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French vacationers facing train cancellations

People wait at the railway station Gare Montparnasse in Paris on July 30, 2018, as rail operator SNCF warned services were not expected to return to normal until August 6, 2018, following a fire at a high-voltage substation outside Paris. (Photo by AFP)

Thousands of people hoping to hit beaches along France's Atlantic coast are still facing train cancellations and delays, as workers struggle to restore electricity to Paris's Gare Montparnasse after a fire on Friday.

Only half of the scheduled trains in and out of the station, a main departure point for holiday destinations, were expected to run on Monday, a spokesman for the state rail operator SNCF said.

Hundreds of trains were canceled over the weekend, one of the busiest of the summer, stranding thousands in sweltering stations across western and southwestern France.

Electricity supplies won't be back at full capacity until Tuesday afternoon "at the latest," grid operator RTE said -- after drawing the government's ire over the weekend when it warned power might not be fully restored until Thursday.

The outage began shortly before noon on Friday when traffic at Montparnasse was completely shut down by a fire at a high-voltage substation outside Paris.

Some trains were up and running by Friday afternoon, but dozens were canceled while others had to be re-routed throughout the weekend, often with hours of delays.

People wait on a platform of the Montparnasse railway station in Paris after several trains have been delayed following a fire of an electric transformer in the nearby city of Issy-les-Moulineaux on July 27, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The cause of the blaze remains unknown, though RTE ruled out arson.

The SNCF is urging people to postpone trips if possible, while offering to reimburse travelers who opt instead for the company's carpooling service Idvroom.

Montparnasse has suffered a series of service cuts in recent years, in part the result of insufficient network investments in recent decades.

The latest power outage comes nearly a year to the day after an electrical problem at an SNCF signaling station paralyzed traffic for three days just as thousands were hoping to start their holidays.

Last December, the station was totally shut down for a day after a computer glitch during an IT update to signaling systems.

The government has promised 3.6 billion euros ($4.2 billion) of infrastructure spending over the next 10 years as part of an SNCF reform plan pushed through this year -- which prompted weeks of strikes by rail workers.

(Source: AFP)

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