This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, we'll earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Read our full disclosure here.
Last update: November 12, 2019
The best way to get around France is by train. The French rail network connects just about every major city in France, is efficient, and often includes spectacular views of the countryside. If you know a few simple tips about how to use trains in France, then it’s an absolute breeze.
But sometimes trains in France, especially SNCF trains, go on strike and then it’s a real pain for locals and tourists alike.
Train strikes in France can be a major inconvenience for travelers, especially if you’re caught off-guard. These French rail strikes are scheduled in advance, however, and the dates and times are announced and posted. This means you can find out about them, in some cases, before you even leave home.
What to do if you are traveling during a train strike in France?
SNCF Strike does not necessarily mean French Railway Strike
There are different kinds of trains and also train companies operating in France. SNCF (SociétéNationale des Chemins de Ferfrançais) is France’s national state-owned railway company so most of the trains running in France are SNCF trains.
But there are other train companies operating in France, especially for international train rides. Some examples include RERs in the Parisian Region (operated by RATP), Thalys or Deutsche Bahn. This means that when there’s a train strike in France it’s important to understand that not all the trains running in France are necessarily on strike.
Next SNCF Strike Dates 2019
Train Strikes October 2019
» SNCF train disruptions on October 18, 2019. Unlike all the train strikes of the last months, this one was not a scheduled strike so it took all France by surprise.
The origin of this mobilization is a train accident that happened on October 16. The driver of the train, the only officer on board during this accident that left 11 injured, had to handle the situation alone with an injured leg until the arrival of the relief.
Following this accident, SNCF drivers and controllers have used their right of withdrawal without previous notice. Today they wanted to denounce the deployment of trains with a single driver on board.
» Atlantic TGVs strike (SNCF) from October 24 to ?. A strike by the SNCF agents at the Chatillon maintenance center will disrupt the circulation of the TGV Atlantique trains, which connect Paris to the main cities of the West of France: Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, etc. This SNCF strike is extended day after day so for the time being there’s no finish date. Services affected:
TGV Atlantique trains
- Côtes d’Armor (22)
- Finistère (29)
- Ille-et-Vilaine (35)
- Morbihan (56)
- Centre-Val de Loire
- Cher (18)
- Eure-et-Loir (28)
- Indre (36)
- Indre-et-Loire (37)
- Loir-et-Cher (41)
- Loiret (45)
- Charente (16)
- Charente-Maritime (17)
- Corrèze (19)
- Creuse (23)
- Dordogne (24)
- Gironde (33)
- Landes (40)
- Lot-et-Garonne (47)
- Pyrénées-Atlantiques (64)
- Deux-Sèvres (79)
- Vienne (86)
- Haute-Vienne (87)
- Ariège (09)
- Aude (11)
- Aveyron (12)
- Gard (30)
- Haute-Garonne (31)
- Gers (32)
- Hérault (34)
- Lot (46)
- Lozère (48)
- Hautes-Pyrénées (65)
- Pyrénées-Orientales (66)
- Tarn (81)
- Tarn-et-Garonne (82)
- Pays de la Loire
- Loire-Atlantique (44)
- Maine-et-Loire (49)
- Mayenne (53)
- Sarthe (72)
- Vendée (85)
UPDATE: work resumed normally on November 4, 2019. However, there are still disruptions for the coming days, with 9 out of 10 trains running.
Train Strikes November 2019
» TGVs strike (SNCF) in the East of France on November 8, 2019. A strike by the SNCF – TGV train controllers in the East of France will disrupt the circulation of the TGV trains which connect Paris to the main cities of the East of France. TGV train controllers protest against some schedule changes. Services affected:
- 6 trains out of 10 on the axis Paris – Reims, Paris – Metz – Thionville – Luxembourg
- 7 trains out of 10 on the axis Paris – Nancy, Paris – Alsace
Train Strikes December 2019
» Unlimited SNCF trains strike starting on December 5, 2019. After September 24, the SUD Rail union is calling for an unlimited movement starting on December 5 to protest the pension reform. This is a national SNCF strike and it concerns all France.
