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Strikes For Members

'France at a standstill': What to expect from trains, planes and roads during Tuesday's strikes

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
'France at a standstill': What to expect from trains, planes and roads during Tuesday's strikes
Workers across France will strike from March 7th. Photo by Sameer Al-Doumy / AFP

After a lull in strikes coinciding with the February school holidays, unions in France are preparing to ramp up their battle against pension reform, beginning on Tuesday March 7th with a vow to 'bring the country to a standstill'. Here's what to expect.

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The ongoing battle between the unions and governments over pension reform continues, after a two-week break in strikes that coincided with the Zone C school holidays (including the Paris area) but will continue from Tuesday, March 7th.

Until now, the movement has mainly taken the form of a series of one-day strikes but from March 7th things kick up a gear with several unions announcing grèves reconductible - renewable or rolling strikes.

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Here's what we know so far, we will update this article as more information is released;

Air travel - this strike will have a more severe impact on airlines than previous ones, with up to 30 percent of flights cancelled on both March 7th and March 8th as air traffic controllers walk out. The French civil aviation authority has ordered airlines to cancel 20 percent of the flights coming in and out of Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and 30 percent of flights in and out of Paris-Orly, Beauvais, Bordeaux, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Montpellier, Nantes, Nice and Toulouse.

Airlines will notify customers whose flights have been cancelled, but it's likely that there will be knock-on effects and delays on other flights, which the aviation authority says could happen from Monday evening to Thursday morning.

Unions representing airport workers, including baggage handlers and security staff, at Paris Charles de Gaulle have called for a 'blockade' of the airport, with a picket planned at Terminal 2E. It is not yet known what impact this will have on flights, but as ever the advice is to check with your airline and allow plenty of time to get to the airport and through security. 

Rail - railways will be heavily impacted by the strike and people are advised to cancel or postpone any trips. Transport minister Clément Beaune told Sud Radio: "On March 7th, I want to be very clear, travel will be difficult".

The high-speed TGV lines will be severely disrupted with 1 in 5 of the normal services running on the Est, Nord and Atlantique (south-west) lines, 1 in 3 on Sud Est and 1 in 4 on the budget Ouigo routes. There will be no services at all on Intercité routes, while 1 in 5 of the normal services will run on local TER trains.

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The strikes will also affect international routes, with 2 out of 3 of the normal services running on Eurostar and Thalys. There will be no trains at all to Germany and Spain, 1 service running to Italy and 1 in 5 of the normal services to Switzerland.

The detailed strike timetable will be released at 5pm on Monday, and passengers with pre-booked tickets will be contacted by email or SMS if their service is cancelled. Those services that do run are likely to be extremely busy.

All of the rail unions have called for a rolling strikes to continue after Tuesday. At this stage we don't know how bad the disruption is likely to be for the period immediately after March 7th, unions say that decisions on continuing the strikes will be taken each day at 6pm.

Paris - workers on the city's RATP public transport have also called a 'renewable' strike from March 7th.

Services on Tuesday will be severely disrupted, but all the city's Metro lines will be running, at least for part of the day.

Lines 1 and 14, which are automated, will run as normal but are likely to be extremely crowded.

Lines 4 and 6 will run all day, with 2 in 3 and 1 in 4 of their normal services respectively.

Lines 2, 5, 7, 7bis, 9 and 10 will run only during rush hours with 1 in 3 or 1 in 4 of their normal services.

Lines 3, 11, 12 and 13 will run only during rush hours, with a limited service and only along part of the lines. Line 3 will run only between Pont de Levellois and Havre-Caumartin, line 11 will run only between Maire des Lilas and Belleville, line 12 will run only between Mairie d'Issy and Concorde, line 13 will run only to Duroc.

Lines 3bis and 8 will run only during the morning rush hour, with a limited service and line 8 will run only between Creteil-Pointe de Lac and Reuilly-Diderot.

On the bus network 3 in 4 of the normal services will run, while trams will see a reduced service apart from on T6, 4, 11 and 13 which will run as normal.

The RER suburban rail network will see reduced service on all lines while services on lines 1 and B will finish at 9pm and 9.50pm respectively. 

City public transport - public transport workers in other French cities including Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, and Montpellier have called one-day strikes for March 7th, although they could still decide to take renewable actions as well.

