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Day three of French rail strike that government fears could drag on

Day three of French rail strike that government fears could drag on
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Friday marks day three of a strike that has brought some of the worst disruption to the French rail network in years.

Passengers’ patience is wearing thin. So is that of President Francois Hollande who has called for an end to the walkout.

But his Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier fears the travel chaos could continue throughout the weekend.

“It’s complicated, as usual with the French railways,” said one frustrated passenger in Paris.

“It is unacceptable, it is expensive. Enough!” another added.

But the unions show no sign of returning to work, despite less than 18 percent of railway staff taking part on Friday, according to management.

They are angry at government plans to bring the SNCF rail operator and the RFF network under the roof of one holding company, while keeping their operations separate.

Unions fear the reform will hurt working conditions and want the two companies fully merged into a single company as they were before 1997. They also want the government to take on some 40 billion euros in debt owed by the two firms.

The government says the reform is needed to create a coherent structure for the railways as France and other European countries gear up for full liberalisation of the railways in coming years.