Two in five TGV trains will be cancelled on average in France this Saturday and Sunday (December 24 and 25) as the result of a ticket inspector strike, SNCF has announced.
Passengers had already been informed yesterday (December 21) that two in every three trains would be running on Friday (December 23).
The national rail operator has also announced that anyone whose train is cancelled, or who changes to a different train because of the disruption, will be eligible for compensation equivalent to double the price they paid for their ticket.
How will different regions be affected over the weekend?
On Saturday and Sunday, one in every two scheduled TGV trains will be cancelled on the northern and Atlantic coastline networks and three in five in the south east and east.
Two low-cost Ouigo trains in three will operate as normal, SNCF has said in a statement.
Three Lyria and Intercités trains in four will run as planned. Lyria services connect France to destinations in Switzerland.
Tomorrow, meanwhile, two in three TGV trains will be running on the Atlantic and Mediterranean networks, one in two in the north – save Paris-Lille services, which will be almost unaffected – and three in four in the east.
SNCF has said that each passenger whose train is cancelled between December 23 and 26 will receive a voucher worth twice the cost of their ticket, if they apply through an online form.
It has now been announced that this will be in addition to the standard refund of their ticket cost if the passenger decides not to go ahead with their journey.
It also applies if the passenger has chosen to exchange their ticket – for free – for a seat on a different service. In this case, they will not have to pay any price difference and will still receive the compensation voucher.
Passengers whose train is cancelled should receive an email or text message in the coming days with a link inviting them to fill in the form.
If you have already cancelled your ticket because of the disruption, you should contact SNCF’s customer service department for your compensation.
CEO meeting with unions to avoid New Year strike
SNCF’s CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou will meet with unions tomorrow to try to avert a strike next weekend (December 31-January 1).
“There is no reason to punish French people twice by spoiling their New Year,” he told RTL today, apologising to the estimated 200,000 people who are being affected by this weekend’s strike.
“This weekend it is already too late, and for the next, we do not know.”
He also said that the one-off compensation being offered to passengers whose train is cancelled “represents several tens of millions of euros, which is a shame, it is public money.”
Laurent Berger, the CFDT union’s general secretary, has also told BFMTV that the organisation hopes to “at least save New Year’s weekend”.
France’s government has joined calls for the situation to be resolved, with Transport Minister Clément Beaune saying that stakeholders should aim “to avoid difficulties next weekend”.
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has told Sud Radio: “What we are expecting from SNCF’s management today is that it finds a solution in the coming hours.”
He said that he is “angry with the customers who are being deprived of their Christmas holidays” and that he believes that finding a way out of the strikes is “the responsibility of SNCF’s management”.
“Enough with these repeated strikes [which happen] even when there have been salary increases, enough with these blockades even when progress has been made with the strikers, and enough with these difficulties for our compatriots who are already in the midst of a crisis with inflation [...] who are having their first Christmas without Covid [restrictions], and who have a right to rest and peace.
Government spokesperson Olivier Véran has also called on the striking workers to “give up on their industrial action”.
Why is the strike happening?
Ticket inspectors are protesting against their current pay and career progression. A strike notice was issued by the CGT and SUD-Rail unions for December 23-26 and December 30-January 2.
The CFDT and Unsa unions have not issued a strike notice. CGT and SUD-Rail are not actively calling on their members to strike, but have not retracted their notices, leaving it up to workers whether they choose to take action or not.
The possibility of a strike emerged from a Facebook group uniting 3,500 of France’s 10,000 ticket inspectors, called le Collectif ACST.
SNCF has already proposed a ‘prime de travail’ bonus of €600 per year, as well as an additional €600 gross bonus. Its offer was accepted by the CFDT and Unsa unions, and was the reason why CGT and SUD-Rail are not actively calling their members to strike.
Eurostar strike cancelled
This comes as a union representing UK Eurostar security staff call off their planned strike set to begin today (December 22) after receiving an improved pay offer.
The RMT union said that the contractor Mitie had made an offer of a 10.3% salary increase, and a rise of nearly 29% for the lowest paid staff.
French Christmas rail strikes: 200% ticket refunds for cancellations
Rail strikes called on Christmas and New Year weekends in France