France

Rail strike to continue for sixth day after talks fail

Crowds get off a commuter train at Gare du Nord railway station in Paris, 13 June
Crowds get off a commuter train at Gare du Nord railway station in Paris, 13 June Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

Passengers are facing a sixth day of travel chaos after talks aimed at averting new rail strikes fell through. More than 700,000 students sitting bac exams could be affected by the travel disruption, which has been caused by a controversial bill to reform the country's rail line. 

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Despite renewed calls from the government to end the rail strike, trade unions have refused to budge.

On Monday, they will resume their strike action for a sixth day in protest at a new reform to merge the national rail line, the SNCF with a maintenance firm, the RFF. They say the reform does not include enough protection for employees.

In anticipation at the looming travel chaos, the SNCF has mobilized 10,000 workers, who will ensure that more than 700,000 students sitting philosophy exams, get to their exam halls on time.

On Sunday, the Budget minister, Michel Sapin, ruled out delaying a parliamentary debate on the reform set to begin on Tuesday. "There is no reason to put off this reform, because it makes sense," he said.

Designed to contain the rail sector's 40 billion euro debt through a SNCF-RFF merger, the reform aims at making the rail sector more competitive.

But it has come under heavy fire by rail workers. The current strike is the longest France has experienced since 2010.

This weekend, only one train was runing out of two on mainline trains, with the TGV line to Bordeaux and Marseille most affected.

On Sunday, two TGV trains were stranded for almost ten hours after their electrical supplies were hit in a possible gun attack.

The Far Right leader Marine Le Pen, has blamed the "laxism" of the government for the attack. "This laxism has to stop. Nowadays, the state can no longer guarantee a minimum level of security on our public services," she said.

 

 

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