France faced a second day of paralyzed public transport yesterday as two rail unions continued to strike over planned pension reforms and services only slowly started to resume.
Commuters faced a day of struggle on Thursday as the rail network ground to a halt, and Paris metro and bus systems were reduced to a skeleton service. Many workers chose to stay at home, or walked or cycled to the office.
With two out of eight train unions calling for a 24-hour extension of Thursday's strike, the French state rail company SNCF warned that services would be "very disrupted" yesterday morning as it worked towards resuming normal services.
In Paris the metro and urban rail body RATP said that one metro train in two was operating, two out of three buses, but two of the main suburban commuter lines had yet to resume service.
"Operations are better than expected," a company official said.
SNCF said early yesterday only one-third of Paris regional trains would be running in the morning, rising to two-thirds in for the evening rush hour.
The company said it aims to resume full service for fast TGV and regular trains departing from and arriving in Paris by 4pm, with one-third of trains running in the morning.
It expected to have only one-third of trains traveling between regions operating in the morning, with two-thirds operating in the afternoon.
Disruptions yesterday could affect the rugby World Cup action in Paris, where France were to play Argentina for third place ahead of today's final between South Africa and England.
Last night's match was at the Parc de Princes stadium in southwest Paris -- a venue heavily reliant on metro lines.
SNCF assured English rugby supporters that Eurostar services between England and France were running normally yesterday, however. Around 60 percent of Thaylys fast trains to Belgium and the Netherlands were running, it added.
On Thursday, the capital's new system of public bicycles, the Velib, broke all previous records, clocking up 135,000 journeys by early evening as many Parisians chose peddle-power to beat the strike, according to official figures.
Tourists found several Paris museums shut, including the Musee d'Orsay and most of the Louvre, while the Opera de Paris and Comedie Francaise theatre canceled evening performances.
Police said 150,000 people turned out at demonstrations nationwide on Thursday to oppose the pension reforms planned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The figure in Paris was 25,000, union organizers said.
Defeated opposition Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal said the strikes showed the "growth and confidence" promised by Sarkozy had turned into "mistrust and arrogance."
The Socialist party also suggested that the presidency chose to announce Sarkozy's divorce from his wife Cecilia on the same day as the strike in order to deaden its media impact.
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