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The French railways are on a strike. I know I can take another train if I fit in. However, can I use an idTGV ticket Paris - Toulon on a SNCF-TGV train? If not, do I have any other possibility since there's no idTGV train that I can catch?

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Ok, so the reality uncovered:

  1. You can take any train it seems, at least on board of both trains I took they said that any ticket for this or the previous day is valid. However, nobody checked anyone in any of these trains, and I got similar experiences from other people I met in the last couple days. At all the stations, the boarding was a complete chaos; the SNCF staff only made sure that people don't fall down on the other side of the platform, that they spread themselves regularly and that they get on a train to the correct destination. Yet, there seem to be trains where ticket expection does exist.
  2. No seats are guaranteed during strikes, not even if you are in the correct train in the correct wagon. Priority passengers (people with children, disabilities, old people) are preferred to get a seat.

One has to remember that in France, it seems that once something doesn't work exactly as expected, no rules exist. In the train I was told to get off at Avignon and change. It should have been 50 minutes waiting, it was 3 hours waiting. It seems that it would have been better to get as close to the final destination as possible since most TER lines operate (in limited amount, but operate). (Needed to say, a TGV ticket is not necesserily valid for a TER train.)

  • What is “THIS --- IS --- FRANCE” supposed to mean? I could easily relate anecdotes about similar things happening to train connections elsewhere… – Relaxed Jun 15 '14 at 13:59
  • I took two TGVs yesterday, and there were ticket checks on both. My reserved seats were available on both. So, not sure your answer is general... – Gagravarr Jun 15 '14 at 15:44
  • I agree with other comments and should add that TER and national trains are different regarding ticketing: national trains (grandes lignes) are directly operated by SNCF that pays the network it uses. TER are services organised by each region that sells the tickets it wants, and operated by the SNCF. A ticket for a national train is NOT valid on a TER and vice versa. – Vince Jun 15 '14 at 17:33
  • @Gagravarr And were the trains like at 150% of their capacity? The ones I took were. – yo' Jun 15 '14 at 20:25
  • The ones I took had people standing in coach 1 (nearest the entrance to the station), but empty seats by about coach 18 (of 20)! – Gagravarr Jun 15 '14 at 21:47
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Officially, no, you cannot take a non-idTGV train with an idTGV ticket, even on a strike day.

The official answer about what happens if your idTGV train is canceled due to the strike is

Nothing! idTGV handles everything!

You will automatically receive an email with your compensation in the form of two vouchers for 100% and 20% of the price of your canceled ticket.

The SNCF website reports other possibilities that I can't find on idTGV's website:

  • You can request a refund on your credit card (using the refund request form on idTGV's website, I think). You don't get the extra 20% in that case.
  • You can take another idTGV train on the same day or on the next day. Show your ticket to the conductor as soon as possible. Obviously you cannot be guaranteed a seat.

So I'm afraid you'll either have to travel tomorrow or get a refund and buy a more expensive last-minute SNCF train (if there's still room) or find some other way.

An older SNCF FAQ (found by Vince) states different rules — you can take a non-idTGV train with an idTGV ticket, like other SNCF ticket types; but you can't use the ticket the day before with any non-echangeable ticket type (which is possible now with non-idTGV tickets). In the end, what matters is what conductors have been instructed to do — or rather what rules they apply in practice, which isn't always the same. Nonetheless, if you take a non-idTGV train with your idTGV ticket, I'd say the risk of racking up a fine is pretty high if your ticket is checked.

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    I found an answer from SNCF that suggests you can take any train "Grandes Lignes" (I.e. not regional trains) even with an IDTGV ticket: questions.sncf.com/questions/… – Vince Jun 15 '14 at 8:50
  • @Vince Dammit, several things in that answer contradict sncf.com/fr/greve-questions-pratiques! I suspect that the rules have changed since 2012 but I don't have an authoritative source. In the end, what matters is what the conductors have been instructed to do — assuming that they have clear instructions and apply them consistently, which is far from a given. – Gilles Jun 15 '14 at 10:43
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    The wording is a little odd: « en revanche » makes no sense to me in this sentence. Could there be a “ne” missing somewhere? – Relaxed Jun 15 '14 at 11:08
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    @Relaxed Yes, that sentence is bizarre — I think that these FAQ are written by a lone employee, whereas hopefully someone proofreads what goes onto the announcement section of the website (but then it's the news section of the website, so maybe not). As to whether they check tickets on strike days, it's a gamble. Often they don't, either because they're sympathetic to stranded travelers or because they're overwhelmed. But if they do check on an overcrowded train, they're likely to be strict about rules that should be keeping people out. – Gilles Jun 15 '14 at 11:25
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    @Vince It depends. Especially on trains with compulsory reservation they sometimes check tickets at the platform entrance and prevent people from boarding. It's highly variable. There's more of a risk of being fined or denied boarding during a drivers' strike when conductors are on the job, than during a conductors' strike when conductors are sparse — during a conductors' strike I'd rate the risk of ticket checks as very low. – Gilles Jun 15 '14 at 11:57

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