at SNCF, all eyes are on the big departures of the weekend


At Saint-Lazare station in Paris on December 16.
At Saint-Lazare station in Paris on December 16. BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

On the twelfth day of the railway workers' movement against pension reform and the disappearance of their special scheme, SNCF traffic remained very disrupted, Monday 16 December, with one TGV out of three in circulation, one Transilien out of four in Ile-de-France and four regional trains out of ten on average, according to SNCF forecasts. Tuesday 17, the day of the demonstration, the number of trains able to run will be even lower.

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Beyond this Tuesday, all eyes are now on the next weekend and the big departures from Christmas school holidays. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe put pressure on SNCF management so that as many travelers as possible can take the train from the weekend and, above all, that everyone be informed as soon as possible of actual rail traffic during the holidays.

The response of SNCF management to this request is made at two levels: social and operational. Jean-Pierre Farandou, president of SNCF, first addressed the strikers on Friday, December 13, in a video broadcast throughout the company. "I know that, like me, you are attached to public service (…) said the boss of the railroad workers. I ask those who are in the movement to think about taking a break during the holidays. "

" Out of the question "

The reply from the CGT-Cheminots, the first rail union, provided by its secretary general, Laurent Brun, was final. "It’s the strikers who will decide but, frankly, for us it’s no, he said to World. We too are in favor of ending the strike before Christmas. The government has one week to announce the withdrawal of its plan, and if it does, the conflict can end quickly. But, otherwise, it is out of the question. "

Regarding reformist unions, even if we leave the door ajar, the tone is hardly relaxed. "The CFDT-Cheminots is doing everything to avoid the continuation of the Christmas strike, said Rémi Aufrère-Privel, assistant secretary general of the union. However, in the absence of any progress from the Prime Minister, the French will understand that the government has deliberately chosen to humiliate the rail workers. " The CFDT nevertheless planned to consult its troops on Wednesday "On whether or not to grant a Christmas truce", said Monday morning Didier Aubert, secretary general of the CFDT-Cheminots.

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In this operation "It is necessary to save Christmas", the social approach does not seem, for the moment, hardly to bear fruit. It remains operational and information for travelers. The SNCF is committed to indicating, as of Tuesday, to people who have reserved seats on main lines from Thursday 19 to Sunday 22 December if their train is running and, if not, what alternative to offer them.

For several days, the teams have been doing a lacy job to put in place the maximum number of staff at critical positions: drivers, controllers, and, less visibly, dispatchers, equipment maintainers. The previous weekend, the SNCF deliberately reduced traffic in order to postpone the available staff to the following week. Trains are grouped together to transport the maximum number of people, Ouigo (more capacity than conventional TGV) circulate as a priority. The SNCF also calls people who give up taking the train to cancel in order to free up places.

Despite these efforts, around half of the travelers who booked this weekend could find themselves without a solution, and very many connections between TGV, Intercités and regional trains may not be made. "We should be able to help as many people as possible even if it’s not 100%, however insists Rachel Picard, the executive director of Voyages SNCF. On the other hand, if the strike hardens… ”


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