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Train travel travails

This may look like a rant. But I welcome constructive input. The four of us will be arriving in Paris on 6/15, assuming the air traffic controllers stay on the job. We are with the Best of Spain tour starting 6/18 in Barcelona. The Paris excursion was a treat for a good friend we are traveling with as she has never been to Europe. The plan was a train from Paris to Barcelona on 6/18, early enough to get us to the 5 PM get together. Having been on several RS tours, I kinda think that meeting is important. But, that train has been cancelled more often than not over the last week. Today I booked expensive but fully refundable airline tickets for 6/18. Should the train be cancelled we will get a refund. Should it not be, we will cancel the airline tickets. Maybe I'm over thinking this one, but I've been perseverating over this to the point of fitful sleep and nausea over the last week. I know as a RS traveler I should be able to just roll wit it. But that is not me. Anyway, does this sound like a plan? To those in Paris, any whispers about settling this thing?

Posted by
2318 posts

I think your plan is perfect, nothing worse than worrying about a transit strike disrupting carefully laid plans, and the French do seem unusually prone to strikes.

Posted by
21710 posts

I am not understanding a "cancelled" train. I have encountered train delays for weather but never a cancelled train and you are suggesting it is a frequent occurrence. There is more than one train a day to Barcelona. Or is this a special train? Obviously you plan would work.

Posted by
2560 posts

Only about 1 in 3 trains are running to Barcelona.. There are many cancelled trains throughout France due to the strike. (See We could exchange for another train but will pay a hefty cost as we booked these far in advance. If the train is cancelled you can take the next one. Two problems: we don't make the 5 PM tour meeting and, more importantly, they don't guarantee a seat. There have been stories of people sharing seats, sitting on luggage. For a 6 hour + ride, a non starter for us.

Posted by
7596 posts

The air traffic controllers aren't currently striking. It's Air France PILOTS who are currently striking (june 11-15).

I have been looking pretty religiously every day at the releases that SNCF (French rail company) has been issuing with regard to the next day's service, and yes I've been struck by how affected the trains to/from Spain continue to be (while Eurostar hasn't been affected at all, for example). Since of everyone, the SNCF unions look least likely to stop striking for the moment, I unfortunately think you've done the right thing to buy air tickets instead. I wish I had a better answer for you, but I think you're going to be glad you have the air tickets.

Frank: That's what he means by cancelled, he means SNCF is pro-actively (?!) cancelling trains all the time during this strike. In the context of this strike, it's unfortunately quite normal. I had it happen to I don't know how many colleagues last week. And then other trains were just fine. The strikers are succeeding in annoying people -- business people, travelers, family members, foreign tourists, everyone. Ugh.

Posted by
4688 posts


We're in Paris now & have been affected by the train strike several times during our trip since we arrived to France at the end of May.
Here is an example of what we've experienced...

We go to the train station 2-3 days before our date of travel, to find out if our train will be/ has been cancelled.
The SNCF agent looks up our train ticket reservations & tells me to return the day before my date of travel because she/he doesn't know the answer till then.

Once we left one day earlier & paid the difference in price for exchanging our tickets.
Another time, the agent told me that there was a high probability that our train would be cancelled (since it had been cancelled the previous week), so she made reservations for the earlier train & printed new tickets for us. This time we didn't have to pay anything, despite the fact that we'd purchased our tickets months before, at a discounted price.

A couple of times we've had to take buses to our destination, because the TER trains were not running at all on those routes.

So... It's a good idea that you've booked flights, just in case...