily high-speed TGV trains between Barcelona Sants and Paris Gare de Lyon.

Airlines

European Officials Uphold France’s Ban on Select Flights Where Trains Compete

2 months ago

The European Union has upheld France’s landmark climate law that bans select flights on routes where trains are time competitive.

The decision, from European Commissioner of Transport Adina-Ioana Valean on December 1, finds that France can ban domestic flights where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less. The law, which aims to cut carbon emissions and promote use of the country’s high-speed rail system, is the first of its kind globally.

The law codified a condition in the state aid package provided to Air France. To date, it has forced the airline to suspend only three routes: Paris’ Orly airport to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes. Flights on the routes from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport are still allowed for connecting travelers, and because train trip times from the airport’s rail station are longer than the 2.5-hour cap.

A TGV train at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport in April 2022. (Edward Russell/Skift)

“We’re never going to go back — we’re not going to go back to the [pre-crisis] levels,” Air France-KLM Chief Financial Officer Steven Zaat said on domestic France capacity in July 2021 following implementation of the law.

The EU noted that flights on three more air routes in France could be barred if rail services improve. Charles de Gaulle to Lyon and Rennes, and Lyon to Marseille currently offer competitive high-speed rail services but have not been suspended due to limited schedules and trip times that are not always under 2.5 hours.

Separate from the climate law, Air France and French state rail-operator SNCF are working to expand their “Train + Air” partnership. These connections allow travelers to book both a flight and train on a single itinerary and, in theory, seamlessly check-in and connect between the two modes at certain airports, including Charles de Gaulle. In practice, the connections are not as seamless as they could be, including limited airport wayfinding and technology disconnects.

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