Uh-oh … Trouble with French Rail.
When it comes to passenger rail, the French have had it figured out for 40 years. Their TGVs, or train à grande vitesse, (literally train of great speed) whisk people among the country’s larger cities at close to 200 mph. But the sleek aerodynamic trains are just one part of an extensive system.
Supplementing those high-speed beauties are what I suppose we could call conventional trains—diesel or electric locomotives hauling several coaches. Smaller towns are served by single self-powered units that remind me of trolly cars, but with a modern “look”.
The fact is, in France, you can get from almost anywhere to almost anywhere by train. Several years ago, I spent a few days in a small town in the Loire Valley. There was a railway station in the town and six trains a day stopped there.
But, according to the French government, the Societé National Chemin de Fer, or the French National Railway, is in financial trouble, losing billions of euros, and there will have to be cuts—cuts in service, cuts in frequencies, cuts in amenities and—yes, of course—cuts in personnel. French Finance Minister, Bruno Le Maire. says “We cannot go on like this.”
A number of proposals being floated have been met with hostility at the local level. After all, what small town mayor wants to face constituents with the news that there will be no more trains coming to their town. One proposal would have some of the trains now running infrequently over shorter runs replaced by buses. People, we are assured by an SNCF official, really prefer buses.
I’m sorry, but that’s preposterous!. There have been several occasions over the years when, for one reason or another, I’ve had to leave a big, comfortable Amtrak train and spend several hours on a crowded, jouncing Amtrak bus. Let me say clearly, leaving no room for discussion or debate, that no one in their right mind prefers a bus, whether on city streets or an interstate, to traveling by train. No one!
In the meantime, the French railroad workers say they will stage a month-long strike to protest the reduction in service and the loss of jobs that would follow. The strike is scheduled to begin on March 22. Swell. That’s one day after I’m scheduled to arrive in Paris.
Note: For unknown reasons, a post several weeks old mysteriously appeared in this spot early on Monday. Coincidentally, we lost our internet connection for most of the day, so I never caught it. Apologies.