Traffic forecasts for national and international trains will be published one to two days in advance on the SNCF website. Services affected:
- Main TGV lines in all the French regions
- Main TER lines in all the French regions
- Regional trains in all the French regions
The disruptions might start the previous day in the evening.
UPDATE: the CGT Cheminots and UNSA Ferroviaire trade unions also call for the strike, which can only mean a wider protest movement.
Train Transportation from Paris Airports to City
IMPORTANT: trains from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Paris city center are operated half by SNCF (from CDG Airport to Paris Gare du Nord) and half by RATP (from Paris Gare du Nord to the end of the line). During the SNCF strike, expect some disruptions on the CDG Airport to Paris section. Also, the interconnection SNCF – RATP might be suspended.
If you are traveling from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city during a strike day there are two good alternatives to avoid the trains strike hassle:
» Consider Welcome ‘s transfer services for private transportations from airport to city. Welcome has good cars and the best English speaking drivers in Paris. This service is ideal for groups, families with kids and couples.
» Alternatively, book a shared transportation service with Viator. This service is just 6€ more for your peace of mind (the ticket Paris CDG to the city costs 12€).
We recommend booking these services in advance, especially during the holidays. Christmas and the last days of the year are peak season in Paris, with many people traveling.
What to Do if there’s an SNCF Strike in France?
We cannot say that French railway strikes are infrequent. From time to time they happen. You might be lucky and travel around France many times without never dealing with a transportation strike in France. But it only takes one instance of having travel plans thwarted by an unexpected strike, however, to ruin a trip. These are our tips to deal with an SNCF trains strike.
Learning About the French Trains Strike in Advance
The good news is that France schedules its strikes in advance, meaning there are some ways you can avoid dealing with them entirely even if you have already your train tickets.
There are many ways to learn about strikes in France: newspapers, radio, or even travel blogs like this one!
By checking the French trains strike schedule ahead of time, you may be able to adjust travel plans or avoid traveling during the day when the strike is going to take place.
Understanding what kind of Trains are on Strike in France
As mentioned above, a trains strike in France does not mean that all the French rail network is on strike. Is it an SNCF strike? What kind of trains are on strike? What kind of train have you booked?
Tips for Getting Around during an SNCF Strike in France 2019
Ok, so there’s an SNCF strike and you have planned /scheduled a train journey in France for exactly that day. What to do?
The bad news is that in France, when strikes are scheduled, there are no”guaranteed minimum transport services.” Service depends mostly on what (trains) and who (drivers) are available. In other words, if SNCF wants to shut down its service they can do it.
You have not booked your SNCF train tickets yet
Usually, as soon as SNCF strike dates are announced, these dates are blocked in the trains reservation system so users won’t be able to book an SNCF trike for those dates anymore. Review your travel plans or find an alternative means of transportation (for example renting a car) for reaching your destination during these train strike dates.
You have booked your train tickets with SNCF
First of all, don’t panic! Let’s follow together these simple steps:
1. Check the SNCF train status, if your train is one of the SNCF canceled trains or not.
To do this, click on the SNCF website and then click on “Train Number”. Enter your train number (it’s marked on the ticket) and your travel date. The system will tell you immediately the status of your train.
2. The SNCF train status says your train is not canceled.
If your train is not canceled don’t worry! Perhaps there will be some disruptions or delays but you should be ok.
3. The SNCF train status says your train is part of the SNCF canceled trains
Oh no! This is too bad. If your train is canceled, SNCF proposes different solutions:
- You can exchange your train ticket at no extra cost. Just follow the instructions shown on this page and, very important, verify before the last click that you don’t have to pay anything.
- You can cancel your trip and get a refund. If you prefer to be refunded, just follow the instructions shown on this page.
- If for any reason your ticket is stated as “non-refundable” or the website does not propose you a total refund (please verify this before the last click!), stop everything you are doing and contact them directly with your ticket reference number.
- If you booked your train with Ouigo trains, contact them directly for an exchange or refund (sorry, no page in English found).
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, meaning we get a small commission if you make a purchase through our links. It costs you nothing more (in fact, if anything, you’ll get a nice discount) but helps us to go on creating incredible Paris content for you. We trust all products promoted here and would never recommend a product that isn’t of value.
France Bucket List is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases at no expense to you.