Channel NewsAsia

France adopts rail reform despite strike

French lawmakers adopted a contentious railway sector reform that was opposed by striking workers who last week crippled the country's rail network.

PARIS: French lawmakers on Tuesday adopted a contentious railway sector reform that was opposed by striking workers who last week crippled the country's rail network.

The lower house National Assembly voted 355 to 168 to support the reform that will bring together rail operator SNCF and track manager RFF, as well as opening parts of the sector up to competition.

President Francois Hollande's ruling Socialists were joined in backing the bill by centrist lawmakers and two dozen members of the centre-right main opposition UMP.

The reform aims to tackle the rail sector's soaring debt, which stands at more than 40 billion euros ($54 billion) and is set to almost double by 2025 if nothing changes.

Some railway unions signed up to the reforms after obtaining promises from the government. But two unions rejected an accord, saying the plans will lead to job losses without reducing the debt.

The strike, which started on June 17 and was continuing in small pockets on Tuesday, hit its peak last week with trains cancelled on up to two-thirds of high-speed TGV lines.

Tweet photos, videos and updates on this story to  @channelnewsasia