by Ric Erickson
Ric Erickson

The Weather, and the SNCF and RATP
Response to Client Relations

SnowNumber 1.01 - Metropole Paris, Friday; 23. February, 1996:- The birth of a new online information service about Paris this week, is probably not a lot of news to anybody but us. Even is it is represented, at the moment, by only one hand clapping, we'll be satisfied with that. Hello. Glad to be here. Happy you're here too.

The weather was not big news in Paris this week. It is cold and it has been snowing a little. Beyond the edges of Paris, throughout Europe in fact, the weather has staging a periodic rerun of General Winter's annual campaign, to the annoyance of hundreds of millions of residents and visitors.

'Le Parisien' said on Wednesday, "Rain, snow, black ice, high winds," and a new cold wave were "perturbing" daily life, "closing airports, causing monster traffic jams and serious accidents." Thursday morning it was minus four degrees here, west of Paris.

Beyond Paris, it was often more serious and sometimes dramatic. Routes were blocked in Brittany and drivers were trapped in their cars and trucks for hours. Metropole's correspondent, Tony Brock, was trapped for hours in the Channel Tunnel - probably on account of the weather. The cold was especially severe for the homeless - yes, Victoria, there are homeless here too - and the total number of deaths and injuries due to the 'mauvais temps' is unknown at this time.

As I said, airports were blocked for various periods; trains were late or canceled - Eurostar service was announced as 'disrupted' when I was a Gare du Nord yesterday - and here at Metropole we will be keeping a close watch on this - especially when it may affect people travelling to or from Paris - and post frequent online transport bulletins as soon as we're aware of the situation. The weather forecasters claim a 90 percent accuracy in the 24-hour forecast; it is the other ten percent that happens to us.

The weekend forcast calls for rising temperatures in the west - watch out for overnight freezing - and continued snow in the east of France.

Paris Commuters Blitzed by the SNCF and the RATP

The SNCF, around Paris, has filled up its advertising spaces with various announcements, to the effect that, if you don't buy a ticket, or are on the wrong 'zone' with the wrong ticket, or if the ticket is not canceled, or if you using a reduced-fare ticket and can't produce papers, for example, proving that you are handicapped; then, you are going to get a fine of from 100 to 200 francs.

In case you may think a 100F fine is the ticket controller's fault, there is one ad that says, "The job of the controllers, is to keep you from paying for the cheater's fraud." Another says, "Cheating is risky." I talked to a group of controllers at Gare St Lazare on Tuesday and they didn't seem to think that there were more ticketless passengers than usual. However, 'Le Parisien' reported the same day, that passenger numbers had fallen.

The RATP is substituting massive advertising with massive deployment in the métro tunnels; gangs of inspectors entirely block passage and check everybody. There are always roving ticket controllers, but this seems to be a really major campaign.

A good number of regular passengers, after the three week series of transport strikes in December, must have decided that the Paris transport conglomo of RATP and SNCF, owed them one - and rode free. Why the two have waited until now to retaliate is unknown.

SNCF seems particularly insensitive to what passenger's think about the service and its management. Today they launched a massive survey, asking its client to, "donnez vos idées sur le train," - tell us your thoughts about the trains - and promising, "de meilleurs services, dés demain," - better service, starting tomorrow.

To this end, today's 'Le Parisien' contains the full-page questionnaire; other copies can be picked up at all 'Relais H,' the Hachette magazine kiosks, located in most train stations. SNCF does not want you to ask for it at their own ticket windows; that might perturb its services.

Watch this space for Metropole Paris updates

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