Travel chaos expected in France as national strike shuts down rail, road and air links

Simon Calder
Slow down: Eurostar passengers at Lille Europe station during a previous episode of disruption: Simon Calder

Travel to, from and within France is about to become much more difficult with a national strike due to begin at 7pm local time on Wednesday 4 December.

The shutdown will affect rail, road and air transport, with the Foreign Office warning the strike “will primarily affect public transport with cancellations and severe delays expected on trains, metros, buses and trams”.

It is due to continue until Sunday 8 December.

Eurostar has cancelled 78 trains, affecting more than 50,000 passengers. Although staff for the cross-Channel train operator are not stopping work, is warning passengers: “The strike action will impact our ability to deliver the usual timetable as we expect disruption to signalling along all routes.

“As a result, we will now run a reduced timetable on 5, 6, 7 and 8 December.”

Most cancellations are to and from Paris, but services to Amsterdam and Brussels are also affected.

Passengers whose trains are cancelled can choose between a full refund or postpone their journeys.

In addition, anyone booked to travel on the four days whose train is still running will be able to postpone their trip to a date from 9 December onwards.

Severe disruption is expected for local transport and long-distance rail services.

SNCF, the national train operator, is urging passengers to postpone their journeys. Information on the following day’s services will be provided at 5pm local time the day before.

Airlines are expecting severe disruption, with air-traffic controllers expected to walk out from Wednesday evening to Sunday morning. This is likely to disrupt overflights as well as journeys to and from France.

The national air-traffic control organisation, the DNSA, warns of “an inter-professional social movement affecting the entire French public services and private sector”. It says that “minimum service will be ensured” at the Area Control Centres in Brest, Bordeaux, Marseille, Paris and Reims.

A certain number of flights will also operate at the key French airports including Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice Strasbourg, as well as the joint French-Swiss airports of Basel and Geneva.

The DNSA warns: “At other aerodromes, ATS [air-traffic] services might be unavailable during certain periods.”

British Airways is offering a wide-ranging flexible booking policy for anyone booked to fly between Thursday 5 and Saturday 7 December to or from any French airport, as well as on services to Barcelona and Madrid, which traverse France for much of their journeys.

BA customers can travel on Tuesday 3 or Wednesday 4 December, or between 8 and 12 December.

And easyJet, one of the biggest airlines operating to and from France, is warning: “Like all airlines, our flights to and from French airports, as well as those flying in French airspace, could be affected.

“We expect that there will be delays and cancellations due to the industrial action.

“Please also be aware that public transport services will be affected by the strike. We recommend all customers allow plenty of extra time to get to the airport and consider alternative transport options where possible.

“Although this situation is outside of our control we would like to apologise to any affected passengers for the inconvenience caused.”

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