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When you absolutely have to get there, a transport strike is a challenge. We do everything we can to make your journey as smooth as possible. Here’s how it works.

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How we craft our transport plan: resources and organization

Operating our trains demands a wide range of resources, from people to rolling stock. It’s complex­—and takes a lot of organizing.

Before leaving the station, each train must have two key players on board:

  • a driver
  • a conductor

But service also requires:

  • station personnel
  • traffic control personnel

In addition, the rolling stock must be positioned and stocked in the right place at the right time, requiring even more resources and organization.

The right driver for every train

Drivers are licensed to operate specific types of rolling stock on specific lines—even in the event of a strike. For example:

  • a driver of conventional trains cannot operate a high-speed TGV train
  • a TGV driver authorized for the Paris-Bordeaux line cannot drive on the Paris-Lyon line

How strikes are called

Like other public service employees, rail workers are prevented from striking at random or on the spur of the moment. Under French law, a specific procedure is in place:

  • One or more unions identify one or more significant demands and file a request for immediate talks (Demande de Concertation Immédiate). This calls for management to meet with them to address a specific issue.
  • A meeting between the company and the unions must be scheduled within three days.
  • At the end of the talks, company management and the unions draft a joint document (relevé de conclusion concerté) highlighting areas of agreement and disagreement. This is signed by the stakeholders and distributed to affected personnel.
  • The unions then have the right to file a strike notice. They may announce their decision to strike immediately, but in any case it must be announced within 15 days. They may also announce that the strike is “renewable”.

Types of strike

There are two types of strike: 

  • a strike that lasts for a limited time (grève carrée or grève franche)
  • a strike that may be renewed on a specific date for a specific length of time (grève reconductible, or renewable strike) 

Before the strike: individual statements of intent

Some employees are required to give notice of their intention to participate in the strike by completing an individual statement of intent (Déclaration Individuelle d’Intention, or DII). The DII must be submitted no later than 48 hours in advance of the strike.

This requirement applies to employees whose work is essential to keeping our trains running, such as:

  • drivers
  • conductors
  • traffic control personnel
  • employees who provide passenger information and other services

How we develop our modified transport plan

Transport organizing authorities, or TAOs—the elected officials in affected cities, départements and regions—draft a list of essential services for their constituents.
These might include service for a hospital or school, or minimum transport for a major industrial facility or labour pool, as well as services for people with limited mobility. These priorities are used to set the minimum level of service under a transport plan.
Each TAO identifies these needs and sets the required level of service.

At SNCF, we use this information to develop transports plans that meet TAO requirements. We select the best plan given the expected disruptions, and relay service and timetable information to our passengers.

  • Two days before the strike begins, each of our business lines—Transilien, TER, Intercités and TGV—assesses the individual statements of intent (Déclaration Individuelle d’Intention, or DII) received from its workers. Using this information, they determine the level of service that they can provide on each line and corridor.
  • One day before the strike begins, we pool and review our services for each corridor, line and business line to determine overall traffic conditions (normal, slightly disrupted, disrupted or very disrupted).
  • At 17.00 on the day before the strike, we publish details of the modified transport plan on our passenger information tools, including the SNCF app,, and the Twitter feeds for different lines. We also post notices and distribute leaflets in our stations, and information volunteers—recognizable by their red vests—are on hand to inform and guide our passengers.

Concretely, this means that we are unable to provide information on your train until the afternoon before you travel. The reason is simple: we don’t receive all of the DIIs until 48 hours before the strike begins, and it takes us a day to draft our modified transport plans.

Why can’t passengers get information until the day before?

We can’t issue our modified transport plan until the afternoon before the strike begins because:

  • we need to know in advance how many employees in key positions will be out on strike.
  • 48 hours before the strike begins, we must estimate the number of strikers for each business line and define the level of service for each corridor and line.
  • The day before the strike, we must pool and review the levels of service for each corridor and line. At 17.00, we communicate the modified transport plan to our passengers over a range of channels.

Traffic updates during a strike

Every day at 17.00, the SNCF app gives an update on all trains operating the following day. This information is also available at our Newsroom and by telephone at 3635 from inside France (from outside France, dial +33 8 92 35 35 35). And you can check the Twitter accounts for SNCF (@SNCF) and our individual lines.

Download the SNCF app for iOS

Download the SNCF app for Android

Follow @SNCF on Twitter


How do you calculate the strike participation rate?

We use the individual statements of intent (Déclarations Individuelles d’Intention, or DII) received from employees to estimate the number of strikers, but calculating the exact participation rate is a two-stage process:

  • we must wait until the strike begins to know exactly how many employees are taking part, which is the basis for the participation rate
  • the day after the strike begins, we calculate the exact number of strikers at national level. The counting process is monitored by a huissier (French court official).