European Rail Strike Update: Which trains are affected?

London Eurostar
A Eurostar train in London, bound for Paris. Photo: Andy Cunningham

Europe has enjoyed or endured, depending on how you view these matters, a festival of rail strikes this past week or two. And yet, by and large, business and social life continues. The impact of rail strikes varies enormously from country to country.

Nationwide standstill in Belgium

When a Greek rail strike takes place, as one is this week, the entire network shuts down and virtually no trains run at all.

And so in Belgium, where rail strikes are happily less frequent, but where a strike generally means a total network shutdown. Belgium had a one-day strike on October 18, 2010, the first nationwide stoppage since a one-day strike in November 2009, and that did lead to the cancellation of all trains.

Even Eurostar, which has famously managed to maintain a full service from London to Paris during the recent extended wave of French strikes, was defeated by Belgium. Brussels-bound trains from London ran only as far as Lille, with passengers heading for Belgium then having to use a very limited onward bus service.

The French way

France has had an extraordinarily large number of strikes in 2010, with rail services throughout October having been much affected. But French strikes, though frequent, have a lighter touch than those in Belgium and Greece, and most long-distance rail travelers have, with patience, managed to get to their destinations.

The general pattern of service on strike days in France is fairly predictable. Generally at least two-thirds of TGV services to and from Paris run as usual, and naturally these trains are more crowded than normal. Provincial services linking two French regions (so thus not serving Paris) generally have a much higher cancellation rate than trains to and from Paris. Sometimes as little as one third of these trains have run, although during the past two days this number has crept up to over fifty percent.

Daytime international trains to and from France have been virtually unaffected by French strike action. Eurostar (from London) and Thalys (from Cologne, Brussels and Amsterdam) trains have operated entirely as normal, as have almost all direct daytime trains from France to Switzerland, Germany and Italy.

Disrupted night train services throughout Europe

Shift to night train services and the situation becomes much bleaker. Almost the entire French Lunéa domestic night train network has been scrapped on strike days (and usually also on the nights prior to or at the end of a strike day). The only intra-France overnight trains that have regularly run during recent strikes have been the Lunéa services from Paris to Nice and return. Over the last day or two, another isolated overnight train has been reinstated: the link from Paris to Toulouse.

Many international overnight services have been canceled, including the entire Elipsos network linking Spain with France, Switzerland and Italy. For passengers from Barcelona to Zürich and Milan, a replacement bus service is available when those Elipsos services are canceled–though we doubt that an overnight coach matches the comfort of a decent sleeping berth with crisp linen sheets. On some strike days, overnight trains from Munich and Berlin to Paris have terminated at Mannheim, with passengers being conveyed onward by bus. But overnight trains to and from Germany have started running again this week.

So it is always worth bearing in mind that the word “strike” comes with many meanings. With a bit of luck your travel plans may not be disrupted at all. And if all does not go according to plan, keep your cool and remember that rail workers rarely strike without good cause. Hasta la victoria siempre!

About the author

hiddeneurope
About the authors: Nicky and Susanne manage a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine.
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Cheapo Comments

2 Responses to “European Rail Strike Update: Which trains are affected?”
  • Mario Pepicelli says:

    Are you able to help or direct me to the right area I need the information for my insurance travel claim. We were in Milano and planned to travel to Paris via eurorail using our pre-purchased Euro Pass. The trains were cancelled on 12,13 &14 October 2010 resuming on the 15/10/2010 we had no choice but to fly instead as we were schelduled to flyout of Paris on the 15/10/10. Our insurancers require the information. I would be most grateful if you can help.

    Thanks

    Mario

  • Of course we wish you luck with your insurance claim, and your first port of call should be to the train company (presumably Artesia) for which you had reservations and they should be able to provide with confirmation of which services ran.

    We would just sound a note of warning though – mainly because you had a rail pass. On the days you mention, the great majority of daytime services from Switzerland and Germany to Paris ran to time, so passengers from Milan could re-route via any one of a number of other routes. And as you had rail passes it may be very hard to sustain the argument that “we had no choice but to fly instead” when they were alternative options by rail that you could have taken quite cheaply or even for free. The listings of what trains run for example are on the Rail Europe UK Facebook page.

    This is just a thought, and might influence how you press your claim with your insurance company, who presumably would have access to much the same information as we have.

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