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STRIKES

‘I’ve walked about 20km’: Paris Metro strikes help tourists see a new side of French capital

Widely reported transport chaos during a week of strikes has lead to some tourists cancelling trips to Paris - but many are still coming and some are loving the new perspective they get from seeing the city on foot.

'I've walked about 20km': Paris Metro strikes help tourists see a new side of French capital
Strikes are not spoiling the holidays for many people. Photos: AFP

Travel to and from France has been badly disrupted in recent days – with around 20 percent of flights cancelled during the first four days of the strike and trains – including the Eurostar – only able to run a reduced service.

On arrival in Paris, people are also confronted with the fact that very few of the city's public transport services are running, but for the tourists who manage to get here, transport disruption doesn't seem to be ruining the experience.

READ ALSO Six ways to get around Paris without the Metro

Forced to sightsee on foot, many people are discovering that this is the best way to see the city anyway.

“I had to walk everywhere, but it’s fine because I could discover Paris more in-depth” Krystina from the Czech Republic told The Local, estimating that she had walked about 20km since her arrival.

 

Other said the strikes were not causing much inconvenience – Sirine from Tunisia, who is staying in Ivry, said that she did not experience any difficulty in getting about because she is mostly using Metro Line 1, which is automated and therefore running as normal.

But for people trying to get out of the city, things were a little more difficult.

Daniel and Anna, a Brazilian couple, complained: “We couldn’t go to Disneyland because there is no train.” 

Debora, who is also from Brazil, had similar frustrations after she had to cancel her visit of the Palace of Versailles.

She said: “I bought an entrance ticket in advance, but I could not go there. Fortunately, I could get a refund.”

READ ALSO Should I cancel my trip to Paris because of the French strikes?

Agnese, an Italian tourist, said: “I tried to visit the city in three days, but without any transport, I was not able to see everything,” she said, before adding that she “still loves Paris”. 

Others chose to rely on the services of Uber drivers.

This is the case for Andre from Mexico, who said: “We can’t really use the Metro, so we use Uber instead”.

However, this option comes with a cost. The fares of the ridesharing companies have been multiplied by up to four during rush hours since the beginning of the strike. Teddy Pellerin, CIO of Hitch (a French competitor of Uber) conceded that his company was “moderately increasing prices in favourable periods”. 

Overall, the tourists that The Local spoke to showed great understanding for the strike.

Rosana and Lucero from Peru reckoned it was a way for people “to collectively express themselves”.

READ ALSO How to claim compensation over French rail strike disruption

Louisa, from Germany, shared that view, saying: “It is about their rights and their pensions and after all, we also have strikes in Germany from time to time.”

“If you don’t agree with something, you have to express yourself despite the consequences,” said Benedetta from Italy. 

This is something Kristyna agreed with: “I think it is a good thing that people are showing their discontent with the world when something is wrong.”

Debora from Brazil was even impressed with the strikers and said she wished her countrymen had the same “social awareness and collective consciousness”.

Nonetheless, a handful of tourists were left unimpressed with the strike.

Nick and Angela from Las Vegas in the USA admitted not knowing much about the strike. “We booked this trip in advance, we had to come anyway,” said Nick stoically. 

READ ALSO The 10 Paris streets you just have to walk down

By Jean-Baptiste Andrieux

 

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STRIKES

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.

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