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France

French railworkers continue strike but more trains running

Passengers on a platform of Marseille's central station on Thursday
Passengers on a platform of Marseille's central station on Thursday Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Hopes of a swift end the France’s rail strike were dashed on Thursday after unions declared the government’s response inadequate. The rail network said that more trains would run on Friday. President François Hollande has called for the strike to stop.

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The two key unions that have organised the strike called on railworkers to “continue and extend the movement” ahead of mass meetings on Friday morning.

After reading Transport Minister Frédéric Cuvillier’s explanation of his planned reform of the network, they welcomed a commitment to find new sources of finance to tackle the network’s shortfall before the end of the year but claimed that the proposed merger of traffic and permanent way does not go far enough.

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They want the parliamentary debate on reform, scheduled for 17-19 June, to be put off.

Cuvillier refused to do so, judging the changes “essential”.

Both the minister and President François Hollande had said that they hoped to reach an agreement with the unions after Thursday’s talks.

The state-owned rail operator, SNCF, claimed that the proportion of strikers had dropped by five percentage points to 22.64 per cent on Thursday and promised a noticeable improvement of services on Friday.

It predicted:

  • Eurostar and Thalys services running normally;
  • One in three trains running to Spain and six out of 10 to Italy;
  • Two out of three TGVs in the east, half on lines between the north and the Atlantic coast and one in three in the south-east;
  • Four out of 10 intercity trains, up from three out of 10 on Thursday;
  • In the Ile de France region around Paris four out of 10 trains were expected to run, with an improvement on the west-east RER C;
  • The Paris metro is not affected by the strike.

Cuvillier on Friday predicted that the strike was likely to drag on until Monday and disrupt students sitting the baccaluréat exam.

On a visit to the tiny Pyrenean country of Andorra on Friday, Hollande said it was time to call off the strike because of the harm it could do to the functioning of the exam.
 

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