Evening Update Thursday 7th July 2022

Construction work on a new high-speed rail line linking Nice with Toulon and Marseille will begin in 2024, it's been confirmed today. The Ligne Nouvelle is scheduled to be completed in 2040. It'll be 40% financed by the Paca region, 40% by the French state and the remaining 20% will come from EU funding. The current line between Marseille and Ventimiglia dates back to the 1860s, and is used by 150 trains each day at different speeds. An initial plan for a high-speed line was abandoned in the 1990s. Over the past decade, the idea has gained traction again - and in 2018, France's then-transport minister Elisabeth Borne confirmed it was a priority. As part of the project, a new multi-modal transport hub would be built at Nice Saint-Augustin, with tram links to the city centre and airport.

There were long traffic jams on the A8 motorway this morning after two separate accidents, one in each direction. The first took place on the westbound carriageway a few kilometres after Villeneuve-Loubet, just before 10am. The crash involved two cars and a truck, blocking two lanes and causing 6km of jams. At almost the same time, a second accident took place between Mougins and Antibes, involving two cars.

Meanwhile, a municipal worker for the Nice metropolitan area had to be cut free from his car after losing control and crashing on the Avenue Henri Dunant in Nice this morning. The 59-year-old was taken to Pasteur hospital with face injuries. 

France's police watchdog is investigating claims that police officers on the Riviera accepted cash payments to work a second job as security guards at private events. According to Le Parisien newspaper, eight officers stationed in Antibes, Nice and Cagnes-sur-Mer topped up their earnings by working as security guards for a private firm at several high-profile events. It's reported they were paid up to €1,200 in cash for an evening's work. Among the events was a 2017 rally in Paris by then-presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, with 20,000 people in attendance, and a gala event near Saint-Tropez organised by Leonardo Di Caprio's charitable foundation, in the presence of celebrities including Kate Winslet and Lenny Kravitz.

The mayor of Antibes has asked the Alpes-Maritimes préfecture to set department-wide rules on coronavirus measures such as wearing masks, to avoid confusing the public. Yesterday, Nice announced that masks would be compulsory again on the Lignes d'Azur public transport network - and Cannes announced it was stepping up its vaccination campaign. Jean Leonetti, who is also president of the Sophia Antipolis agglomeration, said it was important that the measures were consistent and coherent throughout the Alpes-Maritimes. For now, wearing a mask is not required on the Envibus network around Antibes - and the town hasn't reopened its vaccination centre.

Meanwhile, after Cannes yesterday, it's the turn of Nice to announce it's stepping up its vaccination programme. The vaccination centre on Rue Hancy, behind Avenue Jean Médecin, has extended its opening hours. It'll now be open from Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm. It will also exceptionally be open this Saturday morning. Nice is urging people over 80 to get their second booster jab as soon as possible. The invitation will be extended to over-60s in the coming days. The city council said an extra vaccination centre could be opened within 48 hours if there's enough demand.

Police on the Côte d'Azur are reinforcing their checks on electric scooters all summer long, after last week's tragic accident in Nice, in which a five-year-old boy was killed. Officers have been visibily carrying out more checks in recent days. The municipality of Cagnes-sur-Mer alone says it will have four police officers patrolling the seaside cycle paths every day this summer. Cycle paths on the coast are particularly busy at this time of year, with bikes, scooters and pedestrians all sharing a limited amount of space.

Night-time police patrols on the island of Porquerolles in the Var will be reinstated, after a local member of parliament pleaded to the interior ministry for extra funding. Residents and traders have complained recently of a lack of police presence overnight on the island. There have been several incidents on the island in recent weeks, including fighting. A delegation from the French national police visited the island on Monday to look for a solution - including overnight accommodation for at least three on-duty officers every day.

The Var préfecture has banned access to the forests in the hills above Toulon because of the heightened risk of fires. The four-hectare zone is off limits until further notice. Access to two other forest areas nearby isn't banned but strongly discouraged. Six other forest zones are classified as having a "moderate" fire risk for now. Meanwhile, the Bouches-du-Rhône department has banned access to all 25 of its forest areas. 

