Travellers to France warned over protests

Half-term holidaymakers heading for France were today warned to expect widespread travel disruption due to continuing protests against French Government pension reforms.

With oil refineries and fuel depots being targeted by demonstrators, the RAC urged UK motorists to ensure they had sufficient fuel to complete their journeys.

The Foreign Office said the protests were continuing to disrupt road, rail and air travel in France, with wildcat strikes causing "substantial and unpredictable disruption across the country".

To make matters worse for travellers hoping to stay in France all next week, the leaders of the main French unions have nominated next Thursday as a day of action.

French president Nicolas Sarkozy was hoping to force through a parliamentary vote - possibly today - on the pension and retirement-age changes. But it is not known if this will have any effect on the continuing protests.

The RAC said: "We are advising motorists travelling to France to be aware of the current industrial action that is causing disruption across the country.

"Ongoing industrial action at oil refineries and fuel depots across France is creating a shortage of fuel with one in three petrol stations experiencing little or no fuel. News reports also suggest there is panic buying of fuel and 'go slow' protests are also affecting some motorways."

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said: "Motorists should ensure they have sufficient fuel to complete their journey and to top up their tank as and when they can rather than allowing fuel to get to a critically low level."

The Foreign Office also warned UK motorists about possible fuel shortages and advised travellers to France to monitor local and UK media reports for updates about protests.

Channel Tunnel high-speed train company Eurostar, which runs services between London and Paris as well as to Brussels, said its Paris trains were unaffected. But it warned passengers connecting to other services that French domestic rail travel was likely to be disrupted.

P&O Ferries said its Dover-Calais services were operating normally. Company spokesman Chris Laming went on: "We have had minor delays to services during the protests so far but one or two berths have remained open at Calais so we have been able to carry on.

"Should there be more protests we could see further minor delays."

Passengers at some French airports were pictured carrying their own hold luggage off planes due to the disruption.

French national rail company SNCF reported some disruption to services, with some high-speed TGV services cancelled. Metro trains in Paris were also disrupted.

Channel Tunnel operator Eurotunnel said its Folkestone to Calais passenger and freight train services were running normally today.

A Eurotunnel spokesman went on: "Fortunately, we've not been affected by the protests. We'll be busy today and expect to take between 4,500 and 5,000 cars through the tunnel on our shuttles."

Among areas where protests have led to violence have been Lyon and the Paris suburb of Nanterre. Others towns where there have been demonstrations include Toulouse and Marseille.

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