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Road, rail and airport chaos expected as French summer holidays start

Reuters/Benoit Tessier
3 min

Millions of holiday-makers hit the roads, railways and airports this weekend as the first wave of summer vacationers head south, Despite a rainy summer and economic crisis, a million people are expected to take the train and many more will travel vehicle-clogged motorways south.

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School holidays in much of France started Thursday, so many families are heading for the coast, or their holiday homes, or abroad. Dutch and Belgian families also start vacations this week and many will head for the French or Spanish rivieras.

Motorways, railways and airports are braced for crowds and chaos this weekend:

  • Road: Traffic watchdog Bison futé has put the Paris region on red alert for Friday and the whole country Saturday.

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Don’t try and leave France’s major cities on Friday between 4pm and 8pm, is Bison futé’s advice, and don’t try travelling on motorways in the north of the country on Saturday between 9am and 3pm and in the south between 11am and 5pm.

  • Rail: 2,034 TV high-speed trains will carry over a million passengers, two-thirds of them leaving Paris, and 500 inter-city trains will carry 220,000 others, according to the SNCF rail network.

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The busiest station in the country will be Gare de Lyon, which is expecting 300,000 people to swarm onto its platforms.

To stave of the boredom of waiting, the airports are organising the “Airport Olympiades”, 10-minute sessions to learn a new sport, including fencing, judo, high jump and even rowing.

They advise travellers to arrive well ahead of their flight's departure time.

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