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France hit by fresh pension reform protests

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France hit by fresh pension reform protests
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It is not a good day to be travelling in or through France, with fresh industrial action over pension reforms causing widespread chaos.

Train travel has been hit hard by the sixth national day of protest since early September over plans to raise the retirement age. A final Senate vote on the bill is due this week.

Acknowledging the inconvenience of the disruption, one commuter at the Gare du Nord in Paris said he had managed to organise his day and hopes unions will fight to the bitter end.

But, unable to find petrol amid a blockade of refineries, a regular motorist was forced to abandon his car in favour of strike-hit public transport.
Interviewed at the station, he said his journey to work had taken two and a half hours.

The showdown is also being played out in the skies or rather on the ground where many would-be air passengers are stuck. Up to half of today’s flights are cancelled at Paris’ Orly Airport. Protesters blocked access to Bordeaux Airport for part of the morning.

President Nicolas Sarkozy however is not ready to back down.

Speaking in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel in the northern French seaside town of Deauville, he said that France would go ahead with the reform “just as our German friends did a few years ago.”

So far, the transport strikes have not paralysed France. However week-long walkouts at refineries and blockades of some fuel depots have sucked dry hundreds of petrol pumps. And that could pose a serious threat.