32 restaurants in the Nice area have been awarded a special label guaranteeing that they serve quality authentic local cuisine. If you're looking for a genuine pan bagnat or salade niçoise, the Cuisine Nissarde label aims to point diners to places that respect traditional recipes and techniques. Nice tourist office is behind the scheme and the winners for the 2022-23 season have just been confirmed, after a thorough judging procedure including spot checks. The friendliness of staff is another criterion to win the Cuisine Nissarde label, which can be withdrawn from one year to the next.

And His Serene Highness Prince Albert II of Monaco has officially inaugurated a new exhibition of classic cars from the palace's collection. After 30 years on display in Fontvieille, the collection of more than 100 cars has moved to new premises at Route de la Piscine on the port, spread across 3,500 square metres. Most of the vehicles were acquired by Prince Albert's father, Prince Rainier III, who was passionate about cars and began building up his collection in the 1950s and put them on public display in 1991. After today's inauguration, the collection will be open to the public daily from 10am tomorrow.

BUSINESS

Partners at Britain's biggest audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers will see their total pay for the last financial year hit seven figures for the first time after an "exceptional" trading period boosted profits. The big four accountancy group briefed the 950 members of its top executive tier this week that it made average profit-per-partner of £920,000 in 2021-22 - up about 15% on the previous year's figure. In addition, partners will share a previously disclosed average windfall of about £100,000 generated by the sale of PwC's global mobility services business. The bumper payouts will underline the extent to which firms such as PwC have enjoyed a financially stellar pandemic, with its consulting arm buoyed by government and private sector client demand. They will also come at a sensitive time, given recent calls by the governor of the Bank of England and ministers for private sector bosses to exercise pay restraint amid rampant inflation.

Samsung shares rose on Thursday, which in turn brought stocks in Asian chipmakers higher after the South Korean technology giant posted “better than feared” earnings guidance for the second quarter. The numbers assuaged investors’ concerns about rising inflation, deteriorating consumer demand and higher material costs for semiconductor firms, though analysts cautioned that demand weakness may not have fully run its course yet. Chip stocks have been hammered this year amid a tornado of concerns, including supply chain disruptions, the Russia-Ukraine war, rising material costs and rampant inflation that threatens consumer demand for products like smartphones.

And a consumer watchdog has reported easyJet to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, asking the regulator to investigate the airline's treatment of passengers who have their flights cancelled. Which? said it had heard from passengers who were not told about their legal right to compensation and the chance to be re-routed with other airlines. Some families were left to sleep on the airport floor or buy expensive new flights home after their original plans were cancelled.

SPORT

Tennis - Rafael Nadal will have a scan on an abdominal injury before his Wimbledon semi-final after it almost forced him to retire from his last-eight match. The Spaniard, who faces Nick Kyrgios on Friday, said he ignored calls from his dad and sister to quit as he struggled with his movement against Taylor Fritz. Nadal had a medical timeout and somehow came from behind to win in five sets. He also had strapping on his abdomen during his previous match but said the pain had got worse during Wednesday's victory over Fritz.

Football - Manchester United are understood to be willing to listen to offers for Cristiano Ronaldo this summer, following the player requesting to leave the club. United's public message has been that Ronaldo is not for sale following his failure to turn up for pre-season training for four days in a row. He has cited family reasons, an explanation the club accepts. The final decision will lie with Ronaldo, leaving the door open for him to change his mind and stay at Old Trafford. Ronaldo's agent, Jorge Mendes, has spent the past few weeks selling the 'Cristiano effect' to clubs having compiled a dossier of his client's immense sponsorship and social media influence.

Tonight in the Euro 2022 Women's Championship, Norway play Northern Ireland with a 9pm kick-off. Tomorrow, Spain face Finland and Germany meet Denmark.

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