Rail workers in six EU countries to strike over privatisation plans today


Train services will be disrupted across Europe today, when railway workers in six countries are expected to protest against the European Commission's proposal to deregulate state-run networks .

The French national train company, SNCF, said only 280 of 680 normally scheduled trains would operate in north-east France and connections to western France would be severely disrupted.

No trains were expected to run from France to Belgium and the Eurostar service from Paris to London could be halved. Traffic is also expected to be severely disrupted in Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Greece and Luxembourg.

Unions will hand out leaflets to commuters in Britain, Germany, Austria and Holland in a bid to stop EU plans for further privatisation.

French train conductors' unions have called a further nationwide strike for Friday, saying they lack sufficient staff.

The European Commission, through Transport Commissioner Mr Neil Kinnock, yesterday defended its proposal to deregulate Europe's state-run networks. In a statement it said its proposal aimed to "create the competitive conditions to allow a renaissance for railways".

It said the fears of the striking rail workers were unfounded, because the plans were not a threat to an industry in which 500,000 jobs have been lost in Europe over the last 15 years.