They’ve promised to invest around £140 million in the route over the next eight years, and will cough up £3.3 billion to the government for the contract.
The London to Edinburgh franchise has been publicly run since 2009.
That RMT union called the return of the franchise to the private sector “a national disgrace”, which suggests they’re not that happy.
The other bidders in the running included FirstGroup and a venture involving Eurostar and Keolis.
The Stagecoach and Virgin consortium, named Inter City Railways, said plans included 23 new services from London, and 3,100 extra seats for the morning peak time by 2020. It will also be rebranded Virgin Trains East Coast.
Martin Griffiths, chief executive of Stagecoach Group, said: “Passengers using the East Coast mainline will benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds of infrastructure investment and service improvements over the next decade. Together with Virgin, our innovative plans will give customers new services, faster and more frequent trains, and easier, more personalised journeys.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “This is a fantastic deal for passengers and for staff on this vital route. It gives passengers more seats, more services and new trains. We are putting passengers at the heart of the service. I believe Stagecoach and Virgin will not only deliver for customers but also for the British taxpayer.”
However some people aren’t happy. Take RMT general secretary, he said the contract was “an act of utter betrayal”.
“The government has confirmed that it is bulldozing ahead with the re-privatisation of the East Coast Main Line despite all the figures showing that the current public sector operator is handing over a billion pounds back to the British people while delivering huge improvements in service and customer satisfaction.”
The government reckons it always intended to return the route to the private sector, but transport unions have been pushing for the franchise to remain in public ownership.
If you have a savings account with Lloyds Bank, Halifax or Bank of Scotland, chances are you will shortly be receiving a letter informing you that your account is being scrapped and your cash will be moved into a single variable ISA, web saver or instant-access account paying 0.25% early in the New Year.
This is, of course, all in the name of simplification, with Lloyds Banking Group saying: “We are commencing a simplification of our savings accounts. Providing a simpler range of accounts for our customers means that they can make the most of their savings in a simple, clear and easy way.”
Sounds nice and friendly doesn’t it? However, while two thirds of customers will reportedly get an improved rate as a result of this ‘simplification’, some customers will see their savings rate drop from 0.95%. And if losing 0.7% interest a year is bad, how much worse is it that 67% of people saving with the Lloyds Banking Group are currently getting a rate lower than 0.25%?
Customers will be given two months’ notice of the changes and offered the chance to swap accounts before they are automatically switched. However, Which!!! are recommending that affected customers use this forced change as a swift kick up the bank account, and that they start looking around to see what better rates might be available.
A quick search of moneyfacts.co.uk, for example, which is just one of a number of comparison sites, shows that, even for instant access savings accounts without a bonus rate, you could easily better the 0.25% rate by five or six times. with 1.25% accounts ten a penny on the market. If you’re looking at variable rate Cash ISAs, you can get 1.5% even with National Savings, and the top rates could be paying out over 1.8% tax free. That’s pretty simple eh Lloyds?
Over at Tesco, they’ve got a wilful disregard for the state of your teeth with some potentially orgasmic spreads that are made from biscuits.
We told you about the mighty Biscoff, which is basically crack in a jar that will give you diabetes just by looking at it, and now Tesco are getting in on the action too.
However, this time, there’s a vote going on.
Tesco say: “We asked The Orchard at Tesco members to submit their suggestions for a new biscuit inspired spread. After much umming and ahhing, we’ve shortlisted four tasty spreads: Jaffa Orange, Millionaire Shortbread, Jammy Ring Swirl and Chocolate Digestive.”
“It’s now up to you to pick the winner. Which spread do you think takes the biscuit?”
You can vote over at their Facebook page. We’re just disappointed that no-one suggested a Tunnock’s Tea Cake spread. We’ll just have to go back to squashing 6 of them onto our toast with a spoon while we cry at Judge Judy repeats.
No, this is not a euphemism – who has the dirtiest chicken?
