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Eighth day of bitter rail strike

CGT union boss claims controversial reform bill is start of "a plan to privatise France's public rail service”

FOR THE eighth day in a row, the SNCF strike has hit services on France’s rail network, again leaving commuters struggling to get in to work.

Unions voted to extend the country’s longest rail strike since 2010 yesterday afternoon amid rising tensions as MPs debated the controversial reform bill at the heart of the dispute.

On France Inter this morning, Thierry Lapon, general secretary of the CGT, described support for the strike as “open and fair”.

He called the proposed reform bill “a preparation for the privatisation of the public rail service” and said that the strike had been called to ensure the bill would “not be passed”.

He added that while discussions had been ongoing for more than a year he was still waiting “to open genuine negotiations with the government”.

Yesterday, he accused the government of lying to the public about the aims of proposed bill.

“The French do not understand the strike,” he said.

He dismissed comments made by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, transport secretary Frédéric Cuvillier and SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy that it was “to reunite the SNCF” as untrue.

“It is the exact opposite,” he said.

Meanwhile, MPs tabled 400 amendments to the proposed bill on the first day it was debated in Parliament.

While the two sides argue, travellers are having to deal with transport trouble on the ground.

Shortly after 8.15am today, road traffic monitors Sytadin reported that there were 249km of tailbacks on roads in Ile-de-France, more than twice the normal levels for the time of day.

The SNCF has said it will be able to offer an improving service.

It has said that it will run seven out of 10 TGV services at peak time in the east, operate two-thirds of trains in the north and west and a 40% service in the southeast.

Half the normal intercity service will run today, along with 60% of TER services.

In Ile-de-France, RER lines C, D and E will also be affected, but RER A has been spared any disruption.

Photo: Chris Sampson

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