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Last update: 16 September 2020
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.
Train Strikes in France 
The train strikes in France shown in this article are strikes officially confirmed. No rumors, no cristal ball, we only write about planned, scheduled strikes.
Unfortunately, some transportation strikes in France have confirmed only 24 hrs in advance when negotiations with the French State have failed. This means that you need to be checking until the last minute.
» Scheduled train strikes in France: 17 September 2020 New!
Following the call for a general, national strike by the CGT union on Thursday 17 September 2020, SNCF has filed a national strike notice from Wednesday 16 September at 8 pm to Friday 18 September at 7.55 am.
In addition to the demands linked to the government’s social policy, SNCF has specific complaints which are mentioned in the national strike notice.
SNCF Trains Strike on 17 September 2020 – Traffic Forecast
Due to the general national strike planned on Thursday 17 September 2020, the SNCF traffic might be disrupted on the entire French network.
UPDATE (16-09-20): The SNCF has announced a train traffic “almost normal” during the transportation strike. Still, it is a good idea to check if there are any issues with your train here
SNCF Traffic Forecast for Thursday 17 September 2020
Usually, the SNCF provides the information on trains service the day before at 5 pm. The train traffic is “almost normal”.
- National TGV trains: normal
- OUIGO: normal
- International Trains:
- Eurostar: normal
- Thalys: normal
- Lyria trains: normal
- TER trains: in general, normal traffic with “some adjustments” in the regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Please check directly the TER website corresponding to your region for more details.
- Intercities: traffic slightly affected by the transportation strike
- Transilien: traffic slightly affected by the transportation strike. Please check Transilien’s website to see the traffic information by line.
Are Eurostar trains affected by a Transportation Strike in France?
Even if Eurostar trains are not on strike, any strike action in France could impact their ability to deliver the usual timetable for their train routes in France.
Click here to find more information on Eurostar impacts and what to do if your journey is affected.
If your booked train is canceled, you can exchange or refund your ticket here.
Are Thalys trains affected by the Transportation Strike in France?
Even if Thalys trains are not on strike, any strike action in France could impact their ability to deliver the usual timetable for their routes in France.
Click here to find more information on Thaly’s impacts and what to do if your journey is affected.
Are TGV Lyria Trains Affected by a Transportation Strike in France?
Even if TGV Lyria trains are not on strike, any strike action in France could impact their ability to deliver the usual timetable for their routes in France.
Click on TGV Lyria website for more information on TGV Lyria trains.
Train Transportation from Paris Airports to City
GOOD TO KNOW: 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). If there’s an SNCF strike or a RATP strike, expect some disruptions on one of the two sections. 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.
» You can also book a shared transportation service with Get Your Guide. 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.
Train Transportation from Paris CDG Airport to Other Cities in France
The TGV train station located in Charles de Gaulle Airport allows visitors to travel to other parts of France without going through the hassle of Paris. Top routes from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) T2 include Strasbourg, Rennes, Nantes, Lyon, Lille, or Marseille.
If SNCF cancels these trains, we recommend renting a car at Charles de Gaulle Airport, as soon as you can. There is also the bus option but this implies traveling to Paris to catch the bus.
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.
a- 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.
b- 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?
c- Tips for Getting Around During an SNCF Strike in France 2020
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).