SNCF to phase out paper tickets

Digitalisation is the mot du jour at the moment, and even France’s national rail service, the SNCF, is getting on board, with a plan to retire a vast number of their ubiquitous yellow ticketing machines.

The days of the hole punched or stamped train ticket are coming to end.

Last week, an SNCF spokesperson spoke to BFMTV about the group’s plans to, by the end of 2023, decommission at least 3,000 ticketing machines, citing the maintenance burdens and associated costs of the aging boxes. Couple that with a significant drop in the purchase of paper tickets and the days of the old-fashioned kiosks are now numbered.

“More than 99% of TGV and Intercité train tickets are now digital. On the TER (regional train services), only 4% of tickets still need to be stamped,” SNCF told the channel.

There will be a removal of 2,468 machines at TER stations and 725 for TGV and Intercité trains. In addition, the rail company will start the phase out of paper tickets altogether.

This does not mean paper tickets are not welcome, however. The new scheme only affects passengers with tickets that need to be stamped. Those who purchase digital tickets and wish to print them out and use them will be able to do so. For the remaining few customers who still want to buy the paper tickets and those who do not have access to e-tickets, these passengers will still be able to continue do as they always have, though they will now have to present their tickets to the conductor for validation when entering the train.

The company’s new policy is in line with France’s overall shift to more ecological ways of doing business. They are not alone in making this kind of move. The Paris Metro began their move to digital in October 2022, with the end of the sale of 10-ticket booklets.

SNCF will be informing the public of the changes by putting informational posters on the kiosks, starting this month, to try and eliminate as much confusion as possible.

 

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Photo by Monaco Life

CMB renews Grimaldi Forum sponsorship, paving way for ‘Monet in Full Light’ exhibition

CMB Monaco has renewed for the 19th year as principal sponsor of the Grimaldi Forum, guaranteeing another 12 months of world-class cultural events including the highly anticipated summer exhibition and a new Social Responsibility pilot project.

The sponsorship agreement was signed during a special ceremony on Tuesday 10th January by CMB Monaco Chairman Etienne Franzi and CEO Francesco Grosoli, together with Grimaldi Forum Chairman Henri Fissore and Managing Director Sylvie Biancheri. The agreement covers the Grimaldi Forum’s cultural program in the Principality as well as all its business tourism activities, and marks the 19thpartnership between the two entities.

“This commitment to the Grimaldi Forum, which dates back to 2005, symbolises the confidence we have in this company and our desire to promote culture in the Principality and beyond,” said Etienne Franzi.

Primarily, the sponsorship allows for the Grimaldi Forum’s major summer exhibition, which this year is titled ‘Monet in Full Light’ (Monet en Pleine Lumière), marking the 140th anniversary of Claude Monet’s first stopover in Monaco and the Riviera. It will feature works of the local landscape, some from private collections never before seen by the public.

CMB Monaco and the Grimaldi Forum have also joined forces to promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) values, announcing the launch of a joint pilot project for 2023 for the benefit of the association Les Enfants de Frankie. Led by CMB Monaco and Les Enfants de Frankie, groups of underprivileged children will be invited this summer to discover the Grimaldi Forum’s major exhibition through guided tours and a special welcome.

In its commitment to CSR, CMB Monaco follows a program called ToDEI, which encourages diversity, equity and inclusion, and fights against discrimination in remuneration and career development. Recently certified by the global quality control body SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance), CMB Monaco, which has 51% female employees, has obtained the Fair On Pay certificate, which distinguishes the private bank as a fair employer and underlines its sustainable commitment to equal pay. As Francesco Grosoli explained, “the banking industry has two main elements: technological capital on the one hand, but also and above all human capital”.

Galette des Rois at the Grimaldi Forum, photo by Monaco Life

Following the official signing, the Grimaldi Forum hosted its annual Galette des Rois celebration in the entrance hall, the first time in two-years, welcoming partners and guests to enjoy this traditional dessert with champagne. It was accompanied by a presentation on the GF’s schedule of events for the year ahead, its 2023 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals and a presentation on the future expansion of the Grimaldi Forum, which guests could experience for the first time in 3D.

The Grimaldi Forum’s CSR goals for 2023 include the achievement of further ISO certifications, to realise its pilot project for the eco-design of major summer exhibitions, to encourage remote work one day a week for employees whose functions allow it, and encourage one day of work time per employee who wishes to support a local association that benefits the community.

Monaco Life Editor in Chief Cassandra Tanti trying the 3D tour of the Grimaldi Forum extension, photo credit JC Vinaj for the Grimaldi Forum

The 3D tour of the new Grimaldi Forum extensions was well received by guests. The technology allows a person to position themselves within the new exhibition and outdoor spaces, which will increase the size of Monaco’s main exhibition centre by 50% and allow the Grimaldi Forum to cater to a much larger audience, host a greater number of events simultaneously, and facilitate more original and creative events.

