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How can the French get to work during the rail strikes?

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How can the French get to work during the rail strikes?
Photo: AFP
10:36 CEST+02:00
Faced with severe disruption to train services due to rail strikes French workers were having to get inventive to find other solutions to get to work.

Workers across France face huge headaches to get to work over the coming days and months as rail workers begin 36 days of rolling strikes.

The first day of the strike was dubbed Black Tuesday and saw services running at a bare minimum across the country.

Some lines were even closed entirely while only one in eight TGV services were running and Intercité and TER services were running between 10 and 20 percent of normal services.

So that meant workers in France, and in particular the Paris region, face real problems to get to the office.

But there were some solutions of a sort that they could fall back on apart from cycling, paying out for a taxi that is likely to get stuck in a traffic jam, or spending the night at a friend's house who lives near their work.

One of them was to look at ride-sharing apps like BlaBlaCar which have reportedly seen a huge surge in bookings due to the strikes.

BlaBlaCar is promising commuters free rides to work via its BlaBlalines service for the first 60 000 users who sign up. The offer only applies to daily journeys to and from work which are less than 80 km.

French rail operator SNCF also has its own ride-sharing app called iDVROOM, which is offering to reimburse users affected by the strikes.

For some workers though, the alternative to their usual train was just to try and get any train. Many simply turned up at the station earlier than normal in the hope of getting on.

Pictures showed RER commuter train services packed with people while commuters on trains pulling into Gare de Lyon on Tuesday morning were also jammed in like sardines.

It's worth noting that the Metro service in Paris is running as normal but passengers also faced packed carriages. Paris transport authorities have also laid on more bus and tram services.

And one factor that workers have to their advantage that they didn't have in 1995, the last time the country really ground to a halt because of a rail strike, is that now many are able to work from home.

"Bosses don't hesitate anymore to authorize working from home," a commuter named Patrice told Le Parisien newspaper on Tuesday.

But many still don't have that option and were forced to find new ways of getting to work.

READ ALSO: Can French rail workers bring the country to a standstill like in 1995?

Could striking French rail workers bring France to a standstill once again?

Authorities in the greater Paris region of Île-de-France have joined up with 8 ride-sharing platforms to make the services free in the region for drivers.

Motorists just have to sign up to the Vianavigo app to enter their journey and they will be reimbursed 10 centimes per kilometre.

But Bruno Gazeau, the head of France's National Transport Users association said "ride-sharing is not a long term alternative" to rail services.

"Many people just don't have any other option than the train," he said.

One other option open to passengers hit by the strikes was coach travel, which is a relatively new form of transport in France after Emmanuel Macron opened up the industry as part of his loosening of the French economy when he was minister under the previous president.

"Macron's coaches" as the services are dubbed include Flixbus, Ouibus, Isilines and are laying on up to three times as many services during the strike period as they aim to profit from the chaos in the rail sector.

Hugo Roncal, director general of Isilines reports a huge surge in the number of bookings on all its short distance services. But passengers should be aware that prices are also surging due to the demand.

However France doesn't appear quite ready to transport huge numbers of passengers to and from work by coach.

While trains carry 4.5 million people each day in France, coaches only carry 8 million per year.

A more inventive option for the French to get to work during a strike was hitchhiking.

While workers were unlikely to line up along motorway slip-roads with their thumbs up hoping for a ride, rail operator SNCF has come up with an idea to at least encourage drivers to pick up fellow workers.

The rail operator has come up an initiative known as Autostop-citoyen (or citizen hitchhiking) in partnership with the traffic app Waze and Facebook.

All drivers need to do is download an "autostop-citoyen" sticker and place it on their car's bumper with a label indicating their destination.

Then those who need a lift can turn up at official motorway rest areas indicated on Waze or Facebook and hope to get a ride.

The service is only operating in the greater Paris region but may soon be rolled out to other areas of France.

With the strikes set to continue on and off until June 28th, people in France at least have time to try out a few alternative ways of getting to work.

But the reality is for most there just isn't another option to the train.

 

 

 

 

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