Travellers heading to, from and through France face chaos from Monday evening as strikes disrupt rail and air links.
Railway workers are staging a series of two-day stoppages in protest against planned labour reforms by the national rail enterprise, SNCF.
The strikes, from 3 April to 28 June, are each separated by three days of working normally. But the effects will be felt from the evening of Easter Monday.
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International overnight trains between Paris and Milan are being replaced by buses. The trans-Alpine journey of around 500 miles is likely to take at least 12 hours.
The operator, Thello, offered “our sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused by this strike over which Thello has no control”.
Eurostar passengers are also feeling the effects. The cross-Channel train operator’s French drivers are employed by SNCF. As a result 29 services from London to Paris and Brussels for Tuesday and Wednesday have been cancelled — representing around 25,000 seats. The firm is telling prospective passengers on Easter Monday: “Our services from the continent to UK and vice versa are fully booked today. Please come to our stations only if you have a confirmed seat.”
Eurostar is also urging travellers whose trains are running on Tuesday and Wednesday to arrive at the departure station an hour before departure, rather than the usual 30 minutes, “for a smoother departure experience”. The normal Disneyland Paris service is being diverted to the Gare du Nord in the French capital on Tuesday and Wednesday. Eurostar is deploying staff at the terminus as well as the Disney station, Marne la Vallee, to help passengers and distribute tickets for RER suburban trains.
SNCF expects to run somewhere between one in five and one in eight of normal long distance services. On some lines, replacement buses will run, but a huge amount of capacity will be lost.
Rail workers in France, known as cheminots, have generous guarantees on employment protection and pay rises, and are typically able to retire in their early fifties.