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LATEST: The services affected by Thursday’s French pension strike

France's unions have declared a 'first day of mobilisation' against proposed pension reforms in January - from trains (including Eurostar) and planes to schools, government offices, banks and even theatres, here's how services will be affected.

LATEST: The services affected by Thursday's French pension strike
Services across France will be extremely disrupted on Thursday as workers strike in protest at Emmanuel Macron's plan to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne last week announced the full details of the government’s plan to reform the pension system, including raising the pension age from 62 to 64. And just hours later, France’s eight union federations announced a strike.

When?

The strike day announced is Thursday, January 19th, however it is described as “the first day of strikes and demonstrations”, so it’s likely there will be more to come.

Calendar: French pension strikes 

Which workers?

All eight of France’s main union federations are backing the strike, which means that turnout is likely to be significant.

Oil refineries – Unions representing refinery workers announced plans for three strikes – the first on January 19th, alongside inter-sector walkouts, which will last 24 hours. The next strike would be January 26th and would last 48 hours, and the third is scheduled for February 6th and could last 72 hours. Unions have also threatened to renew the call to strike, and if necessary “shutdown refinery facilities” – similar blockades in October 2022 saw filling stations across the country run dry and drivers queuing for hours to fill up. 

Shortages at service stations are not expected during the one-day strike on Thursday, but some stations reported shortages in the run-up to the strike due to panic buying. 

READ MORE: French refinery workers strike and threaten blockades as pension battle heats up

Railways – Across the country train services will be severely disrupted, with more than 500 trains cancelled. 

There will be virtually no Intercité trains running, while the budget Ouigo lines will be running 1 in 3 of their normal services. The local TER services will be the worst affected, with an average of 1 in 10 of normal services.

On the high-speed TGV services it depends on the region;

  • Est – 1 in 4 of normal services
  • Atlantique (which covers the south west) – 1 in 5
  • Nord – 1 in 3
  • Sud-Est – 1 in 3

The Eurostar will be running with a ‘revised timetable’ on Thursday and Friday, with several trains cancelled. You can find the full list HERE.

Thalys, which connects to Belgium and the Netherlands, expects quasi-normal services. You can find specific information HERE. However, the Lyria (which goes to Switzerland) will be extremely disrupted and other international connections (eg Spain, Germany and Italy) will not run.

Paris – In Paris Metro, bus, tram and RER services will be extremely disrupted – full details HERE.

Nice – public transport in Nice will be “almost totally paralysed” on Thursday, with tram lines 1, 2 and 3 halted, along with numerous bus routes. The public transport service for people with reduced mobility, Mobil’Azur, is not expected to be operational either.

Lyon – Tramway services will be disrupted by industrial action, and the T7 tramway will not be operational. Other lines will experience delays and the T5 will run normally. On the A metro, trains will run every five minutes and on the D metro trains will run every four minutes. Other lines will run as usual. 

Several bus lines will not run on Thursday. Most public transport in Lyon will only run until 8:30pm. 

Nantes – No intercité trains will depart from the Nantes station on Thursday, and several lines in the downtown area will have services disrupted between 10am and 2:30pm;

  • Tramway line 1: interrupted between Commerce and Duchesse Anne
  • Tramway line 2: end of line will be at 50 Otages
  • Tramway line 3: interrupted between Commerce and Hôtel Dieu
  • Bus line 4: normal route
  • Line C1 : interrupted between Copernic and Foch Cathédrale
  • Line C2 : end of line at Talensac
  • Line C3 : interrupted between Copernic and Gare SNCF Sud
  • Line C6 : interrupted between Delorme and Foch Cathédrale
  • Line 11 : interrupted between Square Daviais and Foch Cathédrale
  • Line 12 : interrupted between Talensac and Foch Cathédrale
  • Line 23 : interrupted between Copernic and Talensac
  • Route 26 : interrupted between Gaston Veil and Delorme
  • Line 54 : end of line at Delorme
  • Airport shuttle: end of line at Hôtel Dieu

Air travel – A limited number of air traffic controllers will strike – and the French civil aviation authority has tried to minimise disruption by ordering that 1 in 5 flights in and out of Paris’ Orly airport be cancelled. Individual airlines may also cancel or delay flights, however, so travellers are advised to check with their airline.

Airport employees also plan to strike, which is likely to affect services such as check-in, security checks and baggage handling. 

