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Roads, airports and stations blocked by unions as France faces more pension strikes

Thursday marked the latest day of mass strikes and demos in ongoing protests against pension reform, and also saw union activists block roads, stations and Paris' main airport.

Roads, airports and stations blocked by unions as France faces more pension strikes
Le Havre in western France saw demos on Thursday after its port was blockaded on Wednesday. Photo by Lou BENOIST / AFP

On Thursday morning, union activists blocked access to Terminal 1 at the Paris – Charles de Gaulle airport, while around a hundred demonstrators blocked the railroad tracks at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris for several hours during the morning.

Other blockades have taken part on ring roads around French cities, including Lille and Caen. In Lille, around 40 people mobilised to block traffic at the Porte d’Arras entrance, and in Caen, the Cours Montalivet, one of the entrances to the city of Caen, located between the port and the SNCF station.

Around 200 demonstrators blocked the exit road of the A1 autoroute that links Paris to Lille.

The road blockades come after unions launched ‘Operation port mort’ to block access to ports at Le Havre and Rennes on Wednesday.

The blockades came as part of the latest one-day strike in France in the ongoing dispute over pension reform.

On Thursday afternoon around 200 demos were getting underway in towns and cities around France – unions are hoping to equal last week’s turnout of an estimated 1.2 million demonstrators.

Here’s how services are impacted by the Thursday strike.


France’s civil aviation authority, the Direction générale de l’Aviation civile, has instructed airlines to cancel 30 percent of flights in and out of Paris-Orly and 20 percent of flights in and out of Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse due to air traffic controllers striking.

Those cancellation figures are up from Tuesday and Wednesday, when 20 percent of flights to and from Paris-Orly and Marseille-Provence were grounded.

READ ALSO Strike calendar – the French pension strike dates to know


SNCF has warned that its services “will be severely disrupted” and recommended that travellers should cancel or postpone any scheduled trips if possible on Thursday, adding that the disruption will continue into Friday whether or not any further action is taken.

It said that one in two Inoui and Ouigo TGV services would run on Thursday, while regional RER services would operate at one-third usual capacity, on average. Intercités’ trains will run only between Paris and Clermont and Paris and Brive. No other day or night services will operate.

SNCF will issue updated information about Friday’s services by 5pm on Thursday.

READ ALSO Will pension strikes affect the Easter holidays in France?

You can listen to John Lichfield talk about the political crisis engulfing France in our new Talking France podcast on Spotify, Apple or Google podcasts. Download it HERE or listen on the link below.

City transport

Cities across France expect widespread disruption to public transport services throughout the day.

In the south, Marseille will see both metro lines disrupted. The M1 will run with delays, and the M2 will not run between 12pm and 5pm. Trams will also be delayed, and the T3 will not run at all throughout the day.

In Lyon, metro lines are not expected to be disrupted, but some bus routes will be affected by the march, such as the C4, C7, C10, C11, C12, C16 and C20. Trams will operate with delays. In Bordeaux, several bus lines will be affected, such as lines 12, 29, 31 and 42. Otherwise, tram services may experience some delays but will otherwise operate according to usual schedules

Paris public transport operator RATP has said that 80 percent of buses and 90 percent of trams will run on Thursday. About half of RER services will run on lines A and B, but the RATP has warned that the Metro will be “very disrupted”. 

Only the fully automated lines 1 and 14 will run normal schedules.

Line 2: 1 train in 3 running. Services running 5.30am -10am and 4.30pm – 8pm only. The station Barbès-Rochechouart will be closed.

Line 3: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am -11am and 4.30pm – 7.30pm; The stations République, Opéra and Havre- Caumartin (after 2pm) will be closed.

Line 3bis: no trains will run on this line.

Line 4: 3 trains in  4 running in the morning, 2 trains out of 3 in the afternoon, normal in the evening. Due to automation work, the line will close at 10.15pm; Stations Simplon, Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, Saint Placide, Alésia, and Barbara will be closed.

Line 5: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am – 9.30am and 4.30pm – 7.30pm only; Bastille station will be closed.

Line 6: 1 train in 3. Services running 5.30am – 8pm;

Line 7: 1 train in 2; Station Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette will be closed after 2pm.

Line 7bis: 1 train in 2;

Line 8: 1 train in 3 between Reuilly Diderot and Créteil Pointe du Lac and between Balard and Concorde only, between 6am-10am and 4pm-8pm;

Line 9: 1 train in 2; Stations such as Bonne Nouvelle, Grands Boulevards, Richelieu Drouot will be closed.

