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France’s Public Transport Halted

March 28, 2001

PARIS (AP) _ Buses and subway services in a dozen cities across France ground to a near halt for a second day Tuesday as transportation employees extended a strike pressing for a younger retirement age.

The strike was a scaled-back version of the protest a day earlier, when transport workers paralyzed 30 cities as they demanded the right to retire at 55 instead of 60.

Paris was spared this week’s round of chaos, which, on Tuesday, led to major traffic jams in many of France’s other largest cities, including Marseille, Strasbourg, Lyon and Bordeaux.

Nationwide inconvenience was, however, forecast for Thursday when workers at the SNCF, France’s national rail authority, planned a separate strike to press for higher pay and better retirement packages.

Commuters faced heavy delays Tuesday in the southern port city of Marseille, where buses, subways and trams were not running.

In the central city of Lyon, five out of 20 trams were operating and fewer than 10 buses circulated the city. In the northern industrial city of Lille, there was no bus service and only one tram out of three was running.

Transport employees voted to continue the strike on Wednesday in Marseille, Lyon, Lille and Bordeaux. In most other cities, workers voted to return to work.

Transportation Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot told LCI television late Monday that he was ready to participate in negotiations. He said that employers, although still opposed to the younger retirement age, had agreed to meet with union leaders in April.

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