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France

French railways hit by strike

An employee in charge of commuters information stands at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris, 11 December, 2013
An employee in charge of commuters information stands at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris, 11 December, 2013 AFP/Lionel Bonaventure
2 min

Commuter trains in the Paris area were packed and regional services seriously disrupted on Thursday morning as railworkers staged a 37-hour strike against government plans to reform France's rail network. A bomb scare at a central Paris station added to the confusion.

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Only one in four trains between the centre of Paris and Charles De Gaulle airport was running on Thursday morning and other services on the Paris region RER network were reduced.

Trains on some lines were packed with passengers struggling to get to work.

The SNCF rail company said that its predictions published the previous day proved correct.

Regional networks were disrupted but international services, including the Eurostar to London and Thalys to Brussels and Germany, were not affected, the SNCF said.

Passengers were prevented from alighting at the Saint Michel station, near Notre Dame Cathedral, around 9.00am as the bomb squad was called to deal with a mysterious black suitcase left on the platform.

The unions say there will be more strikes if the government presses ahead with the changes to the rail company's structure, because they fear that it could lead to the sell-off of profitable parts and a deterioration in working conditions.

"We have many demands, the first one is obviously to stop the rail reform in France and then there’s the question of wages, employment, safety, working conditions, safety on trains and the rail freight issues," Cyril Renault, of the left-wing union CGT, told RFI on Wednesday.

"This is the second time we have asked the government to negotiate with us but our demands are falling on deaf ears. It's high time they started listening to us, so this strike is a warning. If the reform is tabled at the National Assembly, they won’t be able to say they didn’t see that another strike was coming."

The SNCF employs 150,000 people on the rail network and 15,000 run every day in France.

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