A climate law, No 2021-1104, that was passed in 2021 and received approval from the European Commission (EC) has led to the banning of short-haul domestic flights in France when there is frequent, regular train service between the destinations and the journey by rail will take less than two and a half hours.
The law, which has the support in France among the Greens party and in Belgium from environmental lobbyists, calls for the prohibition of passenger flights “on all air routes within French territory for which there are several direct rail connections per day of less than two and a half hours” according to Article 145.I.
The law would currently affect major routes between Paris-Orly and Nantes, Lyon, and Bordeaux.
The law is expected to take several months to take effect and will be reviewed to determine its effectiveness after two years. The measure is intended to be in place for 3 years initially. Improvements to rail service to shorten travel times could also cause routes from Paris and Rennes to Lyon and Marseille to be cut in the future as well.
Not everyone supports the measure, with French airports and airline lobbyists arguing that the new law would violate competition laws. The EC dismissed those concerns in its December 2 decision but did go on to consider the concerns of European travelers, saying “the negative impacts of European citizens an connectivity of any restriction of traffic rights must be offset by the availability of affordable, convenient and more sustainable alternative transport modes.”
While the measure is not yet as extensive as Green Party members want to make it, French Transport Minister, Clément Beaune, called the law a “major step forward” and also said, “I am proud that France is a pioneer in this area.” French Green MEP Karima Delli, however, said that “the threshold must be raised to four hours, and above all, include private jets in the ban.”
Given the size of France, if the threshold is raised from two and a half hours to four hours in the future, it would essentially ban all domestic flights within France. Greenpeace EU climate campaigner, Thomas Gelin, said, “The French ban on short-haul flights where quick train connections exist is a baby step, but it’s one in the right direction.”
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Meanwhile, other Green Party politicians want to see the ban spread from France to all of Europe, with new rail connections and routes being added, including the EU’s TEN-T projects, which are designed to connect more of Europe by rail.
While the measure has been pushed through by the Green Party and environmental lobbyists claiming that air travel has a negative impact on the environment, the EC noted that “Banning those routes will therefore not lead to an actual reduction in emissions. However, unquantifiable environmental benefits may nonetheless be generated since air carriers potentially interested in operating these routes will be prevented from doing so.”