France bans air travel that could be done by train in under 2.5 hours

A <em>Train á Grand Vitesse</em>.”><figcaption class=
Enlarge / A Train á Grand Vitesse.
Michael Dunning/Getty Images

On Sunday, the French National Assembly voted to ban some short-haul flights in favor of train travel. If the measure is formally approved, it would mean the end to domestic flights on routes where the journey could also be completed by train in 2.5 hours or less.

It’s the kind of news that will have some cheering in delight as one of the world’s richest nations makes a strong statement about the need to cut carbon emissions. However, there will probably be less impact than you might first expect. For one thing, connecting flights won’t be affected, so international travelers won’t have to worry about having to navigate the train system from Charles De Gaulle International airport.

In fact, French lawmakers are only proposing to cancel five routes in total. Yes, just five: Paris Orly to Bordeaux, Paris Orly to Lyon, Paris Orly to Nantes, Paris Orly to Rennes, and Lyon to Marseille. And while France has a high-speed train network that we in America can only look at with envy, the French government is just as happy to provide state support for its airlines as trains—last week it announced it would invest $4.8 billion (€4 billion) in Air France to help that airline as it weathers the pandemic.

“We know that aviation is a contributor of carbon dioxide and that because of climate change we must reduce emissions. Equally, we must support our companies and not let them fall by the wayside,” said French Interior Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher.