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French national strikes will wreak havoc on its air, rail and road networks

French national strikes will wreak havoc on its air, rail and road networks (Photo: Shutterstock)

After the yellow-jacket protests that rocked Paris last year, the city is again the centerstage of protests that will start on Dec. 5, as workers of the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), will come together to strike against the existing French pension system that they believe needs reform. 

RATP runs the French capital’s public transport system, thereby crippling movement of people and goods across Paris when its workers walk out to protest. They will also be joined by employees of SNCF, the French state-owned railway, along with air traffic controllers, airport ground staff, and trucking carriers, effectively bringing the French economy to a standstill over the next few days. 

The French government and the RATP, in particular, have been scrambling to find alternatives and to sort out transport lines that will remain open despite the protests – courtesy of the very few workers who would continue to operate depleted transport systems. 

Just like with the yellow-jacket protests, this protest does not seem to have a particular date when it will die down, with opinions already differing on the length of the demonstrations. FreightWaves contacted French freight technology startup Everoad to discuss the impact of this national strike on the French freight economy. 

“By looking at the news and by listening to the unions, it is clear that no one knows how long this strike while last. Few say it will only be on Thursday and Friday, but some say it will last a couple of weeks. Either way, we have no idea how big of an impact – direct or indirect – it will have on the French economy,” said Maxime Legardez, the CEO of Everoad. 

The shutdown will impede air, rail and road networks across the country, with major transport operators canceling services en masse over the next few days. Rail transport provider Eurostar has announced that it will cancel 78 trains, which is expected to hit 50,000 passengers. 

Air operator EasyJet has issued a warning to its passengers to expect cancellations and delays, while British Airways has offered flexible booking options for people who were scheduled to fly between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7. 

Aside from being a massive inconvenience to commuters, it will wreak chaos on freight movement within France and also on routes connecting major cities in Belgium, Italy and Germany. 

“Based on what happened one year ago, we know that this strike will have a social and economic impact on France, as it hits on the mobility of people and goods,” said Legardez. “A significant percentage of goods in France are transported by rail. And with that out of the picture, people will over-solicit the road carriers to move their freight. This is a situation where there is a shortage of capacity in times of excess demand.”

Demand for capacity is usually high during the holiday season, as evidenced by the increase in consumer spending during December as they flock storefronts and order products online. The national strike at this critical juncture would mean businesses will have to work harder to find an alternative that helps them ship and deliver cargo on time. 

“The feasible option at this time is to ship goods by road. Digital freight forwarders like Everoad can make a difference by connecting these shippers to carriers who operate during this strike period,” said Legardez. With over 6,000 carriers and more than 300,000 trucks registered in its system, Everoad hopes to be a bridge during this crisis, connecting shippers within France and its neighbours via the highways.