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Eurostar cancels trains as police use tear gas against Macron protesters in Paris

Union strikes cause serious disruption to transport and schools

Harriet Agerholm
Thursday 22 March 2018 21:23 GMT
Thousands protest in Paris against Marcon's economic reforms

Eurostar cancelled trains between Paris and London on Thursday as protests against Emmanuel Macron’s government erupted in the French capital.

Thousands took to the streets of Paris calling for more investment in public services, with some crowds growing agitated, prompting police to use tear gas and water cannons.

Confrontations between some protesters and riot police also erupted in the western city of Nantes.

Meanwhile, union strikes caused trains, planes, schools and other public services across France to be seriously disrupted.

Airport authorities said 30 per cent of flights to and from Paris were cancelled. National train company SNCF said only 40 percent of high-speed trains and half of regional trains were running.

Eurostar announced: “Due to French Rail disruptions today, we have had to cancel some trains on the Paris London route.”

The company urged those with onward connections not to travel and said all trains on Friday had been fully booked. “Please only come to our stations if you have a confirmed seat,” Eurostar said in an update on its website.

The chateau of Versailles, a popular museum in the Île-de-France region was also closed because of the employees’ strike.

Union leaders said the strikes were a warning to the government over its economic plans.

Philippe Martinez, secretary general of the CGT union, told FranceInfo radio: “We agree that we need to makes changes to public services, but not to restrain them. To improve them. We need more public servants.”

Civil servants want better wages and are protesting against the planned elimination of 120,000 jobs by 2022. SNCF employees also are rejecting a government plan aimed at adapting the rail company ahead of opening the service to competition.

“If we are not heard ... there would be calls for strikes and in that case, very few trains would run,” said Julien Cabanne, a union official who came to Paris to protest.

SNCF unions have scheduled a series of strikes in April, May and June.

The Paris Metro was running normally, but suburban trains were affected by the strike.

​At Paris Orly airport, passenger Noemie Danican had just learned her EasyJet flight to Toulouse, in southern France, was cancelled.

“I have no idea what’s going to happen. This is going to be very difficult. Very, very difficult,” she said.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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