French rail strikes: What can I do if I’m due to travel?

The Local France
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French rail strikes: What can I do if I’m due to travel?
Photo: AFP

Can I still get a train in France on a strike day? What if I need to exchange my ticket or get a refund? Hopefully this will answer some of your questions about the French rail strikes if you are due to travel over the coming weeks.


What’s happening?

Unions representing workers with France’s national rail company SNCF are holding a series of rolling strikes to protest against the government's reform of the rail sector and in particular the plan to end the special employment status for new recruits.

Train services will be heavily disrupted -- two in every five days until the end of June -- unless a compromise can be found, although that looks unlikely given the failure of negotiations up to now.

When are the strikes?

Railway workers are next on strike Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th April. A calendar of the planned strikes is available here.

Will trains be running?

At the beginning of the rail strikes services were almost at a standstill across the country. For example only one out of eight TGV trains were running. However by April 18th some one in three TGV services were operating on strike days. In other words, the impact of the strike is easing and there are trains running.

And on the day in between the strike action, trains are more or less running as normal, although there is still some disruption on regional mainline services.

How can I find out if my train is running?

You can only know for certain if your train is running after 5pm the day before the strike day.

Head to the SNCF website by CLICKING HERE or you can download the SNCF app and keep a check on your train that way.

On the website cancelled trains will have the word "train supprimé" next to the them. But on the app the train services that have been cancelled just won't appear. 

For regional TER trains you can check the local SNCF website for the region: Haut-de-France    Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes    Bourgogne-Franche-Comté    Bretagne    Centre-Val de Loire    Grand Est    Normandie    Occitanie    Nouvelle Aquitaine    Provence-Alpes-Côte d'azur    Pays de la loire

For Ouigo tickets, visit the Ouigo site to know if your train is running.

What can I do if I am due to travel on a strike day?

If you are due to travel before April 29th the following rules apply. For anyone travelling in May and June, SNCF will publish guidelines for those months towards the end of April, but if the strikes run on it's likely the same rules will apply.

If you want to avoid travelling by train on strike days you can cancel your ticket and be eligible for a full refund, even if the ticket you bought was non-refundable.

You can do that by clicking here or by visiting an SNCF ticket counter in rail stations.

What if my train is cancelled?

1.    Take another train for free

On the day of the strike, you’re entitled to take any other train heading to your destination. You don’t have to reserve your new train, just make sure you have the ticket for your cancelled train. However, you aren’t guaranteed a seat.

2.    Get a refund

You can get a refund if your train is cancelled due to a strike, even if you bought a non-reimbursable ticket. The quickest ways are to fill out a form online or head to an SNCF counter in a train station. 

3.    Travel later

On the strike days so far SNCF has been advising passengers to change their travel plans if possible and avoid going to the train stations. So if you're plans are flexible and you can change your ticket for another date then that's also an option.

If your train is cancelled because of a strike, you can decide to travel later. Head to a train station or an SNCF ‘boutique’ with your ticket within two months of your cancellation date. 

Ouigo tickets have sightly different rules and customers can exchange their tickets free of charge but will have to pay the difference and if they want a refund they will either be given a voucher or can demand a refund here.

Can I not just get on a train and not pay for a ticket?

The short answer is no. Season ticket holders are understandably frustrated by the strike, and some travellers have even been presenting fake tickets in protest at the disruption. But you risk a fine of up to €50 if you take part in the ‘ticket strike’. 

The head of SNCF Transilien Alain Krakovitch told France Bleu in early April that “there will be compensation” for monthly/yearly holders travelling on routes with fewer than one in three trains running.

SNCF says compensation will only be paid out if less than one in three TGV services are running.

What do I do if my train is late on a strike day?

There are three categories of compensation for TGV and Intercité trains and the online form is available here.

If your train's 30 to 59 minutes late, you can request a refund of 33 percent of the price of the trip.

From 60 to 119 minutes, you can claim a 33 percent refund of the trip cost in the form of a voucher for another train journey or a cash refund of 25 percent of the trip price.

For a delay of 120 minutes or more, you can claim 66 percent of the price of the trip in the form of a voucher or 50 percent of the price in cash.

For Ouigo customers delayed for between 60 and 119 minutes, a refund voucher of 25 percent of the ticket price will be sent by e-mail, and that will go up to 50 percent if the delay is 120 minutes or more.

What can I do if I can’t get to work?

If you’re late or can’t get to work due to the train strike, your employer doesn’t have the right to disciplinary action.

However, you might have to work extra hours to make up for your absence if you don’t want to see your pay packet shrink, because your company doesn't have to pay you if you don’t show up for work, unless you are covered in the collective agreement relevant to your job. 

Alternatively, talk to your employer about working from home if you think this could be a solution.



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