london underground sign 300x199 Looks like this weekends Tube strike is going aheadThe strike that is planned for this weekend, looks like it’ll be going ahead. There’s going to be a 48 hour walkout on the London Underground, which of course, means huge disruptions to the services from 9pm on February 6th.

The TfL have said that the strike is going to officially stop on Monday, February 9th at 8.59pm, kicking off at 9pm on Saturday 6th February.

Of course, talks are still ongoing, but based on previous strikes, things are not looking like getting sorted any time soon.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “The union demands to LUL on its Fit for the Future Stations programme are simple – no imposed rosters, no short notice duty changes and no imposition of new framework agreements. RMT will be attending the talks but with the clock ticking we are making it crystal clear that if there’s any dragging of heels we will be calling for an immediate reference to Acas.”

“With surging Tube demand, and against a background of chronic overcrowding, the union cannot and will not sit back while safety-critical jobs, that are the eye and ears of the service, are ripped away from our stations.”

All the updates from TfL on the strike, can be found here. The Bitterwallet guide to getting around London without the Underground, can be found here.

Ryanair to cut fares

February 1st, 2016 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Ryanair Ryanair to cut faresRyanair are looking at cutting their fares by 6%, and you’ve got falling fuel costs and improved profits to thank for it.

The airline predict that they’ll be doing this (so nothing is certain yet) as they announced that they’d more than doubled their profits for the third quarter of their financial year. This follows the company reducing their prices in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Ryanair have been performing well, with customer numbers going up by 20%, which means 25 million people are now flying with them.

Michael O’Leary says: “Following a strong first half of Q3, we noted weaker pricing and bookings immediately after the terrorist events in Paris and Brussels. We reacted to this softness by running price promotions and discounted fares to stimulate double-digit traffic growth.”

“The key driver over Q4 and into the first half of next year will be strong traffic growth, strong capacity growth but weaker pricing and weaker fares. That took a turn immediately after the Paris and Brussels terrorist events of mid-November. We expect the lower fare environment will maintain for the foreseeable future.”

The company is also planning on expanding their business, which means even more passengers to be had. O’Leary said that Ryanair is such an attractive proposition, because of their low fares, and the new ‘nicely nicely’ approach that they’ve adopted over the last 12 months. There’s been an improvement with the Ryanair website, and generally, the company has tried to be less irritating, which of course, O’Leary once thrived on.

As well as this, Ryanair are also planning to buy back €800m of their own shares. Either way, it means cheaper tickets for everyone who uses them, which for now, is a good thing.

Southeastern delays caused by… sunlight!

January 28th, 2016 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Sun 300x225 Southeastern delays caused by... sunlight!The day after we relayed the news that rail passengers are, by and large, a satisfied bunch, Southeastern and a host of other train companies were on hand to remind us why travelling by train can be murder inducingly frustrating.

Across the UK, services were down after overrunning engineering works left a host of lines without any power to work, with 20 services delayed or cancelled this morning, during the already stressful rush hour.

Southeastern though, were particularly bad, with trains delayed or axed, because of that most pesky of problems, sunlight.

What with ‘the day time’ being a thing for as long as there’s been a sun in the galaxy, a Southeastern spokesperson was tapped up to say that it is indeed a legitimate source of problems which cause delays. They said on Twitter: “Unfortunately if the glare is on the monitors, the driver cannot dispatch for safety reasons.”

Southeastern noted that their services were back in working order this morning, but of course, there were knock-on effects of the previous delays, which will continue throughout the day.

They continued: “Services were affected by power supply problems due to overrunning engineering works, which were supposed to be finished on time today. They are back to normal now, but there will be knock-on delays. We advise passengers to check updates online.”

Brilliant.

Protests at rail fare hikes

January 4th, 2016 5 Comments By Mof Gimmers

traintrack 300x225 Protests at rail fare hikesA study has shown that British train users are spending up to six times as much of their wages on railway fares, as those who use trains elsewhere in Europe. Action for Rail say that some commuters in the UK are parting with 13% of their salary on trains, while Italians are paying just 2%.

