Nationwide pension reform protests cripple France

Strikers gather for a demonstration against pension reforms in Saint-Nazaire

Marches and demonstrations throughout the day are set to cause disruption for members of the public

Public transport was at a virtual standstill and many schools were closed on Thursday as French public sector workers walked out in protest over planned pension reforms. About 20% of flights were cancelled as ground crew and air traffic control staff joined the protests.

With public transport effectively out of the equation on Thursday morning, the roads have been especially busy, as millions of commuters found alternative means of getting to work.

Protesters gathered early in for a march in Saint-Nazaire while as reported, nearly 250 demonstrations are planned in towns and cities across France on Thursday, with firefighters, hospital workers, teachers and students and other public service staff, as well as lawyers and members of the gilets jaunes, all expected to join protests.

Read more: Explained - school operations on strike days

In some cities, such as Lyon and Nantes, demonstrations were due to take place in the morning, while demonstrations were planned in Paris and Toulouse for the afternoon.

Fearing the possibility of violence during the march in Paris, authorities have removed paving bricks from the Champs-Elysées, while shops and cafes along the famous street have been ordered to remain closed. The city has mobilised 6,000 police officers and gendarmes to monitor the march.

Rail services across France have been particularly hit by the pension strike, with an average of just one in 10 TGV and Transilien services operating while just 5% of TER trains were expected to run on Thursday. A total 90% of services have been cancelled across all rail operations in France.

RATP staff at metro stations in Paris handed out updated maps showing which lines were operating, and which were at a complete standstill due to the strike. Services have been cut completely on 10 lines, while peak-time services only are available on RER A and B lines.

Line 8, which was expected to be closed, managed one service in four from 6h30 and through the morning rush. Only lines 1 and 14, which are automated, are running services as normal, but rush hour was particularly busy.

Ferry services to the UK have also been affected. P&O said in a tweet this morning that, after some early morning cancellations, ferries were sailing to schedule mid-morning between Dover and Calais - but warned that delays may creep in this afternoon.

A number of Paris theatres are also closed to the public, as is the Eiffel Tower.

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