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LIFE IN FRANCE

New rail strike in France to see around half of regional train services cancelled

France will be hit by another train strike on Tuesday over a looming pension system overhaul after Paris saw its biggest strike action in more than a decade earlier this month.

New rail strike in France to see around half of regional train services cancelled
Just two out of five of SNCF's intercity services will be running on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

Just two out of five of SNCF's intercity services will be running during the strike on Tuesday, along with three of five regional TER lines, the operator said, adding that high-speed TGV services would be a “little disrupted”.

Service on the main commuter RER trains in the Paris region will be slowed, but the city's transit operator RATP said the metro lines that ground to a halt during the mass strike on September 13th will be working “almost as normal”.

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International rail, including the heavily used Eurostar lines, will be unaffected.

The September 13th strike was the first major protest against President Emmanuel Macron's plan to implement a universal pension system that would do away with the more advantageous plans enjoyed by workers in state transport and utility companies.

Metro workers say the reforms would force them to work longer by removing their long-held rights to early retirement, secured decades ago to compensate for spending long hours underground.

France's state auditor, the Cour des Comptes, has said the average retirement age for RATP workers in 2017 was 55.7, compared with 63 years for most French workers.

“We have to tell the French the truth… We are going to have to work longer,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said during the metro strike — the biggest since 2007 when former president Nicolas Sarkozy also pushed through pension reforms.

The head of CGT union, one of the unions that called for Tuesday's action, said the previous strike was not “by the privileged few”.

“It's a strike by employees saying 'We want to retire at a reasonable age with a reasonable pension',” said CGT head Philippe Martinez.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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