traintrack 300x225 Train ticket machines might save you time, but they cost you money…We’ve all done it- looked at the long queue full of idiots who’ve seemingly never caught a train before and decided to buy our train ticket from the helpful ticket machine standing idly by. After all, modern technology is here to improve our lives, right? Unfortunately, that might not necessarily be true. And almost certainly isn’t going to save you money.

An investigation by the Telegraph has found that actually, using a ticket machine could end up costing you hundreds of pounds more than asking at the ticket office- while railway clerks are required by law to offer the cheapest tickets, regardless of which company they work for- ticket machines are under no such obligation and, not only don’t offer the cheapest fares, they also hide cheaper fares where no one will ever find them. And sometimes, it can simply depend on which particular machine you use when there are a choice in larger stations.

For example, if you wanted to travel from Leeds to Birmingham, if you used Northern Rail’s ticket machine, a First-Class Anytime Return to Birmingham is sold at £271. However, if you slid a few feet to the right and used the East Coast trains machine, you could get the same journey using a First-Class Off-peak Return for £145.70. This type of ticket is not available for customers using Northern Rail’s machines, but saves £125.30.

Similarly East Coast machines at King’s Cross offered a ticket from London Euston to Liverpool on a First-Class Anytime Single fare for £229.50 but a Thameslink & Great Northern machine sells a London Midland-only First-Class Anytime Single for £94, saving £135.50.

Other tips and tricks available at the ticket office, but not at machines include split ticketing (where buying three tickets instead of one to cover the journey from Carlisle to Manchester could save passengers up to £50), and group discounts such as a £45.20 saving for four adults travelling London to Dover. And you can always ask a ticket officer about the possibility of ‘stopping short’ a strange quirk in a complicated ticketing system which can mean it is cheaper to buy a ticket for a longer train journey than you intend to travel, and just get off the train early.

Mike Hewitson, head of policy at the rail watchdog Passenger Focus, said travellers wanted information to be given to them in a clear and simple way. “Our research shows us that ticket machines still aren’t particularly user-friendly,” he said. “Passengers should be able to use ticket machines and be confident in what they are offered, without needing to be ‘experts’ in the system.”

Campaign group Railfuture said that passengers were being forced to “jump through hoops” to get a reasonable fare. Spokesperson Bruce Williamson said it was “clearly wrong” that the cheapest fares were sometimes “buried” behind a number of option menus while the more expensive ones were promoted on the main default screens.“Cheaper options have to be readily obvious and easy to find, not hidden from customers,” he stated, firmly.

East Coast said it was not aware that the cheaper London Midland-routed fares were missing from its machines at King’s Cross and said this had now been changed. Northern Rail said it was working with its suppliers to ensure all necessary data were fed into its ticket machines to offer the best value fares to customers.

plane 300x225 Fly on a Tuesday evening if you want cheap air faresWe all want cheaper flights, and there’s nothing more annoying than booking a flight only to find it would have been significantly cheaper if we had only done something slightly differently, or booked slightly earlier/later. Now, new analysis of billions of flights has come up with a magic formula for getting the cheapest airfares- by telling you when to book and when to travel.

According to new global travel statistics from momondo, the most money can be saved by booking flights at least 53 days in advance of  departure, when you can save 29% on flight costs on average. And if you leave it late, the most expensive tickets are sold three days before departure.

But while early booking as a cost-saving tool is not necessarily news, nor unexpected, momondo have also calculated the cheapest day and time to fly by analysing 7.5 billion airfares worldwide.

Apparently, the cheapest departure fares are typically found on a Tuesday and the most expensive on a Friday or Saturday. After all, who wants to fly anywhere on a Tuesday? The time of the day is also important, as the figures showed it is normally cheaper to fly in the evening, between the hours of 6pm and midnight.

Lasse Skole Hansen, momondo’s spokesperson states: “We would always advise travellers to remember these golden rules, to bag the cheapest ticket. In general, it pays to book flights two months in advance. We found these trends consistent across the board, so bargain hunters should consider flying at night and on a Tuesday, if they want to save money on their travels.”

However, we would always recommend using a flight comparison tool to make sure you get the best deal. Sites like skyscanner have been around for ages and allow you to compare flexible dates and similar airports to find the cheapest deals. Kayak is another similar site that allows you to find cheap flights, but then predicts whether it might be better to wait a few days before booking, as the price may fall, or whether you should buy now before the price goes up.

