Paris Olympics Guide For Members

Paris Olympics: How to find out what transport is running if there's a strike

The Local France
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Paris Olympics: How to find out what transport is running if there's a strike
Protesters hold banners reading "Strike". Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP

It's not exactly unusual for strikes to happen in France and they often target transport services such as trains, flights or the Metro. So here's how to find out if your journey is likely to be disrupted if a strike is called during the Paris Olympics.


If you're visiting France for the Paris Olympics or Paralympics, you might see headlines about possible strike action. While it's too early to know for sure - and a lot of negotiations are ongoing - it's not impossible that strikes will happen during the Games.

ANALYSIS: How likely are strikes during the Paris Olympics?

But don't despair - strikes don't always cause widespread disruption, and sometimes it's just about checking in advance what is running. 

Strikes in France are often targeted at transport services - firstly because unions representing public transport workers tend to be strong and somewhat feisty, and secondly because if unions have a more general grievance about something like pensions or workers rights they can make their point most effectively by disrupting the services that everybody uses. 


But it's important to note that just because there is a strike, it doesn't mean that everything will be cancelled - strikes vary hugely in how disruptive they are.

Although the right to strike is enshrined in France's constitution, there are some limits, especially when it comes to public transport.

16 French phrases for use during a strike

Workers for essential services such as trains, planes and city public transport are required to give 48 hours' notice of their intention to strike. This means that bosses can plan ahead and produce strike timetables, so travellers know exactly what will be running. 

Here's how to find out. 


Rail strikes usually follow a three step process - unions announce a strike for a certain day or days, SNCF bosses then give estimates on roughly how many trains will be cancelled and then detailed strike timetables are announced.

During the initial announcement it's important to pay attention to how many unions are striking - there are eight unions that represent French rail workers and if only one has called a strike, it's unlikely to be highly disruptive.

The estimate phase then gives a rough guide - ie one in three normal services will run. This is broken down into train types, so check what you are booked to travel on;

TGV - the high-speed inter-city services the Paris to Marseille. These are divided into InOui and OuiGo, which is the budget line. Your ticket or booking confirmation will state which you are booked on.

Intercité - running between towns, these are slower than TGV routes.

TER - these are the slower, local train routes.

The full strike timetables are then usually produced roughly 24 hours in advance, and are generally published at around 5pm. If you're booked in advance you will be emailed or notified via the SNCF Connect app if your train is cancelled.


You can also check SNCF's Info Traffic page for real-time information - first select either Grandes lignes (mainline service), TER (local train services) or Île-de-France (Paris region local services) at the top, and then select the area of France you are travelling in.

Information about big strikes can also be found in French media, or at The Local's strike section HERE.


Air travel can be affected by strike action either from airline crew (eg pilots, flight attendants) or by French air traffic controllers.

Actions by air are usually not coordinated and therefore affect only one airline eg Air France or Easyjet. In this case, passengers should contact their airline directly, or check the airline's website or social media. Passengers should be notified in advance if their flight is cancelled.

If air traffic controllers strike, then the French civil aviation authority steps in, and orders a certain number of flights to be cancelled. 


The Direction générale de l'aviation civile (DGAC) usually announces cancellations first on its Twitter account @DGAC  - this announcement will usually be in the form of a percentage for certain airports eg Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has been ordered to cancel 30 percent of flights on January 20th. These are almost always also reported in French media and The Local. 

If you're flying to an airport not mentioned by the DGAC announcement, then your flight probably won't be affected. 

It's then up to the airport to communicate with airlines, while the airlines themselves decide which flights will be cancelled - they usually try and concentrate cancellations on short-haul flights and preserve as many long-haul routes as possible. As with airline strikes, people with a flight booked should be notified directly via their airline. 

Both airline and air traffic control strikes can produce 'knock on' effects as planes and crew end up in the wrong place, so it's not usual for disruption to continue the day after a strike ends, although this tends to be in the form of delays rather than cancellations.

READ ALSO What are my rights if my flight is delayed or cancelled?



Also frequently the target of public transport strikes are city public transport services, especially in the capital. The Paris public transport network has its own problems to do with pay and working conditions, but a strike that paralyses the capital's transport is also seen as an effective way to put pressure on the (Paris-based) government.

These follow broadly the same pattern as rail strikes - announcement by unions of the date (pay careful attention to the number of unions who intend to strike), announcement by transport operator RATP of roughly how many services will run, then the detailed strike timetable.

The detailed strike timetable usually appears at around 5pm the evening before a strike, published on RATP's Info Trafic website and on Twitter @RATPGroup and @ClientsRATP.

Each Metro and tram line also has its own Twitter account - eg @Ligne2_RATP or @Ligne11_RATP. These accounts give the best real-time updates on regular problems on the line such as a signal breakdown or lost baggage, so they're well worth following if you travel regularly on a certain line. 

Paris public transport strikes are almost always reported in French media, as well as at The Local's strike section. 

Suburban rail services 

If you're travelling in the greater Paris region - including getting to and from Charles de Gaulle or and Orly airport or going to the Stade de France - it's crucial to know who runs which services.

Employees of SNCF and RATP rarely strike at the same time, so knowing who runs the service you plan to travel on is vital. 

RATP runs all the Paris Metro, tram and bus lines, plus RER A and B. RER B links Paris to Charles de Gaulle and Orly airport.

The rest of the services in the greater Paris area - RER C, D and E plus all the Transilien lines, are run by SNCF.

If you're going to Stade de France - RER B and RER D go there (as well as Metro line 12) so you should have options.

Museums and tourist sites

Sometimes stuff at museums or tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower go on strike too - usually in disputes over pay and conditions.

These are less high profile and don't usually make the news - but if you're planning a trip it's a good idea to check the museum's website or social media feeds on the day of your visit - if there is a strike, the information will usually be posted there.


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