The 3D technology was first presented at the recent IBTM business travel expo in Barcelona. It is now being taken to various cities across the globe to show potential exhibitors what the Grimaldi Forum has to offer, without having to step a foot in the Principality.

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Photo above: CMB Monaco CEO Francesco Grosoli and Chairman Etienne Franzi, with Grimaldi Forum Chairman Henri Fissore and Managing Director Sylvie Biancheri. Credit: JC Vinaj for the Grimaldi Forum

 

 

Artcurial’s winter events bring sparkle to the season

Prestige auction house Artcurial will be hosting four events in January, featuring watches, jewellery and high-end handbags from the likes of Hermès, Patek Philippe and Bulgari.

A bit of retail therapy is just the thing for the winter blues, and with the upcoming Artcurial auctions at the Hôtel Hermitage, even the pickiest of consumers are bound to find temptations that can’t be resisted.

On 16th and 17th January, fine jewellery goes under the gavel. Auctioneer Stephane Aubert will be offering up a selection of beautiful pieces, including a 3-carat Art Deco ruby ring set in platinum with diamonds valued at €45,000 to €55,000, a pair of stunning emerald and diamond drop earrings estimated to go for between €25,000 and €35,000, and an Egyptian-inspired diamond, sapphire, antique coin and 18-carat white gold necklace by Bulgari with an expected sale price of €25,000 to €30,000.

On 16th and 18th, elegant timepieces for both men and women will also be up for grabs. The 16th is all about the boys, with an 18-carat rose gold Patek Philippe from the early 1960s that is anticipated to go for between €40,000 and €80,000, and a 1984 Rolex Cosmograph with a 18-carat yellow gold manual winding chronograph and yellow gold bracelet estimated at €100,000 to €150,000. For the ladies, a white gold diamond and black sapphire Rolex GMT Master II with a black face can be had for an anticipated sale price of €80,000 to €120,000, and a complete set of 14 Rolex Oyster Perpetual steel bracelet watches with different coloured faces estimated to be sold for €250,000 to €350,000.

Hermès is in the spotlight on 17th January when the luxury handbag sale is on. A huge selection of hard-to-find items will be on the block – mostly Birkin and Kelly bags – but also a smattering of Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. A spare €28,000 to €38,000 will get a gorgeous indigo blue alligator skin Birkin 35 with silver hardware or a crocodile Birkin 30 in Brighton Blue, which is estimated at €30,000 to €40,000.

For full listing of all items as well as auction and exhibition times, click here.

 

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Photo source: Artcurial

An end to daily post in France?

As use of the national postal service falls, La Poste has embarked on an experimental new system that will reduce the rounds posties make in select areas. Is your town among them?  

A total of 68 locations in France are likely to be part of La Poste’s trial scheme, which is set to begin in March, with six places affected in the greater Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region and two in Alpes-Maritimes: Nice’s Saint-Barthélémy neighbourhood and Roquefort-les-Pins.  

FranceInfo has reported that La Poste is working on the abolition of daily rounds in an effort to reorganise mail distribution overall. This restructuring idea came about in response to a marked drop in the number of envelopes sent by mail. Digital technologies have replaced traditional letter sending greatly, with just seven billion pieces going through the system last year, compared to 18 billion in 2008. The La Poste group anticipates that by 2025, that number will be further reduced to five billion.  

This does not mean postmen and women will not be working regularly, it just means they will have a different way of handling deliveries so as to be “in compliance with the principles of equality, continuity and adaptability by seeking the best economic and social efficiency”. 

Some postal workers have already been trained in the new ways. An example of how it would work is that there would be a Locker A and a Locker B made available to the postman or woman. The first would be delivered one day, the second later in the week.  

The plans have been met with some scepticism, but France is the only country in Europe who still has a six-day mail service. Belgian mail carriers only deliver twice a week and, in the Netherlands and Norway, distribution is five days per week.  

Important mail – medications, press subscriptions, parcels and registered letters, for example – and meal deliveries will still be delivered daily. 

 

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Photo source: Christian Chomiak for Unsplash

France to raise retirement age to 64

Once-in-a-generation reforms to the pensions system have been announced and France has reacted as many could have predicted, with fierce opposition from unions and parties across the political spectrum. 

Changes to France’s convoluted and “byzantine” pensions system have been a long time coming. Reform has been discussed by presidents since at least 1993 and today’s head of state Emmanuel Macron made it clear he was keen to update its laws during his first-term election in 2017.  

Previous attempts to renovate the system by Macron in 2019 and 2020 were thwarted by mass strikes and the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the 45-year-old president confirmed change was firmly on the horizon in his New Year’s speech at the turn of 2023.  

Admitting that the French would need to “work longer”, Macron called for “unity” ahead of the reforms, which were finally revealed by France’s prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, on Tuesday 10th January.   

“We must face reality and find solutions to preserve our social model,” said Borne. “I’m well aware that changing our pensions system raises questions and fears among the French… We offer today a project to balance our pension system, a project that is fair.” 

What will change?

