Rail workers have gone on strike in France, crippling the country's train system, one day after striking air traffic controllers triggered flight cancellations en masse. The rail strikes are expected to end on Friday.
Only 40 percent of high-speed TGV trains were running in France on Thursday, after workers went on strike over government plans to merge two state-owned rail companies.
International travel was affected, with only half of the originally scheduled trains to Switzerland still operational and only one in three departures still leaving for Italy. But Eurostar services from Paris to London and high speed connections to Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany were not affected by the strikes.
Commuter train traffic in Paris was nearly shut down, with only one in three trains guaranteed to run according to schedule.
President Francois Hollande had announced plans to merge the train operator SNCF with RFF, the company that maintains France's rail network. While supporters say that the merger will make the railways more efficient at no additional cost to the taxpayer, the rail unions fear it could lead to job losses.
According to the unions, some 10,000 jobs have already been lost in the past five years. The striking workers are also trying to put pressure on management ahead of wage negotiations, due to open on Friday.
SNCF employs 150,000 people with some 15,000 trains operating daily.
Air traffic controllers end strike
Air traffic in France returned to normal on Thursday, after air traffic controllers called off two days of strikes. They had been protesting EU plans to merge the 27-member bloc's patchwork airspace.
While Brussels claims that unifying European airspace will up efficiency and safety while decreasing pollution, France's air traffic controllers are concerned that it could lead to job losses and worse working conditions.
The air traffic controllers had originally planned to continue striking on Thursday, but called off the action after Paris had officially asked Brussels to review its plans to merge EU airspace.
The strikes had thrown travel in France into chaos, with some 1,800 flights cancelled on Tuesday and a similar number cancelled on Wednesday. The airports in Paris - Charles de Gaulle and Orly - were the worst hit, while Nice's airport was also hit hard.
slk/rc (AP, AFP)