France strikes: How might British travellers be affected?

A family unpacking a car on a beach Image copyright Thinkstock

British travellers to France are being urged to think ahead after days of industrial action disrupted travel and left fuel in short supply across much of the country.

Plenty of Britons are expected to head over for the coming bank holiday weekend and next week's school half-term break.

How might they be affected?

Image copyright Reuters

What is happening in France?

Strikes and blockades by workers disrupted six of France's eight oil refineries this week. However, all but one of the fuel depots being blockaded have now been freed.

France's CGT union announced on Friday it would be holding an indefinite strike at the Total petrol refinery in Donges.

The availability of fuel at petrol stations is now reported to be improving slightly, but there may still be shortages and queues, especially in Brittany, Normandy and northern France, of half an hour or an hour.

Port workers in Marseille, Cherbourg, Le Havre and St Malo have also taken industrial action.

And there been disruption on some high-speed TGV rail services, as well as regional and commuter trains.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Protests have been held at numerous fuel depots, such as the Total refinery at Donges, western France

How is travel being affected for drivers?

Fuel purchasing restrictions have been put in place by local authorities in some parts of France.

Some petrol stations may have run out of some types of fuel. Fuel rationing may be imposed, and drivers may not be able to fill up jerrycans either.

The website has produced a map developed from its mobile app data to help motorists identify petrol stations where fuel is not available.

This site said on Friday morning that about 52%, or about 5,300 out of 10,246 petrol stations in France, were reporting partial or total shortages of fuel.

The Carbeo website also has information on fuel availability.

Image copyright Ripple Motion
Image caption The website gives an up-to-date picture of fuel availability in France

French Transport Minister Alain Vidalies said on Thursday that 40% of petrol stations around Paris were struggling to get fuel.

The French Petrol Industries Union said the government had authorised the use of strategic reserves, with analysts estimating that the country has four months of fuel reserves.

The UK Foreign Office has issued travel advice for those heading over to France.

French ambassador to the UK Sylvie Bermann said the country was doing "everything possible" to ease travel problems ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament, due to begin in two weeks.

"I think you can travel, obviously, but if you can have some fuel before that, maybe it's better," she added.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Many drivers in France have had to queue for petrol over the past few days

What should British drivers do?

The RAC is discouraging UK drivers from taking extra fuel supplies over to France.

Aside from the safety risks, authorities only allow drivers to carry an additional 10 litres of fuel with them upon entering French territory.

Also, most ferry operators do not permit the carrying of any additional fuel in cans, the motoring body says.

Earlier this week, the AA reported taking calls from motorists who had run out of fuel in France. It is advising people to fill up before crossing the Channel.

Shell says it has seen an increase in demand at its petrol station on the M20, near Folkestone, while BP says it has not seen any rise in demand for fuel, with usual deliveries scheduled for stations in Kent.

Image copyright Reuters

Can drivers carry extra fuel across to France?

The transport of petrol cans onboard Brittany Ferries' ships is forbidden. The transport of diesel in vehicles is only permitted in containers or jerrycans specifically constructed for the carriage of diesel and to a maximum of 5 litres per vehicle.

Fuel cans must not be brought on board DFDS Seaways ferries.

P&O Ferries said on Twitter that passengers were now able to bring five litres of spare fuel on board, provided it was in an "approved container".

Eurotunnel allows up to 30 litres of fuel to be driven over, depending on the type of container.

Some parts of France have restrictions on carrying fuel.

The Prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais says that "in order to limit the fuel of users and for safety reasons", it is illegal to sell, purchase, distribute or transport fuel in "packaged form" such as jerrycans or cans.

What about other travel to France?

Brittany Ferries says some of Friday's scheduled trips have been disrupted, following some cancellations on Thursday.

P&O Ferries is not reporting any delays with its Dover to Calais service.

DFDS Seaways is also not reporting delays on its services to Dunkirk and Calais.

What experiences have Britons in France had?

Rebecca Elder from Aberdeen has been travelling through France after studying in Angers, reaching Poland yesterday.

She says her fellow students all had trains cancelled or rescheduled.

"Getting round Angers has taken double the time," she said.

"There have been lots of flight delays from Nantes or Charles de Gaulle airports, and in the past few days I've had friends who have struggled to find fuel to drive home or they've hit blocked roads.

"I would tell British travellers to leave extra time and have back up plans."

Ms Elder also described tensions as being "a lot higher in the Loire, Normandy and Bordeaux regions".

What is the dispute about?

Workers at oil refineries, nuclear power stations, ports and on the railways downed tools amid growing industrial action over controversial labour reforms.

These include making the 35-hour working week an average time, firms being given greater freedom to reduce pay and easing the conditions for laying off workers - currently strongly regulated in France.

Staff at 16 of France's 19 nuclear power plants have also voted for a one-day strike.

French President Francois Hollande has said he will not back down over the dispute, but Prime Minister Manuel Valls has signalled that the reform package could be modified.

What are strikes about?

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