At present in France – with the majority of the population confined to their homes – public transport operators are operating the barest of skeleton services.
On the railways just 6 percent of the high speed TGV trains are running, fewer even than the first days of the mass transportation strikes in December.
Train services will be increased from May 11th onwards. Photo: AFP
While in Paris around 30 percent of Metro, bus and tram services still are still running, many of them concentrated in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis which has a high number of keyworkers such as healthcare workers, street cleaners and supermarket staff who commute into Paris.
But transport bosses say they anticipate services being expanded slightly in the coming days, and moving to much higher levels from May 11th.
From May 11th schools will start to return and many more people will be going to work, although people who can work from home are asked to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Junior Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told BFMFTV: “Today we have 6 percent of the TGVs, which is very low, but we are in a position to move quite quickly to 50 percent of TGVs” from May 11th.
He added that in the greater Paris region, the target was 70 percent of suburban Transilien and RER services running by May 11th.
In Paris services will also be expanded from May 11th, but RATP president Catherine Guillouard says that social distancing methods recommended for the end of the lockdown 'will not be possible' on the city's crowded Metro system.
RATP president Catherine Guillouard. Photo: AFP
Both the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and the president of Île-de-France Mobilities Valérie Pécresse have called for masks to be made compulsory on the city's public transport, and, although this has not been confirmed yet, the government says this is likely.
During the strict lockdown, passenger numbers on the city's transport network have fallen to just four percent of the usual levels.
And those who are still travelling are heavily concentrated in the suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis, which has already seen its transport levels rising.
Guillouard told France Info: “Buses have gone from 30 percent to 50 percent, trams will go from 30 percent to 60 percent, which means that we are in a position to increase tram ridership to 60 percent, and from today, line 13 will operate at 40 percent of its usual capacity. On Monday we will increase to 50 percent”.
But the big changes will come from May 11th, when 70 percent of normal services will be running.
On lines 1 and 14, which are automated, services will run at 100 percent from May 11th.
Guillouard added that 8,500 RATP staff were currently not working, either because they are sick or for childcare reasons, although that number is expected to fall once the schools reopen.
For those who prefer not to take the Metro, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo is working on a plan to expand bike lanes and create new temporary lanes along the route of several Metro lines.
Although the government is yet to finalise its plan for loosening the lockdown restrictions, president Emmanuel Macron has already said that the end of lockdown will not be on a regional basis, and they would work to lift restrictions on travelling between different parts of France.