Ferry/ Channel Tunnel – no strike notices have been filed among employees of ferry companies or the Channel Tunnel so services are expected to run as normal. You can keep up to date here.

Road transport – unions representing truckers and other drivers have also called a strike, but although theirs will start on January 19th, the strike notice is for “unlimited” action, so it is likely to continue after Thursday.

SchoolsAll of the teaching unions representing public school teachers have called on staff to strike on January 19th. The leading union for primary school teachers, Snuipp-FSU, predicted that 70 percent of primary school teachers will strike.

In Paris, the city council told BFMTV that more than a quarter of elementary schools (172 out of 638) would be closed, and that 179 nurseries (crèches) out of 415 would also be closed.

Power cuts – there’s a possibility of some power cuts on Thursday as electricity workers belonging to the hard-line CGT union have published a ‘plan of action’ which they say will include restoration of electricity and gas to people on low incomes, free provision of energy and targeted power cuts. However this is just a small group of workers so it is unclear what the impact will be.

Public employees – local government employees are joining the strike call, so expect public offices like mairies and préfectures to be either closed or offering a limited service.

Police – police unions have called for a “massive” mobilisation, saying “it is out of the question for police officers to work for longer”. Gendarmes are part of the military and so are banned from striking but members of the Police nationale can strike – although industrial action from the police usually takes the form of protests or symbolic actions like throwing down their handcuffs.

Culture – bad luck if you had tickets for the theatre or opera on January 19th, staff at the following venues have backed the strike, meaning some performances may be cancelled; Comédie Française, Paris National Opera, Rouen Opera House, Théatre national de l’Opéra Comique, Théâtre national de Strasbourg, Théâtre national de l’Odéon, Établissement public du parc et de la grande halle de la Villette, Philarmonie de Paris, Théâtre national de la Colline, Théâtre national de Chaillot. 

Unions at France Télévisions have also given notice of an unlimited strike, starting on January 19th.

Ski resorts – unions at ski resorts have also filed strike notices for January 19th, this usually affects the operation of services like ski lifts.

Banks – your bank may also be closed on January 19th as all eight unions representing banking and financial staff back the strike.

Unions are calling on all workers to “mobilise strongly across the country and take part in the union-organised events” and demonstrations are planned for most French towns and cities on Thursday.

More detail on services will be released nearer the time, but essential workers like rail staff must give 48 hours’ notice of their intention to strike – transport operators then release strike timetables 24 hours in advance showing which services will be running.

We will update our strike sector HERE with all the latest.

Is it only January 19th?

Unions are determined to fight the proposed pension reforms, while the government is equally determined to push it through – so it looks set for a long conflict and further strike days seem likely, while some unions have already declared that their actions will be “unlimited” – is they will continue after January 19th. A strike notice for ‘unlimited’ action can mean either a continuous strike, or repeated strike days. 

On Saturday, January 21st there will be a demo in Paris against the reforms – the exact time and route is still to be confirmed, and there may be demos in other cities too. 

You can also get the lowdown on the strikes in France and what might happen over the coming days and weeks in the latest episode of our free podcast Talking France.

You can download it on Apple, Spotify and Google here.

We will update this story as more information is released.

Member comments

  1. If (almost) everyone is on strike, who, other than artisans, is affected? Could the massive ‘mother of all protests’ cancel out its own purpose?

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TRAVEL NEWS

Unscheduled stop: Baby born aboard high-speed train in France

Travellers on a high-speed rail service train in France experienced an unusual delay at a station at the weekend -- while a fellow passenger gave birth to a baby boy, local media reported.

Unscheduled stop: Baby born aboard high-speed train in France

The pregnant woman began to feel contractions shortly after taking her seat on the Paris-Strasbourg train, run by German rail operator Deutsche Bahn.

She alerted staff and the train was held at the Lorraine TGV station in the eastern French town of Louvigny to allow a medical team on board which then delivered the baby, the Republicain Lorrain said.

The other passengers were asked for patience during the birth of the baby boy, Felix, which took just over 80 minutes.

Felix was “a little premature”, the paper noted.

Mother and baby were taken to a nearby hospital by the local firefighter service, which reported later that both were doing well.

The Republicain Lorrain said that everybody was now wondering whether the German rail operator would send a birth gift, or grant its youngest passenger free trips on the network.

French public transport services have a history of providing such gifts. In 2018, after a baby was born on an RER Train in Paris, the child was offered a free Navigo pass until his 25th birthday.

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