Something To Declare: France flights / Easter rail shutdowns / Hong Kong

Destination of the week: new flights to France

Anyone who imagined that last November's acceleration of Eurostar trains from London would lead to a decline in the number of flights to France is sadly mistaken. The two giants of low-cost aviation from Britain, easyJet and Ryanair, are promising plenty of new links – much of them concentrated in the west of France.

Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com) has the lion's share of new routes, starting next Wednesday, 20 February, with the launch of an East Midlands-Bergerac connection. The same airport, convenient for Derby, Leicester and Nottingham, will get a link with Nîmes from the following day.

From nearby Birmingham, no fewer than five Ryanair connections will open this summer: Marseille (1 May), Dinard and Poitiers (17 June), Biarritz (1 July) and Perpignan (2 July).

Bournemouth also gets a link to Marseille from 4 May, preceded by a new service to Nantes from 3 April.

Spring and early summer is going to be a busy period in Bristol, with Ryanair introducing a Béziers service from 31 March. On 23 April, easyJet (0871 244 2366; www.easyJet.com) starts flights from Bristol to Biarritz. Back on Ryanair, Bergerac and Pau are joining the network from Bristol on 16 May.

Edinburgh gets two new French connections to the Mediterranean coast. From 31 March, Ryanair will fly to Marseille, while easyJet starts flights to Nice on 24 April. Prestwick also wins a Marseille link, on Ryanair from 3 May.

From north-west England to western France, Liverpool gets connected with Bergerac and Nantes on Ryanair from 1 April. The next day, Manchester gets a Ryanair service to Marseille.

By comparison, the London airports do not fare particularly well for new French services. The main highlights are Stansted to Angoulême from 1 April on Ryanair, while easyJet starts flights from Gatwick to Ajaccio and Bastia in Corsica on 4 May, to Nantes on 31 May, and to Biarritz on 4 July.

As a result of the new Eurostar service between London St Pancras and Paris, Air France is withdrawing four or five services a day on the Heathrow-Charles de Gaulle route. One pair of the freed-up slots will be used for Air France's daily London-Los Angeles service. Other slots at the world's most desirable airport are being picked up by Air France's US partners, Delta and Northwest.

Two airports that do not have slot constraints are Newquay in Cornwall and St-Brieuc in Brittany. From 17 March, they will be linked by Skybus (01736 334 224; www.skybus.co.uk).



Warning of the week: Easter rail shutdowns

As tens of thousands of train travellers begin to plan their Easter journeys, memories of Christmas and New Year – when substantial stretches of Britain's rail network were closed – loom large.

The key closures are again to be on the West Coast Main Line, this time between Watford Junction and Coventry, which will affect travellers to and from London Euston. They will last from Easter Saturday to Easter Monday.

The Cross-Country line from Birmingham to Leicester is also out of action on Easter Saturday and Sunday, as is the line from Chester to Crewe. For 24 hours on Easter Saturday into Easter Sunday, the East Coast Main Line between Doncaster and York will close, with many trains diverted or replaced by buses.



In Scotland, the main line from Glasgow to Perth is interrupted in the Stirling area, and at the other end of Britain the line to Newquay from the Great Western main line will be closed, with a bus replacement, from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.



Bargain of the week: Hong Kong

Qatar Airways has an online promotion (see www.qatarairways.com) with some very low fares; Heathrow to Hong Kong for £372 on a wide range of dates. Note, though, that the lowest fares from Manchester are more than £500.

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