Cabbies go cashless

July 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

london cab 300x225 Cabbies go cashlessLondon, and it seems that to get around these days, you don’t need any cash.

Well actually you do, to charge up your Oysters and all that, but a London cab driver is trialling Barclay’s Pingit app for the next week.

It allows the fare on the meter to be transferred between bank accounts within 30 seconds.

Mr Cable, who has been a London black cab driver for 23 years, told the Independent: “I am always up for trying new technology to help make mine and my passengers’ lives easier.”

He’s Mr Future basically, as he was also the first cabbie to accept chip and pin cards in 2004.

“It means I have more time on the road to earn money – rather than stopping off at the bank to pay in my earnings or pulling up at ATMs for passengers with the risk of getting a hefty parking fine,” he added.

Of course, you can still probably get away with doing a runner if you’re that way inclined, but we’d never advise readers to do anything like that.

A man named Darren Foulds, the director of Barclays Mobile and Pingit, said: “We are always keen to support new ways to make people’s lives easier. This trial really demonstrates the huge potential for mobile payments as they gain more widespread use.”

The app will use QR codes (SEE? THERE IS A USE FOR THEM AFTER ALL) and can access any bank account when cash is needed for their fare.

Uber, meanwhile…

Britain is getting a SPACEPORT

July 14th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

space 300x168 Britain is getting a SPACEPORT Apparently ministers are drawing up plans to create a Space Heathrow somewhere in the UK.

They’ll unveil the 8 possible locations for the UK’s first spaceport at the Farnborough Air show tomorrow, which are thought to include sites in the North of Scotland, Bristol, Norfolk and the Outer Hebrides.

But won’t just be Richard Branson and his rich Virgin Galactic berks who will use the spaceport. It’ll also be for manned space missions and satellites.

Talking of Branson, he’s launching his first Virgin Galactic flight later this year from a spaceport in New Mexico. But he’s already been talking about using Lossiemouth, on the east coast of Scotland, as a possible UK base for Virgin Galactic flights.

So will the spaceport be the same as a regular airport, except the departures lounge will be weightless?

Will we still have take off our shoes and put our toiletries in a clear plastic bag?

And will there be a WH Smiths selling a free Mars Bar and Galaxy with every copy of the Daily Teleport?

school uniform 300x211 A third of parents take children out of school to save money on a holidayIt’s almost the end of term. Unless you are in Scotland in which case that is old news. Some parents may be looking forward to having their offspring around 24-7, others may be experiencing a growing sense of dread. But some parents will have been rubbing their hands with glee as more than a third of parents (36%) take their children out of school during term time. And this risk to their child’s education is all in the name of saving money.

New research by Nationwide Building Society shows that, despite increased attention and new £60 penalties for unauthorised absences, the proportion of parents angling for a cheap getaway has remained largely unchanged since last year’s research, where 37% admitted taking a hooky holiday. Out of those parents who did opt for term-time holidays, almost one in five (19 per cent) further compounded their children’s moral slide by lying about it and telling  the school their child was sick rather than admit they were off on holiday.

However,  given the fact that the premium for a typical holiday in Spain for a family of four has been calculated as amounting to as much as an extra £1,347 during school holidays compared with term-time, £60 seems a fair price to pay for the discount.

The research also showed that:

57% took their kids out of school for holiday at the end of term, compared with 18% who chose the start of term and 17% who went for a mid-term break

72% of parents went for a foreign holiday during time term, which would result in greater savings compared with school holidays

62% of children on term-time holidays were from primary school, but the figure almost halved for older children, with only 32% of secondary pupils being taken out of school for holiday

But while over a third of parents sounds a lot, is this news so surprising? Alternative research by Yorkshire Bank suggested that almost a quarter (24%)  of people base their choice of holiday primarily on price, while a further 27% would book somewhere unusual if it would save them money. The average spend of a summer holiday is estimated at £1,027.72 per person per year.

