France: Three days of train strikes to wreak havoc on travel by rail

With Zone C schools already on their half-term breaks and Zone A soon to join them, the news of an incoming train strike couldn’t come at a worse time for the many thousands of families who have made travel plans for this weekend. 

Although Christophe Fanichet, the head of SNCF Voyageurs, says that the “most booked” trains will be prioritised, such as those travelling to and from the Alps for families and groups with ski holidays on the line, high-speed TGV connections are likely to be 50% operational at best over the weekend after a cross-section of railway unions called on ticket inspectors and other onboard staff to walkout.

Current estimations suggest that up to 90% of personnel will be participating. 

Fanichet, meanwhile, has pledged to uphold 85% of the journeys booked for the 9,000 minors due to use the SNCF’S Junior et Cie service for accompanied travel. He added that alternative services would be provided for the remaining 15% of the affected passengers.  

The motives behind the strike 

The unions are in an uproar over what members say are broken or unfulfilled promises made to them following agreements on wages, bonuses and retirement-related commitments that came in the wake of strikes in December 2022 

“We are discussing issues of remuneration, with the increase in a long-term and monthly work bonus, additional commitments on extending the end of careers and respecting the agreement signed in 2022,” Julien Troccaz, the Sud-Rail union’s Federal Secretary, told reporters on LCI. 

Fanichet, for his part, has called the walkout “incomprehensible” and says that “the company’s commitments… are being kept”. 

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal has also weighed in on the situation, with some choice words reserved for the French “habit”, as he described it, of holding strikes.  

“The French are very attached to the right to strike,” he told the press. “They know that striking is a right, but I believe they also know that working is a duty. Especially when we must allow French people who work all year round [and] who for a few days want to reunite with their families and loved ones to be able to do so. I call for the greatest responsibility, once again, for the French.” 

A warning has been published on the SNCF website that reads: “SNCF travel will be significantly disrupted from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th February due to nationwide social action organised by onboard rail staff. We encourage passengers to verify the status of their trains and correspondences the evening before travel, from 5pm.” 

Local timetables can be found here.  


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Photo source: Matéo Broquedis, Unsplash