Members of the French National Assembly voted this weekend for legislation that would ban domestic air travel on routes that can be travelled by train in two and a half hours. The initiative, which is designed to force consumers onto modes of transport with a smaller carbon footprint, will become law if it passes the Senate next week.
Industry leaders have denounced the move, stressing that the aviation sector has been devastated by the Covid pandemic.
The move has also been criticised by some environmentalists for not going far enough. France’s Climate convention group, commissioned by President Macron in 2019, originally recommended that the ban be set at routes which can be travelled by train in under four hours.
Air France-KLM group, which recently received a package of support worth over €4 billion, had also lobbied to only have the two-and-a-half-hour rule imposed. As part of the financing deal, the French Government has recently doubled its holdings in Air France, bringing its shareholdings to a maximum of 30%.
A new precedent?
The move by French Lawmakers is unprecedented, but airlines around the world are likely holding their breath to see if initiatives like this could become the new norm. According to YouMatter, on a 500km journey, planes will emit 10-50 times more pollution than a high-speed electric train.
France has the fourth largest amount of high-speed rail of any country in the world, with many parts of the country well connected by rail. As a result of this, the flight ban will have a significant impact on intra-country travel between major hubs, such as Paris to Lyon.
The flight ban will not apply to connection flights.
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