updated 11/30/2007 10:55:50 AM ET 2007-11-30T15:55:50

A general transport strike by workers in Italy demanding more investment in the sector forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights and idled trains, ships and buses across the country on Friday.

National carrier Alitalia canceled 217 national and international flights before a four-hour walkout by air sector workers beginning at 11 a.m. local time. Air One, Italy's No. 2 carrier, said that only nine flights would be guaranteed.

The workers are protesting planned cuts in transport funding in the new budget as well as the declining fortunes of the main companies in the sector, starting with the money-losing Alitalia, which the Italian government is struggling to sell.

Railway company Trenitalia canceled hundreds of trains and warned of further delays as rail workers walked off their jobs at 9 a.m. for an eight-hour protest.

Ship departures were delayed by 24 hours, while commuters struggled to get to work in their own cars as local transportation was idled for eight hours starting at different times in cities across Italy.

The city of Rome avoided further disruption by making a late-night deal Thursday with taxi drivers. The drivers had staged wildcat strikes and traffic blockages for two days to protest plans by city officials to grant 500 new licenses. The city did not go back on its plans but agreed to discuss with unions how and when the new licenses will be released.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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