SNCF strike: Rail services across France cut as unions walk out in cost-of-living row

Rail unions are staging a 24-hour strike on Wednesday, the eve of the summer holidays, in a dispute over the cost of living, forcing national train operator SNCF to drastically reduce services across France and urge users to postpone their journeys

SNCF strike: Rail services across France cut as unions walk out in cost-of-living row
(Photo: Stephane de Sakutin / AFP)

Nearly a quarter of TGVs have been cancelled, the day before France’s schools break up for the grandes vacances, as the CGT, Unsa, SUD-Rail and CFDT unions stage a 24-hour strike demanding wage increases in the face of rising inflation.

Just three trains out of four are running as scheduled on the Northern TGV Inoui, Eastern and Atlantic axes; while four out of five services and two out of three Ouigo trains will operate on the South-East network. 

READ ALSO Planes, trains and roads: France’s timetable for 2022 summer strikes

International traffic – such as Eurostar, Thalys or Lyria – should run “almost normally” throughout the day, according to SNCF Voyageurs. 

Intercité and regional TER services, however, are heavily affected by the walkout. Just one Intercité train in three is running, while all overnight services except for Paris-Nice have been cancelled, and three out of five scheduled regional TER services will not run.

Customers whose journeys have been cancelled should have been notified by SMS, SNCF Voyageurs said. The carrier offered train changes, but also encouraged users to postpone their travel if at all possible.

Commuters in Ile-de-France, meanwhile, face problems getting in and out of work with the following services in the greater Paris region affected.

Transilien Lines H and P: One train in three will operate

Transilien Lines J, L, N, R, U: One train in two will run as scheduled

RER B, C, D, E: One train in two will run.

T4: One tram will operate every 15 minutes

The strikes, coming so close to the start of the grandes vacances – the first big getaway of the summer is expected this weekend – will concern those looking forward to their holidays, with thousands of early getaways already disrupted by strikes by employees and subcontractors of Aéroport de Paris, firefighters from Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle, easyJet and Ryanair, in particular, causing the cancellation of several hundred flights.

SNCF CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou insisted in late June that upcoming holiday departures were “not threatened” despite the threat of walkouts and said that the number of railway workers would be increased.

“We have put the issues on the table, we try to build a balance, because increasing wages is one thing, but there is also an economic issue: it costs and we must be careful about the impact on the price of tickets, for example,” he told broadcaster Public Senate. 

“It is necessary that at the end of the year, the company remains balanced so that it does not cost the country.”

READ ALSO When – and where – to avoid driving on France’s roads this summer

Unions and SNCF bosses are set for talks on Wednesday. 

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UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

The main union representing French air traffic controllers has cancelled calls for a strike from September 28th to 30th, after "reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry."

UPDATE: French air traffic controllers cancel strike action in September

SNCTA, the main union for air traffic controllers said this week that they had lifted their calls for a three-day strike at the end of September after coming to an agreement with France Ministry of Transport. 

In a statement on its website, the SNCTA said “In view of the concrete progress made on the demands, the SNCTA is lifting its [strike] notice for September 28th, 29th and 30th. The strong mobilisation of September 16th was necessary and instrumental for reaching this conciliation in a very constrained calendar. Thank you to all of you!” 

The French ministry of transport has not yet commented on the above agreement or lifting of the strike.

The International Air Transport Association tweeted their support for the SNCTA’s decision to cancel further industrial action, calling Friday’s strike “unnecessary.”

The association also urged the European Union to implement a “Single European Sky.” This reform, which was put forward almost 20 years ago, has not yet reached fruition. It intends to shift the current system of air traffic organisation away from national borders and toward a “coherent zone” in order to reduce emissions and save both time and money.

The strike on September 16th left over 1,000 flights in France grounded, as well as widespread delays and over 2,400 flight cancellations across Europe. 

The SNCTA mobilised for wage increases due to the rising cost of living, in addition to an acceleration of recruitment in order to anticipate a wave of retirements. After Friday’s action, the union had called for further strikes from September 28th to 30th before reaching an agreement with their supervisory ministry.