Musicians in France angry at SNCF rail fines for big instruments

SNCF has started imposing limits on luggage with some train controllers fining musicians up to €150 for travelling with instruments more than 1.2m long and 60cm wide

2 November 2021

Both the French culture and transport ministers have said they will be speaking to SNCF Pic: Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

Musicians have accused SNCF of picking on them by imposing fines on large instruments on trains – while leaving passengers with skis and bicycles alone.

Basses, cellos, baroque guitars, harps and larger brass instruments are likely to be affected.

Aurélie Foucher, manager of the freelance musicians’ union Profedim, told The Connexion: “Over the years, there have always been minor incidents, but since the Covid lockdown controllers on trains have been very strict.

“No one knows why or who gave the order to crack down on musicians, but it is obvious that someone has.

“They do not fine people for travelling with bicycles or skis, both of which are more likely to stick out into the corridors than musical instruments.”

She said the situation was particularly absurd as SNCF is a major sponsor of classical music and music festivals.

When the union approached SNCF, it was told that musicians should send their instruments as freight. Profedim says these trains do not follow the same timetables as passenger ones, and musicians will not entrust fragile and expensive instruments to freight wagons.

Questions about the policy have now also been asked before MPs and the senate, and both the culture and transport ministers have said they will be speaking to SNCF.

A meeting has been arranged between the union, the ministries and SNCF to try to resolve the matter.

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