This study was put out to coincide with the protests that are taking place at a number of railway stations across the UK, where campaigners and rail workers are unhappy with the increase to fares.

The report says that it weighed-up the average salary of a worker in the UK, and found that they were spending much more of their pay packet (the aforementioned 13%) compared to 2% in Italy, 3% in Spain and 4% in Germany.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “It’s hardly surprising that UK passengers think rail travel is bad value for money. They are shelling out far more of their income on rail fares than their counterparts in Europe. Years of failed privatisation have left us with exorbitant ticket prices, overcrowded trains and ageing infrastructure. Ministers need to wake up to this reality instead of allowing train companies to milk the system at taxpayers’ and commuters’ expense.”

Meanwhile, Mick Whelan – the general secretary of train diver union Aslef – said: “Taking the railways back into public hands is a popular policy. The vast majority of voters – Conservative included – are fed up with paying sky-high fares so the privatised train companies can take their slice. Commuters travelling into London from Kent and Sussex know their £5,000 a year season tickets would be much cheaper under public ownership.”

Goodbye to paper train tickets

December 31st, 2015 7 Comments By Mof Gimmers

train 287x300 Goodbye to paper train ticketsPaper train tickets look like they’re on the way out, thanks to new plans that are set to see passengers tapping in and out with their bank cards or mobile phones. And this could be a thing as soon as 2016.

Basically, you’ll be able to buy your journey online, and travel with little more than the bank card that you paid for the journey with. Shall we assume that plans are in place for people travelling who have a ticket that someone else has paid for?

The Department for Transport, banks, and train groups have held meeting to see how quickly the relevant technology can be pushed through, across the UK.

Basically, this is travelling on trains with contactless payment technology, so everyone will tap in and out like people who have been using the Tube in London have done for years.

Jacqueline Starr, managing director of customer experience at the Rail Delivery Group, said this new system will “improve the experience” of travelling by rail (it won’t improve the actual trains though, will it?), saying: “The rail industry wants to respond to the needs of our customers and understands the importance of modernising train tickets so that passengers are no longer reliant on the old orange paper format.”

“We are in the early stages of exploring how passengers could pay for and store tickets on their contactless credit or debit cards as part of our wider aim to improve the experience of rail passengers and move towards smarter types of ticket.”

If this works, one good thing will be the removal of the need to use codes and the like, to print out tickets from machines in the stations. Hopefully, it’ll mean an end to stations hiding cheapest fares from customers too, but we’re not holding our breath on that score.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “Our plan for passengers is to build a 21st century railway that provides better journeys for all, and improved ticketing is a vital part of that customer experience.”

An end to airport VAT rip-offs?

December 31st, 2015 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

sleepingonairport 300x243 An end to airport VAT rip offs?A while back, we wrote about the VAT duty-free rip-off that is going on in airports. Well, it looks like something is being done about it, thanks to the government.

It transpired that some stores in airports ask travellers for boarding passes, so the retailer can claim back the 20% tax on products being sold to those leaving the EU. However, the problem for passengers is that any savings being made are not being passed on.

The Chancellor has said that there’s going to be a shake-up regarding all this, so we can all get lower prices. There’ll be an ‘extensive’ review, which will look at VAT relief, as well as other airport shopping taxes. George Osborne said that some airport shops were keeping up to 50p of every £1 in potential VAT savings, which should result in lower prices, but isn’t.

Osborne says: “For families flying out of the UK for a winter getaway, airports should be the ideal place to pick up a bargain. VAT relief at airports is intended to cut prices for those travellers – not be a windfall gain for shops.”

“But many people could be paying over the odds for their purchases because the Government’s VAT concession isn’t passed on. This is simply unacceptable. I have launched a review to make sure that this VAT relief benefits those it’s intended for – consumers.”

