'Normal' president François Hollande flouts security and convention by travelling by train and living in flat



François Hollande, the man who wooed the French with the promise to be a “normal” president, has decided to break rules and conventions in the name of normality.

In a break from his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, who never travelled by rail while in office, Mr Hollande has announced that he will make official journeys within France, and to European summits in Brussels, by train. He has also decided, for time being at least, to continue living in his flat in a run-of-the-mill Parisian apartment block near the Eiffel Tower.

But in attempting to keep his campaign promise to be “normal” president who remains in touch with the people, the new President is flouting conventions and advice from security chiefs – and even a 60 year old law.

According to the legislation passed in the early 1950s, a gendarme or police officer must stand beside every bridge en route when a president of the republic travels by train. Last year, the head of the French state railways, Guillaume Pepy, cited this law as the reason why President Sarkozy had never travelled by train while in power.

With an average of two bridges per kilometre, a presidential journey from, say, Paris to Lyon, would require 900 police officers to be deployed at intervals along the high speed line between the two cities. "Nicolas Sarkozy has asked to travel by train but it would require an extraordinary mobilisation of police manpower," Mr Pepy said last July.

How, then, did President Hollande, accompanied by the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, manage to travel on a scheduled high speed train from Paris to Brussels for the EU informal summit last Wednesday? Both SNCF, France’s state-owned rail company, and the Elysée Palace declined to answer questions from The Independent directly. Both said that the president’s security arrangements were "confidential".

The Independent understands, however, that President Hollande has given instructions for the 60 year old "policeman-by-every-bridge" law to be ignored until it can be quietly removed from the statute book. Although special security arrangements were made for Mr Hollande and Mr Rajoy, there was not a policeman or gendarme beside every bridge between the Gare du Nord and the Belgian Border (220 kilometres). "The president has the ultimate say over his own security arrangements," a source told The Independent. "If he wants to travel by train, he can."

The Elysee Palace put the cost of the train trip for Mr Hollande and his entourage at €5,972, including the seven cars which brought them home to Paris in the early hours. An Elysee source told The Independent that this "included all security arrangements". The cost of travelling to Brussels in two presidential executive jets, as President Sarkzoy did, is estimated as ten times higher – €60,000.

At the same time, Mr Hollande has, for the time being, rejected advice from security chiefs and decided not to live in the Elysee Palace. He returns home each evening to the flat in the unfashionable 15th arrondissement which he shares with his partner Valerie (acute on first e) Trierweiler and her three teenaged sons.

Because the flat has windows on the street, security chiefs regard it as a security risk. They have also pointed out that the presence of the head of state could cause disturbance for President Hollande’s neighbours. Mr Hollande, however, has decided to test this advice rather than accept it. "So long as there is no problem for the neighbours and for security, we will stay," he is reported to have told friends.

A presidential aide told the newspaper Le Figaro: "He would rather cause problems for his security staff than (lose touch with) ordinary people".

For the time being at least, Mr Hollande’s "Mosieur Normal" act – and his frenetic first two weeks’ in office - have gone down well with French voters. An IFOP poll put his popularity rating at 61 per cent, the third highest for any newly-elected president in half a century.

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Life and Style

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Experienced Cover Supervisors Needed

£55 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education have cover s...

**** Calling All NQT's ****

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a Newly Qualified Teac...

Cover Supervising Roles Longridge

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: A mainstream secondary school i...

Cover Supervisor Preston

£50 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Cover Supervisor Jobs in Presto...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week