National French rail operator SNCF canceled the most scheduled train bookings on Wednesday, a prime travel time, the Christmas weekend when millions of French people traditionally travel for family gatherings. The union behind the strike demands a pay rise and better job prospects for SNCF train guards.
The number of people affected whose scheduled trains have been canceled is around 200,000. French holidaymakers are looking for alternatives to avoid ruining their Christmas plans, which has left the country in turmoil. SNCF further revealed that the strike affected the main route of long-distance rail travel in France, including services on high-speed TGV lines and the cancellation of most scheduled trains for long journeys. Such as Paris to Rennes, western France, or Paris to Bordeaux in the southwest.
However, only a minimal impact on international travel to and from France will be recorded due to this planned Christmas and New Year’s strike by train guards at French state-owned railway operator SNCF, according to a statement from SNFC on Tuesday. The same will be the case with traffic on the intercity networks between France and Germany, Voyages SNCF chief executive Alain Krakovich predicted at a press conference.
The Eurostar train schedule, which connects Paris to London, will only be affected by the UK strike on December 26. Three of four trains will depart for Switzerland, while two out of three trains will go to Italy.
The rail operator promised free rebooking, including for more expensive seats, and even promised to pay double the original ticket price for those unable to rebook, given the turmoil caused by the strike in France. However, the rail operators faced two challenges: most TGVs were fully booked on Wednesday, and other passengers queuing at the railway stations condemned the rail operator’s offers as they found their offers insufficient to fulfill their ruined holidays.
SNCF travel division boss Christophe Fanichet announced strike action by travel inspectors without union support on Wednesday. Government spokesman Olivier Veran backed the travel division boss Christophe Fanichet’s statement that the Christmas Eve strike was outrageous and unacceptable. “You don’t strike at Christmas.” she added.
A passenger with a ticket from Paris to Toulouse in southwest France, standing in a refund line for canceled trains, said that while she understood rail operators’ demands, she opposed their decision to strike during the festive season. She further revealed that the train operators advised her to take the 8-hour-long coach journey, which he refused because it was difficult and exhausting for her and her family.
Another passenger whose train to Bordeaux was canceled said he was desperate to get on any train without a ticket because he didn’t expect SNCF to be very understanding.
According to the travel site Liligo, demand for air tickets has skyrocketed since the strike was announced. Car share and car rental companies also reported a sharp increase in bookings.