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Why the plane wins over the train on interregional routes


Domestic air traffic, which has been on the rise for ten years, is mainly driven by the growth of province-province links on which the train remains unattractive.

Privileged choice to go to regions from Paris, the train is neglected for when it is necessary to connect Brittany to the Côte d'Azur or the Basque Country to Alsace.

In the absence of a high-performance rail service on the transverse axes, travelers are turning more and more to the plane.

Transverse airlines (connecting two airports located outside Paris) have developed significantly compared to radial connections (those serving Paris-Charles de Gaulle or Paris-Orly), concludes a study carried out by Oxera for the Union of French airports (UFA).

Between 2010 and 2019, domestic traffic in mainland France increased by 24%, an "

increase due more particularly to the transverse lines whose number of passengers increased by 72%

", going from 6 to 10 million passengers per year, underlines the report.

By comparison, traffic only increased by 5% on the radial links.

These province-province air links represented, in number of passengers, 39.1% of domestic traffic in 2019 (compared to 29% in 2010), according to data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC).

Read alsoOnly five passengers per flight: end clap for the Paris-Limoges airline

Low-cost airlines in force

This growth in traffic is “

mainly due to the increase in the number of cross lines offered

”, underlines the report.

Their number increased from 111 to 168 between 2010 and 2019 (i.e. +51%), while the Paris-province lines went from 39 to 37 (-5%).

A trend driven by low-cost airlines, first and foremost easyJet, Ryanair and Volotea.

In ten years alone, for example, easyJet has multiplied this type of line by five.

Even the national company, Air France, abandons them to reallocate them to its low-cost subsidiary Transavia.

The increase in frequencies, the use of higher-capacity aircraft (such as the A320 or B737 instead of ATR or Embraer) as well as the improvement in load factors also explain this growth.

Read also Removing short flights in favor of the train, is this good news for the consumer?

The less efficient TGV outside Paris

The success of province-province flights is largely explained by the poor performance of rail on these routes.

If, from Paris, the TGV is the fastest way to access the city centers of most cities, it is much less attractive on axes such as Lille-Toulouse or Bordeaux-Lyon.

In question: the duration of the journey and, very often, the need to make a connection.

If the Railcoop cooperative society plans to reopen a direct link between Bordeaux and Lyon via the Massif Central, the total journey time (between 7:30 and 8 a.m.) will undoubtedly deter many travelers.

The study "

illustrates the complementarity between the plane and the train

", comments Thomas June, president of the UAF.

The plane responds on the cross-links to a need for rapid mobility of the French that rail transport cannot satisfy effectively given the configuration of the rail network.

The transversal lines are an opportunity for the development of interregional exchanges and the opening up of territories.


The Climate and Resilience Law, validated by the European Commission in December 2022, provides for the abolition of domestic flights when there is an alternative by train of less than 2h30.

But it has had little effect so far, with only three air routes (all from Paris) having actually been banned.

The abolition of other lines is subject to a “

future improvement of rail services, with sufficient frequencies and satisfactory timetables, in particular for the needs of connections

”, specifies the decree.

Suffice to say that domestic flights are not about to disappear.

Read alsoAbolition of short domestic flights in France: which lines are affected?

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-02-08

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