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France to run driver-less mainline trains within five years

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PARIS: French railway operator SNCF said Wednesday it was planning to introduce prototypes of driverless mainline trains for passengers and freight by 2023, and include them in scheduled services in subsequent years.
“With autonomous trains, all the trains will run in a harmonized way and at the same speed,” SNCF chairman Guillaume Pepy said in a statement. “The train system will become more fluid.”
The operator hopes that the switch will allow it to run more trains on France’s busiest mainlines, and cut energy consumption. Many cities, including Paris, already run driverless metro trains but driverless long-distance travel presents a new set of challenges, Pepy said.
“Railways are an open system, and the unexpected is the rule,” Pepy said. SNCF will be partnering up with rolling stock specialists Alstom and Bombardier who will each be heading up consortia for freight and passenger traffic, respectively.
The shift to driverless trains is to happen in stages, Pierre Izard, who runs SNCF’s rail technologies division, told AFP, “up to the most extreme of automatisation, when there is no human presence onboard”.
automatization autonomous trains “are clearly the future”, but he also said it may take time before passengers accept boarding driverless trains.
Although Australia, China and Japan are already experimenting with driverless trains, France is not coming too late to the game, said Carole Desnost, head of innovation at SNCF.
SNCF said it was talking to German operator Deutsche Bahn about promoting a European standard for driverless trains.

 

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Macron’s popularity at record lows

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PARIS: The popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron has hit its lowest level since the start of his term, according to a major tracker poll published on Sunday, with just 29 percent of respondents satisfied with his leadership.
The poll by research group Ifop and published in the Journal du Dimanche showed an overall fall of five points in September compared with August, reflecting the 40-year-old’s battle with a series of domestic and foreign setbacks.
The results of the widely watched Ifop poll are broadly in line with other surveys that have shown the approval ratings of the centrist falling sharply following a scandal involving a security aide in July.
A separate poll by the Kantar Sofres Onepoint group published on September 17 showed that only 19 percent of French people had a positive view of Macron’s record, while another survey on September 11 showed only 29 percent thought he was a “good president.”  The results reinforce a longer-term trend of French voters turning quickly on their presidents soon after their election — something suffered by Macron’s predecessors Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy.
But many analysts also believe Macron has made a series of political errors, including failing to address the scandals over the summer quickly enough and repeatedly creating negative headlines with harsh or condescending remarks.
His leadership style was again questioned last week when he told an unemployed gardener that he should look for a job in a restaurant or on a building site and implied he was not searching hard enough.
Macron’s biggest challenge remains the economy, however, with his pro-business reforms failing so far to produce a significant fall in unemployment or a major uptick in growth. His government will unveil its draft budget for 2019 on Monday, which is set to see fresh efforts to rein in France’s chronic overspending via cuts to the public sector payroll and caps on pensions.
The survey by Ifop published on Sunday was conducted between September 14-22 on 1,964 people. Macron’s approval rating of 29 percent includes 3.0 percent of people who declared themselves “very satisfied” and 26 percent who said they were “mostly satisfied.”
Hollande had an inferior rating of 23 percent at the same time of his term and Sarkozy had a rating of 34 percent.

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British MP Barrister Imran Hussain visits Kashmir!

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As the Senior Vice-Chair of Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir, a British member of Parliament Barrister Imran Hussain visited Kashmir as part of the APPG’s ongoing inquiry into human rights violations.

There he met the Prime Minister, President, Foreign Minister, Foreign Secretary, Governor and other senior ministers.

He visited the Line of Control, one of the most dangerous places in the world that has severed villages and families, as well as the refugee camps that house thousands of Kashmiri refugees who have fled persecution and violence.

He also met the representatives of a range of NGOs, women’s groups and refugee groups. He said from them he had heard truly chilling and horrific first-hand testimonies of the human rights abuses they have been subjected to at the hands of the Indian Armed Forces.

“It is vital that the plight of the Kashmiris and the human rights violations in the region are not ignored and allowed to continue by the international community, and following this visit I will be continuing to raise, as I have done throughout my time in Parliament, this issue at the highest levels of the UK Government,” maintained Imran Hussain.

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EU tells Facebook ‘patience at limit’ on consumer rules

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BRUSSELS: The EU warned social network Facebook on Thursday to bring “misleading” consumer terms in line with the bloc’s rules by the end of the year or risk financial penalties.
“My patience has reached its limit,” EU Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Vera Jourova said in a statement. “It is now time for action and no more promises.”
Jourova said she would call on consumer protection authorities across the 28-country bloc, which requested the changes last year, to act swiftly and sanction the company if Facebook failed to comply.
“While Facebook assured me to finally adapt any remaining misleading terms of services by December, this has been ongoing for too long,” she said.
The commission said that proposals made by the Mark Zuckerberg-led company were “very limited”, even after the company changed its conditions in April.
These new terms of services “contain a misleading presentation of the main characteristics of Facebook’s services”, the Commission said.
The commission meanwhile said that rent-a-room giant Airbnb has made the necessary changes to its consumer terms after also being under fire in Brussels.
The bloc’s executive arm has been at the forefront of a regulatory crackdown on US tech giants, having also slammed Google with huge anti-trust fines.
The commission has been cracking down on what it sees as risks for European consumers using the services of US internet giants like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Uber, and others.
Facebook also came under the microscope after this year’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in which the company admitted that up to 87 million users may have had their data hijacked.

 

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