Talks Hint End To Strike Action

photo: sncf suburban rail clock

Rail strike adds to already long commuting times.

The French Rail Strike - May '99

Paris:- Thursday, 6. May 1999:- The 9th day of the rail strike, concentrated on suburban lines in the Paris region, was greeted by ever-louder groans by affected passengers. About two million commuters use public transport in the Ile-de-France daily.

Public-transport users, who have not forgotten the local and national near-total strikes which lasted a month from late November to near Christmas in 1995, are in an angry mood about the new labor action. Non-operating trains add greatly to what are already long commuting times for many.

There is a feeling that the strike is losing steam, with slightly fewer train drivers refusing to work yesterday. The majority CGT union is not officially 'on strike.' The pressure brought by the striking minority FGAAC and Sud-Rail unions has softened the SNCF management's bargaining stance. Nevertheless, the strike warning for next Monday, issued by the CGT for rail services throughout France is still in effect.

The situation this morning seems to be improving somewhat, with a slight increase in frequency of trains. Certain Paris train stations are more prone to strikes because of the union affiliations of the drivers operating from them. The Gare de Lyon's drivers are mostly Sud-Rail members and this station's schedules are more affected than Montparnasse, where the CGT drivers are in the majority.

The strike concerns the introduction of the government mandated 35-hour work week. The CGT, which is the majority union, has seen its near agreement with the SNCF direction fall apart in the last week, as smaller and more aggressive unions have balked at the SNCF-CGT deal.

Evening rush-hour periods are to be avoided at Paris stations. Many people can be waiting on the platforms, and when trains arrive full of passengers, there can be a tight press as the two groups try to exchange places.

For visitors to Paris, one fact that emerged from the near total 1995 strikes, was that Paris was never 'closed.' For the entire duration of the strike, it was always possible to get from the airports to city centre, and back out to the airports.

In the case of this strike, the RER line 'B' which serves Charles De Gaulle airport is affected, with only four trains per hour forecast for today. Alternate service is provided by the Air France shuttle buses which make direct runs to city centre.

The train frequency details below have been updated to reflect today's situation. These are rough estimates of service; actual service varies hour by hour.

Details of Transport Services:

Paris Suburban - SNCF and RER: Local trains operating out of Montparnasse and the RER lines 'A' and 'C' are supposed to be operating normally - all other suburban rail services and RER lines are affected by the strike.

Rush-hour services will vary widely; from one train per hour to one train out of two, or a 50 percent service. The most severe cuts are at Paris-Est and Paris-Nord, with more scheduled trains running from Saint-Lazare. The SNCF suggests trying the RER 'A' - although reduced to Cergy and Poissy - and the RER 'C;' both of which are supposed to be operating at near-normal levels.

Experience indicates that forecasts of train frequency are somewhat imaginative. My own line is credited with two trains per hour, which is normal service. In reality, about one train every 90 minutes has been running, with a few more at rush hours.

Shuttle buses have been put into to service, to replace some non-running trains to certain destinations.

High-Speed TGV Lines: Strike action is taking place on TGV lines running from the Gare de Lyon to the south-east and Mediterranean areas, with two out of three TGV trains operating. All other lines should be operating nearly normally.

Regional and Local Lines: Trains are supposed to be operating normally on the Atlantique and Eastern networks. Scheduled trains to Normandy, the north and the south-east are supposed to number two out of three.

London / Brussels Eurostar: Normal service.

Paris City - Métro, Bus: With reduced RER service within Paris, extra buses are running shuttles between the main city train stations, to assure connections with regional and long-distance trains.

Paris, Ile-de-France - Road Traffic: Traffic was difficult yesterday and this will be the case today as increased numbers of commuters try to drive into Paris. The Perifreak! is to be avoided if possible.

More Information: - may be available by consulting the Web site of the SNCF. For more information, you might also try the 'Green Number' 08 00 15 24 24 or the toll number, 08 36 67 68 69.

Watch for Updates - if the strike continues, watch for updates here - to be posted daily around noon, Paris time.

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