French strike action over pension reforms, which began last week and included the suspension of rail services by SNCF staff, has brought vehicle movements by rail to a virtual standstill. “For all intents and purposes it can be considered zero,” confirmed Alain Leray, deputy managing director at STVA, the vehicle transport subsidiary of SNCF, this week.
Leray told Automotive Logistics News that the company is now making massive shifts of freight to road but is facing major disruption to the balance of its service with no sign of a resolution in sight and a recovery time of between 3-4 weeks for when the strike finally does end. According to Leray, the rail freight business will continue to be affected long after the restoration of passenger services.
The shift to road was also made problematic this week when road hauliers joined the strike action, including taking part in a ‘go-slow’ tactic on Monday on motorways near Lille, Paris and Lyon, as well as using vehicles to block access to fuel stations.
France’s road haulage federation, the FNTR, expressed concerns for many of its member firms this week unless there was a significant improvement in the availability of diesel. At least 1,500 petrol stations are reported to have run out of at least one fuel product or are totally dry and there have been further blockades of fuel depots in western and southern France on top of strikes at France's 12 oil refineries, which are now in their second week. “Anyone looking for diesel in the Paris and Nantes regions will have problems,” an Exxon Mobil spokesperson told Reuters.
France’s transport sector has been plagued by strike action this year. In April, CGT and Sud-Rail transport unions stopped work to demand 2,000 extra jobs be created call for a stop to a restructuring of the SNCF's heavily loss-making freight operation SNCF Fret. The most recent action is being taken in protest at the French government’s pension reforms, planned to raise the national retirement age from 60 to 62 and the full state pension age from 65 to 67. The Senate is voting on the reform bill today.
French carmakers are not yet admitting any disruption to their production schedules or outbound deliveries to the dealerships. A Renault spokesman told Automotive Logistics News that the situation was currently under control and none of its plants had stopped producing vehicles due to the strike action.
“We think the French government will work on preventing the situation getting worse,” said the spokesperson.