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Christmas mayhem feared as French transport strike continues

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France reeled under a crippling public transport strike for a 10th day Saturday aimed at forcing the government to scrap a pension revamp, as fears grew of travel mayhem during Christmas.

Train traffic was severely disrupted with only one out four TGV high speed long-distance trains and three of 10 regional trains running across the country.

But Paris and its environs remained the worst hit. Nine metro lines in the capital remained closed and there were skeletal transport services between the city and its suburbs.

Only 60 percent of the city’s bus services were running.

Strikers have warned of similar disruptions on Sunday and Monday and national rail operator SNCF and the RATP Paris transport network confirmed service would be very limited with just one in four TGVs running.

On Saturday, SNCF managing director Rachel Picard, told Le Parisien daily that “half of the passengers” would have trains to visit family for Christmas” but did not elaborate.

Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995, when they forced a rightwing government to back down on pension reform after three weeks of metro and rail strikes just before Christmas.

The prospect of a protracted standoff has businesses fearing big losses during the crucial year-end festivities, and travellers worried that their holiday plans will fall through.

On Friday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe asked SNCF chief Jean-Pierre Farandou to draw up a list of exactly which trains would be running during the festive season.

Philippe told the Parisien daily in an interview for its Sunday edition that the French would not accept being “deprived” of festive transport options.

“I can well see that everyone is worried as they see Christmas near. Christmas is an important time.

“Everybody must take their responsibilities. I do not think the French would accept people depriving them of this moment,” Philippe warned.

But unions said they would not give in — and that the government would have to.

“If the government wants the conflict to end before the holidays, they have all of next week to take the wise decision and scrap the point-based pension plan,” Laurent Blum, the general secretary of the hard-line CGT-Cheminots, the main SNCF union, told AFP.

AFP

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