So would you do it? Is a week’s education worth over a grand to you? Or do you live in Scotland and have already enjoyed a lovely family holiday abroad, cheaper and without a resort full of screaming English children…

Network Rail: Officially late and crap

July 7th, 2014 6 Comments By Ian Wade

train Network Rail: Officially late and crapNetwork Rail has been fined more than £50 million!

The train’s regulator has chalked up the astronomical penalty of £53.1m for causing trains to run late, and now the Treasury plan to plough the money back into the railways to provide faster WiFi on commuter trains.

Because obviously, if your train is running late, you can at least piss about on the internet while you lose your mind.

The Office of Rail Regulation (ORR) has slapped a £53.1m fine on the track operator, the biggest it has yet levied for missing targets.

Almost one in six long-distance trains ran last year, nearly twice as many as permitted by the 92% punctuality target. More than one in 10 commuter trains in London and the south-east ran late, where the target was 93% running on time.

The ORR did praise Network Rail for much of its work in its review of how it spent the last five years’ budget, including its upgrade of the track and work to close unsafe level crossings, the regulator said the company “fell significantly short” in ensuring long-distance trains’ punctuality.

For its part, Network Rail has also pledged to spend an additional £25m to improve the resilience of the south-east commuter network.

The government said some of the fine would go towards improving WiFi, with track side equipment being put in place by Network Rail over the next three to four years to provide a much faster service, which should cost the company around £90m.

iphone charging 300x2251 Don’t take uncharged devices on planes to the US If you’re going to the US or returning back to Europe or the Middle East, make sure you take your charger.

Thanks to TERRORISM INC. and widespread panic, new security measures by the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA), uncharged phones and laptops will not be allowed on board.

The TSA are specifically targeting iPhones and Samsung Galaxies after new information that Al-Qaeda is developing new ways to blow up planes, using smartphones, tablets or laptops. (Never let it be said that Al-Qaeda are a Western world-obsessed one trick pony).

The Nusra Front – not to be confused with the People’s Front of Judea – are also plotting an airliner attack.

So, cue insanity at security. Shoes off, laptop charged, phone charged, anus scanned. (Well, not that – YET). If you can’t turn on your phone or laptop at security, you won’t be allowed to board with it. The TSA are keeping quiet about which airports will be involved in the additional scanning process, but it’s thought that Heathrow is one of them.

Anyway, the advice is, plug in before you fly, and don’t ask why. (‘It’s not something to over-react to or overspeculate about’ say the powers-that-be.) However, you can imagine there’ll be a little bit of over-reaction when there are massive queues and hysteria and everyone misses their flight.

Mobile phones to be less hassle abroad

June 30th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

mobile phone 300x225 Mobile phones to be less hassle abroadOne in six people who own a mobile phone, have admitted that they get shocked when they forget how much it costs to use it.

Many mobile phoners have used their phone on holiday, but have tend to forget the extra that can be run up when a-roaming.

However, that hopefully looks like it is all over as from midnight tonight, the EU’s Roaming Regulation will lower the price caps for data downloads when you are travelling within the European Union.

Although there’s a lack of knowledge about these caps and what they mean.

Which!!! executive director Richard Lloyd said: ”Capping EU mobile roaming charges is welcome news for millions of travellers, especially those who have faced expensive charges for data roaming when their mobile hasn’t even left their suitcase. Consumers travelling within the EU should now be much clearer on the charges they have to pay.”

Which we can all agree is quite a good thing.

The maximum charge for outgoing calls, excluding VAT, will now be 10p per minute, around 3p for outgoing text messages, and 16p for a MB download of data. These caps will only apply to the nations within the EU.

Four in ten people reckon they didn’t know they had a right to challenge their mobile phone provider if they received an excessive bill after using their phone abroad. And a further 48% of people didn’t know that if they have capped their mobile phone usage with their provider, they can refuse to pay the bill for their phone usage above the cap level.

