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Transport strikes disrupt Christmas travel in France

PARIS (AP) — French travelers and tourists were struggling Saturday to get to their destinations as the Christmas season ramped up amid continuing strikes against the government’s plans to raise the retirement age to 64.

Train travel problems were slightly eased Saturday with a plan from rail authority SNCF to inform passengers several days in advance and propose ticket exchanges.

Still, only half of the high-speed trains were running and regional trains, including in the Paris region, remained severely disrupted.

In the French capital, eight of the 14 metro lines were closed and many others were running erratically.

In Paris’ Saint-Lazare train station, serving western France, Jean Baptiste Beudon was relieved to see his train was not canceled. “We got confirmation two or three days before the departure, but we were still worried to have our train,” he told The Associate Press.

Aurelie Lecerf, travelling with her children, said: “We arrived here at six o’clock this morning to get a train. The last one was full but we should get the next one.”

Millions of French are expected to travel in the next few days for Christmas family reunions. Many have sought alternative modes of transport, using car-sharing services or bus companies, which have seen a surge in reservations.

Most transport unions have called for the strikes to continue during the holidays, as talks between the prime minister and labor leaders failed to reach a compromise this week.

Recent polls show a majority of French still support the strikes over fears they will have to work longer in return for lower pensions — but a majority are also in favor of the suspension of the protest during the Christmas holidays.