Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Tuesday 13/01

Now that’s more like it!

All was going well this morning until I got to St. Lazare.

I should point out that the RER E service into Haussmann from Noisy le Sec is really pretty good in the morning, most of the time.

At St. Lazare, to quote one of the SNCF passenger relation staff officers, it was a “Festival”. Not of happy commuters sharing a drink and a quick smile before being whisked off to their offices, but of empty departure boards and very full platforms.
Apparently, a public transport worker had been attacked the night before and all the morning passengers were being made to pay for this reprehensible action.
We were led to believe – although I didn’t check – that it was not only the overground SNCF trains that were affected but also the RER A line.

In any case, I had never seen so many hapless would be passengers staring vacantly up at a blank departures board.

I tried my usual trick in such cases of taking the less frequented and more comfortable train out to Bois Colombes, not a particularly long walk from the office, but one you would probably not choose to undertake on a rainy morning. All was going well with the platform board on 12 announcing that the train would be leaving at 8.12. To make matters even better, the train was virtually empty so I settled down for the ride.

Only problem was, at 8.32 we hadn’t moved. It’s one thing to run a completely shambolic service, but misinforming the public is pure malice. Either the controllers simply do not know which train is likely to go where from which platform, or they do know but they prefer to feed false information to the passengers. I don’t know which is worse – the first probably as this also suggests something of a safety risk as well.

Anyway to cut a long story long, I then waited on a slow train bound ultimately for La Defense for a further 10 minutes. This one went nowhere but filled up impressively. I eventually scrambled on to a train which did leave and arrived 8 minutes later at Bois Colombes, so I did get my damp walk in to the office after all.

The original plan, with temperatures now soaring well above 0°, was to return to the bike, but this was thwarted by persistent rain. (not the occasional showers threatened by Meteo France, but the real stuff). In the early weeks of 2009, the weather has not exactly been my ally in my daily quest to cross the Ile de France.

Total journey time = 100 minutes

Even by Parisian standards, this was disruption on an exceptional scale. We had been warned in the morning that transport workers felt aggrieved about one of their own being physically attacked the previous evening, but it was nonetheless something of a surprise when sudden and total industrial action was called leading to the closure of St. Lazare station.

Commuters were left entirely to their own devices and with almost no notice.

For my part, the return journey was not much longer and a good deal more agreeable than usual. A colleague kindly offered me a lift to Paris (Porte de Champeret), where I easily found a velib bike.

25 minutes later I was at Gare du Nord and in another 15 minutes I was home.

I still fail to see how penalising the great mass of the traveling public (most of whom are commuting to work) can be considered an appropriate response to the attack. I guess you have to be a French trade unionist to get your head round that one.

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