LATEST: Strikes in France cause second day of transport turmoil

LATEST: Strikes in France cause second day of transport turmoil
Photo: AFP
The biggest mass strikes France has seen since 1995 entered their second day on Friday with commuters and travellers across France facing more widespread transport disruption prompted by the government's pension reforms.

Some unions – including the teaching unions – were heading back to work on Friday but the majority of transport workers have announced they will continue the strike.

And things are unlikely to be getting better soon, as a joint union meeting issued a call on Friday morning for more mass strikes and protests on Tuesday while issuing a call for the transport workers who have declared rolling strikes – such as rail and airline employees – to continue their industrial actions.

The strikes have been called in a coordinated union action in protest as president Emmanuel Macron's plans to reform the country's pension system.

Here are the main points to know for the disruption on Friday.

 

  •  90 percent of trains will be cancelled, says rail operator SNCF which has cancelled ticket sales throughout the weekend
     
  • As the signal workers are striking, other rail services that run through France such as Eurostar, Thalys and Lyria will also see severe disruption
     
  • Around 20 percent of all flights going to, from or over France will be cancelled, although short haul services will be the worst affected
     
  • Paris will see very limited services with many Metro lines closed altogether and bus, tram and RER services severely limited
     
  • Traffic jams of 347 km reported in the greater Paris Île de France region as commuters took to their cars
     
  • Blockades at oil depots will continue, as many filling stations around the country run dry and there are some road blocks

Unions who work on the Paris RATP network announced on Thursday afternoon that their strike will last until at least Monday while on Friday morning a joint union group called for other transport workers to continue their action.

There were also calls for more mass protests and marches on Tuesday, December 10th.

In Paris the situation on Friday will largely the same as on Thursday, with lines 2, 3, 3 bis, 5, 6, 7bis, 10, 11, 12 and 13 not running altogether. There will be one extra line running a rush-hour only service (6.30am to 9.30am and 6.30pm to 7.30pm) – lines 4, 6, 7 and 8. Lines 1 and 14, which are automated, will be running as normal.

 
Full details of the Paris services can can found at RATP's website here, or on the graphic below.
 
 
Transport bosses in Paris have already said that the weekend will be a 'sacrifice weekend' with very few services running so resources can be concentrated on Monday.
 
 
 
Public transport in other French cities such as Lyon, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes and Rennes is also facing a second day of disruption.

French rail operator SNCF said Thursday that it had cancelled 90 percent of all high-speed TGV trains and 70 percent of regional trains for Friday due to a strike over the government's pension reforms.

SNCF said that services would “still be very disrupted” on the second day of the biggest transport strike in the country in years, with the Eurostar service to Britain and the Thalys service to northern Europe set to be “very heavily disrupted”. 

Rail operator SNCF has already halted ticket sales through the weekend and little improvement expected over Saturday and Sunday.

“I was supposed to take a train to Metz (northeast France), I reserved my ticket three days ago but it's been cancelled and I've gotten no information,” Rachel Pallamidessi told AFP at a deserted station in the city of Strasbourg.

Striking ground staff and air traffic controllers forced French civil aviation authority the DGAC to ask airlines to cancel around 20 percent of flights on Friday to and from airports including Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly, Beauvais, Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

READ MORE: 'We have no choice': Unions explain why they've brought France to a standstill

This will mean hundreds of flights being cancelled on Friday with airlines such as Air France, easyJet and Ryanair all forced to ground flights.

Away from public transport, there are blockades at seven of France's eight oil depots, meaning that some filling stations are running short of fuel.

Click here for an interactive map if you are planning a car journey.

There are also some strikers staging road blocks, particularly in norther France where the A23 and A11 are affected. Local paper Le Voix du Nord is running a very helpful and detailed live blog on the road situation here.

The rush hours streets of Paris were eerily deserted on Thursday as many Parisians opted to simply take the day off, but the major test for the network is expected to be Monday when everybody returns to work.

Laurent Djebali had warned in Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week that the most important day for them was not Thursday or Friday or even the weekend.

“The crucial day is Monday,” he said. “We are ready to carry on until Christmas.” 

There are no official demonstrations planned for Friday, although there might be a few scattered protests. The big march in Paris yesterday saw trouble flare after several hundred masked, black-clad rioters smashed windows and set a vehicle alight in the Place de la République. Police used tear gas to disperse them.

READ ALSO Paris police use tear gas to dispel rioters as tens of thousands protest

'Yellow vest' leaders have previously said they would stage a 'day of anger' on Thursday and then return to their usual protests on Saturdays after that.

The protests and strikes are the latest test of Macron's mettle after months of protests from teachers, hospital workers, police and firefighters, capping a year of social unrest triggered by the “yellow vest” protest movement.

Unions say Macron's proposal for a single pension system, which would eliminate dozens of separate plans for public sector workers, would force millions of people in both the public and private sectors to work for longer and possibly beyond the official retirement age of 62.

The government will unveil details of the plan next week but has already said people will have to work longer to maintain a system that could have a deficit of up to 17 billion euros ($19 billion) by 2025.

 

 

For the full background to the dispute, click here.


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