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Thursday’s French pension strike to impact flights, TGVs, Eurostar

Major disruption is expected with the transport minister warning against travelling on ‘nightmare’ day. Ten thousand police are being mobilised

A closed petrol station in France due to a lack of fuel

Disruption is expected across major transport networks tomorrow Pic: Jean-Marc RICHARD / Alexandros Michailidis / Hadrian / EQRoy / Shutterstock

Unions across the transport and airport sectors in France are set to join cross-sector strike action in a day of protest against pension reforms tomorrow (January 19). 

It is the first time in 12 years that all of France’s major unions are united with the last time being also in response to pension reform. Then, the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. This time, the plans are to raise the age from 62 to 64.

In 1995 pension reform brought millions of protestors onto the streets.

The strike comes after Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced plans to reform France’s retirement system last week and notably to increase the time people will need to contribute in order to qualify. The government says the reforms are crucial and has called on workers not to paralyse the country.

Read more: Age, new minimum amount: What does France’s pension reform involve?

There is widespread support for the strike from public transport unions in the SNCF and RATP. Employees from the airport, education and energy sectors are also joining.

Transport Minister Clément Beaune has invited people to delay journeys and work from home where possible to avoid the “nightmare” day of disruption ahead.

Unions are set to meet on Thursday evening to decide the next steps and could decide to extend the strike. Leader of one of the main unions, the CGT, Philippe Martinez, talking on France 2, said that he hoped there would be renewed action “everywhere it is possible". He said it was difficult to predict the mobilisation from the private sector but estimated that there could be "strike rates of around 60 or 70%" in certain groups.

See also: Website lists all strikes taking place in France
The CGT Pétrole sector has already filed several strike notices: 24 hours on January 19, 48 hours on January 26 and 72 hours on February 6. 

Read more: Thursday’s French pension strike: alert over fuel panic-buying

Here is what is known so far about the transport disruptions tomorrow.

TGV, TER, and Transiliens

TGV services will be "strongly disrupted" at SNCF. 

  • On the North and South-East lines, only one in three TGVs will run

  • On the East axis, only one in four will run

  • On the Atlantic route, only one in five will run

Just one in three Ouigo trains will run.

Orly flights

  • One in five flights will be cancelled departing from Orly

Civil aviation authority La Direction générale de l'Aviation civile (DGAC) asked airlines to cancel one in five scheduled flights on January 19 due to the air traffic controllers' strike.

The DGAC asked “passengers who are able to do so to postpone their journey and to check with their airline to find out the status of their flight”.

Flights to French overseas territories are not affected.
Provisions for Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, the other major airport in the Paris region, have not yet been revealed.


Eurostar services will be running on a “revised timetable” on January 19 and 20, the operator said.

Some trains (see the full list on the Eurostar website here) will be cancelled.

If your Eurostar train is cancelled, you can exchange your booking for another service for free, or cancel your booking in exchange for a voucher (valid for 12 months), or claim a refund from where you originally bought your ticket.

Metro and RER ‘very disrupted’

  • Metro lines 8, 10, and 11 will be closed

  • Lines 2, 3, 3bis, 5, 6, 7, 7bis, 9, 12, and 13 will be severely disrupted or will only run during rush hour

  • Just one train in two will run during rush hour on line 4, and one in four during off-peak hours.

Traffic will also be very disrupted on RER lines A and B. 

  • RER line A: Half as many trains as normal at peak times, and one in four trains at off-peak times

  • RER line B: Half as many trains as normal will run during rush hour on the southern part operated by RATP

  • Two in every three buses will run in Paris and the inner suburbs.

Intercités services will be almost non-existent. 

  • Very few TER and Transilien trains, 1 in 10 on average

  • In Ile-de-France, only one in three trains will run on the A, B, H, and U lines

  • One in 10 trains will run on the C and D lines, both of which will be partially closed

  • One in 10 trains will run on the J, K, L, N, and P lines. 

Other disruption

Other significant disruption is expected in primary schools, where 70% of teachers for classes maternelle nursery to CM2 are expected to strike.

Guislaine David, general secretary of Snuipp-FSU, told AFP: “This figure of 70% support is not a surprise because we really feel that the question of retirement is a major worry among teachers.”

Action is also expected among workers in the fuel refinery, road, port, and energy sectors.

Up to 750,000 people could take part in the strikes tomorrow, as more than 221 movements have been planned, reports BFMTV. Numbers could vary from 550,000 to more than three-quarters of a million.

In Paris, more than 50,000-80,000 people alone are predicted to turn out. Major marches are also expected in Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Nantes.

Law enforcement says it is expecting around 400-600 radical gilets jaunes to attend, including some ultra-left activists. Major towns set to be affected include Paris, Rennes, Nantes, Limoges and Brest.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has announced the mobilisation of 10,000 police and gendarmes (including 1,500 in Paris) to oversee the demonstrations. "I don't know if there will be people at tomorrow's demonstrations, in Paris and elsewhere, but we are preparing for it," he said in an interview  on RTL.

Read also: Gilets jaunes group calls for new regular protests

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