Rail passengers in France could breathe a sigh of relief on Thursday morning as services began returning to normal levels after the first two days of lengthy rolling strikes.
The strike, which saw a dramatic reduction in the number of trains operating around France, ended on Wednesday evening and on Thursday morning SNCF announced the situation on the rails had dramatically improved.
Three quarters of regional TER trains were operating as well as three out of five Intercité trains. High speed TGV services were almost running as normal on Thursday after only one in eight had been operating on Tuesday and Wednesday.
On Twitter SNCF said there would be “a progressive return to normal throughout the day”, although warned there would still be disruptions. Intercité trains between Paris and Normandy were set to face further problems on Thursday.
At least in Paris the RER commuter services should return to almost normal levels, SNCF. On Wednesday videos had emerged of passengers climbing through windows to get onto packed RER D trains.
As for international trains such as the Eurostar, traffic should be only “slightly disrupted”.
But normal service won't last too long with rail workers set to walk out for another two day strike on Sunday April 8th (see calendar below). They have vowed to continue their two rolling strikes until the end of June unless President Emmanuel Macron and his government ditch their planned rail reforms.
(The calendar below shows planned rail strikes in blue and Air France strikes in red)
Macron's government says the heavily-indebted SNCF needs deep reforms as EU countries prepare to open passenger rail to competition by 2020, arguing it is 30 percent more expensive to run a train in France than elsewhere.
Unions fear the changes are a first step towards privatising the national rail operator — a claim the government denies — and object to plans to strip new hires of a special rail workers' status guaranteeing jobs for life and early retirement.