• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

French rail workers again extend their strike

Ben McPartland · 18 Jun 2014, 14:01

Published: 18 Jun 2014 14:01 GMT+02:00

Commuters in France faced yet more disruption on the rails on Wednesday as one of the longest running train strikes in recent years entered its second week.

However despite the ongoing industrial action, rail operator SNCF forecast an improvement in the number of trains running on Wednesday compared to previous days when commuters faced major travel chaos.

French rail union, CGT Cheminot, announced on Wednesday its workers had voted to continue the strike by another 24 hours. 

SNCF said on average there would be seven out of ten trains running on the main lines. In and around Paris the situation in the RER service should also improve on Wednesday with one train running every seven minutes on the RER B that serves the two airports.

On the RER C and E one out of two trains were running and on the RER D there will be a train every ten minutes. 

CLICK HERE for more information on the trains that are running. Travellers can also call 0 805 200 440 to find out information.

The reform that has provoked the strike by the CGT and Sud-Rail unions will continue to be discussed by MPs in the National Assembly on Wednesday

French PM Manuel Valls has insisted the government would not back down to the demands of strikers and vowed that the reform would pass.

Transport Secretary Frédéric Cuvillier called on MPs to back the reform in order to “save and assure financially the future of the public rail service.”

The strike has been prompted by a reform aimed at tackling the rail sector's soaring debt, which stands at more than €40 billion and is set to almost double by 2025 if nothing changes.

It looks to cut costs by bringing together the SNCF train operator and RFF railway network and to eventually open up parts of the service to competition.

Some unions signed up to the reforms after obtaining promises from the government. But the CGT and Sud-Rail unions rejected the accord saying the plans will lead to job losses without reducing the debt.

'The government should protect a public service'

Speaking on Wednesday the CGT union chief Thierry Lepaon again blasted the reform saying it presented major risks for the French rail service.

“The heart of the matter is that we are horrified. It is the preparation for privatisation of rail transport in our country. The government wants to allow competitors to operate train on the SNCF network, who will compete with today's rail transport," he told France Inter radio.

France's move towards the deregulation of its rail system is at the behest of the EU, but Lepaon says the government should be reinforcing the public service and oppose the opening up to competition.

"We ask the government to take responsibility so the public service can continue to exist," Lepaon said.

On Tuesday tensions appeared to rise as the strikers protests became more militant.

There were brief clashes with police outside the National Assembly and strikers also briefly blocked the tracks in Paris's busy Montparnasse station.

In the afternoon, up to 300 strikers forced their way into the office of public television France 3 in the eastern city of Lyon, demanding a live debate with Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, but later left without getting their request met.

In the southern port city of Marseille, meanwhile, their peers took direct action by addressing passengers in the railway station's main hall.

"There is a real rising anger at the way we have been singled out for blame" by the government, said Philippe Goalard, a rail worker since 1995.

"Perhaps we haven't communicated enough... and in this second week of the strike we need to explain more." 

Story continues below…

However the public mood appearsto be against the strike.

The walkout, in a country where strikes occur regularly, drew outrage with a poll published in Le Parisien newspaper Tuesday showing that 76 percent of the French opposed the protest, which has so far cost at least €80 million ($108 million).

The poll also showed that only one in three French understood the reasons behind the strike.

French rail strike: What is all the fuss about?

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French fuel crisis latest: 5,100 petrol stations run dry
Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Some 40 percent of petrol stations have run dry in France.

Masked youths clash with police in Paris protest
Police and protesters also clashed in Paris last week. Photo: AFP

Labour protests in Paris have turned violent, again.

A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
All photos: AFP

A rundown of all the strikes in France today and in the coming days and weeks. Good luck.

Police raid McDonald's French HQ in tax probe
Photo: _Skynet/Flickr

French police have said that they raided the French headquarters of McDonald's in a tax probe.

Euro 2016
'You're not welcome': French police warn English yobs
England football fans burn a Tunisian flag in Marseille in 1998 during riots that marred the World Cup. Photo: AFP

French police tell English fans who might be heading to France to cause trouble: Don't bother.

Paris property prices gone mad? €50,000 for 3m² 'loft'
Ile Saint Louis. Photo: AFP

A sign of how mad property prices in Paris have become?

Readers' Views
French fuel strikes:  A tedious 'tantrum' or a 'sacred' duty?
Photo: AFP

The nationwide strikes and the fuel crisis have left France divided. Here's what you have had to say.

The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
Photo: AFP

Everything you need to know about the French fuel crisis.

Good news from France: Unemployment rate falls again
Applicants talk to recruiters at a French jobs fair. Photo: AFP

Some much needed positive news for the French government

Five free smartphone apps to help you find petrol in France
Photo: CAFNR/Flickr

Looking for petrol in France? Here's how to find it with the help of your smartphone.

National
The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
National
A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
Culture
Paris: Street artist makes the Louvre pyramid disappear
Interactive map: Where to find petrol in France
Who is the French union in a 'fight to the death' with the government?
Society
Opinion: Why the French are absolutely right to go on strike
National
Here's why both sides despise France's labour reforms
National
Who is really to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
Lifestyle
New map reveals Paris flat prices by Metro station
Culture
Paris: Here's how to find French cinema in English
Culture
How to say 'OUCH' in French (and ten other sounds)
National
Get ready: France to be hit by week of transport strikes
Culture
France readies for first national 'motorway party'
2,737
jobs available