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France and Germany announce 60,000 free train tickets this summer

Young people across France and Germany may be able to benefit from free rail tickets this summer, part of a joint initiative to strengthen ties between the two countries.

France and Germany announce 60,000 free train tickets this summer
A 2019 photo at the Gare de l'Est railway station in Paris showing a French SNCF's INOUI high speed TGV train and a Deutsche Bahn (DB) ICE high speed train. (Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP)

French and Germany transport ministers announced in a joint press release that 60,000 free train tickets would be made available to young people to help facilitate exchange between the two countries this summer.

The release did not specify the age restrictions, but the ‘young person’s railcard’ schemes in France are available to people under 26.

French and German transport ministers Clément Beaune and Volker Wissing announced that “60,000 tickets will be made available free of charge, according to terms and conditions which will be specified shortly”.

The scheme will be supported financially by both countries’ national rail service – SNCF for France, and Deutsche Bahn for Germany. French media reported that tickets will be allocated through a draw.

The goal of the free ticket plan, which is set to be put into place during the summer of 2023, is to encourage young people to travel between the two countries, and to build up more cultural exchange between France and Germany. 

It was announced to coincide with the 60th anniversary of France and Germany signing of the Élysée Treaty – which helped to build bilateral cooperation between the former adversaries.

The two heads of state – German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron, met in Paris on Sunday to mark the occasion.

READ MORE: France, Germany firm up ties as European ‘driving force’

Additionally, the German transport minister told French daily Libération that the project was also intended to fight against climate change, by incentivising rail travel. 

“The plan aims to achieve our climate objectives for the transport sector. We need to convince even more people to travel by train. To do this, we have to offer attractive offers,” Wissing said.

Germany has already announced other schemes to encourage rail travel, such as the implementation of the €49 monthly rail pass.

READ MORE: OPINION: Why Germany’s €49 travel ticket is far better than the previous €9 ticket

The French transport ministry also highlighted that the free ticket scheme is not the only rail service plan to better connect the two countries. The Paris to Berlin high speed TGV train is set to be launched in 2024, and by late 2023 (or early 2024) the night train connecting the two cities will make its return.

READ MORE: Planes, trains, and ferries: The new international travel routes from France in 2023

Travellers can also take advantage of other high-speed lines connecting the two countries, such as the high speed direct line that already connects Paris to Munich. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

Several French unions have filed strike notices for February, with some aiming to target to busy February holiday period - here's what you can expect.

What to expect from strike action in France during the February school holidays

France is in the grip of a major confrontation between unions and the government over plans to reform the pension system.

So far, the main actions have been concentrated on one-day strikes that are supported by all eight of the union federations, however an increasing number of unions are filing notices for renewable or unlimited strikes, with some targeting the February holidays.

The French minister of tourism, Olivia Gregoire, called on unions to respect the “sacred period” of school holidays (which in France run from February 4th to March 6th, depending on which zone you are in).

Meanwhile, Philippe Martinez, the head of the hardline CGT union, told RTL that if the government remains stubborn then “there is a possibility of days of action during the school vacations”.

As a result, it is likely that further notices will be filed.  The Local will update this story with the latest – but here’s what we know so far.

January actions

Tuesday, January 31st – this is the next one-day mass strike, which will likely see severe disruption on many services, particularly public transport – full details here.

February actions

Trains – two rail unions – the hardline Sud-Rail and CGT-Cheminots – have filed a renewable strike notice for “mid-February” in addition to a two-day strike which is to take place on Tuesday, February 7th, and Wednesday, and 8th. 

READ MORE: Calendar: The French pension strike dates to remember

Ski resorts – two of the largest unions representing French ski lift operators and seasonal workers, FO (Force ouvrière) and the CGT, have filed “unlimited” strike notices starting on January 31st – the same day that unions across other sectors have called for another ‘mass strike’.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the strike will continue throughout February, but unions say they want to put pressure on the government to discuss both pensions and changes to benefits for seasonal workers, which particularly affect ski industry employees.

The CGT union in particular has threatened further actions during the Ski World Championships, held in Courchevel from February 6th to February 19th. Strikes in ski resorts usually primarily affect the operation of ski lifts. You can read more here.

Oil refinery workers – refinery workers have threatened to strike for a period of 72 hours beginning on February 6th. 

The national union coordinator for French oil giant, TotalEnergies, Eric Sellini, told AFP that these actions would result in “lower throughput” and “the stoppage of shipments.”

The most concrete effect of this is likely to be shortages of petrol and diesel at some filling stations if the blockades are successful in stopping supplies leaving the refineries.

Power cuts – the hardline CGT have also threatened more “direct action” with employees of the State electricity sector threatening to cut the power to certain towns. This isn’t a scheduled action (or indeed a legal one, the government has promised to prosecute workers who do this) but short targeted power cuts could continue into February.

UK border – finally, if you are travelling to or from the UK, be aware that a UK Border Force strike is planned for February 1st and 2nd, which is likely to increase waiting times at the border.

We will update this story as more details are released, and you can also find all the latest in our strike section HERE.

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