At a time when our ‘extra’ contribution to the EU is all over the news (did he know about it? What’s he going to do about it?), it can’t come as good news that, in terms of State Pension rankings, we are being shafted compared with our European neighbours.

New figures calculated by the International Longevity Centre show that the UK state pension of £113.10 a week is worth just a third of the average salary of someone in work. When comparing the state offering in other European countries with the average wage there, this puts us at a lowly 21st place out of 27 countries, meaning we will come down to earth with a larger bump than our continental friends.

pensions 500x264 Britain has one of the worst state pensions in Europe?Top of the state-provided shop is Greece, where workers get over 90% of the average wage in state pension provision. And they get to live in Greece, which seems a bit unfair. However, Greece has had some economic ‘issues’ shall we say, which can’t be helped by a massive pensions bill, and Greece is joined in the top ten pension spots by Spain, Cyprus, Italy and Portugal, all of whom have been found a bit short recently.

But just to prove it’s not the weather and/or shocking economic forecasts that make the difference on pensions, Austria, Finland and Belgium all also rated above average, while maintaining relatively strong public finances. And rubbish weather.

Helen Creighton, of the International Longevity Centre, said: “The Government aspires for the UK to be the best place in the world to grow old. Whilst the UK is by no means the worst place in Europe to grow old, we’ve got a lot to do to top the European league.”

However, before any tall horses are mounted, note that the data used was based on an OECD study in 2012 and does not take into account reforms that will set the state pension in Britain at a “flat-rate” £155 a week in 2016. Also, it is worth remembering that the average salaries in different countries will vary, as will the cost of living, meaning those pensioners living it up in the Southern Mediterranean might not actually feel so much better off.

Who are we kidding?

Futurewatch: Windowless planes

October 28th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Windowless planes could soon be a thing if a UK developer gets their way.

The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), has unveiled a video showing the technology, which has the screens replicating what is outside the plane and showing places and points of interest such as other aircraft and the International Space Station in real-time.

The giant, flexible OLED screens will show a real time view of the places you’re flying over, but might get a bit oppressive what with the whole ‘no natural light’ drawback.

However they can be powered down for a kip on long haul flights or show other content like in-flight movies and commercials… which would be a bit like flying in a giant airborne tube of adverts.

Here’s a video about it:

Apparently, the environment – something planes are keen fans of – is the overall winner. Windows in planes actually require the fuselage to be strengthened, and without them planes would be lighter and consume less fuel.

The CPI thinks OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes) could be harnessed to make the screens, and that this technology will be all over the shop within the next ten years.

Dr Helliwell of the CPI said.”What would be great would be to make devices based on OLEDs that are flexible. We can make transistors that are flexible but if we can make OLEDs that are flexible, that gives us a lot of potential in the market because we can print OLEDs on to packaging, we can create flexible displays,”

“We are talking about [the idea] now because it matches the kind of development timelines that they have in the aerospace industry.

“So you could have a display next to a seat if you wanted it; you could have a blank area next to a seat if you wanted it; you would have complete flexibility as to where you put [the panel screens]. You could put screens on the back of the seats in the middle and link them to the same cameras.”

Fancy that! Keep an eye on Ryanair with this though. They might not give natural light panels, but windowless planes is something you can see them going for.

The best and worst UK hotels revealed!

October 27th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

hotel 300x300 The best and worst UK hotels revealed!A survey by Which!!! to find out Britain’s best hotel chain has revealed Sofitel as the winner. The upmarket version of Novotel has rooms at £144 a night and only has three branches in the UK.

The runner-up Premier Inn, offers 650 hotels in the UK, and is more the hotel of choice for those on a smaller budget.

Eligible hotel firms were judged in nine categories, including cleanliness, customer service, food, and value for money. The rest of the Top five were Warner Leisure Hotels, Hampton by Hilton and Q Hotels.

However at the other end of the chart lurk Travelodge, Britannia Hotels and Old English Inns/Hotels. Shall we have a look at the chart in full?

