France has banned short-haul flight routes between French cities in an attempt to cut the country's carbon emissions.
The new legislation has been put into force after French lawmakers approved the ban in 2021. The European Commission gave the thumbs up for the ban to be put into operation in December 2022 after some airlines raised concern over the legality of the legislation.
It will affect cities which have existing train journeys which last two-and-a-half hours or less. Routes between Paris Orly and Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux are now banned under the new law, however connecting flights have not been affected.
The only stipulation for the flight ban is that cities must be serviced by trains which meet a certain criteria. The services must be frequent, largely on-time and well-connected to allow train journeys to be accessible for the maximum amount of people as well as being able to absorb an increase in passengers who are switching from flying.
President Emmanuel Macron had heralded the new measures as a major step in reducing the country's emissions, but environmental campaigners have criticised the lack of scope in the legislation, which in reality will affect no airline route currently in use. Routes from Paris Orly to Nantes, Lyon and Bordeaux were already cut by Air France in 2020 in an agreement with the French government over Covid support for the airline, with competing airlines forbidden from implementing alternative.
In addition to this, flights will still be able to fly from Charles de Gaulle airport, which is technically outside the Paris city boundary. Lawmakers decreed that the reference station for the busy transport hub would be the airport stop rather than any inner-city stops.
The decision to cut the limit at two-and-a-half hour train journeys came as officials backed down from an original suggestion of four hours. French officials said that this time frame allows people to travel to the city of their choice, enjoy a full eight hour day and travel back the same day.
However, some have criticised the cutoff, which will not affect some routes such as flight from Paris to Marseille, which is serviced already by three-hour long high speed train journey. French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir, which backed the government to re-introduce the four-hour limit, said: "On average, the plane emits 77 times more CO2 per passenger than the train on these routes, even though the train is cheaper and the time lost is limited to 40 minutes."
There have also been criticisms levelled at the legislation for being "symbolic" and distracting from "real and significant solutions" to climate change. Laurent Donceel, interim head of industry group Airlines for Europe (A4E), added that Brussels had found that banning the short-haul flights will have "minimal effects" on reducing France's carbon footprint.
French lawmakers have also been looking into introducing restrictions on private flights. Green MPs in the country have campaign for an outright ban on private jets, however Transport Minister Clement Beaune pulled back from this drastic change, instead trialling a scheme in which private air traveller pay a higher climate tax to fly to France.