Air France in talks on trains replacing flights

Air France-KLM is in talks on a joint venture with a private rail operator that could see many of the carrier’s short-haul international routes switch to high-speed trains from 2010.

The airline confirmed it is exploring the use of replacement rail services on some routes and considering running its own services. Air France-KLM has previously bought seats for clients on existing high-speed rail services, as has German carrier Lufthansa.

Private rail operator Veolia Transport, which ran services in the UK under the name Connex, confirmed it is in talks with Air France.

International rail travel within the European Union is due to be liberalised from January 2010, allowing the start-up of new operators. It is understood the proposal would involve Veolia operating trains under the Air France brand from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport to cities such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt and beyond.

The move comes as airlines struggle with the record cost of oil and pressure to cut flights where alternative forms of transport are available. Short flights are disproportionately costly in fuel since a huge amount of is used on take off.

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