The French government has praised itself as a green “pioneer” after it got permission from the European Union to ban domestic short-haul flights, giving preference to railway travel instead.
Three short-haul flight routes from Paris to regional French cities have been banned following a 2021 law that has now been rubber-stamped by the European Commission.
Proposed in 2021, the climate law would outlaw any domestic flight which can be made by a train route that has regular services in less than two and a half hours, reports Euronews. The move to ban any airline from flying the routes was challenged by the Union of French Airports, which prompted the involvement of the European Commission to adjudicate the plan.
While eight routes had initially been proposed for state-mandated closure, the review by the Commission found that only three of them, from Paris to Nantes, Bordeaux, and Lyon were actually sufficiently served by the rail network.
While the journey times were under the two and a half hours limit, there were not enough trains running daily, Flight Global reports. Further routes could join the ban list in future if the rail network improves, it is said.
France’s transport minister Clement Beaune said he is “proud that France is a pioneer in this area”.
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The French rail network enjoyed heavy investment in the post-war era — funded in part by Marshall Plan money — and became a pioneer in high-speed travel.
Yet as Business Travel Network suggests, there may not actually be as much of an environmental impact from this legal change as first supposed. The publication claims these routes are not presently served by any airline because they were dropped by carriers during the coronavirus lockdowns in return for government aid and never re-started.
At best, it is therefore claimed, these bans will stop airlines from re-opening the routes in future.
Other routes may be at risk in the future from closure, though, if the law expands. As reported when it was first passed, the two-and-a-half hour limit for train alternatives was considerably cut-down from the originally proposed four hours, which would bring many more areas under the blanket of the ban.
The EU framework used by France to ban the first three routes are also available to the governments of all EU members, so more may follow across the continent in time.
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