Line 10: 1 train in 2 between 6.30am – 9.30am only;

Line 11: 2 trains in 3 between 6am-11am and 1 train out of 3 between 4.30pm-7.30pm; Stations such as Jourdain, Pyrénées, Rambuteau and Hôtel de Ville will be closed.

Line 12: 1 train in 3 from 5.30am – 9.30am and 2 out of 3 trains between 4.30pm – 8pm;

Line 13: 1 train in 2 in the morning, 1 train in 3 in the afternoon. Services only between 5.30am and 8pm.

Line 14: traffic will be normal, but due to planned works the line will close at 10pm.


RER A: 1 train out of 2. The connection maintained at Nanterre prefecture. Auber station will be closed.

RER B: 1 train out of 2. The connection will maintained at Gare du Nord. The last train to leave Châtelet will be around 11pm.

RER C: 1 train out of 3.

RER D: 2 trains out of 5 on average. The connection will be maintained between Châtelet and Gare de Lyon.

RER E: 1 train out of 5 on average.


Line K: 1 train will run out of 2, but trains will not run outside of peak hours.

Lines H, J, L, N, P and U lines: 1 train out of 3 will run.

Line R: 2 trains out of 5 will run on average. Trains will only run during rush hour between Gare de Lyon and Montargis/Montereau via Moret.

READ ALSO Should you cancel a trip to France because of strikes and demos?

Fuel shortages and driving

Because of the public transport strikes, commuters should expect heavier traffic levels on main routes in and out of cities on Thursday.

Refinery workers will continue with their strikes and blockades until Thursday at 9pm, at which point workers will vote on whether or not to renew the strikes.

As of Thursday morning, about 17.9 percent of service stations across France were experiencing shortages, with the strongest impacts felt in the west and south of the country, namely in the Bouches-de-Rhône département which contains Marseille.

The French energy ministry has begun issuing requisition orders to force striking oil workers to release gasoline and diesel for service stations, which are running dry because of a lack of deliveries in some parts of the country.

MAP Where in France are blockades causing fuel shortages

On Thursday morning at 7:45am, the French road information website, Sytadin, reported that the Paris region had around 290 km of traffic jams.

Traffic was particularly difficult on the A15 towards Paris between Eragny and Gennevilliers.


In a pattern replicated across the country, the SNUipp-FSU union has warned that as many as 140 of Paris’s 645 primary schools will remain closed on Thursday, and predicted 70 percent of school staff in the capital would join the strike. It will be the second highest number of closures since 172 schools stayed shut for the walkout of January 18.

According to France régions, several high schools in Brittany had their entrances blocked on Thursday morning.

Refuse collection

The government has begun forcing striking refuse collectors in Paris back to work using requisition laws, however local officials estimate that it will take up to two weeks to clear the estimated 9,000 tonnes of rubbish from the capital’s streets.


Marches and demos will take place in towns and cities around France. In Paris, the march begins at 2pm at Place de la Bastille and heads to Opéra – there will be road closures along the road.

In Rennes, the procession will meet at the Place de Bretagne at 11am, and in Lyon it will start at the Manufacture des Tabacs in the 8th arrondissement at 11am as well.

As for Marseille, the march will start at 10:30 am at the Old Port, walking toward the Porte d’Aix. In Bordeaux, the demo will begin at 12pm at Place Tourny.

On Wednesday night, more spontaneous protests occurred across the country, some were particularly tense. In Lyon, several hundred people took to the streets, leading to clashes with police, projectiles being thrown and garbage cans burned.

One protester was reportedly hit in the face by a projectile – local authorities in Lyon said the cause of the injury was still unknown as of Thursday morning.

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OPINION: There is no chance of a sensible debate on the French government’s immigration bill

Immigration - like pensions - is a subject which in France anaesthetises balance and common-sense, writes John Lichfield, which explains why the government's new immigration bill is becoming virtually the new definition of a mountain out of a molehill.

OPINION: There is no chance of a sensible debate on the French government's immigration bill

France has changed its migration law 29 times in the last 40 years. There has been no significant change since 2018. A spasm of tinkering is evidently overdue.

The government thinks so – or at least some of the time. It proposed a new migration law last year. Since then, the draft law has frequently been delayed.

It was sawn in half and then sown back together again. There have been seven changes of direction in nine months.

Language tests and easier expulsion: The latest on France’s new immigration law

President Emmanuel Macron, against the wishes of his Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, has now decided to push forward rapidly with the new legislation. He wants to prove that, despite the national nervous breakdown over pension reform, despite the loss of his parliamentary majority, his government can still advance its domestic agenda.

