Commuters in Paris urged to avoid trains as two-day rail strike begins

Paris commuters are urged to avoid travelling into the capital by train in the run up to the weekend, with regular RER and regional Transilien services cut by third, on average, due to a two-day strike.

Stationary French Transilien regional railway network trains
Photo: Eric Piermont / AFP

The CGT-Cheminots union issued a strike notice for Thursday, December 16th and Friday, December 17th, in protest at what one rail worker at Gare du Nord described as ‘excess pressure on station positions: ticket agents, information points’.

“For Thursday, December 16, we recommend that travellers limit their trips as much as possible, with an average of 2 out of 3 trains running,” SNCF said in a statement.

RER traffic forecasts for Thursday are as follows: 

RER A: normal service;

RER B: Three out of four trains will operate;

RER C: One train in three is expected to run;

RER D: 1 train out of 3 with bus between Corbeil-Malesherbes, Corbeil-Melun and Corbeil-Juvisy via Ris-Orangis. No RER D between Gare-de-Lyon and Châtelet-les-Halles. A replacement bus service has been set up between Corbeil-Essonnes and Juvisy via Ris-Orangis, between Corbeil Essonnes and Malesherbes and between Corbeil-Essonnes and Melun.

RER E: One train in two will be cancelled.

For up-to-date information on RER services in the capital, click HERE

Meanwhile, Transilien rail services will be “highly disturbed” on line R, “very disturbed” on lines N and U, and “disturbed” on lines H and P, SNCF said. 

The travel forecast is as follows:

Line H:Two out of three trains will operate. A replacement bus service has been set up between Creil and Pontoise;

Lines J and L: normal service;

Line P: Four trains out of five will run on average;

Line R: One scheduled service in three will run on average. A replacement bus service has been set up between Melun and Montereau via Héricy;

Lines N and U: One train in two will be cancelled;

Tramway T11: Trams will run every 23 minutes;

T4: normal service.

For up-to-date information on Transilien services, click HERE

RATP networks except RER B, which it runs in partnership with SNCF, are unaffected.

Arnaud Bertrand, president of the association Plus de Trains which campaigns for improved rail services, called on travellers who can telecommute to do so. “We’ll need to leave room for employees who can’t do anything else but go to their workplace,” he told Le Parisien.

“This strike comes at a time when Île-de-France mobilités is still operating a reduced service due to the health crisis.”

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Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

Authorities in the French Alps said Friday they had closed down two popular mountain shelters used by Mont Blanc climbers because of potentially deadly drought-related rockfalls.

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

In a year marked by drought and heatwaves, rockfalls and gaping crevices have made access to the top of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, even more difficult and perilous.

The mayor’s office in the Mont Blanc village of Saint-Gervais, said climbers were in “mortal danger” from rocks and shards coming loose because of dry weather and dropping from a height.

“All day long, we still see climbers going on the mountain range, all the time, as if this was Disneyland or the Parc Asterix,” said Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, in reference to two popular theme parks near Paris.

Hikers had been advised since last month to stay away because of the danger, but “they just don’t give a damn,” he told AFP.

READ MORE: ‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The closure of the two mountain shelters — Gouter with 120 overnight spots and Tete Rousse with 74, as well as a base camp accommodating up to 50 people — was to “show clearly that there is no accommodation available”.

The authorities had warned for weeks that falling rocks were a danger, he said, adding that crossing the Gouter mountain corridor represented “a mortal danger”, he said.

Nevertheless, 79 people stayed at the Gouter shelter Thursday night, he said.

The shelters will remain shut until normal weather conditions return, the mayor said, probably not before early September.

Peillex had warned Wednesday that Saint-Gervais would require a deposit of €15,000 from each hiker, saying the sum represented the average cost of a rescue operation and a funeral.

He was, however, advised that French law offers no basis for such a move.

A lack of snow during the winter has laid bare vast areas of greyish glacier — yellowish where sand dust from the Sahara has accumulated — riven with fractures on the Mont Blanc.

The heat did the rest, causing the fragile snow bridges to melt that make it possible to cross the crevasses, as well as leading to landslides.

Following several heatwaves, France is in the grip of severe drought, blamed by scientists on climate change.

On Friday, 100 municipalities across the country were without drinking water, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said.

Calling the drought “historic”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a crisis meeting Friday to seek solutions.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in several parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and more intense.

The international community has agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.