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France

Travel chaos as French railworkers strike

Gare du Nord, Paris
Gare du Nord, Paris Ignis/Wikimedia Commons

France suffered another day of travel chaos on Thursday, as striking workers shut down more than half the country's rail lines, though air traffic controllers returned to work after a 2-day stoppage. 

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Only about 40 percent of trains were running on the high-speed TGV and regional lines because of the strike by workers opposed to a restructuring plan for the state-owned SNCF rail company.

The strike began at 5 pm on Wednesday and is due to last until 6 am on Friday.

Only half of timetabled trains travelled to Switzerland and one in three to Italy but Eurostar services from Paris to London and high-speed links to Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany were not affected.

Rail workers' unions called the strike over government plans to create a new state-owned company that will incorporate the SNCF, the company that operates rail services, and the RFF, which maintains the rail network, while still keeping the two branches separate.

Executives say the reform will improve rail travel at no additional cost to the taxpayer. Unions fear it will lead to the current system being dismantled.

The strike is also to protest against recent job cuts, with unions saying 10,000 positions have been lost in the last five years.

The SNCF employs 150,000 people on the rail network, with 15,000 trains operating daily.

The rail stoppage follows two days of disruption in the skies caused by air controllers protesting against plans to create a single European airspace.

Up to three-quarters of flights from Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports, the two Paris hubs, were cancelled on Wednesday and Nice, the main airport for the French Riviera, was also badly hit.

The cancellations affected mainly short-haul flights within France and to and from other European countries. Flights crossing French airspace, notably from Britain and Ireland to Spain and North Africa, were also hit by delays and cancellations.

The air traffic controllers' strike was originally scheduled to continue Thursday but unions decided to cancel the third day of action.

 

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