Hear John and the team at The Local discussing the immigration bill, and its political fallout, in the latest episode of Talking France. Listen here or on the link below

Is there an urgent need for change? Yes and no. Mostly no.

Despite the nonsense spouted by the Far Right and the Right, France is not being “swamped” by migrants. Net migration is under 200,000 people a year. That figures has increased only slightly over the last decade.

Just over one in ten French residents were born in other countries – 30 percent of them within the European Union – compared to one in 20 in 1947. When asked which problems concern them the most, French people put migration 12th on their list – long after inflation, security, education, housing and health.

On the other hand, France does have a problem enforcing its migration rules.

A Paris schoolgirl was murdered last October by a woman who had been ordered to leave the country but was never removed. Most of the 234 African and middle eastern boat people delivered to Toulon in November by the Ocean Viking humanitarian vessel vanished before they could be processed by the French system.

Few of the illegal migrants or failed asylum seekers expelled from France actually leave the country. The government has little way of knowing whether the 120,000 people each year who are served with expulsion orders or OQTF’s (obligations de quitter le territoire français) have left or not.

READ ALSO OQTF: What is the notice to quit and can you appeal?

The proposed new migration law tries to address this issue. It would reduce from 12 to four the number of legal arguments that can be put forward to delay or cancel an expulsion order.

Everyone served with an OQRF would be inscribed on a computer file. It would create a new network of regional centres to process asylum requests.

The original bill was framed to appeal to both Right and Left – which made it sensibly balanced or wishy-washy Macronist, depending on your political persuasion. It would allow some illegal migrants and unprocessed asylum-seekers to contribute to the French economy by taking jobs.

Those eligible would include illegal migrants and asylum seekers who have been present in France for three years. They would be permitted to seek work permits in trades where labour is scarce – especially the restaurant and construction industries.

Originally, Macron and his interior minister Gérald Darmanin hoped that the bill would attract support from both the moderate left and the centre-right. The ill-feeling generated by the pension dispute now means that no left-wing support is conceivable.

All therefore depends on the 62 centre-right Les Républicains deputies who hold the balance of power in the National Assembly. They split on pension reform. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned Macron last month that they were equally divided and unreliable on the migration bill.

The President agreed to delay the debate until the autumn and then changed his mind. He needed – or wanted – an early parliamentary success on a contentious issue to prove that he was still able to govern, and reform, the country.

That was a mistake.

The leaders of Les Républicains (LR) have rejected the Macron migration bill. They have ruled out all possibility of voting to give some illegal migrants work-permits.

They have announced – but not yet published – an immigration bill of their own which steals the ideas of, inter alia, Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour, Donald Trump and the British Conservative government.

Amongst other things, they want to abolish the 25-years-old rights rights of illegal migrants to seek free health care in France (which takes just 0.5 percent of health spending). And they want to stop the “deep state” (ie French and European officials and judges) from protecting migrant rights.

The once pro-European centre-right party says that it wants a referendum on constitutional change to allow France to “take back control” and disobey EU laws when its national interests are threatened. This is a photocopy of Marine Le Pen’s idea which amounts to an unworkable Frexit-in-all-but-name.

None of this has a remote chance of being agreed while Macron is President. It is a) declaration that the failing LR intends to lurch to the hard right before the next presidential election b) a suicide note by what remains of the once broad Gaullist movement.

After nailing their colours to this illiberal mast, there is no chance that Les Républicains will provide the 40 or so votes needed for the Macron migration bill to pass in its present form. Darmanin, the interior minister, is looking for some form of compromise but cannot go too far without alienating parts of Macron’s own centrist alliance.

The sensible idea of jobs-for-deserving-migrants may be split from the bill (again) and carried out regionally by administrative order. The government may offer some small restrictions on health care for illegal migrants and asylum seekers.

Will that bring the LR aboard? I doubt it.

Will the government risk another explosion by using its special powers to impose the law under Article 49.3 of the Constitution? I doubt it.

Will Macron back down and withdraw the bill (again)? I doubt it.

Will immigration replace pensions as the dominant political psycho-drama? I doubt it.

There may have been case for more tinkering with migration law but this was not the time to insist on it. Macron should have concentrated his efforts on more consensual reforms like his seven-year increase in defence spending and the proposed “green” industry law.

Immigration, like pensions, is a subject which anaesthetises balance and practical common-sense.