As train travel in the UK unravels ahead of the next round of national rail walk-outs, across the Channel SNCF (French Railways) is going the extra kilometre to look after hard-pressed travellers.
Rail passengers in France whose trains are cancelled during a strike from Friday to Christmas Day will be reimbursed by twice the cost of their tickets.
Hundreds of guards working for SNCF will stop work over the next two weekends as part of a pay dispute. They have refused a deal offering a €600 (£522) bonus on top of a general 6 per cent pay rise at the rail organisation.
Their union, SUD Rail, has not sanctioned the strike, which has been coordinated on social media by an unofficial “national collective of guards” known as the CNA.
Christophe Fanichet, chief executive of SNCF, told the Franceinfo radio station that the Christmas and New Year strikes were “really unacceptable” – and that passengers with advance tickets whose trains were cancelled would get back twice the original cost of their journey.
He said the gesture would cost SNCF “several tens of millions of euros”.
Alternatively, passengers can change to any other day where seats are available and will not need to pay for any difference in fare.
As in the UK, Friday is expected to be the busiest day of the winter as travellers head for their Christmas destinations. Many trains were fully booked ahead of the strike.
Two out of three TGVs (high-speed trains) are expected to run between Paris and the south of France, and from the capital to the Atlantic.
About half of trains in the north of France will run, as well as 75 per cent of services between Paris and Strasbourg on the German border.
TGVs between provincial stations are expected to be more heavily hit. In total around 200,000 long-distance travellers will be affected.
The threat of possible disruption for Eurostar passengers to France has been lifted after security staff agreed a new pay deal ahead of a planned strike.
The company that runs trains through the Channel Tunnel from London St Pancras International made the employees an improved pay offer.
The RMT union said the deal is worth over 10 per cent, with an uplift of nearly 30 per cent for the lowest paid.