In Lyon, transport authorities on the TCL network have said that metro lines will not be severely impacted, but many buses will not run at all. Regarding the metro, the B and C lines will run normally, and the A and D lines will run every four to five minutes. As for trams, most will run, though at slower frequencies. The T3 line will run every 9 minutes, the T2 will run every 10 to 15 minutes, the T4 will run every 15 minutes, and the T6 will run every 15 to 20 minutes.

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In Marseille, the two metro lines will stop offering service after 12pm, but M1 will have normal services from 8am until 12pm. Tram lines 1 and 2 will operate with delays, and tram line 3 will not operate at all. Most buses will operate at slower than normal frequencies.

In Bordeaux, about a fifth of public transport workers have announced their plans to strike. This means that several buses will not operate at all, while others will run with delays. As for the trams, all lines will run with "adjusted frequencies". A and B trams will run every 7.5 minutes on main lines, and every 15 minutes on branch lines. C and D trams will run every 10 minutes on main lines, and every 20 minutes on branch lines.

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Roads - truckers are involved in this action and have said they intend to create roadblocks, especially on the entrance routes to the big cities, and opérations escargots (rolling roadblocks) on other routes. 

Over the night from Monday to Tuesday, some activists blocked part of the RN 24 from Rennes to Lorient. French traffic watchdog, Bison Futé, said around 4 am that access from the Rennes ring road to the RN 24 toward Lorient was closed, along with the part of the road arriving in Rennes from Lorient.

An AFP videographer present described a tense scene, with about 50 riot police officers standing by, and fires, furniture and even melted shopping caddies blocking the roadway.

 

Unions in some areas say they intend to borrow a tactic from the 'yellow vests' and hold protests or blockades at roundabouts, as well as targeting péages (toll booths) on the autoroutes. This will likely be on a local level so disruption will vary.

 

Schools - all schools in France have now returned from their February holidays and teaching unions are backing strike calls for March 7th. For most, this will be a one-day strike, although some unions are calling for action on Wednesday, March 8th while March 9th has been designated a 'day of action' for young people, with the possibility of demos and blockades at high schools.

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Waste collection - the CGT union has called for a renewable strike for the country's waste collectors, starting on March 7th. As this is only one union it doesn't represent all éboueurs (garbage collectors) so it's likely that the impact will vary depending on location. In Paris, the CGT is the largest union among waste collectors so it seems that disruption will be worst in the capital. This action will continue past March 7th.

Refineries - the CGT has also called a renewable strike among workers at oil refineries. In refineries the CGT is the largest union, so it's likely that a lot of workers will walk out. In addition to striking, they also plan to blockade refineries so that deliveries cannot get out to filling stations. Their action begins on Monday, March 6th and will continue after that date. Their aim is to 'bring the country to a halt' - although similar strikes in autumn of 2022 took around two weeks of action before filling stations around the country began to run dry. 

As of Tuesday morning, fuel deliveries from refineries across France were blocked by striking workers Tuesday as part of a day  of widespread protests against the government’s plan to overhaul pensions, the CGT labour union told AFP. Nevertheless. according to the ministry of ecological transition, there were no fuel shortages as of Tuesday morning. A representative from TotalEnergies confirmed this information to Le Parisien, stating that “there is no shortage of fuel” for their 3,600 service stations (a third of France’s fleet).

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Electricity - the CGT is also calling on workers in the electricity sector to strike, telling media "we're ready for France to be blacked out". Previous strikes in electricity plants have seen a drop in electricity production, but not mass blackouts. The union has also targeted several towns for two-hour power cuts, notably in areas represented by politicians in favour of pension reform. 

Deliveroo and other delivery services - since winning status as employees (rather than self-employed) drivers for delivery platforms such as Deliveroo and UberEats have also gained union representation. CGT Transports, the largest union among delivery workers, is calling on them to strike on March 7th. However as this is their first strike call, it is difficult to know how many workers will support it.

Demos - as with the previous one-day actions, demos are planned across France on Tuesday, March 7th. In Paris, the procession will meet at 2pm at Sèvres-Babylone and march toward Place d'Italie.

We will update this article as more detail is released, and you can also follow all the latest developments at our strike section HERE.

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