Borne’s reforms include raising the retirement age required to receive a full pension from 62 to 64. This is still among the most modest retirement ages in Europe and the developed world. In Germany and Spain and Italy, people will be in work until 67 by 2030, while in the UK, plans are in place to increase the age to 68. Despite this, four in five French citizens oppose the idea of increasing the retirement age, according to an Odoxa survery.  Public sector workers deemed to have physically or mentally arduous jobs, such as police officers and prison guards, retain their right to retire earlier than other occupations, but will see their retirement age increase in line with the rest of the population.

The total number of years people must work to qualify for a full pension has also upped. From 2027, French citizens born in or after 1973 will need to work for a combined 43 years to benefit. 

The reforms will also herald the end of “special regimes” with diverging retirement ages and benefits for traditionally protected industries, such as the rail network and energy workers. 

The package does, however, provide for an increase of €100 per month for the minimum state pension, bringing it to €1,200.  

What is wrong with the current system?

For decades, various French governments have grappled with the idea of changing the country’s pension system, which currently consists of 42 different state-supported schemes. It is a sensitive topic and the population has become accustomed to what is one of the most generous pensions systems in Europe and possibly the world despite its obvious complications.  

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the French pensions system cost 14% of GDP in 2021, which is more than most other “industrialised” nations.  

In September 2022, a report by the state Pensions Advisory Council (Conseil d’Orientation des Retraites) found that the pensions system produced surpluses in 2021 of €900 million and €3,2 billion in 2022. It did, however, forecast a deficit on average over the next 25 years.  

“Between 2023 and 2027, the pension system’s finances will deteriorate significantly”, reads the report, which went on to predict a gradual return to breaking event by the mid-2030s after a significant dip over the next five years. It pointed out that a deficit of €10 billion to €12 billion per year, as forecast, is not necessarily excessive for a pensions system whose total annual expenditure amounts to around €340 billion.  

“The results of this report do not support the claim that pensions spending is out of control,” the council summarised. 

This has led to experts, unions and some of France’s political parties arguing that the government can find other ways of ensuring the safety and viability of the pensions system, without having to resort to raising the retirement age.  

What is next? 

Now Macron and Borne must get their plans through parliament, where they do not have a majority. There is evidence that they will get support from the right-wing Les Républicains, while those on the hard-left and far-right have already voiced their position: fierce opposition. 

Many of France’s unions have called for mass national strikes on Thursday 19th January.  

 

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Photo source: Facebook

FA Cup highlights: Liverpool forced into replay, Chelsea crash out

The FA Cup third round was light on upsets, but high on drama as Chelsea’s dire season continued and Liverpool were pegged back by Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

In the first round of FA Cup matches that included the Premier League sides, most of the big guns ensured their progression. However, for some, the cup dream met a premature end. Here are the selected FA Cup results:

Manchester City 4-0 Chelsea – After a defeat to Pep Guardiola’s men in the league just days before, Chelsea were looking to bounce back, but instead succumbed to a heavy defeat at the Etihad. Graham Potter’s side are out of the cup, and also languish in mid-table in the Premier League, putting the former Brighton manager under some early pressure.

Oxford United 0-3 Arsenal – It may have taken Mikel Arteta’s men a while to hit their stride, but once they did, they comfortably dispatched a tough Oxford side.

Aston Villa 1-2 Stevenage – There were very few shocks over the weekend, but this was certainly one of them. 1-0 up against League Two side Stevenage, Aston Villa looked to have sealed the victory, but two quickfire goals saw the away side progress, leaving Unai Emery shell-shocked.

Liverpool 2-2 Wolverhampton Wanderers – Liverpool couldn’t overcome Wolves at Anfield and are arguably lucky to come away with a draw, which ensures that the tie will be replayed at Molineux. Wolves had the ball in the back of the net late on, but the goal was disallowed for an offside call, which VAR deemed inconclusive. The player in question had looked onside with the naked eye, but the late winner was ultimately chalked off.

Sheffield Wednesday 2-1 Newcastle United – The high-flying League One side edged the Premier League giants at Hillsborough. The Magpies, however, are in the latter stages of the Carabao Cup, and competing at the summit of the Premier League. Ultimately, Eddie Howe and his team have more pressing priorities.

Manchester United 3-1 Everton – The Red Devils’ renaissance under Erik Ten Hag continued with a comfortable victory over Everton, which was marked by two goals from England international Conor Coady, who scored at both ends. His own goal gave Manchester United the upper hand before on-form Marcus Rashford killed the tie late on.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Portsmouth – Antonio Conte’s side did the minimum as they edged past League One side Portsmouth. Harry Kane got the only goal in a match that will do little to dampen the current grumblings around the club, which pertain to recent results and general dissatisfaction with the negative playing style.

Coventry City 3-4 Wrexham – Far from the most glamourous tie of the round, this did throw up one of the exciting matches. Non-League Wrexham, owned by Hollywood stars Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney since 2020, pulled off a big shock by beating Championship side Coventry in a seven-goal thriller. The minnows will be looking to face a big side in the next round.

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Photo by D J Gunn