• The Citizens' Convention for the Climate proposed to abolish airlines for which there is an alternative by train of less than 4 hours.

    In the Climate Bill, which has just arrived in the Senate, the government has reduced this perimeter to 2:30.

  • The Climate Action Network has not given up on the idea of ​​returning to the initial Convention proposal.

    In a report published on Wednesday, the NGO federation shows in any case that up to 4 hours, the train largely competes with the plane, including on travel times.

  • Above all, the RAC looked at the capacity of the train to absorb the surplus passengers that would result from the elimination of the 23 airlines concerned.

    For only a handful, it would be necessary to improve the railway offer, he assures us.

    In particular by increasing the capacity of the trains.

“We accept the fact that we have a certain number of landlocked territories in France, where the only way to get there is by plane.

We don't want to put them in difficulty, especially now.

On February 10, on the airwaves of France Inter, Barbara Pompili, the Minister for Ecological Transition, thus justified the government's decision to water down the proposal of the Citizen's Climate Convention to reduce domestic air traffic.

The 150 citizens drawn wanted to remove the airlines for which there is an alternative in less than four hours.

This would have concerned 23 internal links out of the 108 operated today between mainland cities.

In the Climate and Resilience Bill, which intends to draw inspiration from the proposals of the Convention, the government has reduced this perimeter to 2h30.

Another hope to come back to the four o'clock

The deletion would then only concern five lines: Paris-Bordeaux, Paris-Lyon, Paris-Nantes, Paris-Rennes and Lyon-Marseille. “And again, an exemption is provided for routes on which passages in correspondence with another air link are the majority, adds Valentin Desfontaines, responsible for“ sustainable mobility ”at the Climate Action Network (RAC). Only the Paris Orly-Bordeaux link would then be concerned. "

We are there today, when the bill landed on the Senate table on Monday for two weeks of examination.

The RAC has not given up hope that Senators will revert to the Convention's original proposal.

"The widening of the scope of the closure of lines from 2:30 to 4 hours would allow the climatic benefit of the measure to be multiplied by three *", insists the NGO federation.

All without going back to the time of the Amish, she shows in a report published on Wednesday and produced with the Egis Rail design office.

The fastest train up to 4 hours

The first concern is that of a loss of quality of service for users. As for the comfort of the trip, however, there is no picture, estimates the RAC: “The train has undeniable advantages over the plane. The seats are wider and the distance between the rows of seats longer. Users can also have access to the Internet and to their smartphones ”. On the prices, the comparison between the train and the plane is not easy as the price of the tickets can vary according to the moment of the reservation, the period of travel, the category of the ticket… The RAC relies then on a study by UFC-Que Choisir last April, which concludes that the price advantage remains for the train, 7% cheaper on average than metropolitan air links that can be achieved in less than 4 hours by train * *.

There remains the criterion of travel time. Determining here. To be fair, the RAC invites a door-to-door analysis. Unlike the train, “the flight time, from one airport to another, remains relatively constant on all metropolitan lines, around one hour for all, concedes the report. But we must also take into account the access times to stations and airports, the time spent checking baggage and security checks. "

Which then rehabilitates the train.

"On the connections it provides in three hours or less, the train is always more efficient than the plane," assures Valentin Desfontaines.

For journeys in four hours, there is an almost perfect equality with the plane.

“Beyond that, the plane tends to gain the advantage.

This is particularly the case for the Lyon-Rennes or Paris-Biarritz connections.

"But we are talking about less than 40 minutes of difference", continues Valentin Desfontaines.

Is the train able to absorb the excess passengers?

The other concern raised by the Convention proposal concerns the capacity of the train to absorb the surplus passengers coming from the canceled airlines. To analyze its feasibility, the RAC and Egis Rail took the 2019 ridership [before Covid-19, therefore] of the 23 lines for which an alternative in less than 4 hours exists. They converted them into average daily demand, then compared them to the current rail supply on these same lines. More specifically, “residual capacity”, ie the number of seats currently unoccupied in these trains. “We had little doubt about the capacity of the train to accommodate the surplus of passengers on the five routes it makes in less than 2:30, begins Valentin Desfontaines. What surprised us is that we can also do it for the other 18 lines,with virtually no change in the rail offer. "

There are only two lines for which the supply on rails should be improved: Paris-Biarritz and Lyon-Rennes, points out the report.

“It would suffice to put into service trains with more capacity than those currently offered,” continues Valentin Desfontaines.

Two-level oars, for example.

These are marginal modifications which are part of SNCF's current dynamic to increase the number of seats in its trains.


Extend deletions up to 5 hours?

Tensions could, however, appear at peak hours on certain lines which are already well loaded. “We also looked at this point, assures Valentin Desfontaines. And again, there is nothing insurmountable. For three lines (Paris-Marseille, Paris-Clermont and Lyon-Rennes), it would be necessary to go further in the arrangements, by adding a time slot during rush hour. "

Unsurprisingly, the RAC recommends reverting to the original Convention proposal, and thus eliminating domestic airlines that can be achieved in less than 4 hours by train. But the NGO federation asks to go even further by anticipating, as of now, the elimination of airlines which have an alternative by train in less than five hours. This would affect fourteen more routes, including Paris-Nice and Paris-Toulouse, the busiest domestic routes to date. "But also the most emitting greenhouse gases," recalls the RAC.

Here again, it would be necessary to play on the increase in train capacity and the addition of new time slots to accommodate travelers who had hitherto favored the plane.

"An additional train per direction and per day on Paris-Nice and Paris-Toulouse would be necessary", continues Valentin Desfontaines.

Nothing insurmountable for the RAC, which insists on the fact that "no additional investment on the network, except those already recorded, programmed and financed, would not be necessary".


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* For the RAC, widening the scope of the closure of lines from 2:30 to 4 hours would reduce CO2 emissions from metropolitan flights by 33.2% against 11.2%.

** UFC-Que Choisir specifies all the same, in its study, that the truth of today could not be that of tomorrow.

“The abolition of overhead lines would place the rail (and more particularly the TGV) in a monopoly situation, warns the association.

This could encourage the railway company to increase its prices.

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