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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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Business

BMW, Daimler to invest 1b euros

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BERLIN: German auto giants BMW and Daimler said Friday they would invest one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in combining and extending their carsharing schemes, in future offering a slew of joint “mobility services”, including for electric cars.
“We are pooling the strength and expertise of 14 successful brands and investing more than one billion euros to establish a new player in the fast-growing market for urban mobility,” Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Mercedes-Benz maker Daimler said in a statement.

 

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Europe

Brexit: 9th MP leaves Labour in a week!

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Hitachi freezes British nuclear project

LONDON: The Labour party contingency of Britain’s parliament lost more blood Friday, with a ninth MP leaving Labour in less than a week, blasting alleged anti-Semitism in the party leadership.
Ian Austin, representing Dudley North in the West Midlands, chose the local paper Express and Star to make his announcement, in a guest op-ed slamming the party as “broken.” Citing the alleged anti-Semitism in the party, Austin said he was “appalled at the offense and distress [leader] Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have caused to Jewish people.”
“I always tell them the truth and I could never ask local people to make Jeremy Corbyn prime minister,” he said. “It is terrible that a culture of extremism, antisemitism, and intolerance is driving out good MPs and decent people who have committed their life to mainstream politics,” he wrote. He said that he had not spoken to the new Independent Group, now made up of eight Labour MPs and three former Conservative MPs.
“The hard left is now in charge of the party, they’re going to get rid of lots of decent mainstream MPs and I just can’t see how it can return to the mainstream party that won elections and changed the country for the better,” Austin said. He added, “I think the Labour party is broken and clearly things have to change but that’s not what today is about, and I’ve not talked to them about that.”
A Labour spokesman said the party “regrets” Austin quitting, adding, “He was elected as a Labour MP and so the democratic thing is to resign his seat and let the people of Dudley decide who should represent them.” Earlier this week, amid the continuing chaos over Brexit, a group of seven MPs resigned from Labour and said they would stay in parliament as independent lawmakers, followed soon thereafter by an eighth. Three Conservative MPs also resigned their party this week to join the Independent Group.

 

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Economy

Months-long slide in German business

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FRANKFURT AM MAIN: Confidence among business leaders in Germany fell for the sixth month in a row in February, a closely-watched survey showed Friday, as global trade struggles cast a pall over Europe’s powerhouse economy.
The Munich-based Ifo institute’s business confidence index slid 0.8 points this month to reach 98.5, its lowest level in four years.
“The German economy is experiencing a downturn,” Ifo president Clemens Fuest said in a statement.
A sub-index measuring companies’ view of the present business situation dipped 1.1 points, to 103.4, while another gauging expectation for the coming months lost 0.5 points, to 93.8.
Looking to different areas of the economy, manufacturing firms had “far more pessimistic” expectations compared with January.
Services, trade and construction indexes also fell – with the building sector losing ground “for the first time in years,” Fuest noted.
Friday’s Ifo release comes one day after an account of the European Central Bank’s January meeting highlighted fierce headwinds in international trade weighing on the 19-nation eurozone.
With its export-oriented manufacturers and massive trade surplus, Germany is one of the countries most exposed to the uncertainty caused by rising protectionism and trade conflicts.
“The threat from the USA of punitive tariffs on our most important export good – cars – is hovering closer than ever,” noted Joerg Zeuner, chief economist at public investment bank KfW.
US President Donald Trump on Monday received a Department of Commerce report that sources said classed European car imports as a national security threat — potentially justifying swingeing new tariffs.
Meanwhile “our important partner Great Britain continues to race towards the Brexit cliff… and the global economy is no longer running smoothly,” Zeuner added.
Such fears have prompted downgrades to the growth outlook by private- and public-sector observers, with Germany’s economy ministry now forecasting just 1.0 percent expansion in 2019, compared with a 1.8 percent prediction last autumn.

 

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