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Paris's Montparnasse train station crippled by power outage

Bertrand Guay, AFP | People watch information boards at the railway station Montparnasse in Paris on July 28, 2018 as rail operator SNCF warned disruptions would continue into the weekend following a fire of an electric transformer a the nearby city.

No improvement in sight on Monday for travelers hoping to pass through Paris's Montparnasse train station. Three days after a fire damaged an electricity generator, French rail company SNCF announced it would only run one out of two trains.


According to France’s electrical transmission system operator, RTE, power should be fully restored by Tuesday evening at the latest.

“The work will be finished by Monday morning. We will then be able to do the electrical tests before restoring service at midday. If the tests are conclusive, we will restore the electricity on Monday afternoon,” announced RTE president François Brottes at a Sunday press conference.

“If [the tests] are not [conclusive], we will restore service by the end of the day on Tuesday.”

The high-voltage grid manager's initial estimates were for a Thursday return to normal service. “We worked three times faster than usual,” Brottes told AFP.

The electrical station in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, which feeds Montparnasse, was severely damaged Friday by an unexplained fire. RTE has however dismissed for now any suspicions of sabotage.

Reductions in available electrical current have limited circulation and as announced by SNCF, one train in two will run on Monday.

“For as long as the current is not restored, we will keep this schedule,” a spokesman told AFP.

“Beyond being able to run the trains, we must ensure their maintenance and ensure the comfort of travelers… and with every day that passes, we have more trains stored waiting for maintenance,” he said.

The trains that are still in circulation are overloaded. On Sunday afternoon, 150 people were evacuated or could not board a packed train leaving the town of Dax for Paris.

The SNCF pressed RTE to find a solution as soon as possible, hoping to restore normal service before the initially proposed date of Thursday, August 2.

100,000 riders per day

The incident on Friday disrupted circulation in the middle of the seasonal rush. Montparnasse is the second-busiest TGV station in the country. A breakdown on the same weekend last year caused a similar mess.

Roughly 100,000 passengers were expected to take trains on Sunday. The trains that haven’t been cancelled have been divided between Montparnasse and the Austerlitz station.

The SNCF advises those who can to postpone their trip. Tickets will also be refunded for trips delayed more than three hours.

If trains for Brittany and the Loire stay at Montparnasse, those to and from the Southwest of France will be redirected to the Austerlitz station.

TGVs to Tours and Poitiers have been cancelled. Travelers were asked to use the Intercity trains from Austerlitz.

The SNCF intends to seek compensation from the electricity company.

“We are looking to our provider RTE for compensation,” said CEO of the public company Guillaume Pepy, saying that these disruptions should cost “a few million euros”. RTE has acknowledged its responsibility.

Nicolas Hulot, Minister of Ecology, and Elisabeth Borne, Minister of Transport, announced a “fact-finding mission” to investigate the State services and the fire that has made clear the vulnerability of the electrical supply to the train station.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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