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STRIKES

What train passengers in France can expect from Wednesday’s rail strike

Three unions representing train drivers in France have called on workers to walk out this Wednesday, meaning train services will be disrupted. Here's what to expect.

What train passengers in France can expect from Wednesday's rail strike
Commuters wait to buy tickets at Gare de Lyon in Paris, on December 2, 2022 during a strike (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

Train workers with France’s national rail service, SNCF, plan to walk out on Wednesday, a day ahead of the start of annual salary negotiations with operator SNCF.

With possible strike action still on the horizon for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays – depending on the outcome of the negotiations with management – this mobilisation follows several days of strikes over the weekend which saw about 60 percent of TGV and Intercity trains cancelled.

READ MORE: French rail workers threaten more strikes over Christmas holidays

As for Wednesday’s action, workers from unions CGT-Cheminots, SUD-Rail and CFDT-Cheminots have been called to strike. 

Passengers can expect traffic to be disrupted on some regional (TER) trains, as well as a limited number of high-speed TGV and Intercity trains.

In terms of disruptions on local lines, the regions most areas will be Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand-Est, Occitanie and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.

The Paris region will also see some disruption, particularly on the suburban RER and Transilien services on lines C, D, E and N.

Regarding TGV and Intercity lines, the Paris-Lyon route will be particularly impacted, as well as TGV routes south of Bordeaux, according to reporting by Le Monde.

Travellers should be reminded that they will be informed of any cancellation via e-mail or SMS. Passengers are also entitled to a full refund or exchange (free of charge) in the case of cancellation.

READ MORE: What to expect if you’re travelling to France in December

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STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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