Hollande to try to save TGV train factory

Paris - French President Francois Hollande will intervene this week to try to save the factory that made the country's first high-speed TGV train and is now under threat of closure.

Trainmaker Alstom announced earlier that it would cease production in the eastern city of Belfort, a symbol of French industrial prowess that produced Alstom's first steam train in 1880.

Alstom said it would centralise its train production at a site 200km further north in Alsace and promised to offer the 400 workers in Belfort other jobs.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, however, earlier criticised the move by Alstom, in which the French state has a minority stake.

"The method used by Alstom is unacceptable," Valls said. "We can still save Alstom as long as its leaders fully play their part.

Valls said he and Hollande would hold talks at the Elysee Palace with the economy, industry and transport ministers to discuss the situation.

Jobs under threat

The prospect of job losses in Belfort is of concern to the Socialist government, with polls showing Hollande and his party facing a drubbing in presidential and legislative elections in the spring, partly because of their failure to make a serious dent in high unemployment.

While Alstom has said it will find jobs for the Belfort workers at other sites around France, unions say most of those affected are not in a position to move, leaving them facing redundancy.

Alstom's chief executive Henri Poupart-Lafarge was earlier summoned by Economy Minister Michel Sapin to explain the move out of Belfort.

The French government has a habit of intervening when it deems French companies or jobs to be under threat, particularly from multinationals.

When US conglomerate GE announced a bid for Alstom's energy assets in 2014 the state got involved, getting German group Siemens to put up a rival bid before finally coming down on the side of GE.

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