More commuter chaos as SNCF strike continues

Commuters and drivers face more difficulties as the SNCF strike continues, with only slightly more trains running today than yesterday, and unions still unhappy with the government response.

As with yesterday, the unions say that up to 50% of workers who are “indispensable to the running of the trains” are on strike, along with other workers in different areas of the network, including 8 in 10 drivers.

Most trains have been cancelled, with the exception of the TGV service, which is offering one in eight of its normal journeys on average - slightly more than yesterday.

The situation is unpredictable: some passengers (writing on Twitter) have managed to find the odd train running, and found that stations were quiet and trains empty, as commuters sought alternative routes.

Yet, other reports show that more stations were in chaos or closed completely, including the Gare de Lyon and the Gare de Montereau.

Some commuters illegally walked on the tracks, and others were filmed entering an RER train through the windows, to try and board, as trains were so few and far between.

Drivers have been warned that traffic will be worse than usual.

As with yesterday, other commuting options may be available depending on your region. Carsharing services including Blablacar have added offers for commuters, while many bus and coach companies have added extra vehicles and routes to help during the strike days.

In an interview today, Thierry Nier, general secretary of the CGT-Cheminots union, said that the first day of strikes had been “a success” and had strongly showed “our point of view”.

He said that the cheminots (the workers under the old-style contracts) had turned out in force, showing that “they know that the [proposed] railway reforms will not correspond to an improvement in the quality of service or quality of work done by staff”.

He added that the government is “continuing to hide” on the proposed changes to SNCF employment contracts, despite the heavy impact of the strike, but conceded that the next wave of strikes “will only go ahead” if the “government does not open up negotiations”.

Negotiations with the minister for transport are expected tomorrow.

Yet, a poll for FranceInfo has found that 72% of the French public is in favour of ending the "statut de cheminot" contract, suggesting that most people are against the workers on this point.

Economists have attempted to calculate the cost of the strike, saying that many businesses will not have received goods or services and so will not have been able to satisfy their customers in turn. The tourist industry has also been affected, as fewer people are said to have made bookings for the next few months over the expected strike days.

As for SNCF, news source FranceInfo calculated that each strike day costs the company €20 million.

Even tomorrow - which is not a strike day - it is not clear how well the timetable will be running. Trains may be in the wrong place to begin their journeys, due to the inactivity yesterday and today, and the unions have not ruled out a change in action or further stoppages.

 
Train updates: The situation today

The advice is to check before you travel and not to rely on the trains if you can help it.

TGV
In the southeast, just one in 10 TGVs are running, with one in eight on the Atlantic coast and one in four in the North and East.

International: Thalys and Eurostar
Almost normal service here, although one in four Eurostar trains may not run. However, there are no trains running to Italy, Switzerland or Spain, and just one in three running to Germany.

TER and Intercités
Similar to yesterday (Tuesday), with 20% of TER services running, and just one in eight Intercités on schedule.

RER
The situation in Ile-de-France is broadly similar to yesterday, with 50% of trains on the RER A line, and one in six running on the RER D. Just a third of trains are running on the RER B north line and the RER E, and one in five on the C line.

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