UPDATED: Flights, trains, ferries and buses – your questions answered about France’s December strikes

UPDATED: Flights, trains, ferries and buses - your questions answered about France's December strikes
All transport is likely to see some level of disruption during the strike. Photo: AFP
With major disruption hitting public transport across France from Thursday December 5th, we have been answering readers' questions on how their travel will be affected.

Unions representing rail workers, city public transport employees, hauliers, teachers, airline ground crew, air traffic controllers and postal workers are all involved in the strikes, meaning that travel disruption is widespread.

How long the strikes will last is not certain, some workers – including many teachers – went back to work on Friday after one day, but transport unions have all stayed on strike.

Unions are calling for another day of mass walk-outs and protests on Tuesday, December 10th so the situation is not likely to improve in the short term.

Latest reports show;

  • 85 percent of trains cancelled on Monday, December 9th
     
  • Flights returned to normal over the weekend and were generally reported to running as normal on Monday, baring some knock-on disruption from the earlier cancellations
     
  • Numerous cancellations on Metro, buses, trams and RER in Paris on Monday as high numbers of commuters made for a 'Black Monday'
     

Transport operators will generally be publish detailed timetables 48 hours in advance as strikes continue.

READ ALSO: 'Unlimited' December strikes in France: What you need to know

So here are the answers to questions sent in by readers of The Local.

How can I get around the Paris/greater Paris area?

Paris public transport is badly hit, as all six unions that represent staff on the RATP network are joining the strike. 

The majority of Metro lines are not running at all and services on buses, trams, RER is badly disrupted. We know this will continue at least until Monday, December 9th and possibly longer.

Paris traffic, petty bad most days, gets massively worse as many people try to do the daily commute by car and the price of Uber and other VTC taxis shot up thanks to very high demand. Although some companies were reportedly offering special “strike rates”

But…

Apart from a struggle to get to work or travel across the city, life in Paris is pretty much going on as normal.

Fortunately Paris has lots of alternatives for getting around – there's an increasing number of cycle tracks so you can cycle to work or to tourist attractions (if they are open). If you don't have a bike, there is a city wide bike-sharing scheme – Vélib'. And there are also electric scooters available to hire.

As a fairly compact city, walking is an option for most journeys as this map shows.

READ ALSO: Six ways to get around Paris without public transport

What about public transport in other cities?

There have been strike notices issued from public transport unions in most major cities including Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Toulouse, Marseille, Lille, Nantes, Rennes and Bordeaux.

Transport there was severely disrupted on Thursday, but on Friday in most places the disruption is looking less severe. In Lyon the tram system is running as normal.

Bordeaux saw vastly reduced services on Thursday and there is expected to be more disruption.

In Toulouse the two metro lines will run as normal but tram and bus services are likely to be disrupted.

In Montpellier and the surrounding Hérault region there is still some disruption – click here for full details.

Strasbourg, Lille, Nantes and Rennes have also seen limited disruption. For more details, click here.

I have flights booked for December, will they be delayed or cancelled?

Unions representing ground staff and air traffic controllers have joined the strike so flights to, from and over France have been affected.

Around 20 percent of flights were cancelled on Friday, December 6th, mostly short haul. It was the same number of Thursday, the first day of the strike, with airlines such as Air France, easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways all affected, although services returned to normal over the weekend of December 7th and 8th.

Airline employees have to give at least 48 hours notice of how many intend to strike, so airlines can contact customers about any changes.

The airports  Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Beauvais, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux were the most affected by cancellations.

Also if you're flying in to Paris, bear in mind that the RER B services between the city and Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will be running at a reduced rate.

Taxis are likely to be more thin on the ground than usual and prices will likely rise if you are using anything other than an official Paris taxi. Note that taxis to and from Paris airports have fixed prices.

There are numerous bus services from both airports to the centre of Paris although journey times will likely be longer than usual if traffic on the roads is clogged and it will definitely be wise to book in advance.

READ ALSO French pension strikes: Expect major disruption that could last until New Year

I'm planning a train trip in December, should I hire a car instead?

Major disruption is certainly going to hit all rail services with the least affected TGV services managing about one train in 10 and other services less than that.