Well, turns out that it is Asda. Their chicken has the highest proportion of chickens contaminated with unpleasant bacteria that causes food poisoning, out of all the supermarkets. And that’s according to the Food Standards Agency.
The other supermarkets shouldn’t start crowing about it though because the FSA found, in a rather damning report, that 70% of chickens sold at supermarkets contained unacceptably high levels of campylobacteria.
Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said: “Wherever you buy chicken from you are at risk from this nasty bug.”
He added that supermarkets aren’t doing enough to protect chicken munchers and that tens of thousands of people are being made ill by them. So no-one comes out of this particularly well, with only Tesco managing to have overall contamination levels lower than the industry average.
Wearne continued: “What I would do is make sure I cook it properly. These results show that the food industry, especially retailers, need to do more to reduce the amount of campylobacter on fresh chickens.”
So, if you like, you can now look at a table of dirty chickens and see who is best and who is going to make you able to poo through a lace curtain.
Industry body Energy UK believe customers could have been overcharged by as much as 25p for each top-up. According to them, around 1.5 million meters haven’t been working correctly for as long as seven years, as the meters were not properly calibrated to measure the cost of the gas being used.
In the worst cases, some customers may have been rinsed for as much as £110 extra.
“We apologise unreservedly to customers,” said Lawrence Slade, the chief operating officer of Energy UK. ”We have acted quickly, and we want those affected to get their money back as soon as possible,” he told the BBC.
Gas customers will be refunded by their energy dealers, and their cards will be updated when they next need a top-up. British Gas, have already said more than 700,000 of its customers may have been overcharged.
Regulator Ofgem has called for a timetable for refunds and repairs, and it is thought that refunds will go out before Christmas.
“That overcharging has been going on for seven years shows the second-class service prepayment customers get,” said Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice chief executive, adding: ”Prepayment meter customers are already paying higher charges than direct debit customers, so this is adding insult to injury.”
If you work in an office with an internet connection, then you don’t need to miss out.
That means, you don’t have to use up your holidays, throw a sickie and get paid while dossing about on the computer. If the company you work for have it in your contract that they can snoop on your internet history, then let’s be clear on this – you do it at your own risk and Bitterwallet will show zero sympathy or compensation if you get sacked or anything else.
Okay? Good. Let’s have a look at some of the things you can do to buy a load of stuff while sat at your desk.
KILL YOUR BOSS
If you want to get away with shopping, kill your boss. Also, kill any snitches too. If killing seems a bit much, then simply maim them.
Use an incognito window while shopping at your desk without your boss cottoning on. This method of browsing automatically deletes cookies, browsing history and any other data from your hard drive. Sadly, it isn’t a feature on all browsers, but if you have Chrome, Safari, IE, Firefox or Opera, you’ll be fine. All you need to do is press these buttons, if you’re not willing to execute your boss.
Chrome: CTRL+SHIFT+N (or, if you’re on a Mac: SHIFT+COMMAND+N )
Safari: Click the gear icon in the upper right hand corner and hit ‘Private Browsing’
Opera: CTRL+SHIFT+N for Windows; on a Mac press SHIFT+COMMAND+N
Internet Explorer: CTRL+SHIFT+P
Firefox: CTRL+SHIFT+P for Windows; on a Mac press SHIFT+COMMAND+P
To toggle quickly between tabs while keeping an eye out for people who might grass you up, use keyboard shortcut CTRL+TAB and you can flick between windows without anyone noticing. Or, if you maim your boss or murder them, toggling is completely needless.
THE UPSET STOMACH
Pretend you’ve got the squits. That way, you can regularly sneak off to the toilets and check out all the deals on your mobile. All the app stores have farting sound effects apps you can get, for added authenticity. Or you could just stick an axe through your boss’s spinal column.
THE MAN BEHIND THE MASK
Take a screengrab of your work. That way, you can have a full screen image of what you’re supposed to be doing when people check out what you’re doing. It is like creating a mask for your computer. Or, if you’re on Chrome, you can download the ‘Boss Button’ extension, which hides your screen’s activity while your gaffer is snooping around. Or, if you like, you could throw you boss face-first into a wood chipper. Up to you.