Yes, let’s:

Name                                    Average Price    Customer score

Sofitel                                     £144                       83%
Premier Inn                          £61                         82%
Warner Leisure Hotels    £128                       80%
Hampton by Hilton           £80                         78%
Q Hotels                                £102                        78%
Marriott Hotels                  £110                        73%
DoubleTree by Hilton      £112                         72%
Holiday Inn Express         £72                          72%
MacDonald Hotels            £124                        72%
Novotel Hotels                    £97                          72%
Radisson Blu                       £111                         72%
Holiday Inn                         £88                          71%
Ibis                                           £63                         71%
Crowne Plaza Hotels        £107                       70%
Ramada                                  £75                         69%
Best Western                       £92                         67%
Hilton Hotels                       £110                       67%
Ibis Budget                            £32                        67%
Copthrone Hotels              £86                         64%
Mercure Hotels                  £93                         64%
The Hotel Collection        £109                       63%
Jurys Inn                               £87                         62%
Days Inn/Hotel                   £55                         61%
Thistle Hotels                      £101                       61%
Travelodge                            £44                        60%
De Vere Hotels                    £115                       58%
Principal Hayley Hotels  £120                       55%
Old English Inns/Hotels £70                         50%
Britannia Hotels                £56                         33%

Poor old Travelodge. But hey, with average price of £44 a room, it’s good for romps with your secret lover or somewhere to be sick in and crash after a work’s party.

London to Washington for £99 is now a thing

October 24th, 2014 4 Comments By Ian Wade

wow logo 300x300 London to Washington for £99 is now a thingFleeing to America has just got a lot more tempting with the launch of £99 air fare from London to Boston and Washington.

The Icelandic airline WOW air have announced the £99 fare, which includes taxes, which is being offered on a selection of one-way journeys next year.

Passengers can travel from London Gatwick to Boston Logan International Airport from 27 March next year and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from 4th June.

But there’s a but.

The flights aren’t direct, as there’s a stopover at Keflavík International Airport, in Iceland’s capital Reykjavik. Although going to Iceland for an hour or two would be amazing, even if it is just sitting about in their airport.

Additionally, there is a booking fee of £8.98 and it costs a further £39 to check in a bag, so customers are realistically looking at a minimum price of £146.98.

The Boston flight will operate five times a week and the Washington DC one four times.

motorway Are toll motorways all theyre cracked up to be?In our small and crowded land of congested motorways, toll roads have often been held up as an example of how things could be done better. Tales of endless, straight, empty and un pot-holed motorways in France and Germany promise a better future for getting places, without getting a headache in the process. But now French environment minister Ségolène Royal has decided that the toll system isn’t working properly, and has proposed that toll company profits be slashed by reduced costs and becoming toll-free at weekend.

Her issue is that, since the French motorways were privatised eight years ago, they have been making a rather fine profit- €20 for every €100 taken according to her figures. Her plan to tax lorries on environmental grounds has fallen through (as we all know what happens when French lorry drivers get narked) so instead she is turning to the people making most money out of French roads. The problem is that there is now no Governmental money to pay for road maintenance and to finance sustainable transport projects. Someone somewhere clearly didn’t think this through when pocketing the motorway privatisation cash.

Ms Royal wants to hit motorway companies with a triple whammy- reducing motorway tolls by 10%, abolishing them at weekends and taking another 10% of the profit from tolls to “finance infrastructure investment funds”.  She claims the hugely-profitable motorways, who have distributed a teeny €15bn of dividends to shareholders in the last eight years since they were privatised, have reneged on contractual commitments to reduce prices as they built the motorways, she said.

The motorway operators’ contracts allow them to pass tax increases on to road users, but presumably don’t require them to keep the roads in the tip top condition we Brits abroad expect- with this latest news causing them to threaten to abandon €3.6bn of planned works Prime Minister Manuel Valls got them to agree to last year.

So does this mean that the fundamental basis of private toll motorways is flawed? In the UK, we have a number of tolls in various places, largely bridges and tunnels, but the most well-known example of a toll motorway is the M6 Toll near Birmingham. The private/public partnership allowed the M6 Toll company to lease the land from the Government and build and run the motorway for 53 years, after which time the lease will revert to the Government.

The toll road’s latest quarterly figures showed an average of 45,473 vehicles travelling on the road per day, with the current cost of a car at £5.50 for the 27 mile stretch.

However, the M6 Toll was set up on the basis of attracting 74,000 vehicles per day, and while recent roadworks have increased traveller numbers, the new ‘active traffic’ system through the two busiest sections of the M6 (which correspond to the M6 Toll) is likely to ease congestion.  The company has been making a loss for years- only because of huge loan repayments to it’s parent company- but it still clearly isn’t proving the cash cow its creators imagined. So are toll roads just a rubbish idea?

From the UK Government’s perspective, it’s been a win all round. They have had a new road built, some easing of traffic while they improve the M6, and they get the land (and the road) back in 2053. The original plan, however, was to extend the toll road up towards Manchester, but unsurprisingly, the M6 Toll company has been less than enthusiastic.

