This week, SNCF deputy director general Mathias Vicherat personally called the household of 86-year-old Jacques Fondeur and his wife, 87-year-old Marie-Lucie, to let them know that the TGVs - les trains à grande vitesse - they and their family had planned to travel on for the celebrations would be running.
A group of 39 family members had planned to celebrate the couple’s diamond wedding anniversary (60 years) with other family in the town of Castellane (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur), from April 23-28.
The couple, originally from the Nord (Hauts-de-France), had planned to travel from Lille to Avignon and back on a TGV, but were distressed to learn that SNCF would be on strike both days.
The family jumped to the rescue, with the children and grandchildren writing letters to several “high-up” members of SNCF to request reassurance. They also wrote to Elisabeth Borne, minister for transport.
The letters asked if SNCF “could please make sure these TGVs run [despite the strike], as they should be a priority, and it would be possible thanks to workers who are not striking”.
They added: “You have the power to make these trains run. Please make it happen, so that our family’s happiness can continue...by train!”
Nous vous en parlions il y a quelques jours. Marie-Lucie et Jacques Fondeur sont soulagés. lls vont pouvoir emmener leurs proches fêter leurs soixante ans de mariage dans le sud. La SNCF s'est engagée à faire rouler leur TGV https://t.co/ZFZscZ30EB pic.twitter.com/JO5GMzpbaz— Grand Lille TV (@GrandLilleTV) April 19, 2018
The letters reached SNCF’s Mr Vicherat, who said he was “very touched by the story”.
An SNCF spokesperson explained that the company had not laid on a “special train for the couple”, but said that the two trains they wanted would be running as scheduled.
The decision had been taken in large part due to the family letters Mr Vicherat received, the spokesperson said, as the requests had not been angry or “vindictive”.
Speaking to local news source La Voix du Nord, Mr Fondeur said: “The deputy director general called us to tell us the trains would be running as planned. If you had been in the house when we learned the news, you would also have heard the real explosion of joy from us, our children, and our grandchildren! It is so important to build good family connections.”
Unionised workers at SNCF are continuing to strike over disagreements with the management and government over their contracts.
Strikes are taking place “every two days out of five” in protest at the proposed changes, but many TGVs and the international Thalys services have been running fairly well despite the stoppage.
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