Transport mayhem continues in France as French customs unions reject offer

French customs officials protesting for better pay and more staff and for the extra work expected with Brexit, have turned down a new offer to end their action, unions said. Eurostar passengers in Paris, as well as EuroTunnel users were left facing yet more transport chaos.

Transport mayhem continues in France as French customs unions reject offer
Illustration photo: AFP
The industrial action has caused traffic havoc over the last 11 days for Eurostar passengers at Paris Gare du Nord and Lille Europe, the port of Calais and the entrance to the Channel tunnel which links France and Britain.
On Friday Eurostar posted an announcement on its site, warning customers that delays and cancellations were set to continue until at least Monday March 18th. 
“All Eurostar trains are experiencing delays and long queues for journeys from Paris Nord and Lille Europe due to industrial action by French customs until March 18th, we therefore advise passengers not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
“These delays impact our planned timetables and cause subsequent cancellations.”
Four trains had been cancelled on Friday, including the 07:37 from Paris Nord to London St Pancras, the 09:03 from Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London St Pancras, the 14:37 from Paris Nord to Ashford International and London St Pancras and the 21:03 from Paris Nord to Ebbsfleet International and London St Pancras.
During the industrial action, Eurostar passengers have faced delays of up to four hours, with some spending even longer waiting in line. 
People are also facing severe delays at the port of Calais and the entrance to the Channel tunnel which links France and Britain.
By early evening on Wednesday the line of trucks waiting to get to England through the tunnel had stretched to four kilometres (2.5 miles), the local prefecture said.
This has meant people have been stuck in their cars as a line of heavy goods vehicles builds up along the A16 motorway, with countryside roads also affected in the area. 
On Friday morning, there were traffic jams all the way to the town of Coulogne in the Pas-de-Calais department. 

“The unions left the meeting. We invite other customs officials to give an opinion on this (proposal),” the unions said in a statement.
The customs agents are demanding an increase in overnight pay, a danger allowance, and more staff and resources to help with greater controls that will be put in place once Britain breaks away from the European Union, currently scheduled in just over two weeks.
French unions representing the around 17,000 workers on Wednesday rejected a 14 million-euro ($15.8 million) budget boost offered by the government as it was “not sufficient compared to the agent's demands”, Jean-Marc Jame of the CFDT union told AFP.
“When divided by the number of agents, there is not much left,” he said.


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Eurostar’s souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated

Passengers on Eurostar have been warned about bringing shells that have been turned into souvenirs onto the trains after Paris' Gare du Nord station had to be evacuated.

Eurostar's souvenir bomb warning after Paris station evacuated
The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord was evacuated
The Paris transport hub had to be evacuated early on Monday morning after a World War II shell was found in a passenger's bag.


The evacuation, which happened at about 5.45am on Monday, was completed by 10am, but has led to longer than usual queues for Eurostar services.

It is the latest in a series of security alerts caused by passengers trying to take souvenir war artillery on to trains.

Eurostar issued a special warning ahead of the First World War commemorations in November 2018, but with just a month to go until memorial events for the D Day landings, there are fears that the problems could recur.
“As you're travelling during the commemoration period, please remember that you can't bring any real or replica bombs, shells (complete or partial) or weapons on board – even if you bought them from a gift shop,” Eurostar told passengers last year.
“If you bring them with you, they'll be confiscated at security and may result in the need to evacuate the station.”
Old World War I shells turned into flower pots have been popular souvenirs in Belgium and France ever since the end of the conflict, but passengers attempting to take them on board trains for Britain have sparked bomb scares in recent years.
Some of the alerts, which happen every few months, have also been caused by war memorabilia collectors bringing back disarmed ordnance unearthed by farmers at battle sites in northeast France.
Eurostar said even disarmed shells can set off X-ray alarms.