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SNCF will not repay strike costs

SNCF will not repay strike costs

In our continuing series where we put Connexion readers’ queries to travel bosses, we speak to Claude Solard, managing director of SNCF Régions et Intercités, who answers a selection of your questions

A late train due to a strike meant I missed my connection and had to spend the night in a Toulouse hotel. My request for taxi, meal and hotel expenses was refused by SNCF. Was I not within my rights to ask for a refund? P.O.
During a strike, SNCF advises passengers of the service available that day as part of a guaranteed minimum service in line with the law and staff and customer agreements. Over and above this legal obligation, we do everything we can to help customers reach their destinations using taxis and buses etc. Costs incurred by clients are not reimbursed.

From May to September I make the same trip every week: can I get a discounted ticket for such regular journeys? C.W.
Yes. In every region TER offers tariffs created and chosen by the regional councils which are suited to the different needs of travellers. For example, in Aquitaine, from May to September the IZI Pass offers reductions of 75% on a specified journey plus 25% discount for other weekday trips and 50% at weekends. These deals are available at www.ter-sncf.com or from any of 20 regional customer centres. For trips using the Intercités network, the Fréquence season ticket gives a guaranteed 50% reduction on the full Pro fare, without the need for a reservation. Reduced fares are also available by signing up and paying for the Senior, 12-25 and Escapades cards.

When delays occur we get little or no news or apology. Will this change? G.O.
Giving passengers information is a priority and we want to give the best possible information. Train staff are being retrained in a bid to meet this objective and also have smartphones which give necessary information.

There is a step as you get onto a train – sometimes a very large step – how do the disabled manage? Can you not make trains the same level as the platform? S.K.
That would be the optimum solution, but sadly, platforms were built at different times and in different ground conditions. Network operator Réseau Ferré de France is working to set a standard height, but it is a major job and will take years. Disabled travellers can get help from Accès Plus and Accès TER services in stations and on trains.

Is there a booking site in English? C.W.
The www.voyages-scnf.com site is in English – click the British flag at bottom right of the welcome screen to book TGV and Intercités trains.

There are special fares for students’ daily school journeys, is there anything similar for students going to school on Sunday or Monday and back home on Friday? J.G.
Yes, each region has its Pass Jeune, plus the national student deals such as the Etudiant-Elève-Apprenti card. These offer large reductions for daily or weekly travel. Contact our regional telesales teams or www.ter-sncf.com

Despite announcements asking travellers to confine mobile phone use to the door areas, many ignore it. Why do you not ban mobiles in some carriages? M.H.
No law bans telephone use in trains but we understand the frustration some travellers feel. It is not possible to regulate usage or to give over carriages to those who do not wish to be disturbed by other travellers’ calls. We use loudspeaker announcements and posters asking clients to use their phones in the door area but this is down to individual politeness.

I want to buy my tickets on the internet to print them myself; is that possible? M.M.
SNCF is testing this and is now adding online sales modules to www.ter-sncf.com. Online sales are now possible on the Pays de la Loire TER website, which is helping develop this service, where clients print their own tickets. All journeys on the newly-expanded Intercités network – with 325 daily trains to 300 towns – can be bought on www.voyagessncf.com and the tickets printed at home.

When there is a strike or when the earlier train is cancelled my train is always full to overflowing. Is there no maximum number of passengers allowed? S.B.
Unlike a TGV, a TER is not reservation-only; so the number of passengers is not limited by reservation. Rules on passenger numbers exist, but they are, first and foremost, safety rules as that is our priority each day. The number of carriages takes account of possible overcrowding in exceptional circumstances. The size of the train and its braking capacity are also adapted for these situations to ensure safety.

Over the years the rail service to Eu and Le Tréport has deteriorated: inconvenient timetabling, often with several changes to get to Paris. In addition, Eu station is dirty and unwelcoming. Can you clean up the station and rethink the timetabling? It would mean more passengers! G.P.
Modernisation work is underway at Eu and, by 2014, travellers will enjoy the benefits of a refurbished building, secure bike shelter, live timing screens and aids for the disabled. Last December 85% of timetables across the network were changed and several problems have since become apparent; such as the train change at Abancourt. We are in talks with Haute-Normandie and Picardie regional councils on ways to improve the quality of service.

The ticket office at Condom has been closed, hitting many old people who do not use the internet – will it reopen? M.H.
Sometimes, as here, our choices are dictated by economics. We are working with the mairie to find a way for residents to buy tickets other than by the internet. The tourist office is not large enough for a ticket machine but a local travel agency may agree to sell tickets.

I sometimes use night trains; are they secure? What should one do if one feels threatened by another passenger? G.R.
Safety is vital to our service, both for clients and staff. That is why we maintain high security levels in our trains and stations. In such cases – or if there is a health problem – clients can ask for help from any member of staff. SNCF also has its own Sûreté Ferroviaire security service with 2,400 armed officers trained to prevent or deal with disruptive behaviour. On overnight trains the train chief and staff make regular rounds. Compartments have a double lock and the trains make few stops. Clients can ask to change compartment if they feel it is necessary. A special private area is available from €40. Women travelling solo can reserve a “women only” compartment for free.

I often have to stand at rush-hour but why does the number of carriages vary so much from one day to the next? J.L.
Trains serve different stations, each with different lengths of platform. In addition, we have different types of train – so we must find the best combination to optimise the train for the expected numbers. For example, in PACA, we put on extra carriages for market day in Vintimiglia, but we also try to have a set number of carriages at rush hour. However, the train make-up can change, mainly because of maintenance demands.

Late-running trains are announced: “Train number xxxx coming from xxx and going to xxx due to arrive at xx.xx is announced with a delay of 10 minutes...” Could you not just say: “We regret the train to xxx will be 10 minutes late”? H.F.
That’s an excellent suggestion that I will put to those responsible for station announcements.

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