Fact is, a number of people travelling from airports have been under the impression that they’re getting cheaper products at airports, when in actual fact, the high street is often better value. Of course, there’s less choice at an airport too, so a lot of the time, it isn’t worth shopping in an airport.

And a lot of people have felt that they needed to produce their boarding passes at shops, for security reasons, when the truth of the matter is, shops only want to see them so they can save money on VAT. Some retailers are now confessing that passes are only ‘requested’, rather than demanded.

A shake-up of this area is a good thing, but we’ll have to see how it plays out.

Beware scam websites for winter holidays

December 23rd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

cold winter Beware scam websites for winter holidaysPeople making plans for a winter break need to be careful of scam websites that are swindling people out of money. These fake websites have already cadged £60,000 from people according to the folks at Action Fraud.

Those who have booked holiday accommodation through RightSki.com and ChaletHunter.com have been defrauded, which is particularly galling at this time of year (irritating all year round, but y’know, Christmas is more of a mither).

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau says that these two websites have been set up by people using false information, and their aim was to get holidaymakers to make a bank transfer to them  to book their break, and then make off with it.

Obviously, like all scams, once the money has left your bank account, it is incredibly difficult to get it back.

The NFIB trying to suspend suspicious websites and phone numbers, but scamsters can very easily set up new sites, so you need to stay vigilant. Also, if you’ve got a bad feeling about a site or service, you can report it to be investigated too (click here).

If you’re not using a reputable company, or something feels fishy, then check the spelling on the site. If you’re making a payment, then you need to look out for the URL, which should begin with https, or there should be a padlock icon on it.

It is also worth doing a Google search for the company name, as that’ll bring up any bad reviews or recommendations of what to avoid when making a booking or paying money to anyone.

Underground threatens people with Star Wars spoilers

December 22nd, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

London Underground are looking at penalising fare dodgers with a most dastardly thing – Star Wars spoilers! If you don’t buy a ticket, you might get reprimanded by finding out that Jabba the Hut is actually Chewbacca’s real father in the new film, The Force Awakens.

Of course, if you’ve already seen Star Wars, you can dodge as many fares as you like, presumably.

CWl wjPXIAALGSb 500x375 Underground threatens people with Star Wars spoilers

This message – one of the now obligatory quirky notice board messages that the Underground has these days – was written by a member of staff at the Canonbury station.

They’re just taking the sith (etc)

Millions to get compensation for train delays?

December 21st, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train1 297x300 Millions to get compensation for train delays?The folks over at Which!!! have thrown a ‘super complaint’ at the rail industry, requesting that the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) looks at the issue of compensation and the procedures of train delays.

According to the watchdog, around 47 million passenger journeys were cancelled or significantly late in the 12 months to March. While most companies offer money for services that are delayed by at least half an hour, according to the figures from Which!!!, they state that only 34% of those may actually be able to make a claim where they get something in return.

“Current proposals to improve compensation for passengers are too far down the track,” said Which!!! honcho Richard Lloyd. ”Even if an automatic compensation system was included in all new franchises from tomorrow, it would take until at least 2025 to cover the whole network.”

“Millions of passengers are left out of pocket each year, so train companies must do more to put their passengers first and make rail refunds easier.”

What they did, was to get a number of people to act as mystery shoppers, asking basic questions to get refunds at 102 train stations. Full explanations were given in only 18% of cases, while in 63%, mystery shoppers weren’t told that they could request their compensation in non-voucher form, such as a cheque.

The ORR have issued a statement, which has said that the rail industry has taken “positive steps” toward sorting all this out, such as issuing a code of practice which aims to give clearer info to passengers wanting to get a refund. They did admit that their own research shows “passenger awareness of how and when to claim compensation is low”.

They added: “We will be assessing whether more could and should be done for passengers as we investigate this complaint.”

Of course, there is a new system where you’re supposed to be able to get automatic refunds for delayed trains, but this isn’t a system that is in place right across the board, with some train companies still employing old, confusing, and slow methods.

