Nervy French rail passengers asked for their last wishes

Nervy French rail passengers asked for their last wishes
Photo: AFP
French rail chiefs have caused a stir for posing a question to passengers about what they’d like to do “before they die” while the country is on high alert for terror attacks.

Some say it's a question of a wrong time and certainly wrong place. For others, including French rail chiefs SNCF, it is unfortunate, but must remain.

Anyone who has passed through Gare de Lyon in Paris will have noticed the big “Before I die” wall, an instillation by an American artist, the likes of which have been placed in cities around the world since 2011.

There are around 1,000 of the “Before I die” boards, by artist Candy Chang, in 70 countries around the world, but it will be less appreciated in France, on edge after 18 months of terror attacks that have claimed the lives of 235 victims.

Rail stations are high on the list of potential terror targets with security having been beefed up in recent months and passengers have been twitchy about the threat ever since a man opened fire on a train from Amsterdam to Paris before being overpowered by passengers.

And some passengers at Gare de Lyon have not appreciated the timing and subject of the new art work.

“It's nonsense. Imagine if they’d put the same thing in an airport,” one traveller told Le Parisien newspaper.

Others were less shocked by the installation and more by what had been written, the content of which is kept a close eye on by SNCF. Any entries deemed offensive or rude are scrubbed out.

Others were more than offended by it.

“Now when we go into a train station we inevitably think of the attacks, so when I saw the words on the wall I was very surprised,” a passenger named Sandrine told Le Parisian newspaper.

“But the substance of the project is basically nice.”

Gare et Connexions, the branch of SNCF that is in charge of the scheme, denied there was any bad taste behind it.

“We have been working on this project for two to three years, so well before the terror attacks,” a spokesperson said.

“There is no link between the two. We did ask ourselves whether we should cancel it, but we decided that life goes on and that people needed to express themselves, and we need a bit of hope in  this world.”

Gare de Lyon has had the board installed on a trial basis and if it proves successful similar ones will be set up at other train stations in France.

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