So that’s good to know then, next time you’ve clocked up several grand by accident, you can turn around and shout at your provider.

oyster swipe Cashless London buses    the world’s not your Oyster Looming TFL plans to make London buses cashless have come under fire, after a recent report found that 2,115 passengers were left stranded every day last year because of problems with their Oyster cards.

If your card runs out, gets nicked, or ends up down the back of the telly, London bus drivers are not inclined to joyfully wave your through with a smile. You are walking, mate.

And the damning new figures from the London Assembly Green Party show that the transition from cash to cards probably isn’t going to be seamless.

London buses will no longer accept cash from July 6th. Meanwhile, Boris has tried to calm things down by tweeting that ‘We will be extra understanding if your card has run out.’

AYE RIGHT.

TFL have also introduced ‘One More Journey’, which entitles you to one free trip if your Oyster card has run out. But although critics agree that’s a step in the right direction, they still think there’s a higher chance that people will be stranded.

Darren Johnson AM said: ‘There are over two thousand Oyster Cards a day which are actually reported as stolen, lost or no longer working, but the number of people who suddenly find themselves without a functioning card is likely to be even higher.’

However, TFL say that less than one percent of bus journeys are paid for using cash. Leon Daniels from TFL said:

‘If a passenger’s Oyster card is lost, stolen or in very rare cases not working, they will be able to pay using a contactless payment card or visit our extended Oyster Ticket Stop network to get a replacement. Bus drivers are also being provided with refreshed guidance to deal with vulnerable passengers.’

‘Refreshed guidance.’ ie: don’t kick the old lady who doesn’t even have a bank account – let alone a contactless debit card – off the bus too hard…

french france Strike Un: Flight delays to France thanks to strike

A French person, yesterday

Thinking of flying to France for some nice wine, sunshine and the chance to be the kind of Briton who secretly loves the place after slagging them off all year? Well, here’s something you should know: flights to France could be a pain in the derrière after French air traffic controllers went on strike, forcing their airlines to cancel a load of flights.

Now, it is worth pointing out that this is quite a small tête-à-tête and most flights will be fine, but, it’d be worth you checking out the situation first so you don’t end up getting mucked around in a situation that tends to muck people around at the best of times.

French authorities have noted that there’s going to be a 20% reduction of flights.

Ryanair has said 26 flights to and from France will be cancelled on Tuesday, while EasyJet said around 20% of their services are being cancelled. British Airways have cancelled a handful of flights too.

This doesn’t bode well if you’re thinking of going over to watch the Tour de France and while this is a small strike, there’s always the chance of negotiations breaking down and them lasting even longer. This could be particularly problematic, seeing as 99% of French communications are conducted with shrugging and smoking filterless cigarettes.

A Ryanair spokesman said that all passengers travelling this week should check the status of their journey on their website before setting off for the airport, while EasyJet said: “Despite the fact that this disruption is beyond easyJet’s control, we will do everything possible to minimise the inconvenience to our customers. We will proactively provide advice for our passengers through our website, text messages and flight-tracker tool.”

The strike should be kicking off today. Bon chance.

Which!!! is the best travel company?

June 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

holiday Which!!! is the best travel company? A bad travel company can destroy your holiday and leave you trapped in a one star hotel with Legionnaire’s disease. Whereas a good one will make sure you’re on a sun lounger drinking rum from a coconut before you can say ‘ABTA’.

But which ones are the best?

Which!!! asked 2,852 people to name the UK’s best travel companies, and coming joint first with 93% are Trailfinders and the lesser known Audley Travel, which was praised by consumers for being ‘a class act’ which demonstrated ‘seamless planning.’

And despite having been relegated to the bottom of the table, high street travel behemoths like First Choice (69%) saw some improvement in scores from last year, with Thomson on the up with a 70% rating. Thomas Cook was at the bottom of the table with 61%.

