TRAINS ground to a halt and stations were packed across France as a ‘Black Tuesday’ of strikes started three months of industrial action.
Tourists including Britons returning from the Easter weekend were among those caught up in the chaos, while others gave up trying to travel.
Many Eurostar services were cancelled while one in eight domestic high-speed TGV trains and one in five regional services ran.
In Paris, police were called to maintain order on replacement buses, with one spokesman saying: ‘They are extremely overcrowded and tensions are running high.’
In Lyon, Olivier Martin, 50, was trying to get to the airport for a flight to the US. He said: ‘The train strike is unacceptable. It’s too easy to take people hostage.’
The 550-mile journey between Paris and Milan through the Alps was among services replaced by a coach, which was likely to take at least three times as long.
It is estimated the strikes will cost the country’s state railway SNCF £17.5million a day. SNCF staff are challenging president Emmanuel Macron’s reforms, which include reducing the power of rail unions.
Opponents have accused the government of wanting to privatise the loss-making SNCF. Transport secretary Elisabeth Borne said it ‘will remain a public service’ but it costs 30 per cent more to run a train in France than elsewhere in the EU.
CGT union head Philippe Martinez called for French workers to ‘bring their fights together’ to destroy Mr Macron’s agenda.
Just 11 per cent of the French workforce is in a union, but they remain extremely powerful.