The misleading calculations of Clément Beaune on the Roissy-Lyon rail link

Former Minister for European Affairs Clément Beaune, here near Ljubljana (Slovenia), in October 2021, wrongly claims that it was impossible to cancel the Roissy-Lyon flight, for lack of an equivalent train journey in less than 2 h 30 .

The government is pleased to have kept its promise to abolish domestic flights when a rail alternative of less than 2:30 hours existed, even if the measure concerns only three connections, between Paris-Orly and Bordeaux, Lyon and Nantes, some already closed. On the other hand, the main domestic flights departing from Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle are maintained.

“We ume that for connections at Roissy airport, we do not break certain air links, otherwise the big companies do not set up in Lyon and Bordeaux, if you are not connected to Roissy, because there, there is no train alternative within 2.5 hours”defended the Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, Thursday, May 25, on FranceInfo.

2h 25 on average between Lyon and Roissy

This ertion must have boosted the 45 million annual pengers on the Paris-Lyon line, the busiest in Europe. From 240 daily trains that travel this section, a direct regular service serves Lyon’s main train station, Lyon-Part-Dieu, located in the heart of the business district, from Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport. The journey takes an average of 2 hours 25 minutes, the shortest being 2 hours 01 minutes, or 29 minutes less than the ceiling set by the government.

Can Clément Beaune ignore it? The French authorities had recognized, on June 21, 2022, in a transmission to the European Commissionthat “train journeys [desservant Lyon, ainsi que Rennes, depuis Orly] can offer travel times of less than 2.5 hours.

At the time, Clément Beaune was not yet minister in charge of transport – he was appointed on July 4, two weeks later – but he was already minister delegate in charge of Europe. When questioned, Mr. Beaune’s cabinet did not respond to the questions of the World.

A decree cut to save Paris-Lyon flights

The government is making contortions to save the Roissy-Lyon air link. As soon as it applied to the European Commission, it called for it to be excluded from its plan to ban short-term domestic connections, arguing that the rail services to Rennes and Lyon “do not allow access to Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport (or Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, in the case of the Lyon-Marseille line) early enough in the morning, or to leave sufficiently late The evening “.

A year later, the implementing decree published on May 22 was also drafted in such a way as to spare the Roissy-Lyon route from prohibited lines, with a different argument. A page of article 1 specifies, in not very intuitive terms that “when the most important in terms of traffic of the two airports concerned is directly served by a high-speed rail service, the station selected is that serving this airport”.

Concretely, to compare with the Roissy-Lyon air line, it is the Roissy-Saint-Exupéry TGV line that the decree chooses as the reference rail route, rather than Roissy-Part-Dieu. An option that does not change much in terms of journey time (1 h 54), but a lot in terms of frequency and hourly amplitude.

The surprise criterion of eight hours of presence on site

Indeed, the decree adds other restrictive criteria. In addition to the very subjective existence of timetables “satisfactory”it specifies that the rail alternative to an air link “must allow more than eight hours of on-site presence during the day, throughout the year”. Concretely, a traveler who gets off his train at 9 a.m. must be able to leave this same station within eight hours, so until 5 p.m.

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Conditions easily met by the Roissy-Part-Dieu link (arrival with the first train at 9 a.m., last departure in the return direction at 7:59 p.m.). But not that between Roissy and Lyon Saint-Exupéry: the rail connection between the two airports offers at best a first arrival at 2:30 p.m. and a last departure at 8:06 p.m., i.e. a little less than six hours on site.

In fact, few travelers choose the train to travel between two airports. But thus tied up, the decree made it possible to save the Paris-Lyon airline, even though a rail alternative of less than 2 h 30 exists.

William Audureau

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