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PARIS

Paris suspends electric bus fleet after fires

Dozens of electric buses will be taken off the streets of Paris temporarily "as a precaution" after two of the vehicles caught fire, public transport operator RATP said on Friday.

Paris suspends electric bus fleet after fires
The Paris electric bus fleet. Photo by ERIC PIERMONT / AFP

Following a second blaze on Friday morning, in which no one was hurt, “RATP has taken the decision to suspend use of 149 electric buses” of manufacturer Bollore’s Bluebus 5SE model, the state-owned company said.

The number 71 bus that caught fire in southeast Paris early on Friday released thick clouds of black smoke and a strong smell of burning plastic, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.

“The bus driver immediately evacuated all the passengers. Nobody was hurt,” RATP said, while the city fire service said the blaze was put out by around 30 firefighters.

A first bus caught fire on the upscale Boulevard Saint-Germain in central Paris on April 4th, destroying the vehicle but again causing no injuries.

Bluebus is part of the sprawling empire of French billionaire Vincent Bollore, whose interests range from transport and logistics to media, generating around €24 billion per year in revenue with 80,000 employees.

Bollore’s 12-metre electric buses are a familiar sight on the streets of the French capital, emblazoned with the words “100 percent electric vehicle”.

On its website, the company says the buses are “fitted with a new generation of batteries… with high energy density and optimal safety” spread around the roof and rear of the vehicle.

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STRIKES

Shortages at French filling stations after strikes at refineries

Many Total Energies fuel stations across France are reporting shortages of petrol and diesel after industrial action by refinery workers. However, the company's fuel discount may also be to blame.

Shortages at French filling stations after strikes at refineries

Employees of Total Energies have been staging industrial action that includes blockades at refineries, in an ongoing dispute over pay. 

However some have blamed Total’s extra fuel discount – on top of the government’s 30 centimes per litre fuel rebate – for the shortages at filling stations across the country. 

While the issue has been primarily concentrated in the Paris region, it also extends north to the Pas-de-Calais département and West toward Brittany, and can be found in some other parts of the country too.

Almost half of the TotalEnergies fuel stations in the Paris region were out of stock on October 4th, according to France bleu.

La Voix du Nord reported on Monday that “From Saint-Léonard to Marquise, it was impossible to fill up. The same situation has been observed in Arras.

The pumps were also dry in eight TotalEnergies stations in Strasbourg and its surrounding area, according to BFMTV.

Customers can check to see if stations near them are low in stock by consulting the map on TotalEnergies’ website, HERE.

The problem has been ongoing for several days, after refinery workers staged industrial action beginning on September 27th to push for the oil group to increase workers’ wages due to inflation. 

However, the refinery workers’ strike is not the only reason for fuel shortages at TotalEnergies service stations. The company began offering customers an additional discount on fuel prices at the beginning of September, which could be added on top of the government’s existing fuel subsidy.

On July 22nd, the TotalEnergies announced it would offer a discount of €0.20 per litre at all its service stations in the country from September 1st until November 1st. In the second phase, which would run from November until December 31, the discount will be €0.10 per litre.

As a result of the campaign, the oil giant has seen a 30 percent increase in the number of customers frequenting its stations, which has left many without the necessary stocks to meet high demand.

Additionally, the availability of fuel in stations was impacted by the extension of industrial action by refinery workers until October 3rd – it was set to run only three days.

Despite several stations struggling to meet customer demand, the oil company assured customers that there is “no shortage of fuel” and that it “has built up stocks and is importing regularly,” according to France régions.

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