Eiffel Tower to reopen after strike over long queues

The Eiffel Tower - closed to visitors since Wednesday afternoon - is to reopen on Friday after workers went on strike over unacceptably long queues at the Paris landmark.

Workers walked out in protest at a new access policy that has seen separate lifts allocated to visitors with pre-booked tickets and those who buy them on site.

Workers walked out in protest at a new access policy that has seen separate lifts allocated to visitors with pre-booked tickets and those who buy them on site.

At the same time, the tower now sets aside half of daily tickets for internet customers, up from just 20 percent previously. Workers said the changes resulted in lopsided queues that could extend to three hours for those waiting to pay for tickets, and up to an hour for internet customers who are supposed to have reserved time slots. But late Thursday, management and unions said that the tower would reopen on Friday.

Earlier workers had demanded more flexibility in managing the thousands hoping to reach the top of the "Iron Lady" each day during the peak summer tourist season. The tower's operator said, however, that queues were no worse than before, even as visitor numbers have risen, with more than 6.2 million tickets sold last year.

Many tourists arriving on Thursday morning had no idea what the strike was about, with signs saying only that the monument was closed. "I'm annoyed, I'm not going to lie," said Robin Frye of Birmingham, England, who was visiting Paris for the first time. "It's going to throw off our whole trip if I'm honest," she said.

Earlier Thursday workers held a general assembly to discuss a proposal offered by the site's operator SETE, which is majority owned by the city of Paris. "The SETE is well aware of the disappointment for visitors because of the monument's closure, and its negative impact on the image of both the city and country," the company said in a statement. "It offers its apologies to everyone - Parisians and French as well as foreign tourists."

The tower, which welcomed more than six million visitors last year, has been hit by repeated strikes by its 300-strong staff in recent years over issues ranging from pick-pocketing to maintenance work.

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited sites in the French capital.

at/ks (AFP, France 24)

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