France

UPDATED: Flights, trains and buses – your questions answered about France’s December strikes


The strikes that start in France on December 5th are predicted to be very disruptive, with unions representing rail workers, city public transport employees, hauliers, teachers, airline ground crew, air traffic controllers and postal workers all getting involved.


At this stage not everything is certain, some unions have only said they will definitely strike on December 5th but have kept the option to extend the strike throughout the month if their demands are not met.


Public transport will be heavily disrupted with:


READ ALSO ‘Unlimited’ December strikes in France: What you need to know



So here are the answers to questions sent in by readers of The Local.


How can I get around the Paris/greater Paris area?


Paris public transport will be badly hit, as all six unions that represent staff on the RATP network are joining the strike. We already know that on the first day of the strike 11 Metro lines will not running at all and there will be a severely reduced service on the buses and RER suburban train network. Detailed timetables are usually released 48 hours in advance, but the level if disruption in the days after December 5th is likely to be similar if the strike continues. 


Paris traffic, petty bad most days, is expected to get massively worse as many people try to do the daily commute by car and the price of Uber and other VTC taxis will probably shoot up thanks to very high demand.


RATP are looking to concentrate their resources on getting commuters to work and back and will therefore ‘sacrifice’ the weekend of December 7th and 8th, meaning there are likely to be very few services.


Fortunately Paris has lots of alternatives for getting around – there’s an increasing number of cycle tracks so you can cycle to work. If you don’t have a bike, there is a city wide bike-sharing scheme – Vélib’. And there are also electric scooters available to hire.


As a fairly compact city, walking is an option for most journeys as this map shows.


READ ALSO: Six ways to get around Paris without public transport


What about public transport in other cities?


There have been strike notices issued from public transport unions in cities including Lyon, Toulouse and Bordeaux.


In Bordeaux the city’s transport authority TBM said services will be “severely disrupted” on Thursday. Tram and bus services in the city will be running but with vastly reduced services.


The tram will only be operating services every 15 minutes and only between 6.30 am and 20.30pm.


Some 40 bus lines will not be operating at all.


Unions will decide on December 5th whether to continue their strike.


In Lyon only bus services will be affected by the strike with the Metro and tram working as normal on December 5th, for what is the first day of the annual Fêtes des Lumieres festival.


In Toulouse the two metro lines will run as normal but tram and bus services will be severely disrupted by the strike.


I have flights booked for December, will they be delayed or cancelled?


Three of the unions representing ground crew for Air France have joined the strike, along with some of the air traffic control staff so any flight going through French airspace could potentially be disrupted. Around 20 percent of flights are cancelled on December 5th, mostly short haul.


Airline employees have to give at least 48 hours notice of how many intend to strike, so airlines can contact customers about any changes.


Also if you’re flying in to Paris, bear in mind that the RER B services between the city and Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will only be running during rush hour – and will likely be extremely busy – while cabs are likely to be more thin on the ground than usual and prices will likely rise if you are using anything other than an official Paris taxi.


There are numerous bus services from both airports to the centre of Paris although journey times will likely be longer than usual if traffic on the roads is clogged and it will definitely be wise to book in advance.


READ ALSO France’s December strike: Expect major disruption that could last until New Year



I’m planning a train trip in December, should I hire a car instead?


Major disruption is certainly going to hit all rail services with the least affected TGV services managing about one train in 10 and other services less than that.


Hiring a car would certainly offer more peace of mind (although there may also be road disruption, see below) and if you cancel a pre-booked ticket because of strike action you will get a full refund. If you don’t drive, there are ride-sharing apps like BlaBlaCar that offer a cheap trips between major cities if you don’t mind a long car trip with a stranger.


Will the strikes affect the Eurostar and Thalys/Lyria international train services?


Yes. Although staff from these services will generally not be striking, strikes from signal workers will affect all trains travelling through France.


Eurostar has said that it will be running a reduced service on December 5th and 6th, and possibly afterwards if strike action continues. The service has published a list of which trains are cancelled, which you can check here and is not selling new tickets for December 5th – 8th. Trains between London and Paris Gare du Nord are affected, along with some onward services to Brussels and Amsterdam.


The same applies to the international routes between France and Switzerland – run by Lyria – and France and Belgium – run by Thalys.


Lyria says that its services are likely to be very disrupted with just one return service scheduled for December 5th and is advising people not to travel. Full refunds can be obtained – even on non-refundable tickets – between December 5th and December 11th. For more information click here


Thalys, which operates services between France, Belgium and the Netherlands, is also advising passengers not to travel on December 5th and 6th, when it will be running one in three of its normal services. Free ticket refunds or exchanges are available for people with pre-booked tickets – more information here.


Will the Eurotunnel or cross-Channel ferry routes be affected?


So far no unions representing workers on these services have announced strike action. A spokesman for the Eurotunnel said their services would continue to run normally.


Will the roads be affected?


Possibly, yes. Two of the unions that represent hauliers have announced they are joining the strike.


Although they don’t represent all drivers by any means, when French hauliers strike they do sometimes create blockades and rolling roadblocks to make their feelings known. Although nothing like this has been announced, it’s worth bearing the possibility of delays in mind if you have a tight schedule.


Some ‘yellow vest’ protesters have also said they will join the demonstrations, which could involve demos at péage (toll stations) on the motorway – a frequent target of ‘yellow vest’ anger over the past year.


Unconnected to the strike but likely to be disruptive are rolling roadblocks that one lorry drivers’ union has announced it will be staging on Saturday, December 7th. These are in protest over fuel tax.


If you have anymore questions regarding the December strikes please feel free to email me at emma.pearson@thelocal.com


 


 




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