I find the public transport system in France to be generally efficient, especially the railway system. Unless, there are occurrences of unexpected events such as concrete falling onto the railway tracks, and malfunctioning of the railway signalling system. And of course, there is sometimes the acts of God. If your stars are not aligned, throw a national railway strike into the mix bag. Then, like me, your train rides to Paris would be screwed.
I have found a freelance position teaching English in France. This is the week I have to attend a week of training in Paris before I can start teaching. Unfortunately, this is also the week when heavy downpours hit France (severe flooding in the past 2 days; the region around Paris has just been declared as natural catastrophe area), and the open-ended national train strike starts.
I live in a small city, 20km southwest of Paris. A typical train ride for me to get to the training office takes about 80min, which is already very long; it involves a RER train ride (the railway network that serves central and regions around Paris) and then a switch to 2 metro trains (network that serves central Paris only).
Fallen Concrete On Railway Tracks
On Tuesday morning, the RER B train which I was on was disrupted. Concrete from a bridge near an en route train station had fallen onto the railway tracks. The tracks could thus, not be used and all passengers had to find alternate ways to get to their final destinations.
Just as I was struggling to find a bus to take me to Paris, the train authorities came to the rescue by arranging bus shuttles to take the stranded passengers to the nearest metro station.
Despite the efficiency of the train authorities, my whole journey still took 3h; the bus had to crawl for a short distance of less than 10km to the nearest metro station due to the traffic jam caused by the early morning peak hours and the incessant rain that started from the past weekend. To top off my misadventure for the day, my metro rides were slowed down by the malfunctioning of the train signalling system.
National Train Strike
Then, there is today, Thursday. The national train strike, backed by one of France’s more powerful trade union (CGT), started on Tuesday night. The strike kickstarted with RER on Tuesday night, followed by the metro today. The traffic was not too disrupted yesterday as only 1 out of every 5 scheduled RER B trains was affected by the strike. Today, coupled with the metro strikes, I needed an additional 30min for each trip.
The week has not end yet. One more day to go.