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French MPs back controversial Macron rail reform

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By Alice Cuddy  with Reuters
French MPs back controversial Macron rail reform
Copyright  REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

France’s National Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday in favour of a landmark bill to reform the country’s state-run railway company, marking a key victory for President Emmanuel Macron in his battle with trade unions.

MPs voted 452 to 80 in favour of the bill, with 27 abstentions.

The legislation, which will go to the Senate for a final vote on Thursday, turns the SNCF into a joint-stock company, will phase out its domestic passenger monopoly from 2020 and put an end to generous benefits and pensions for future employees.

It marks the biggest change to the SNCF since rail nationalisation in the 1930s.

The vote in parliament came after nearly three months of strikes against the reforms by unions who see the bill as a first step towards privatisation.

Labour leaders said on Wednesday that the strikes would continue as planned until June 28.