So is it the cost? When the toll road first opened the promotional cost per car was around £2, which drivers seemed to find acceptable, but is £5.50 too much? What would be the maximum amount you would pay to go on a toll road like this? Would it make a difference if it was 10% less (i.e. £5 per car) or free at the weekends as proposed by the French? Or do we just not do private motorways.

Interestingly, even the French think the free tolls at the weekend idea is a daft one, notwithstanding the fact that it would save them money. Twitter users have started using a new hashtag, #gratuitleweekend, with a wave of alternative suggestions ranging from free fruit and vegetables to combat obesity to free cigarettes or even cinema tickets, designer handbags and nightclub entry. Zut alors.

Hate children on flights? Let Etihad help

October 15th, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

With their horrible little teeth and weirdly sharp nails, children are a horrifying force to be reckoned with. And they get those wax-candles of snot on their top lips.

Being stuck on a plane with a load of kids is nightmarish at best.

Well, Etihad think they have a solution for all this – the Air Nanny. That’s right, the airline has decided to provide a service that’s akin to a modern day Mary Poppins. Hopefully, without the musical numbers.

Check this video, complete with terrifying song

This services starts at the boarding gate and continues until the families have safely disembarked, and is completely free of charge on your long haul flight.

Staff will keep children entertained with card tricks, bottles, crafts, face-painting and if all else fails, sneaking brandy in their milk so they fall asleep. Be aware, one of those is a lie. These Flying Nannies will mop up after your child if it explodes everywhere though.

Aubrey Tiedt, Etihad Airways’ Vice President Guest Services, said: “Flying with a young family can be a daunting task, even for the most experienced travellers, and the Flying Nanny role demonstrates our understanding of our guests’ needs and our commitment to making the journey as relaxing and comfortable as possible.”

“This includes helping serve children’s meals early in the flight and offering activities and challenges to help entertain and occupy younger guests.”

EasyJet allow you to check-in with photo

October 14th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

easyjet 300x180 EasyJet allow you to check in with photoEasyJet are allowing passengers to check-in for their flights via the budget airline’s official app, by taking a photograph of their passport.

This means, thanks to an update to the Android and iOS apps, you now don’t need to manually tap-in all your details when registering for a trip.

The idea is that, this new feature makes the check-in process a whole lot quicker, by allowing everyone to sign in with their smartphone up to two hours before their flight at the 110 EasyJet airports.

“Our new mobile passport scanning function will save time for the millions of customers who use the app to input their travel documentation details,” said EasyJet head of digital James Millett. ”It’s another example of innovating to make travel as easy as it is affordable with EasyJet.”

The app is free on the App Store and Google Play.

new tube 300x168 London Underground unveil new fancy futurist trains The new tube trains are here!

Designs for the new-look London Underground trains has been unveiled and it’s bad news for the drivers, as they’ve been written out. No wonder they’re going on strike.

Yep, the new trains are driverless and will run on the Piccadilly, Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City Lines.

Perhaps it will be like a DLR arrangement where they’ve made YOU the driver, or at least you’re the driver after you punched a small child to get that seat anyway.

Paul Priestman, director at PriestmanGoode, says: “TfL wanted the New Tube for London to celebrate the great history of transport design in London, whilst acting as a beacon of innovative 21st century public transport.”

“We took inspiration from iconic London landmarks and key attributes of British design to create a tube that is beautiful, simple, functional and maintainable.”

What he fails to mention is that they aren’t due on the tracks anytime soon, with 2020 being the ‘going into service’ date.

Priestman continues: “London’s Tube is one of the most iconic trains around the world. We are proud to have designed something that it is part of the very fabric of London life, celebrating all that’s great about London’s environment; cutting edge technology, rich history and diversity. The New Tube for London will take the city into the future by enriching the everyday journey of its passengers.”

They’ll still hum of commuter B.O. though.

Don’t joke about having Ebola on a plane

October 10th, 2014 3 Comments By Mof Gimmers

ebola plane 300x300 Dont joke about having Ebola on a planeIf you joke that you have Ebola while on a plane, you can expect it to cause a load of bother for you and everyone else.

However, that didn’t stop one bloke doing exactly that one an American flight who reportedly said: “I have Ebola, you are all screwed.”

Arf.

Of course, as soon as the plane landed, it all got a bit E.T. with officials in science suits boarding the aircraft and removing the joker. Thanks to people with mobile phones, someone caught a nice video of it all, including the air hostess calling the man “an idiot.”

