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French train strike extended for third day

French trade unions extended a major train strike against proposed reforms to contain the rail sector's soaring debt until Friday evening, spelling a third day of misery for commuters.

PARIS: French trade unions extended a major train strike against proposed reforms to contain the rail sector's soaring debt until Friday evening, spelling a third day of misery for commuters.

The strike, which began on Tuesday evening, was initially supposed to last 24 hours but has twice been extended as talks between several unions and Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier have failed to yield results.

"Railway workers, strongly mobilised on this second day of striking, have massively (voted to) continue the movement for 24 hours," the CGT union leading the protest said Thursday in a statement.

The state rail operator SNCF said the situation had "improved" on Thursday compared to the previous day, with one high-speed TGV train out of two running on average.

But only one train out of three was running in the Paris region where three million commuters travel daily, it said.

Eurostar trains and those running to Germany were functioning normally but only a third of the services to Spain were operational.

The action takes place just one week before France's lower house of parliament examines proposed reforms aiming to tackle the rail sector's soaring debt.

Cuvillier said Tuesday the sector's debt stood at more than 40 billion euros ($54 billion), and would likely soar to 80 billion euros by 2025 if nothing was done to stem it.

The unions which called the strike, however, feel that the measures included in the reform will not help rein in the debt.

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