Even though the Royal Mail said that they were looking at doing a Sunday service, they’re now saying that it is financially impossible for them to fulfil their legal obligation to deliver mail across the whole country, six days a week.
The say that competition from companies like Whistl (that’s TNT to you) is hitting them so hard that they won’t be able to provide the universal service. The uniform tariff is what they’re blaming, which means that prices are going to be changed. That inevitably means a more expensive service for us.
While talking to a parliamentary investigation into competition in the delivery sector, Royal Mail Chief Exec Moya Greene said: ”If you allow cherry picking in the urban areas you undermine the economics. It siphons off very quickly a lot of revenue – more revenue than can be offset by even very vigorous efficiency measures and it makes the universal service unfinanceable and uneconomic.”
Whistl CEO Nick Wells, who just happened to be sitting beside Greene, said: ”As a start-up business we cannot cover every household in the UK. We are going to dense urban areas… it’s the only way you can develop effective end-to-end competition.”
It’s no joke. Royal Mail have previously said that Whistl’s expansion plans could cost them more than £200 million in revenues by 2017. The Royal Mail want Ofcom to hurry themselves up and bring forward a review planned to take place next year which will look at the impact of competition on the universal service, because they’re worried that their rivals will be bedded-in, in the profitable areas, before an inquiry has taken place.
Ofcom said, basically, ‘we’ll think about it’.
Here at Bitterwallet, we’re always banging on about sticking up for consumers, but a shop assistant in Dublin has gone far and beyond the call of duty in sticking up for his customers in Spar. Henceforth he shall be known as SparGuy and imagined in lycra and a cape.
While everyone is both entitled to hold their own opinions, and dress how they like, when one customer expressed his homophobic attitude towards a ‘flamboyantly dressed’ fellow customer in the queue, SparGuy did not quietly ignore the incident as most of us might have done, he decided to stick up for the person who was rudely insulted while simply doing his shopping.
Mr Insult Pants, who was in the queue with a lady friend, reportedly smirked “look at the faggot in the shorts” before laughing with his companion, while just inches in front of said shorts-sporting customer. SparGuy came to the rescue, however, and flat refused to serve the antisocial customer who felt entitled to insult other people just because he wanted to.
Of course, there are no laws to prevent people insulting other people, and we all know a few who could do with a good slanging match, but in Spar, SparGuy is King, and Spar rules allow all shoppers to shop insult-free as far as possible. And to pre-empt ‘whatever happened to freedom of speech?’ thoughts, remember: you are free to say as you please, but not free from the consequences of saying them. That’s called ‘House Rules’ that.
Anyway, after some discussion, the insulting customers left without their purchases, and the insultee told his tale on social media, with Twitter commenters roundly lauding SparGuy’s actions. Spar were also impressed by their employee, commenting “We believe in respect for all people and therefore we’re very proud of #SparGuy.” There are no faggots in Spar. Not even Mr Brains’.
But Spar won’t be out of pocket, in case you were wondering about the lost sales to the barred customers, as Twitter users have claimed deliberate patronage of the Dublin store to show their appreciation for SparGuy’s stance on homophobia.
Or perhaps it’s just a stance on being a decent human being to other human beings.
And in the spirit of human concern, we also join some Twitter users in recommending the man saved by SparGuy think harder about his choice of clothes in future- not for sartorial reasons, but just to ensure he doesn’t freeze to death wearing shorts at the cold end of November…
Lenovo have hit upon a novel way of promoting their wares.
The company have enlisted comedy lot Upright Citizens Brigade to make a video to promote Lenovo Yoga 3 laptop where they mess with people’s heads.
It’s being termed as ‘prankvertising’ which is possibly the worst word ever and should be helicoptered out to the middle of the sea and dropped like toxic waste.
