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France braces for further travel chaos as pension strike continues

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Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris on December 9, 2019.
Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris on December 9, 2019.   -  
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REUTERS/Christian Hartmann
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France's transport system is expected to be brought to a standstill on Monday as a general strike over President Emmanuel Macron's proposed pension reform continues.

Railway operator SNCF has warned that traffic would be "extremely disrupted" with only a fifth of high-speed trains and a fifth of cross-country services scheduled to run.

It called on commuters to avoid crowding stations, flagging security reasons and urged them to use alternative means of transport including carpooling.

Public transport in Paris is also severely disrupted with nine of the capital city's subway lines interrupted and five of them only scheduled to run during peak hours. The automated 14 line was the only one expected to run as usual, although the RATP warned of "a risk of saturation at peak time".

The public transport woes had by 08:00 CET already impacted road traffic. Sytadin, an official website keeping tabs of road conditions, estimated that more than 600 kms of traffic jams had formed.

READ MORE: How successful was the December 5th strike in France?

The mass protest started on Thursday (December 5) with 800,000 people rallying across the country according to the government, stranding commuters and leading to school closures.

Organisers, who put the figure at more than 1.5 million protesters, have called for a second day of national action on Tuesday.

They protest plans by Macron's government to overhaul the pension system by rolling the 42 different plans into a universal one. The plans would also see pension payouts calculated from salaries from across the whole career instead of just the last five years of activity, which unions say would result in much smaller payouts.

The government has so far been steadfast but ministers convened on Sunday afternoon at the behest of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and later with Macron.

Philippe is expected to unveil the new retirement programme on Wednesday.

READ MORE: French government to move forward with pension reform despite nationwide strike

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