Rail strike hits “turning point”

Support for nine-day national dispute appears to be waning as Parliament votes to merge SNCF and RFF

THE STRIKE that has crippled France’s rail network for nine days has reached “a turning point”, CGT union secretary general Thierry Lepaon has admitted.

His comments came after MPs last night voted to reunify SNCF and rail network Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) for the first time since 1997.

He told RTL radio this morning that union members would decide whether to extend the strike, in protest over the government’s rail reform bill, for another 24 hours.

“It is up to them… to remove the pickets,” he said.

Earlier, SNCF boss Guillaume Pepy had called on striking rail workers in France to end their dispute, the longest the country has endured since 2010.

Mr Pepy told Le Parisien: “It’s time to get back to work. We’ve lost €153m - that’s 15 Francilien trains, or a third of our income last year. That’s huge.”

Amid a flurry of amendments, Parliament voted last night to merge train operator SNCF and rail network Réseau Ferré de France (RFF) under one umbrella company.

According to figures from SNCF, support for the strike appears to be waning. Yesterday, 11.8% of union members took part in the walkout, compared to nearly 28% on the first day, June 10.

Despite hints that the strike may be coming to an end, commuters today have still had to fight their way into work.

Shortly after 7.30am, 263km of tailbacks were reported on main routes in the Ile-de-France, nearly twice normal levels for that time of day.

Photo: Alfenaar