The stunt involves UCB members posing as employees of Lenovo and touting the hinged hybrid computer to shoppers passing by a laptop-test-drive kiosk at Pennsylvania’s Plymouth Meeting Mall. The stooge employee tells shoppers of the laptop that transforms into a tablet: “What makes this laptop special, among many things, is that it bends. Try and do that with a Mac.”
So obviously he picks up a Mac and snaps it. Hahaha. Before handing the broken laptop to the poor customer and runs away. Obviously the reaction shots are what makes the ‘prankvertisment’
Once the prank is revealed, everyone’s all good and smashing, though we don’t know whether they come back to buy a Lenovo Yoga.
According to Bob Cordell, digital marketing manager for Lenovo: “We definitely recognize people will [view] this in different ways, just as we recognize there are passionate supporters of other people’s products,”
“But we hope to do this in a way that we’re upfront about it. We’re not trying to pull a fast one.”
As you may recall, Thomas Cook were a fixture in our Deathwatches, but Green managed to turn things around when she took the wheel two years ago. Back then, it was worth less than £150m and now, it is worth around £2bn.
However, her sudden exit has made everyone jumpy and shares in the company have fallen by 20%.
In a statement announcing her leaving Thomas Cook, Green said: “I always said that I would move on to another company with fresh challenges once my work was complete. That time is now.”
Now, compare that to last week, when at a conference, when she implied that she’d be there for a while yet: “You can’t do a transformation on this sort of scale in a year or two years. I usually say it’s about six years. We go to the City next week with our second year of results and to show if and how the company has become fitter and better and we’re absolutely not done.”
So what’s going on? Does Green know something about the company and we’ll have to stick Thomas Cook back in Deathwatch? Or was she pushed? Most importantly, can we have a load of cheap holidays out of this while Thomas Cook tries to woo us back into their arms in a bid to impress the stock markets?
We don’t care if Green left because they were doing ritual slaughter in the boardroom if it means we can get a holiday in a sunny coastal region on the cheap.
The idea is to broadcast super WiFi throughout the land, which will mean you’ll be able to get an internet connection literally anywhere. The new WiFi would travel through walls far more effectively than current systems and has a range 100 times greater than current routers.
According to researchers at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the fast connections could be made available to the public for free.
The WiFi would use up the white space between TV channels, and offers speeds similar to 4G
It all boils down to the government allowing people to use it, rather than sell it off to telecoms companies that they may have interests in.
Arnd Weber of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology said: “Implementation of our approach would have far-reaching consequences. Individuals, institutions, and companies would be far less dependent on expensive mobile communications networks in conducting their digital communication. This would also be of great economic benefit.”
The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology hope that governments can discuss the issue at next year’s World Radiocommunication Conference. Which sounds like quite the party.
Every Christmas, Aldi start annoying all their competitors by selling fancy booze for knock-down prices and, this year, they’re wooing the middle classes by taking on Selfridges and the like, by flogging vintage wine for £18.99.
Among their booze offerings, they’re selling something referred to as ‘the king of wines’, which is the six-rated Chateau Pajzos Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos. No. Us neither. We’re assured that it is rare and raved about and a dessert wine from Hungary which won gold from the International Wine Challenge (our invitation to that was lost in the post, clearly).
Aldi have been saying that this wine retails at £76 per bottle and they’re selling it for £18.99. Having a browse online, Selfridges sell the 5 Puttonyos Tokaji for £35.99, which is somewhat inferior to the one being sold by the German supermarket.
If dessert wine isn’t your thing, Aldi are selling Ducastaing 1973 Armagnac for £24.99 and a Glen Marnoch 18 Year Old Single Malt Whisky for £29.99. Considerably cheaper than most other places selling it.
They also have Chevalier XO Cognac for £29.99, Insuperable Solera Gran Reserva Brandy De Jerez for £15.99 and Maynard’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port (bronze medal winner at the International Wine Challenge) for £9.99.
Aldi are so pleased with their prices that they’ve made a little chart for you to read.