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Traffic partly resumes amid delays at key Paris train station

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A SNCF train. DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP

Two-thirds of all rail traffic to and from western France will be operational at the capital’s major Montparnasse train station on Saturday, but only half will be on Sunday, according to French rail authorities.


It’s good news, bad news for train passengers at Montparnasse, the major train hub that connects Paris to western and south-western France.

The good news is that as of Saturday, two out of three trains on western lines will be guaranteed at the station.

The bad news is that conditions on Sunday will only get worse, with just one out of two western trains guaranteed, according French state rail-owned operator SNCF.

On top of that, electricity won’t be fully restored there until Thursday, according to France's national electricity transmission system operator, RTE. In other words, delays and cancellations may continue until then.

In the meantime, SNCF has re-routed certain trains to Austerlitz, another main station in Paris.

Government probe

The government on Saturday opened an investigation into what it called the “fragile” electrical conditions at Montparnasse.

The probe will seek to “identify solutions and alternative electrical sources to employ in the future, so that this does not happen again,” according to a statement from Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot and Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne.

French state-owned rail operator SNCF has been scrambling to address the issue, which comes amid a heatwave and the capital’s holiday exodus.

SNCF CEO Guillaume Pepy told reporters that 100,000 passengers were expected to pass through the station on Saturday.

Thousands had been stranded the day before in 35-degree heat.

Electrical blaze

Rail traffic was paralysed Friday at Montparnasse following an electrical fire at an RTE centre in the nearby southern suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux.

The fire cut electricity to some 55,000 homes on Friday, according to Enedis, another energy provider. Some 7,000 remained without power on Saturday.

SNCF has made sure to point out to passengers that RTE is to blame for the fire and therefore the delays.

“We are going to ask our electricity provider RTE to provide damage compensation,” Pepy said, adding that the incident could cost SNCF “a few million euros”.

Pepy told reporters he wants to know “why this fire occurred and why it wasn’t possible to re-establish electricity”.

RTE has taken responsibility for the affair.

“We will respect our contractual engagements” including damage compensation, said regional RTE official Regis Boigegrain.

Editor's note: This article was updated to include an announcement from SNCF that only one of two trains on western lines will be guaranteed at Montparnasse on Sunday.