France faces difficult weekend on roads and rail as strikes continue to bite

France faces a weekend of badly disrupted transport on roads and rail as strikes over the government's pension reforms continue. Here's what you need to know about if you are travelling.

France faces difficult weekend on roads and rail as strikes continue to bite

Unions are taking strike action over the government's plans to reform and simplify the French pension system, which many fear will leave them with a smaller pension pot or having to work beyond the official retirement age of 62.

The government is standing firm and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has said he will be presenting detailed proposals on exactly how the reform will work next Wednesday.

READ ALSO 'We don't have a choice' Unions explain why they have brought France to a halt

But in the meantime strikes continue with those on rolling strikes – which includes most public transport employees – being urged to continue and unions calling for another day of mass strikes and demonstrations on Tuesday, December 10th.

In Paris public transport services will be minimal over the weekend.

Employees on the city's transport network RATP had announced on Thursday that they would be continuing their strike at least until Monday, December 9th. City transport bosses say the weekend will be a 'sacrifice' so they can concentrate their resources on commuter lines on Monday, which are expected to be very busy.

Nine Metro lines (2,3,5,6, 7bis, 10,11,12,13) will shut down completely.

The services that do run on lines 3,4,7,8 and 9 will be focused between 1pm and 6pm and only Metro lines 1 and 14 – which are automated – will run as normal.

Buses and trams will have a limited service – for full details head to the RATP website.

Fortunately Paris is a very compact city so most places are within walking distance and there are also plenty of alternative transport options.

READ ALSO Six ways to get around Paris without the Metro

If you're in Paris it's worth being aware of the route of a planned 'yellow vest' demonstration, as there are fears of violence from some Black Bloc.

On trains there will again be severe disruption – with just 10-15 percent of services running and the rest cancelled.

Over the weekend around one in six of the usual TGV high speed trains will be running, but they will be concentrated on Saturday morning and Sunday evening.

Thus, there will be two return services between Paris and Marseille on Saturday and Sunday, four services between Paris and Lyon on Saturday and five on Sunday and seven return trips from Paris to Rennes on Saturday and Sunday.

For full details head to the SNCF website.

The disruption also affects Eurostar, which has already announced it will be running a reduced timetable until December 12th, and international train routes that go through France.

It's also shaping up to be a bad weekend on the roads as one hauliers' union has announced it will be staging rolling roadblocks around the country in a separate dispute over fuel tax.

The European Hauliers Organisation says it has a total of 1,000 trucks and will be staging 15 operations in 11 different regions, most of which will take the form of 'operation escargot' or go-slow operations.

And there are blockades continuing at some French oil depots, leading to shortages of petrol and diesel and filling stations around the country. Click here for an interactive map of the stations in your area.

But there is some good news for people flying, unlike on Thursday and Friday the French aviation authority is not asking airlines to reduce their timetables, so most flights should run as normal.

 However there could be some knock-on disruption from cancellations on Thursday and Friday, so anyone with a flight booked for the weekend is still advised to check with their airline.

Barring any surprise blockades at ferry ports, cross Channel ferries are expected to run normally and the Eurotunnel will also be running as normal.

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French customs officers strike over job cuts

Customs officers across France will walk out on Thursday in protest at job cuts that unions say will “weaken the customs network”.

French customs officers strike over job cuts

The national strike on Thursday, March 10th is expected to lead to delays at ports, airports and on the Eurostar.

The strike, which will include a rally outside the National Assembly building in Paris, was called by the CFDT-Douane and has the support of other unions. 

A work-to-rule protest over pay and conditions by customs officers in 2019, under the shadow of Brexit, led to delays and disruption at airports, as well as ports including Calais and Dunkirk, and on Eurostar trains.

Unions are calling on the government to axe plans to switch responsibility for import duty collection to the Direction Générale des Finances Publiques by 2024, at the cost of 700 customs’ officer jobs – and, according to strikers, tens of billions of euros to State coffers.

“We are asking for the reforms to be stopped, mainly that of the transfer of taxation, which is disorganising the network with the elimination of nearly a thousand jobs,” CFDT-Douane’s secretary general David-Olivier Caron said.

The planned job cuts come after years of restructuring and streamlining that has seen thousands of positions disappear, the unions say, when customs fraud and smuggling is rising because of a lack of resources.