Train services resume at Montparnasse station after day of travel chaos

Service has returned to normal at Gare Montparnasse after thousands of passengers experienced travel chaos on Sunday due a "computer bug" which led to all train journeys being cancelled.

Train services resume at Montparnasse station after day of travel chaos
Photo: AFP
France's national rail company SNCF said that trains should be running normally on Monday after the previous day's disruptions. 
But that's unlikely to be a source of much comfort to passengers who were left disappointed at the packed out station in the French capital's 15th arrondissement on Sunday. 
The SNCF had announced that a “computer bug” had led to signal failure and that all services including TGV, TER, Transilien and Intercités trains would be cancelled from 1pm on Sunday.
“This new incident is unacceptable,” said the Minister of Transport, Elisabeth Borne, on Sunday night.
SNCF explained that it was setting up “a new signalling system to increase the number of trains leaving the station by 20 percent”. 
“This operation went well until noon,” said SNCF manager Didier Bense. 
Naturally, passengers took to social media to vent their frustration. 
One wrote: “Gérard the technician at Montparnasse station wishes you a rubbish Sunday!” (see below).
Another wrote: “Monstrous breakdown at Gare Montparnasse tonight. It's better in the south: In Aix, trains are only one or two hours late.”
Another tweeted: “Parisians right now after the breakdown at Montparnasse station” (see below).
And some were even doubtful that service had been returned to normal on Monday morning. 
One Twitter user wrote: “A return to normal according to the SNCF” (see below). 
This isn't the first time this year that the station has been the source of travel woes. 


SNCF set to lose bid for regional French railway line for first time ever

The French state-funded rail operator SNCF is set to lose a regional rail service for the first time as officials in southeast France vote to award a 10-year contract to a rival operator.

SNCF set to lose bid for regional French railway line for first time ever
Photo by Bertrand Langlois / AFP

Officials in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur appear set to award the regional rail service between Marseille and Nice to the Transdev transport group for 10 years when the tender goes to its final vote on October 29th.

If the vote goes as planned, it will be the first internal regional rail service in France that will not be operated by SNCF. 

“SNCF Voyageurs [which includes TGV, TER, Intercités and Transilien] wishes Transdev every success, in the interest of passengers and the development of rail transport in the region,” SNCF said in a press release, acknowledging the impending loss of the contract.

“This choice marks (…) the concretisation of the opening to competition for which we have been preparing for a long time, where our organising authorities have the freedom to choose other operators than us,” Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, said in the statement.

Three companies were in the running for the €870 million 10-year deal: SNCF, private French transport group Transdev, and Thello, a subsidiary of the Italian public railway company Trenitalia.

Transdev – which already operates successful bus, coach and rail operations – has promised that regional rail traffic on the Marseille-Nice line will double from seven daily services to 14 by 2025.

While the symbolic loss of its first regional rail service will hurt SNCF, it can console itself with reports that it looks set to retain other lines in the region, including links between Les Arcs-Draguignan and Ventimiglia (Italy), as well as Nice-Tende and Cannes-Grasse. The 10-year deal for those services – for which it was the only bidder – is worth €1.5 billion.

Elected officials in the Grand-Est, Hauts-de-France, Ile-de-France and Pays de la Loire are taking a keen interest in the tender process in PACA, having already announced that they would consider opening up bids for TER services to rival operators.

TER routes are France’s local trains, running slower services to small towns, in contrast to the high-speed TGV network which links up the cities.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

“It’s historic in the railway world, it’s the first time that a line of this importance will be granted to another operator than the SNCF,” Alpes-Maritimes senator Philippe Tabarot, and former vice-president in charge of transport in the PACA region, told AFP.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone is as excited at the prospect. “We are not surprised, because it shows the willingness of the region to create competition in the most profitable markets,” said Jean-Marie Valencia, head of communications for rail union CGT-Cheminots PACA. “We are concerned, because it will not be without cost to the railway workers.”

Didier Mathis, secretary general of union UNSA-Ferroviaire, added: “We are saddened by this decision, because it will lead to the transfer of 166 agents [from SNCF to Transdev]. 

“This decision is not at all a surprise, because the Southern Region would have been embarrassed if it had chosen SNCF twice in the two tenders, even though it said it was dissatisfied with SNCF. The region would have lost all credibility.”