French and Riviera News Friday 8th September 2023

SNCF train strike could affect Marseille rugby travel - A planned strike by train drivers in Marseille could have an impact on anyone planning to travel to this weekend’s Rugby World Cup fixtures - and potentially have a knock-on effect on rail services on the Riviera. Members of the Force Ouvière Paca rail union have called a strike this weekend to coincide with the start of the tournament. Marseille is one of the host cities. England play Argentina there tomorrow, while on Sunday the city hosts South Africa vs Scotland. This weekend, the union says 95% of its members based in Marseille intend to strike. The union is protesting about staff shortages. 150 train drivers are based at the SNCF's Marseille depot. Force Ouvrière says another 30 are needed to provide the correct level of service. If you're planning to travel this weekend, it's worth checking the SNCF's real-time departure boards at garesetconnexions.sncf beforehand.

Truck blocks westbound A8 motorway - It was a chaotic evening rush hour on the A8 motorway last night after a truck carrying concrete slabs overturned between Nice and Antibes, blocking all three lanes. The accident happened just after 3pm near the westbound exit for Villeneuve Loubet-Plage. Vinci Autoroutes reported up to two-and-a-half hours of traffic jams, as cars could only pass on the hard shoulder. By mid-evening, the truck had still not been removed. The blockage of the A8 caused major traffic jams on other roads as drivers tried to find an alternative route.

Teen killed in Paris police car collision - A 16-year-old boy in Paris has died following a collision between his scooter and a police vehicle, just over two months after a teen's fatal shooting by police sparked a week of riots. The victim was being followed by a police car when he collided with a second police vehicle at an intersection in Elancourt, about 30 kilometres outside Paris. Prosecutors in Versailles have opened investigations both into the teen's alleged refusal to comply and another into involuntary homicide at the wheel. Two police officers were taken into custody and questioned.

Man falls on to Voie Rapide - Part of the Voie Rapide in Nice had to be closed yesterday lunchtime after a man in his 20s fell from a wall on to the carriageway in the Gambetta neighbourhood. The victim fell 15 metres on to the busy road but miraculously only suffered minor injuries. Ten firefighters attended the scene and the man was taken to Pasteur 2 hospital in Nice. The exact circumstances of the incident are not yet clear.

Var road accidents - A pedestrian was airlifted to hospital after being run over on a pedestrian crossing in Sainte-Maxime during yesterday morning's rush hour. The victim is reported to be suffering serious injuries. They were taken by helicopter for emergency treatment in Toulon. And a driver had to be cut free from his car after crashing into a tree in La Motte yesterday morning. The incident happened on the RD47. Seven firefighters were called to the scene. He was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.

Cheap national rail travel from next summer - The French government has announced that the SNCF will next summer launch a bargain monthly pass valid on non-high-speed trains nationwide. The Pass Rail will cost around €49 a month and allow users unlimited travel nationwide on TER and intercity trains. Meanwhile, the SNCF has announced record passenger numbers this summer. The French rail operator has carried 24 million passengers from A to B, up 4% on last year. TGV occupancy rates averaged more than 80%, and four in 10 high-speed trains were fully booked. The Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts were the most popular destinations.

Suspected necklace-snatcher arrested - A suspected serial jewellery thief has been caught by chance in Toulon, after he was stopped by police for a routine identity check. Officers approached the man in a park in the city centre because he wasn't wearing a shirt in a public place. The man was found to be staying in France illegally and was taken to a police station. There, investigators recognised him from CCTV footage, as the suspect in about a dozen cases of snatching necklaces and bracelets from passers-by, crimes which were reported to police in Toulon and La Valette since June.

Strong numbers for Monaco casino - The casino in Monte-Carlo has reported a positive summer for visitor numbers. 139,000 people passed through its doors between June and the end of August, according to figures released by the Monte-Carlo SBM.

Memorial service for Riviera plane crash disaster - A memorial service and wreath-laying will be held on Saturday ahead of the 55th anniversary of the deadliest aviation disaster in the Mediterranean Sea in history. On 11 September 1968, an Air France shuttle from Ajaccio to Nice crashed into the sea near the Cap d'Antibes, killing all 95 people on board. The French government's official report at the time said the crash-landing was due to a fire on board, but this has since been disproved. It's reported that several documents and photographs relating to the crash went missing, including a crucial page from the log book of a French Navy frigate in the area, which had been ripped out.  One theory is that the plane was mistakenly downed by a missile which had been misfired by the French army during a weapon test. Gendarmes began an investigation in 2011 and a formal judicial investigation opened in 2014, led by an investigating magistrate. It's still ongoing - and victims of those killed in the crash are desperate for the truth to be established.

