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76% oppose SNCF strike - survey

Poll published on first day controversial rail reform bill is due to be debated in Parliament

MORE than three-quarters of people in France are opposed to the strike that has crippled the country’s rail network and which entered its seventh day today, a survey has revealed.

According to the poll, published on the first day the controversial rail reform bill at the heart of the dispute is due to be debated in parliament, 76% of people are against the strike and 30% don’t understand the reasons for it.

Only 34% of those asked said they knew why SNCF workers had walked out, the study of 802 people published in Le Parisien revealed.

Meanwhile, a second study, for economiematin.fr, found that 64% of French people would like to see unions’ right to strike limited to curb the impact of disputes on the national economy; and 72% said that people affected by the strike should be able to claim compensation.

The controversial bill, which is intended to cut the rail networks’ €40bn debt, proposes reunifying train operator SNCF with network operator RFF for the first time since 1997 and to, in time, open up parts of the service to competition.

The CGT and SUD-Rail unions say the plans will lead to job losses without reducing debt levels.

The bill is due to be debated in parliament this afternoon. Earlier today, transport secretary Frédéric Cuvillier said that he “didn't understand the arguments put forward by the strikers”.

"The law will pass. It will be voted through," he said.

But UMP grandee and former Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said on France Inter that the majority of the UMP in the National Assembly would vote against the reform if it was to go to a vote today “as we are for the separation of infrastructure and operations”.

Although traffic was heavier on the roads than normal - 339km of tailbacks were reported on key roads in Ile-de-France at rush hour, there was some better news for commuters today, with rail operator SNCF forecasting a “notable improvement” in its service today.

The train operator said that six out of 10 TGVs will run today on northern and western main lines and four out of 10 in the southeast.

Meanwhile the service in Paris is also improving. SNCF reported that one train will run every 10 minutes from Gare du Nord, while RER lines C,D and E will also be affected although RER A has been spared any disruption.

Thalys lines to Brussels and Amsterdam are operating as normal, and Eurostar - which has been spared any disruption so far - continues to be unaffected.

Students heading to the second day of their baccalaureate exams have again been given priority treatment.

Yesterday, fewer than 300 of the 329,000 bac students arrived late for their first exam, education minister Benoît Hamon told RTL this morning.

Photo: Chris Sampson

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