France’s pension strikes: How bad is the ongoing travel disruption?

Amid ongoing protests over France’s controversial pension reform, we recap the disruption facing travellers on Friday and into the weekend

We recap the disruption facing travellers on Friday (March 10) and into the weekend
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SNCF has said in a new statement on Friday (March 10) that “the circulation of lines remains highly disrupted”, with disruption expected to continue over the weekend.

Around 90% of TGVs have been cancelled, and only 25% of Intercité trains will run. Two-thirds of Eurostar services are running, as are 60% of Thalys, along with trains to Switzerland and Germany. Only a third of trains to Italy are running, and a quarter to Spain.

SNCF recommended that passengers cancel or postpone journeys, and work from home, where possible. It also advised people who were unable to postpone their travel to check for updates on their planned service on the “usual SNCF channels” after 17:00 the day before their journey.

TGV and Intercités passengers will be contacted by email or text if their trains are affected, and will be able to change or cancel their service for free or for a full refund (as long as they do so before the train leaves).


Around 20% of flights are still cancelled across many airports nationwide, including Paris-Orly, after the direction générale de l’Aviation civile (DGAC) asked airlines to prepare for the action by air traffic controllers.

On Saturday (March 11), Orly, Marseille, Nantes, Toulouse, and Bordeaux will be affected, but only Orly, Marseille, and Toulouse are expected to be affected on Sunday (March 12).

The DGAC said that “passengers who can, should delay their trip, and check with their airline to know the status of their flight”.

Delays of up to 45 minutes are still expected across much airline traffic.

Petrol stations

A small-but-significant percentage of petrol stations across France are experiencing fuel shortages, figures from the website show.

It comes as fuel refinery staff continue to strike and deliveries to depots and stations are blockaded (however, the Esso-ExxonMobile refinery in Port-Jérôme-Gravenchon, Normandy, notably lifted its strike today, reported Le Parisien).

Analysis on March 8 showed that 6% of the country’s 10,000 stations were at low levels, especially in the west and northwest.

Read more: French petrol stations see shortages as pension protests continue

The Union française des industries pétrolières (UFIP) estimated the figure to be closer to 7%. This is directly linked to the pension strikes, it said.

However, the president of UFIP did admit: “Unfortunately, there are service stations that permanently lack fuel, regardless of any strikes.” Yet, he said that most do still have adequate supplies, as there are “200 depots in France”.

Depots contain fuel stocks that have already been delivered by the refineries, and they are continuing to supply petrol stations in the majority of cases.

UFIP spokesperson Olivier Gantois sought to reassure drivers, telling FranceInfo today (March 9): “There are no problems with supply at petrol stations today.”

He said that some stations have reported shortages largely because some worried drivers have filled up their tanks completely as a precautionary measure.

Waste collection

After strikes at the waste incinerator in Ivry-sur-Seine (the largest in Europe) yesterday (March 9), waste collectors in some areas have also stopped work.

In Saint-Brieuc (Côtes-d'Armor) in particular, reported Ouest-France, collectors decided to renew their strike movement.

Electricity cuts

The CGT union has said that there have been new power cuts in Moselle and Savoie, as a result of the strikes by electricity workers.

In Thionville (Moselle), the mayor’s office and magistrates' court were without power, while in Bourget-du-Lac (Savoie), 2,000 clients were also cut off, Enedis said.

More strikes planned

More pension strikes and movements are planned for the next few days.

The seventh national day of mobilisation is scheduled to take place tomorrow (Saturday, March 11), while another day is planned next week, likely Tuesday or Wednesday, to coincide with ongoing debates taking place in the Senate.

In addition, the Fridays for Future France movement is also marching today, this time about climate change. A protest began at Opéra at 14:00 in Paris (towards Place de la Bastille), and other marches are also taking place in several other cities and towns across the country.

Senate debate: What’s happening with the text?

The Senate is currently on its eighth day of debating the law. It has already adopted the highly-contested article 7, after many amendments. This is the article that raises the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64.

The government has controversially decided today to use article 44.3 of the legal code. This enables the executive to accelerate the parliamentary procedure, and get all senators to vote on the entire text more quickly, in a process called “blocked vote (vote bloqué).

Work Minister Olivier Dussopt demanded a “single vote”, taking into account certain amendments.

But opponents and critics have condemned the action as “a sign of weakness”.

President Macron has said that he will not “see unions urgently”, despite them calling for a meeting, but that he is “listening”, and said he does “not underestimate the distress and anxiety” of people in France about the changes. However, he still maintains that the reforms are “needed”.

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