French operators' fury at SNCF strikers

10/26/2012

Intermodal freight operators are up in arms at the disruption caused by the SNCF workers’ strike that began last night, demanding: “It is time to free the French rail sector from the grip of trade unionism.”

Road-rail group, Groupement National des Transports Combinés (GNTC) claimed that “in practical  terms, the rail network was still under the control of SNCF staff, despite it being the responsibility of state agency RFF.

GNTC said: “It is totally unacceptable that a strike at SNCF stops the trains of private rail freight operators.”
 
The strike, called principally in protest at a wage offer, is due to run until 8am tomorrow (Friday). 
 
Anticipating strong support for the strike, the French state railway’s rail frelght division, Fret SNCF, has advised its customers to postpone any shipments planned during the period. 
 
Last November, Lloyd’s Loading List.com reported that France’s private rail freight operators were calling for a minimum service to be assured during strikes at SNCF, such as that introduced for passenger traffic in 2007.
 
But almost year on, their demands have still not been met. 
 
Operators gain access to France’s rail network by obtaining train slots from RFF. However, RFF outsources the running of the network on the ground to a sub-contractor, an SNCF subsidiary, SNCF Infrastructures. 

Its workers, like those in any other division of the SNCF group, are urged to join strikes called by unions, and their participation can lead to disruption in the functioning of signal boxes, with a knock-on effect on traffic on certain lines. 

Deutsche Bahn’s French subsidiary, Euro Cargo Rail, estimated that prolonged strike action at SNCF in 2010 cost it several million euros in lost revenue.
 
Private operators also claim that at the end of industrial action, SNCF workers give priority to the trains of their parent company as operations return to normal.