French Christmas trains: SNCF ‘guarantees’ 68% tickets

SNCF has said that tickets will be "guaranteed", but this will still leave 250,000 people without transport over Christmas

Train services in France will be “guaranteed” over Christmas, train company SNCF has said, but more than a third of passengers - around 250,000 people - will still need to arrange alternative travel.

The situation had previously been unclear due to ongoing pension strikes over the holiday period.

But this week, director general of Voyages SNCF Rachel Picard said: “We will be able to offer a solution to almost all of our clients”, for trains leaving between December 19 and 22.

Ms Picard explained that the 850,000 passengers who have already booked train tickets for December 21 and 22 had already been contacted about their travel situation and options. Over half of booked passengers (53%) have had their train confirmed, she said.

To achieve this, SNCF is running trains along routes requiring fewer signallers, running super-long trains to require fewer drivers, and giving priority to Ouigo services carrying the most passengers, it said.

Around 15% of passengers have still had their train cancelled, but have been offered a replacement bus service.

But this accounts for only 68% of passengers (53% + 15%). The remaining 32% - the equivalent of around 250,000 passengers - have had their train cancelled, and will need to find alternative forms of transport, as calculated by newspaper Le Figaro.

SNCF has said that these remaining passengers should be able to find tickets on other trains, but there is no guarantee that they will be able to travel at the time or on the date they originally planned.

The company has also said that it will not charge clients extra fees to change their tickets, and advised passengers to use the third party booking app “Trainline” to exchange their tickets, to avoid fees.

Passengers who are not planning to use their train tickets and have decided to travel by other means - in fear of disruption - have been asked to officially cancel their ticket, to free up the spaces for those who need them.

Some passengers have said that the website and app have been operating slowly due to high demand, but worked eventually if they continued to wait.

Others have reported issues with the rebooking process, and said they were forced to pay considerably more for their last-minute tickets than for the original fare - even if they were charged no extra fees.

Tomorrow (Thursday December 19), SNCF is set to confirm its transport provisions for December 23-25.

Eurostar is still reporting "disruption along all routes" and said it will run a "reduced timetable" until December 20.

Eurostar has also confirmed that it has "had no option but to change departure times" of its Ski train direct services to the French Alps on December 20 and 21. More information and new departure times can be found on the Eurostar website.

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