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Sat, 25 Jan 2020 20:40 GMT

Christmas Travel Chaos Feared amid Continuing French Strikes


7Dnews London

Sat, 14 Dec 2019 18:59 GMT

Fears grew of travel chaos over the Christmas period as France remained gripped by a crippling public transport strike for the 10th day on Saturday 14th December.

In industrial action aimed at forcing the government to abandon a proposed pension reform, train services were severely disrupted, with one in four high-speed long-distance trains and three in ten regional trains running nationally.

Paris and the suburbs remained the worst hit. Nine metro lines in the capital remained closed, and there were minimal transport services between the city districts, with only 60% of bus services running, AFP reported.

Strikes are expected to continue on Sunday and Monday.

The strike organisers have announced large-scale protests for Tuesday, when tens of thousands are expected to take to the streets again.

Unions forced a right-wing government to back down on pension reform after three weeks of metro and rail strikes just before Christmas in 1995 and unions leaders are hoping for a similar outcome now,

President Emmanuel Macron's government insists the changes to pensions will create a fairer system and help erase pension deficits forecast to reach as much as €17 billion ($19 billion) by 2025.

The average French person retires at just over 60, much earlier than in most European states or in other wealthy OECD countries.

Prime Minister Édouard Philippe has held talks with union leaders, and more negotiations are scheduled over the coming week. He stated on Friday that he has "absolutely no fear of implementing this reform."

Macron has remained silent since the protests began but telling reporters in Brussels on Friday that his single pension system was an "historic reform", while expressing sympathy for those affected by the action.

Last week, Macron said that a points-based system would be applied to everyone, to ensure that "everyone gets the same pension rights."