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Strikes

When you absolutely have to get there, a transport strike is a challenge. We’re doing 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 (required for some trains)

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

Every driver is authorized to operate a certain number of vehicles on specific lines—even in the event of a strike. For example:

  • a driver of TER 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 cannot call a strike at random or on the spur of the moment. Under French law, they must follow a specific procedure:

  • One or more representative unions identify one or more demands and file a request for immediate talks (Demande de Concertation Immédiate). This triggers a request for talks with management to address their demands, which can result in a dispute between the parties.
  • The talks must be held within three days.
  • At the end of the talks, company management and the unions draft a joint document (Relevé de Conclusion Concerté) identifying areas of agreement and disagreement, and it is signed by the stakeholders and distributed to affected personnel.
  • If the parties cannot resolve their disagreements, a strike notice may be filed five clear days before the strike begins.

Types of strike

There are two types of strike: 

  • a strike that lasts for a limited time (grève carrée)
  • a renewable strike with no specified end date

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, which 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:

  • train 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 local elected officials in affected French cities, départements and regions—draft a list of essential services for their constituents. Examples include service for hospitals and schools, minimum transport for a major industrial facility or labour pool, and service 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 defines the required level of service. At SNCF, we use this information to craft transport plans that meet TAO requirements. We select the best plan to address the expected disruptions, and then relay service and timetable information to our passengers.

  • Two days before the strike, each of our business lines—Transilien, TER, Intercités and TGV—assesses the individual statements of intent (Déclarations Individuelles d’Intention, or DIIs) received from its workers. Based on this information, they determine the level of service that they can provide on each line and corridor.
  • One day before the strike, we pool and review our services for each corridor, line and business line to assess 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 via our passenger information tools, including the SNCF app, sncf.com, and the Twitter feeds for the different lines. We also post notices and distribute leaflets in our stations, and we deploy information volunteers—recognizable by their red vests—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 afternoon before a strike?

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

  • we need to know how many employees in key positions will be out on strike
  • we can’t estimate the number of strikers for each business line or determine the level of service for each corridor/line until 48 hours before the strike
  • it takes a day to pool and review the levels of service for each corridor/line. By 17.00 on the day before, we can 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 releases an update on all the trains for the following day. We also make the information available via our Newsroom (in French) and the Twitter accounts for SNCF Group (@SNCF) and for each line. You can also get updates by phone: inside France, call 3635. (This service is free: you pay only the cost of your call.) Outside France, call +33 8 92 35 35 35. (You pay the cost of an international call, plus any fees charged by your service provider.)

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