On Wednesday 21 December, at the end of the morning, the queues lengthen in front of the Information and sales points in the Ile-de-France stations. More than 200,000 travelers are expected to see their journeys disrupted for the Christmas weekend by the train conductors’ strike. About two out of three trains will run on Friday, according to SNCF estimates. Two out of five will be canceled on Saturday and Sunday.
Inside the Gare de Lyon, in Paris, Valérie Dubrous gets annoyed. The night before, she received the fateful message from the SNCF announcing the cancellation of her return train on Sunday, between Nevers (Nièvre) and Paris. “I spent my evening yesterday looking for solutions. This morning, I saw the announcement on the news channels of the 200% refund of tickets for canceled journeys. So I came on purpose this morning. And there, I am told that there is no refund on the spot. You have to go to the website »she laments.
In the morning, the CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, Christophe Fanichet, effectively announced the renewal of this reimbursement measure, already deployed during the same period in 2021.
“It will be the battle to find a place”
Valérie Dubrous, who is going to Nièvre to spend Christmas Eve with her loved ones, finally opted for the carpooling solution to return to Paris on Sunday: “It’s much cheaper! » An option to which she is not the only one to have turned. “The holidays are already a crucial time for us. But there, since Tuesday, our reservations have doubled compared to the previous week and the first weekend of departures on vacation ”says Nicolas Michaux, spokesperson for Blablacar.
Nearly 300,000 carpooling places are offered on the site for this weekend, but the offer will not cover the demand, estimates Mr. Michaux, whose company also claims to have multiplied its offer of coach trips by 50%. with notably, “additional rotations on certain lines between the capital and Lyon, Grenoble, Nantes, Rennes…”
While other cancellations are to be feared for Saturday and Sunday, weariness is essential in the Ile-de-France stations. In 2021, a strike also spoiled the first weekend of December holiday departures. “It’s the same thing every year as soon as we approach an important deadline for passengers”rattles Valérie Dubrous.
“It’s getting tiring”, adds Emmanuelle *, a manager in the Paris region, who came to inquire at the ticket office, Gare de l’Est, in anticipation of her departure for Troyes on Friday. Impossible for the moment to know if his route will be maintained. “We would like to be able to organize ourselves. We won’t have the answer until Thursday evening or Friday morningshe regrets. The most affected people are those who do not have vehicles and not the highest means either. » If her train is canceled, the 41-year-old Francilienne says she has no other option than to take another. “I’ll get into whoever I find, and I’ll stay up if I have to. It’s gonna be a battle to find a place, she apprehends. People will be overwhelmed. »
“My mother cried all day thinking she was going to spend Christmas alone”, says Anna Henry, whose outward journey to Brest, originally scheduled for Friday, has been canceled. The freelance engineer had already struggled to book her trip a month earlier, as many trains were full. While she usually favors the train over the car for ecological reasons, she had to resign herself to taking her vehicle to join her mother in Brittany. “I will spend more than 300 kilos of CO2 to cover 1,200 kilometers over a weekend. Multiply that by the number of people who will be forced to drive this weekend, that’s a lot. I feel like I wasted the efforts I had made to pollute less by turning down my heating by two degrees this winter”she berates.
Anna Henry says she is all the more exasperated as she says she had to “moaning on social networks” to obtain reimbursement for his return ticket, a Ouigo train which was not cancelled. “It has become complicated to travel. And I find the train very expensive compared to other forms of transport”she laments, after having paid around 200 euros for her Paris-Brest round trip.
Free exchange within the limit of available places
Lucas*, 24, a communications executive, also had to revise his plans to return to Bordeaux on Friday after his outbound train was canceled. “On the site, all the trains were full. I fell back on the plane, the trips were overpriced. It was for 400 euros”, he says. Thanks to an online comparator, he finally found a bus trip that will allow him to spend New Year’s Eve with his family. “In reality, it imposes few constraints on me. With the 200% reimbursement promised by the SNCF, it costs me less than my departure journey, he rejoices, adding that he found this fallback solution in twenty minutes. Besides, I’m young, so an eight-hour bus ride isn’t a problem! »
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He says he sought to understand the reasons behind the social movement of SNCF controllers. “I think they’re quite right. The increase in their wages does not correspond to the current inflation, he believes. These are people who do a complicated job. So personally, I have no problem supporting this strike. » Lucas is also not worried about a possible cancellation of his return trip. “I will manage, with an extra day of telework, for example. » Travelers whose train has been canceled can still exchange their ticket without paying the price difference, promises the SNCF. But less than three days before New Year’s Eve, most of the maintained trains are already full.
*People did not want their last name published.