Which!!! editor Richard Headland said: ‘It’s good to see an improvement in the market, particularly among the lower rated companies, in time for summer. However people should do their research as it pays to know which holiday firm will give you the best experience.’

Rum from coconuts, or Legionnaire’s disease. You decide.

Honda and their exploding airbags

June 23rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

old driver car Honda and their exploding airbagsIt’s a total recall! Honda, Mazda and Nissan – the car makers – are recalling millions of their vehicles from all over the planet.

The reason, they may well explode. Or rather, the airbags could possibly explode.

While no accidents have actually been reported as yet, the Takata Corp. airbags have warned that they very much could do at any moment.

Honda Motor Co. recalled 2.03 million vehicles for the airbag problem, including 1.02 million vehicles in North America and nearly 669,000 vehicles in Japan. That came on top of a million vehicles Honda recalled last year for similar Takata airbag palavers.

Nissan Motor Co. recalled 755,000 vehicles globally, while Mazda Motor Corp. recalled nearly 160,000 vehicles. Like Honda, both companies announced recalls last year, but in smaller numbers.

Toyota Motor Corp. announced an airbag recall earlier this month for 2.27 million vehicles. One fire was reported related to the defect, but no one was injured, Toyota said.

Has your airbag exploded unexpectedly? Let us know below and we’ll point and laugh.

Network rail Network Rail posts profits of £1bn but is still always lateThere may be some plastic cups of warm cava being drunk at the Network Rail offices tonight, as it announces a profit of £1bn.

But wait a minute (or perhaps more accurately, an hour and a half at Carlisle) – despite the whopping profit, Network Rail failed miserably to reach their punctuality target, with almost 730,000 trains running late last year.

What’s their excuse this time? Melted tracks? Leaves on the line? The driver’s in the toilet? No, according to CEO Mark Carne, it was because we’re all using the trains! He put their failure down to: ‘congestion as the railway witnessed growth of 5.7 per cent in passenger journeys during the year.’

He also mumbled about winter storms and all that – even though most of the damage to the rail network was covered by insurance.

But he did admit that an increase in commuter numbers, leading to packed carriages and irate angry mobs, posed a ‘challenge’ for the industry.

‘We need to do more to improve the reliability of the railway.’ He conceded. ‘We know we have to do better and we are very determined to address those issues so that we can provide the high quality of service that passengers expect.’

How about ploughing some of those lovely profits back in, then? Er, well, there’s a little problem with that. Network Rail owe a mountain of debt – £30bn in fact – due to massive upgrades to the Victorian infrastructure.

Hmm. Looks like we’re going to be late for work forever.

uber 300x200 Cab drivers cause traffic jams in Uber protest Uber, the app that lets you call a private hire cab using your smartphone, isn’t exactly popular with the licenced cab drivers in the world.

And this week, thousands of taxi drivers all over Europe have been honking their displeasure about it on the streets of London, Berlin, Paris and Madrid, causing traffic jams and generally getting in everyone’s way.

They say that black cabs are being undermined by the service, which in some cities only allows users to call private hire taxis. And lots of already-stretched cabbies are seeing red.

In Madrid, taxi drivers ditched their cabs and marched up and down yelling ‘UBER ILLEGAL!’ while blowing whistles. In Italy, they shouted ‘Illegality Rules Soverign! Shame!’ In London, 5000 taxis idled their engines around Trafalgar Square.

Jose Antonio Benitez, a cabbie in Madrid said: ‘It’s unfair competition. The government says they want a free market, but one that only hurts taxi drivers.’

Uber, which is based in San Francisco, responded by using the protests to offer discounted cabs. (CHEEKY.) They have also derailed the protests somewhat, by rolling out a feature in London that gives the option to hail black cabs, with a small commission fee added on. But more go-slow demonstrations may still be planned in London.

Bloody apps, coming over here and stealing our trade. String ‘em up – it’s the only language they understand.

