France returns slowly to normal after rail strikes

Other News Materials 21 October 2007 06:57 (UTC +04:00)

(Reuters) - France faced transport disruptions on Saturday in some regions and a limited underground service in Paris as a nationwide strike over pensions tailed off.

Paris transport authority RATP promised full services to the Saturday final of the rugby World Cup. Crowds of England fans streamed in the French capital for their team's match with South Africa at the Stade de France to the north of Paris.

The RATP said overall an average of only two out of three metro services were running and there were serious disruptions on two local lines to the suburbs.

Rail operator SNCF said high speed intercity TGV lines were back to normal and most regional trains were operating but there were problems in the southern city of Marseille, in the eastern town of Chambery and in Clermont-Ferrand in central France.

Striking transport workers brought rail services to a nearly complete halt on Thursday and serious interruptions continued into Friday, bringing misery to crowds of commuters shoving onto the few trains running and triggering huge traffic jams.

The strike, over plans to scrap special pension rights that allow some public sector workers to retire as early as 50, have provided the first big test of President Nicolas Sarkozy's determination to push through difficult economic reforms.

The strikers have been split by an offer to train drivers in the FGAAC union that would allow them to retire up to five years earlier than other rail staff but other unions have pledged to continue and will meet next week to consider further steps.