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France in a jam: Paris sees record 390-mile gridlock and rail chaos in pension strike

A TRAFFIC jam measuring a record 390 miles was measured in the Paris area yesterday as rail passengers in France faced chaos during the 12th day of a large-scale strike over pension reforms.

The bumper gridlock around the capital came as only two Metro lines, which use automated trains with no drivers, were running. The other 14 lines were closed or running a partial service.

Most regional and national trains were also at a standstill with international routes also suffering disruptions.

Going nowhere: Passengers wait at Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris as record levels of traffic encircle the city PICTURE: AFP

Lorry drivers launched a separate protest movement, staging road blockages across the country to demand better salaries and working conditions.

Unions want to push the strike through Christmas as a new round of protests across the country was planned for today. The strikes involve mostly public-sector workers, including train drivers, teachers and hospital employees who fear they will have to work longer for lower pensions.

Changes to the system include raising the retirement age to 64 and ending special privileges for some workers. French president Emmanuel Macron appears determined to push ahead with the reforms after saying last week he wanted the government to ‘continue the work’.

However, he suffered a setback yesterday when the key architect of the pension overhaul resigned over alleged conflicts of interest. High commissioner for pensions Jean-Paul Delevoye was under fire after French newspapers Le Parisien and Le Monde reported that he had not mentioned some of his activities in the mandatory formal declaration.

Mr Delevoye, 72, had prepared the pension plans for two years before he was appointed in September to drive them through. He was in charge of talks with workers’ unions and professional organisations.

He acknowledged a ‘mistake’, saying he ‘forgot’ to declare several positions, some in the insurance and banking sectors, a think tank and one at the foundation of national rail company SNCF.

Mr Macron’s office said the president had accepted Mr Delevoye’s resignation ‘with regret’ but also stressed his ‘work and commitment’.

It said the decision was needed in order to preserve the next steps of the reform.