News Digest: Free public transport, hailstorms & world’s longest baguette

News Digest: Free public transport, hailstorms & world’s longest baguette

From innovative policies aimed at improving accessibility and sustainability, to the challenges faced by the country’s wine industry, and a celebration of French culinary prowess, here are the news stories you need to know about this week…

Free public transport in Montpellier

Montpellier has made a bold move to improve accessibility, reduce emissions, and support its residents’ purchasing power by making public transport completely free for its citizens. Starting on December 21st, 2023, over 500,000 inhabitants of Montpellier and its surrounding 31 municipalities were able to ride the city’s buses and trams at no cost. This makes Montpellier the largest urban area in France to implement such a far-reaching free public transport scheme.

The city has been testing free public transport since 2020, first on weekends and then for young people under 18 and seniors over 65. These trial phases proved successful, with a 12% increase in weekend ridership and 160,000 residents taking advantage of the free fares. While visitors and non-residents will still need to pay for tickets, Montpellier’s mayor Michaël Delafosse is hopeful the free fares will encourage more people to leave their cars at home. Currently, 280,000 car trips are made in the city each day, accounting for 40% of Montpellier’s CO2 emissions. The city is also investing €1.5 billion to expand its tram network, add express bicycle lanes, and launch a new “BusTram” service to improve public transport coverage.

Two weeks until the paper tax return deadline

The deadline for submitting paper income tax declarations in France for the 2023 tax year is May 21, 2024 at 11:59pm. Paper declaration forms have been sent out to taxpayers in batches between mid and late April 2024 and blank forms can also be downloaded from the Ministry of Economy and Finance’s website or obtained from local tax offices. Only taxpayers who are technically or otherwise unable to file online are eligible to submit a paper return, but online filing is mandatory for all other taxpayers with internet access at their main residence. Failing to meet the May 21st paper filing deadline may result in a 10% surcharge on the tax bill.


France Tax Calendar 2024: All the Key Dates for Your Diary

A violent hailstorm has wreaked havoc on vineyards in Chablis

The storm delivered a devastating blow to local Chardonnay winemakers, with hailstones ranging from the size of a ping pong ball to a lime raining down on the area. According to French weather agency Météo-France, the storm was part of an intense “supercell” system that brought torrential rainfall and massive hailstones. Winemakers in the region described the damage as “dramatic”, with one stating that “everything is partially destroyed.” This latest weather event comes just a week after grapevines in Chablis were damaged by a sharp drop in temperatures, further compounding the challenges faced by the local wine industry. The wine industry globally has been grappling with the effects of climate change, including extreme weather events, drought, and heat waves.

France reclaims World’s Longest Baguette title

In a triumphant display of culinary prowess, France has reclaimed the title for the world’s longest baguette. The impressive loaf, measuring an astounding 400 meters (1,312 feet) in length, was baked by a team of skilled artisans in the heart of Paris. The record-breaking baguette was unveiled to the public in a grand ceremony, drawing crowds of eager spectators who marvelled at the sheer size and craftsmanship of the loaf.

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