Paris at standstill as transport strike causes 124 miles of traffic

Paris came to a standstill today as public transport worker unions protest a sweeping pension reform by French President.

The French capital's public transport company, RATP, said 14 of the city's 16 metro lines have been closed and several others, including the RER suburban rail, are severely disrupted. 

On platforms, messages in French and English warned passengers of the strike - the biggest since 2007.

Officials have noted a whopping 186 miles of traffic jams during the morning's rush hour, more than double the city's normal levels.

The government issued warnings telling people to cycle to work and Parisians have taken to two wheels. 

The new pension reform is expected to make public transport workers stay in service for longer before retirement. 

Die Sokhanadu, 25, was stuck at a station on line 12, trying to get to his job working on the restoration of the Notre-Dame cathedral in the heart of the city.

He said: 'If the metro doesn't start running, I'm going to have to head home.'

Others worried about their evening commutes, with the RATP warning that only lines 1 and 14 - the only two which function autonomously, without drivers - would be operating after 8pm.

RATP warned commuters yesterday that they should try to find travel alternatives and said it was financing free 30-minute rides on the Cityscoot network of electric mopeds.

US ride-hailing giant Uber is also hoping to seize the moment with two free 15-minute rides offered on the Jump electric bikes and scooters it has deployed in Paris. 

Thousands of tourists have also been caught up in this morning's travel chaos. 

One man from London said: 'The guy in our hotel mentioned their might be a problem but not like this.

'I guess this is all part of the experience of visiting France.' 

Macron's proposed pension reform will see the country's 42 different pension systems become condensed into one points-based system.  

RATP pension scheme currently allows workers to retire at 56 - seven year earlier than most French workers. 

Earlier reforms have already changed some of the RATP's worker rights and they fear they will have to continue to pay money into the system for longer.  

France's state auditor, the Cour des Comptes, says the average retirement age for RATP workers in 2017 was 55.7, compared with 63 years for most French workers.

The three main RATP labour unions have called the strike 'a shot across the bow' against the overhaul, the latest element in Macron's push to bolster France's economy and finances with a wide-ranging reform plan.

It is shaping up to be the biggest metro strike since 2007, when former president Nicolas Sarkozy pushed through a pension reform that delayed the retirement age for most public workers.

During his 2017 presidential campaign, Macron pledged not to touch the current earliest legal retirement age of 62 for most workers.

But Jean-Paul Delevoye, who is leading the reform project, has suggested a points system that would effectively wipe out the more advantageous pensions for a wide range of professions, including those for sailors, notaries and even Paris Opera workers. 

Delevoye has also proposed making a full pension only available at 64 - people who retire earlier would have to accept a lower amount. 

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said yesterday: 'We're going to construct a truly universal system where every euro paid in will provide the same rights for everyone, whether a labourer, a shop owner, a researcher, a farmer, a civil servant, a doctor or an entrepreneur.'

Junior Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt said that RATP workers’ pension contributions only covered 40 per cent of payouts - meaning the state was left to pay the rest.

Consultations are currently being held with labour unions and the government wants parliament to vote on the project early next year.

The government is likely to face further opposition to its plans in coming weeks, with lawyers, airline pilots and stewards, and medical workers already calling a strike for Monday.  

The transport network is expected to return to normal at 5.30am today.

 

Compiled by Olalekan Adeleye

MailOnline

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