Glimmers of cheer for Paris commuters on 26th day of strikes

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A closed access to the subway at Gare Saint Lazar train station in Paris, Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. Strikes, which began Dec. 5, have disrupted transport across France and beyond, hobbling Paris Metros and trains across the country and businesses. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

PARIS – The start of a fourth week of French transport strikes saw some modest improvements Monday for beleaguered commuters in Paris, with fewer Metro lines closed.

The strikes against government plans to reform the French pension system were still causing considerable disruption for users of the country's high-speed rail network, with about half of trains cancelled.

The Eurostar link with Britain and Thalys connections with Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany were also still experiencing cancellations. Services remained severely disrupted on slower French regional and inter-city lines.

But for Paris-region commuters who have been hard hit by the strikes since Dec. 5, the return to work from Christmas holidays brought glimmers of cheer.

Just two Metro lines remained completely closed, compared to five that were closed on Friday. There were also improvements on other lines, although not a return to normal, as strikers stayed out for a 26th day.

The disruptions and shutdowns have outlasted a 1995 transport workers strike, testing the will of President Emmanuel Macron to push through with plans to raise the official pension eligibility age to 64. Macron argues the retirement overhaul would make the pension system fairer and keep it out of debt.