French and Riviera News Friday 19th April 2024

All Pony bikes back on streets of Nice by June - Electric bike-sharing firm Pony says all of its vehicles will be back out on the streets of Nice no later than June, after they were withdrawn last month due to safety concerns. Within just weeks of Pony launching in Nice - one of the replacements for the old Vélo Bleu pushbikes - the operator recalled all 1,000 of its bikes as a precautionary measure after a manufacturing defect was found in one of the bike's batteries. Since then, the firm has been manually checking each bike, one at a time, and putting them back in service, starting with the centre of Nice and gradually expanding to the 11 other municipalities in the Nice metropolitan area where Pony has a licence to operate. The technical hiccup has been an advantage for Pony's only rival, Lime. It, too, launched e-bikes in Nice earlier this year to replace the Vélo Bleu. Lime says almost 10,000 users have registered for its service and more than 25,000 journeys have been made since it launched.

Marseille nurse sentenced for fraud - A nurse in Marseille has been found guilty of defrauding the French health insurance system to the tune of more than €1.5 million. Prosecutors said the 67-year-old wrongly billed 34 health insurance funds across France for more than 80,000 procedures that were never carried out, between 2017 and 2020. She was handed a five-year jail sentence - three of which are suspended. The other two years will be spent under house arrest with an electronic tag. The court also ordered her to repay the fraudulently obtained money and pay a €30,000 fine. She was also banned from ever practising as a nurse again.

Nice school to be renamed - The Paca region says it wants to change the name of a secondary school in the west of Nice, which is named after a controversial French war-time figure. Thierry Maulnier was a newspaper editorialist and collaborator under the German occupation, who had lived and attended school in Nice and whose writings frequently supported fascism. It's now proposed that the secondary school should, instead, be named after two French communist resistance fighters of Armenian origin - Missak and Mélinée Manouchian. The pair had fled the Armenian genocide and settled in Nice. Missak was shot dead by the Nazis in 1944.

Marseille to vote on more CCTV - Marseille city council will vote today on whether to invest €15 million in the setting up of 500 new CCTV cameras around the city. The cameras would be gradually installed in phases until 2029. It would bring the number of public surveillance cameras in Marseille from 1,600 to more than 2,000.

Riviera trains get a refurb - If you're a regular passenger on the rail line between Les Arcs and Ventimiglia, you might have started seeing some new-looking trains on your daily commute. They're actually existing trains that have been completely refurbished on the inside and repainted on the outside. The SNCF says that after 20 years in service, the trains are halfway through their working life and needed a facelift. Each year, eight trains on the Riviera network get a makeover. The refurbished trains include new comfy seats and electrical sockets. Train services on the Riviera are due to be opened up to competition next year, with the arrival of a new operator, Transdev.

Summer jobs fair in Cannes this Saturday - A summer jobs fair in Cannes this weekend aims to match candidates with more than 1,000 seasonal vacancies this summer. Recruiters from the tourism sector - including hotels, restaurants and private beaches - will be on hand. There'll also be sessions on brushing up your CV and mock interviews. The fair is open to any jobseeker aged 17 and over and it's at the Gare Maritime ferry terminal in Cannes this Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Nice pizza-maker among best in world - A pizza-maker in the centre of Nice has been named one of the best in the world. Steeve Bonnet, who's 30, was crowned French pizza champion in 2023. He's now finished 13th out of more than 400 participants at the world championships, which brought together pizza-makers from 50 countries around the world. You'll find him at L'Authentique Pizza restaurant, at Nice Libération.

BUSINESS

Morgan Stanley has pushed back its forecast for the first Bank of England interest rate cut to June, from May, following Wednesday’s uK inflation report. They expect the BoE to cut rates in June - as opposed to May previously - and to deliver 75 basis points of cuts this year, that's three cuts of a quarter of a percentage, in June, August and November. They also argue that March’s inflation report, showing the consumer price index fell to 3.2% from 3.4% in February, doesn’t change “the fundamental picture” that price pressures are subsiding.

Meanwhile, in the UK property sector, London estate agent Foxtons’ has reported a strong start to the year. Sales revenue grew by 17% in the first quarter of 2024, to £9.5m, as the agency took a larger share of the market.

Germany’s central bank is hopeful that Europe’s largest member will avoid falling into recession, after a pick-up in activity at the start of this year. The Bundesbank has predicted that the German economy probably expanded in the first quarter, thanks to an unexpected boost from industry and construction. The Bundesbank had previously predicted that GDP would shrink in the first three months of 2024, which would have put Germany into a technical recession - two quarterly contractions in a row. But the Bundesbank has now declared that Germany’s economic situation has brightened somewhat, meaning there may have been a slight increase in growth in the first quarter.

And budget airline easyJet has narrowed its losses, despite losing revenue from cancelling flights to Israel and Jordan last winter. EasyJet reported that its losses for the six months to the end of March have fallen by over £50m, to between £340m and £360m. The airline says it grew capacity where demand was strongest. It also benefitted from the early timing of Easter this year, which led to more demand for flights in March.

SPORT

Formula One - The Chinese Grand Prix returns to the calendar for the first time since 2019, after a break due to the pandemic, China's handling of the disease and the effects of Covid lockdowns in the country. It also marks the first 'sprint' weekend of the new season, being run to a slightly different format than last year. This season, the new approach is to have qualifying for the 'sprint' event on Friday afternoon. The 'sprint' - a shorter race about one-third the distance of a grand prix - runs on Saturday morning, at 5am French time. This is followed by qualifying for the grand prix on Saturday afternoon before the main race as normal on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton says he will join his old rival Fernando Alonso in racing in Formula 1 well into his 40s. Alonso's new Aston Martin deal will keep him in F1 until at least 2026, past his 45th birthday. Hamilton will be 40 next year when he starts his career with Ferrari, in what is at least a two-year commitment.

Football - FA Cup replays will be scrapped from the first round onwards in the 2024-25 competition. All rounds of the Emirates FA Cup will also be played on weekends, including the fifth round which has been played in midweek for the past five seasons. The changes come as part of a new six-year agreement between the Football Association (FA) and the Premier League. The Premier League has also removed its mid-season break from the calendar. Matches will start in mid-August following a consecutive three-week summer break instead of a shorter spell of rest in the winter, with the decision coming from "expert advice from medical and technical departments".

In the FA Cup semi-finals on Saturday, Manchester City meet Chelsea with a 6.15 kick-off French time, and on Sunday, Manchester United head to Coventry City, with a 4.30pm kick-off French time. Meanwhile, in the Premier League this weekend, on Saturday, Luton Town play Brentford, Burnley are away at Sheffield United and Arsenal travel to Wolverhampton Wanderers. On Sunday, Everton play Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa host Bournemouth, West Ham United are away at Crystal Palace and Fulham play Liverpool.

In local football, Nice play Lorient tonight at 9pm at the Allianz Riviera. Monaco are away at Brest, with a Sunday 5pm kick-off.

WEATHER

It should be a fine and sunny day across the Riviera with some occasional strong gusts of wind, 16 degrees celsius on the Alpes-Maritimes coast, 18 on the Var coast and up to 21 inland in the Var. Clear skies tonight, staying windy, with temperatures going down to 14 degrees celsius on the coast and 12 inland. The outlook for the weekend: Saturday will be fine and sunny, still with those strong gusts of wind in the Var and the chance of the occasional thunderstorm inland in the Alpes-Maritimes along the Italian border. Temperatures tomorrow reaching 17 degrees celsius in the Alpes-Maritimes and 19 in the Var. Sunday should be mostly sunny, some light cloud after lunch, light winds and up to 17 degrees celsius.

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