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Chaotic Christmas awaits France


PARIS: French train and metro drivers took their crippling transport strike into its 19th straight day Monday in a standoff with the government over pension reform, casting a pall over Christmas plans with many unable to reach loved ones.

Talks between the government and unions last week failed to find middle ground, and strikers vowed there would be no holiday truce unless the overhaul plan is scrapped.

STRIKE Police and anti-riot Gendarmes mobiles stand in position as railway workers demonstrate on Dec. 23, 2019 outside the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris on the 19th day of a nationwide multisector strike against French government’s pensions overhaul. AFP PHOTO


Trade unions and others involved in the strike will meet with the government on January 7 to discuss the pension reforms, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe’s office said. The talks are set to run through the month of January.

Starting on December 5, the strike has hit daily commuters hard — especially around Paris and other large cities — and is now impeding tens of thousands of ticket holders who had planned to spend the festive season with family or friends.

On Saturday and Sunday, the last weekend before Christmas, the SCNF rail operator provided half the usual number of TGV high-speed trains, a third of regional TER services, a quarter of inter-city trains, and one in five connecting Paris to its outer suburbs.

This sent thousands scrambling for alternative transport, with car rental agencies unable to meet the surge in demand. AFP


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