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LATEST: How train strikes in France will hit rail travel on Friday

There was both good news and bad for those who plan to travel or commute by train in France on Friday.

An SNCF TVG train standing next to a platform at Paris's Gare de Lyon station, along which a woman is pulling a wheeled suitcase
Photo by Stephane de Sakutin / AFP

Commuters in Paris faced more disruption on the rails on Friday with both RER and Transilien services hit by the ongoing two-day strike.

Paris commuters have been advised to avoid travelling. For the likely disruption you read the latest HERE.

However tens of thousands of travellers planning to take the train to south east France for a Christmas getaway this weekend breathed a sigh of relief after unions lifted their strike threat following negotiations with SNCF managers.

A near-normal TGV Sud-Est rail schedule is expected to operate on Saturday and Sunday, French train operator SNCF has said, after the CGT Cheminots and Sud-Rail unions called off their planned walkout, hours after a third union, Unsa, had ended its strike call.

Meanwhile, services on the TGV Atlantique line, between Paris and south west France, which were also subject to a strike notice, will be almost normal on Friday, according to Christophe Fanichet, Chairman and CEO of SNCF Voyageurs.

READ ALSO: French rail workers issue Christmas strike threat

It’s not all good news, however. Travel on the Sud-Est axis on Friday, December 17th, remains heavily disrupted, SNCF said, despite the lifting of the strike notice, with just one service in two running on lines between Paris, Lyon, Marseille and the Côte d’Azur.

SNCF said in a statement that the strike calls were lifted “too late from an operational point of view” to amend the reduced schedule.

“This lifting (of the strike call) comes after the trade unions accepted a final proposal made by the management of the TGV Sud-Est axis on Tuesday evening,” it added.

Some 50,000 travellers have had their plans for travel on Friday disrupted, SNCF told France Info. It will reportedly reimburse those affected fully and offer them an additional voucher worth 100 percent of the ticket price.

READ ALSO Commuters in Paris urged to avoid trains as two-day rail strike begins

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ENVIRONMENT

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

Authorities in the French Alps said Friday they had closed down two popular mountain shelters used by Mont Blanc climbers because of potentially deadly drought-related rockfalls.

Drought-hit Mont Blanc shuts shelters to dissuade hikers

In a year marked by drought and heatwaves, rockfalls and gaping crevices have made access to the top of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, even more difficult and perilous.

The mayor’s office in the Mont Blanc village of Saint-Gervais, said climbers were in “mortal danger” from rocks and shards coming loose because of dry weather and dropping from a height.

“All day long, we still see climbers going on the mountain range, all the time, as if this was Disneyland or the Parc Asterix,” said Saint-Gervais mayor Jean-Marc Peillex, in reference to two popular theme parks near Paris.

Hikers had been advised since last month to stay away because of the danger, but “they just don’t give a damn,” he told AFP.

READ MORE: ‘To pay funeral costs’ – Why Mont Blanc mayor wants to charge climbers

The closure of the two mountain shelters — Gouter with 120 overnight spots and Tete Rousse with 74, as well as a base camp accommodating up to 50 people — was to “show clearly that there is no accommodation available”.

The authorities had warned for weeks that falling rocks were a danger, he said, adding that crossing the Gouter mountain corridor represented “a mortal danger”, he said.

Nevertheless, 79 people stayed at the Gouter shelter Thursday night, he said.

The shelters will remain shut until normal weather conditions return, the mayor said, probably not before early September.

Peillex had warned Wednesday that Saint-Gervais would require a deposit of €15,000 from each hiker, saying the sum represented the average cost of a rescue operation and a funeral.

He was, however, advised that French law offers no basis for such a move.

A lack of snow during the winter has laid bare vast areas of greyish glacier — yellowish where sand dust from the Sahara has accumulated — riven with fractures on the Mont Blanc.

The heat did the rest, causing the fragile snow bridges to melt that make it possible to cross the crevasses, as well as leading to landslides.

Following several heatwaves, France is in the grip of severe drought, blamed by scientists on climate change.

On Friday, 100 municipalities across the country were without drinking water, Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said.

Calling the drought “historic”, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne called a crisis meeting Friday to seek solutions.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is amplifying extreme weather — including the heatwaves, droughts and floods seen in several parts of the planet in recent weeks — and say these events will become more frequent and more intense.

The international community has agreed that climate change poses an existential threat to human systems and the natural world.

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