Thousands of people took to the street in France on Thursday to protests the government’s planned overhaul of the pension system one of President Emmanuel Macron most ambitious reforms.

The CGT union said 1.5 million people hit the streets nationwide in protest while the Interior Ministry put the number at 806,000.

The huge demonstrations across the country added to walkouts that paralysed transport services and closed schools, with international high-speed rail disrupted and flights cancelled.

Macron’s government has yet to set out its reform proposals in full but is pushing for a single plan to replace 42 special pension schemes.

Striking transport workers, air traffic controllers, teachers, firefighters, lawyers and other groups all fear they will have to work longer or receive reduced pensions under the plans.

During a Paris rally, Yves Veyrier, head of the Force Ouvriere union said, “We haven’t seen such a turnout in a very long time”.

“We now expect the government to take the measure of this mobilisation, and understand that its universal system is a bad idea,” he further said.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe praised trade unions for keeping the protests on a tight rein, minimising the violence.

In an attempt to harness the momentum of the strike, the yellow vests, whose weekly protests have dwindled in size recently, blocked roads in several cities including the port of Le Havre on the Atlantic coast.

In November, tens of thousands of people took to streets of Paris and other French cities to protest against domestic violence, after more than 130 women are believed to have been killed by their partner or ex-partner in France this year.

The march brought together 49,000 people, according to independent study cabinet Occurrence, and 1,00,000 according to organizer Nous Toutes, which also gave the figure of 1,50,000 protesters throughout France.

The march, which covered the main avenues in Paris, also had the support of most national unions and leftist parties, with famous faces, such as actresses Léa Drucker and Julie Gayet, and Vincent Trintignant the brother of actress Marie Trintignant who was beaten to death by her partner in 2003.

(With inputs from agency)