French rail reform given green light after strikes

Despite two weeks of crippling rail strikes, that are still rumbling on, French MPs gave the green light on Tuesday to the controversial rail reforms that had sparked the walk-out.

French rail reform given green light after strikes
French rail reform will go ahead despite ongoing strikes and protests. Photo: Shutterstock

French lawmakers adopted a contentious railway sector reform on Tuesday that was opposed by striking workers who last week crippled the country's rail network.

The lower house National Assembly voted 355 to 168 to support the reform that will bring together rail operator SNCF and track manager RFF, as well as opening parts of the sector up to competition.

President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists were joined in backing the bill by centrist lawmakers and two dozen members of the centre-right main opposition UMP.

The reform aims to tackle the rail sector's soaring debt, which stands at more than 40 billion euros ($54 billion) and is set to almost double by 2025 if nothing changes.

Some railway unions signed up to the reforms after obtaining promises from the government. But two unions rejected an accord, saying the plans will lead to job losses without reducing the debt.

The strike, which started on June 17 and was continuing in small pockets on Tuesday, hit its peak last week with trains cancelled on up to two-thirds of high-speed TGV lines.

SEE ALSO: The Great French rail strike – what's all the fuss about?

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