French rail network strike to continue another day

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 5:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 June, 2014, 5:30am

French trade unions said they will extend for another day a strike that has caused the worst disruption to the country's rail network in years, following an inconclusive meeting with the transport minister yesterday.

Half of scheduled train journeys across France were cancelled on the second day of the strike against a government plan to pull service operator SNCF and rail network RFF into a single holding structure but preserve them as separate entities.

Unions instead want the two to be fully merged into a single operation, as was the case until 1997, and for the government to take on some €40 billion (HK$420.26 billion) of debt owed by the firms.

After meeting Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, unions said the strike would continue until 7pm tonight Paris time. "Once again, the minister has not heard the rail workers' demands. He has put a little ribbon around the reform, but there are no fundamental changes," SUD-Rail unionist Nathalie Bonnet said.

Between 40 and 60 per cent of cross-country trains operated yesterday and just one third of local trains, but the Paris-London Eurostar and the Paris-Brussels Thalys lines had returned to normal, SNCF said.

Its workers fear the reform will hit working conditions and argue that neglect of the tracks was a factor in an accident last year in which seven people were killed in a derailment attributed to a fault on track just south of Paris.