Virgin and Google sitting in a spaceship

June 13th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Virgin logo 300x257 Virgin and Google sitting in a spaceshipGoogle have thrown some money at Virgin.

The search engine mothra has entered a partnership with Virgin Galactic, and become shareholders to the tune of £17.8 million.

The agreement with Branson’s possible folly, will apparently secure a 1.5% stake in the company for Google, with the venture worth £1.2 billion in total.

It’s thought that Google were up for the idea after a heavy drinking session, believing that it could help boost internet connectivity around the world, with Virgin Galactic spacecrafts carting the search engine firm’s internet-broadcasting satellites into suborbital space.

Virgin Galactic reckons it will be able to offer suborbital spaceflights to space tourists by the end of the year, and has long-term plans in place to provide orbital human spaceflights as well.

Let’s have a look at a test flight:

Naturally, as cameras will no doubt be on hand, Branson has confirmed that he will be on board the first commercial Virgin Galactic flight with his two adult children.

Replacement vehicle charges to be capped

June 12th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

flooded cars 300x128 Replacement vehicle charges to be cappedThe cost of replacement vehicles given to drivers after an accident or act-of-God palavers are to be capped, in order to help lower motor insurance premiums.

Britain’s competition watchdog (not actually a dog, but it would be lol if it actually was) claimed that the charges currently passed on to insurers are costing the consumer £180 million a year.

Other proposals by the Competition and Markets Authority include a ban on the price parity agreements between comparison websites and insurers. These agreements stop insurers from making their products available to consumers elsewhere more cheaply.

Simon Douglas, who is a director of AA Insurance, said: “The CMA’s recommendations could wipe perhaps a further £20 or so off the average premium.”

“There remains considerable scope to reduce costs to a much greater extent by continuing to address the high burden still borne by car insurance customers of fraudulent whiplash claims, which was outside the remit of this inquiry.”

Which is one way of looking at it. However Alasdair Smith, chairman of the CMA private motor insurance investigation group, has chipped in with: “There are over 25 million privately registered cars in the UK and we think these changes will benefit motorists who are currently paying higher premiums as a result of the problems we’ve found. Through the measures we propose to introduce, we will address the problems that stem from those managing the non-fault accident claim having little or no incentive to keep costs down.”

The CMA has suggested that the Financial Conduct Authority looks into the sale of add-on products, as they’re allowing people to be a bit cheeky.

Despite all of this, prices have finally been falling with premiums down 5.6% during the first quarter and 16.6% over 12 months, wiping £105 off the average cost of a comprehensive policy, which now stands at £531 according to the AA.

This is partly due to increased competition among insurers, and stuff like that.

Passport Office in summer meltdown

June 9th, 2014 2 Comments By Lucy Sweet

passport photo2 261x300 Passport Office in summer meltdown It’s summer (sort of), which means digging out your passport, only to find that it’s out of date and the photo is of you aged 20 looking like Neil from the Young Ones. So you dash to complete your application, figure out the forms, and cross your fingers that your passport might just arrive before your holiday.

Well, er, there might be a little problem with that this year. The Passport Office is struggling to cope with demand, and there’s a 500,000 strong backlog of passports that may not be issued on time.

The average time to renew a passport it usually three weeks, but people have been complaining that they have waited twice as long. It’s such a problem that customers are being warned that they may have to pay an extra £55.50 to get it when they need it.

To cope with this year’s demand, a quarter of staff who usually work on detecting passport fraud have been reassigned to process them. But even so, they’re not meeting their targets.

So, what’s the beef, Stew? Well, the passport office is in turmoil and needs entirely restructured, say MPs. Unions say that job cuts have caused the problem. But the Passport office is blaming it on increasing consumer confidence and the improving economy.

No idea who is right, but if you’re going on holiday in three weeks time and you haven’t renewed your passport yet, prepared to empty your pockets.