Hunting season begins this weekend - The hunting season in the Alpes-Maritimes gets under way this Sunday at 7am. Almost 7,000 residents in the department hold a hunting licence - with a waiting list of up to six months to pass the test.

Consultation over Vésubie bus changes - Nice public transport operator Lignes d'Azur will launch a public consultation on planned changes to buses heading up to the Vésubie valley. Bus line 90 currently runs up to four return trips per day, but some buses in the summer have been full and passengers have had to be turned away. Lignes d'Azur believes part of the problem is that people use the bus locally to travel from Nice along the Var river - when other bus options exist. It's proposing that the line be reserved for people travelling further, into the Vésubie valley, and that getting off the bus won't be allowed for short trips within the Nice area itself.

Pushchair race this Saturday - Colomars, in the hills above Nice, has an unusual way to celebrate the Christian feast of the nativity of the Virgin Mary. This Saturday, it'll be organising its traditional pushchair race. At 6pm, teams of two will race through the town's streets - one pushing, one sitting in the buggy, who can be either a child or an adult - with compulsory helmets. The Christian feast of Marymas is celebrated this Friday, 8th September.

BUSINESS

China's exports have dropped for a fourth month in a row as the country struggles with weak demand at home and abroad. Exports fell 8.8% in August compared with a year earlier, while imports dropped 7.3%, official figures show. However, those declines were not as bad as expected and an improvement on the previous month. China is facing several post-pandemic challenges, including a property crisis and weak consumer spending. There has been a slump in global demand for Chinese-made goods in the wake of coronavirus and the ongoing trade dispute with the US. It is having a major impact on a key source of growth for the country's economy.

An upcoming auction for seven UK offshore wind projects is reportedly set to be a failure. The results are due to be announced today, but it's claimed that the number of bids will be close to zero. Offshore wind developers have been saying the price set by the government for the electricity they will generate is too low to make projects viable. Several energy firms have already ruled themselves out of the bidding, saying that the government had failed to allow for sharp rises in the cost of steel and labour when setting the electricity price.

And the EU has unveiled a set of laws to curb the power of six big tech companies, including allowing consumers to decide what apps they want on their phone and to delete pre-loaded software such as Google or Apple’s maps applications. The package of laws will also pave the way for more competition in some of the areas most closely guarded by the tech firms, including Apple Wallet and Google Pay. The Digital Markets Act defines a series of obligations that gatekeepers need to comply with, including not engaging in anti-competitive practices.

SPORT

Rugby Union - New Zealand have made several changes to their starting 15 for their opening World Cup match against hosts France at the Stade de France in Paris this evening. Scott Barrett starts in the second row. His brother Jordie Barrett is out with a knee injury and is replaced by Anton Lienert-Brown in the centres. The All Blacks go into the World Cup ranked fourth in the world after South Africa ended their 11-match unbeaten run at Twickenham, with hosts France ranked third. Both New Zealand and France are favoured to progress from Pool A, which also contains Italy, Namibia and Uruguay. Kick off is tonight at 9.15pm.

Meanwhile, Johnny Sexton will play his first game since March after being named in Ireland's team for Saturday's World Cup opener against Romania in Bordeaux. The skipper is in a team which has 10 starters from the Grand Slam clinching win over England in March. That was the veteran fly-half's last competitive game when a groin injury led to his second-half substitution. Sexton missed Ireland's three World Cup warm-up games last month as he was serving a three-match suspension. Ireland go into the World Cup on the back of a 13-Test winning run stretching back to last summer's series victory over the All Blacks.

In other Rugby World Cup action this weekend, on Saturday, Italy face Namibia, Australia meet Georgia and England play Argentina in Marseille.On Sunday, Japan face Chile, South Africa play Scotland - again in Marseille - and Wales meet Fiji.

Football - Players in the top tier of women's football in Spain will strike over pay and conditions. The new Liga F season was due to start this week but instead players will walk out for the first two games. The Spanish Players' Association said the strike was called because a "fair" deal could not be reached. Negotiations began a year ago, when Liga F turned professional.

WEATHER

Sunshine all across the Riviera today with light variable winds and temperatures reaching 29 degrees celsius on the coast and 31 further inland. Clear skies tonight, staying warm, temperatures going down to 19 degrees on the coast and 16 inland. The fine and sunny weather continues all weekend long: 30 degrees on the coast on both Saturday and Sunday, up to 33 further inland in the Var. 

BEACH WEATHER

This afternoon, on the beach in Nice, it'll be fine and sunny, 28 degrees celsius, with light winds. The sea temperature is 24 degrees celsius and the UV index is 7. In Saint-Tropez, it'll be fine and sunny, 29 degrees celsius with a gentle breeze. The water temperature is 23 degrees celsius and the UV index is 7.

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