As the man makes his way off the plane, you can hear him say: “I was just kidding… I ain’t from Africa.” Tough cheese. And little reward for the poor buggers who had to sit on the plane for two hours while medical teams ran tests and evaluations on Mr Backfired Joke.

You want to see the video don’t you?

Apple CarPlay now with Spotify

October 3rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

Apple’s CarPlay system now come supported by Spotify and Pioneer.

Grooving drivers can now use the iOS edition with the in car entertainment solutions system. While Spotify were mentioned as being part of it when the CarPlay was launched, it is just now that everyone’s finally ironed their crap out.

Apple CarPlay 500x269 Apple CarPlay now with Spotify

CarPlay allows drivers to make calls, consult Maps, listen to music and access messages and it probably massages your buttocks if you ask it nicely. They can do all this with using the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri or using the car’s native interface.

CarPlay is going to be part of Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo motors, with more to come, as it seems like all of them will give in eventually.

The future, eh?

Welsh speed camera is most lucrative

October 3rd, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

speed camera large 300x235 Welsh speed camera is most lucrativeThe most lucrative speed camera is in Cardiff.

A speed camera, which was installed on Cardiff’s Newport Road at the beginning  of this year, has raked in £800,000 in just over six months.

The bane of the speeder’s life, has rinsed them for 13,000 drivers, and catches three time as many drivers than the UK’s next busiest speed camera. The previous biggest arse of a camera on the roads was the junction 25 on the M60 one.

The data comes from research conducted by LV insurance, who have also revealed that in 2013 speed cameras cost British motorists £22million in fines. According to the latest statistics, the cameras generated 13,624 penalty notices for speeding and 146 for red-light offences.

And in February there were more than 100 tickets issued, on average, each day. Which is simply a pisstake.

The GoSafe partnership, which operates Wales’ road safety cameras, say the area has a high flow of traffic and motorists should always comply with the speed limit.

However road safety groups have said the camera is not doing it’s job properly and should be there to reduce speeds rather than bring in money.

Well yes.

Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol war

September 30th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

petrolpump 300x200 Asda and Sainsburys have a petrol warMotorists are in luck with regards to slightly cheaper petrol, thanks to Asda and Sainsbury’s duking it out between at the pumps.

It’s a petrol WAR! No, not like the war for oil or the war on drugs. This is a lot more brutal than those.

Sainsbury’s announced it would cut petrol and diesel prices by up to 5p per litre.

Not to be outdone, Asda responded by unveiling reductions of 1p and up to 2p per litre for petrol and diesel respectively at its stores.

Apparently price cuts are likely to be larger in heavily populated areas where prices are already lower due to greater competition from the likes of Asda.

A man from the AA, who is known as Luke Bosdet, said: “The real value will be in places, often small market towns, suffering from the postcode pump price lottery – having to pay at least 3p a litre more than in neighbouring, more competitive towns. If that pulls down the price among other retailers, that will be a big benefit.”

In more heavily populated areas a 5p cut, amounting to £2.50 off the average tank of fuel, would only bring Sainsbury’s in line with cheaper rivals, he added. Although industry insiders questioned the timing of the announcement by Sainsbury’s, who are heavily tipped to unveil a dismal set of trading results later this week.

Brian Madderson, of the Petrol Retailers’ Association, said: “My initial cynical reaction is that this is an attempt to divert the press and the public away from some pretty bad news on their store sales.”

“Five pence per litre, in terms of an at-the-pump price rather than a loyalty card, is probably one of the biggest if not the biggest potential cut I have come across in the last five years so the cynic in me says there is much more to this than meets the eye.”

Grab petrol cheap anyway! Pay with your lives later!

You can use your phone on Euro flights now

September 29th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

laptop airplane travel computer 300x225 You can use your phone on Euro flights nowEuropean plane passengers can now use their smartphones and tablets on the planes! Yes, as of now there is no need to use Airplane Mode. Or talk to other people!

Now, Europeans can livetweet annoying crying children on flights and immediately share Vines where they’re mid crash!

The EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) has lifted the restriction, meaning phones can be used even during take off and landing, which was previously limited to Airplane Mode only. Amazing scenes.

In a statement, the EASA said “The new guidance allows airlines to permit personal electronic devices to stay switched on, without the need to be in airplane mode,”

“This is the latest regulatory step toward enabling the ability to offer ‘gate-to-gate’ telecommunication or Wifi services.”

Passengers won’t be allowed to use their devices fully just yet, as each airline must undergo and assessment to check that their aircraft communications will not be affected by the move.

But the EASA is hoping that the airlines will have the rules in place in the next eight months.