Hiring a car would certainly offer more peace of mind (although there may also be road disruption, see below) and if you cancel a pre-booked ticket because of strike action you will get a full refund. If you don't drive, there are ride-sharing apps like BlaBlaCar that offer a cheap trips between major cities if you don't mind a long car trip with a stranger.

Will the strikes affect the Eurostar and Thalys/Lyria international train services?

Yes. Although staff from these services are generally not be striking, strikes from signal workers affect all trains travelling through France.

Eurostar has said that it will be running a reduced service on strike days. The service has published a list of which trains are cancelled, which you can check here. Trains between London and Paris Gare du Nord are affected, along with some onward services to Brussels and Amsterdam.

The same applies to the international routes between France and Switzerland – run by Lyria – and France and Belgium – run by Thalys.

Lyria says that its services are likely to be very disrupted with just one return service scheduled for December 5th and is advising people not to travel. Full refunds can be obtained – even on non-refundable tickets – between December 5th and December 11th. For more information click here

Thalys, which operates services between France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is also advising passengers not to travel on strike days. Free ticket refunds or exchanges are available for people with pre-booked tickets – more information here.

Will the Eurotunnel or cross-Channel ferry routes be affected?

A spokesman for the Eurotunnel said their services would continue to run normally.

Although workers on the ferries are not striking, there has been some sporadic  industrial action among dock workers in St Malo and Dieppe which means that some ferry services were cancelled – customers are advised to check with the operator if they have ferry crossings booked.

Will the roads be affected?

When public transport in France is hit by strikes then there is a knock on effect on the roads, especially around big cities.

With many commuters facing no option but to use their car to get to work we can expect big rush hour traffic jams in the greater Paris region. Roads leading into other cities such as Bordeaux will also likely be far busier than usual.

Two of the unions that represent hauliers have announced they are joining the strike.

Although they don't represent all drivers by any means, when French hauliers strike they do sometimes create blockades and rolling roadblocks to make their feelings known. Although nothing like this has been announced, it's worth bearing the possibility of delays in mind if you have a tight schedule.

Roads in and around cities are likely to be much busier than usual as commuters who usually use public transport take their cars instead.

Some 'yellow vest' protesters have also said they will join the demonstrations, which could involve demos at péage (toll stations) on the motorway – a frequent target of 'yellow vest' anger over the past year.

And if you are driving you need to be careful to fill up with petrol in good time – some strikers are blocking oil depots which means that several hundred filling stations across France are running dry or low on fuel. However this is mostly being caused by drivers panic-buying fuel.

Click here for an interactive map of which stations are closed and which have short supplies.

Unconnected to the strike but likely to be disruptive are rolling roadblocks that one lorry drivers' union has announced it will be staging on Saturday, December 7th. These are in protest over fuel tax.

If you have anymore questions regarding the December strikes please feel free to email me at [email protected]

 

 


Member comments

  1. Thanks for the article Emma. For your next update can you include the train service between France and Germany please? For example, to what extend are the services operated by the German railway (Deutsche Bahn), i.e. Stuttgart – Paris impacted?

  2. Looks like ferries are affected after all. Brittany Ferries has cancelling some/all (not sure) sailings to Le Havre and St Malo on 5 December.

    https://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/ferry-routes/planning/sailing-updates

    I can’t find much detail, but it looks like La Fédération nationale des ports et docks CGT appears to have called a strike.

    https://lemarin.ouest-france.fr/secteurs-activites/shipping/35493-la-cgt-appelle-la-greve-dans-les-ports-jeudi-5-decembre

  3. Thank you Emma for this excellent article. You really have covered the most common questions I am hearing in the various forums of which I am a member.

    I am however seeking clarity regarding this section of the article:
    Also if you’re flying in to Paris, bear in mind that the RER B services between the city and Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will be reduced and cabs are likely to be more thin on the ground than usual and prices will likely rise.  
    To me this reads that the price of taxis from CDG and Orly into Paris will increase. My understanding is that these prices are fixed and cannot just be altered (https://droit-finances.commentcamarche.com/faq/48237-paris-aeroport-en-taxi-tarifs-2017 )  I know that as with the strike on 13 September 2019 we can expect shortages of Uber, Kapten and other VTC cars as well as surge/dynamic pricing. Are you saying that taxis will also be increasing their rates? 

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