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Oct. 20 update on French strikes: transport, fuel, schools

Following yesterday’s big day of “action” around the country against the retirement reform proposals, the Paris metro and bus system is running on normal schedule, mostly (“normal ou quasi normal” according to their site). But check the “traffic” part and you’ll see that suburban and Ile de France regional trains are partially disrupted, often running at 50%. Also, 30 flights were cancelled this morning from Paris Orly.

Lyon’s TCL transport system is disrupted today, with no metro on the Presqu’ile downtown area due to clashes. Try to stay out of that area. You can get more inside info on Lyon at Le Progres (Lyon newspaper) site.

There are some SNCF train disruptions in France and with connecting trains to other countries (like no overnight trains tonight between France & Italy and France & Germany…). TGV’s to and from Paris are running 2 out of 3, and TGV’s outside of Paris at 50%. More details on that site, France 24’s survival guide and Figaro’s guide.

These past couple days have been marred by violence in Lyon and parts of Paris area, among other places, between youth and police. France 24 reports on this. They also have some pictures from Lyon here.

President Sarkozy is calling for the strikers to “be responsible” and recognized that although the reform is difficult, it is necessary, and his government had included special measures for specific work cases such as those who started work early and those in particularly arduous jobs. The reform vote has been delayed until Thursday, and a poll by Figaro finds that nearly 70% want to see the reform passed as soon as possible. (Note: Figaro is more conservative. Nouvel Obs is more leftist and has a poll where 62% of respondents want to continue the strikes).

Meanwhile Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux is firing back at thugs who erupted in violence yesterday and today, saying they will not be left unpunished.

As thousands of gas stations have run dry, the government is now freeing up fuel depots with force of special riot police similar to a SWAT team, but some remain blocked by extremist strikers who like taking the country hostage for their own interests. Flights in and out of France are said to be carrying enough fuel for the return journey.

High school students and youths are still calling for protest today, even though the reform is in their interest. They should be screaming “we don’t want a pension” as they strike. I understand concerns about unemployment, but that can be addressed by other measures. They are mad at Sarkozy for what they see as extravagance and wastefulness on the part of the government, which is in part true. But that does not mean pension reform is not necessary. BBC looks into this with an insightful special called “children of the revolution.”

  1. Monica
    October 22nd, 2010 at 21:54 | #1

    I’m planning on traveling to Paris for the first time Nov 2-6th. I’ve had this planned for months. Now I’m worried and scared and so is my travel partner. We are hearing of protestors at CDG airport. Riots, etc. Would you say it’s safe for us to travel within Paris or should we just reschedule? I know there are two more protests/strikes scheduled. I know the media can mislead the public, so I’m looking for opinions from those in the area. Would you tell a friend from US to stay home or to go on the trip anyway and enjoy because not much of what is going on is IN Paris main tourist area?

    • October 22nd, 2010 at 22:15 | #2

      Hi Monica,

      Thanks for reading and your message. Although there are strikes planned for Nov. 6, seeing that the French Senate just passed the bill, I would think this movement would lose some strength. As it should. Overall it’s been quite calm in Paris, despite the media reports. The isolated incidents were in Nanterre, outside of Paris, and in Lyon, a lovely city that I know well and lived before. But the only disruptions would be perhaps on metro and RER suburban rail. I would check with your airline beforehand, just in case of disruptions at CDG, but if I were you, I’d still come to Paris. You won’t regret it! In any case there are many other transport options to the city center from CDG: http://www.aeroportsdeparis.fr/ADP/en-GB/Passagers/Access-maps-car-parks/Paris-CDG/Access/public-transport/

      best of luck, and if you have any other questions, let me know! best, Michael

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