Something is going to have to be done about this super-complaint though – thanks to the Enterprise Act, certain bodies are now able to issue these complaints when it is deemed that the interests of consumers are being significantly harmed. With that, the ORR has to respond to the questions posed by Which!!! within 90 days.

Have a look at the Bitterwallet guide to getting compensation for your train journey.

Crazy Christmas is now officially upon us

December 18th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

christmas 300x300 Crazy Christmas is now officially upon usThe chaos of Christmas is finally here. Today is Crazy Friday (or Black Eye Friday depending where you are in the country), as the last weekend before Christmas sees everyone hitting the bars and clubs like prohibition is on the way.

Godspeed to anyone working behind a bar this weekend.

It isn’t only down the pub where things are getting insane, as today sees the travel of TRAVEL CHAOS! That’s right, as of tonight, the roads are going to be busier than usual, and public transport is going to be trying as well.

Over the next few weeks, the biggest ever rail engineering works project Britain has seen in years, is planned which means the trains are going to be testing to say the least. Today is the busiest day on the roads, and analysts at INRIX reckon that drivers could well see delays of up to two hours and twenty minutes.

Pete Williams, a spokesperson for the RAC, said the volume of roadworks on major roads in England right now, are “unprecedented”. He said: “It is set to get busy on the roads this weekend as UK drivers are expected to stagger the usual Christmas getaway.”

There’s going to be delays on most major motorways, with the M1, M6, M5, M4 and M62 being particularly bad.

As for the trains, Gatwick Express services will stop running for 10 days thanks to engineering works, and trains to Heathrow are going to be stopped for three days thanks to Crossrail works.

Our advice? If staying in isn’t an option, then make sure you’ve got a book on you or some decent tunes to listen to, because today is when it all starts getting hectic. Good luck.

Sit on top of the plane when flying on holiday

December 14th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

Like flying? Have a bit of money knocking about? Well, soon enough, you might be able to do one-better than poxy First Class, as you’ll be able to sit in a bubble on top of the plane, like you’re in a low-rent (but excellent) sci-fi b-movie.

Let us introduce to you, SkyDeck, which allows wealthy passengers the chance to get ‘an exhilarating view of the aircraft’s external environment while in flight.’

Have a look at this video, and enjoy the gentle ’80s prog soundtrack.

This is the brainchild of Windspeed Technologies, who want to court the wallets of VIPs. If you purchase their pod from them, you can choose between some stairs to access it, or, a fancy lift. You can choose between a one-seater and a two-seater too (depends on how much you like sharing, compared to how much you like feeling exclusive and lofty, you’d imagine).

The patent for this design is currently pending, so don’t get too excited if you’re thinking of putting this on your private jet (or on top of your Nissan Micra).

Oh, and it’ll cost you somewhere between £5.34m and £16.6m. So don’t expect RyanAir to have these installed any time soon

Airlines credit card details exposed

December 11th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

plane 300x225 Airlines credit card details exposedThere’s a credit card vulnerability called ‘CardCrypt’, and it has affected 16 companies including EasyJet, Aer Lingus, AirAsia, and more. This has revealed customer credit card details, thanks to internet baddies intercepting the data when people sent their details via apps.

It looks like up to 500,000 have been affected by this flaw, when they were booking flights, or upgrading.

The data sent via an unencrypted connection does include sensitive info, that could well be used in scams, stealing identities, and making off with your money. The firm who found the flaw, Wandera, said that complete credit card details, CVV security codes, customer names, full addresses, transaction amounts and contact details, are at risk.

Wandera said this information was exposed because companies haven’t been using the https secure protocol: “We believe there are two likely reasons why HTTPS has not been used, everywhere at all times. It could be a flaw in the coding, or it could be a case of relying on inadequate third party services or libraries. Either way, it’s astounding to me that these companies have failed to exercise sufficient care in the collection of their customers’ personal data.”

“The most alarming thing is that it is very likely that there are plenty of other brands who have made the same mistakes. With lots of people booking journeys to go home for the Christmas holidays, it is worrying how much sensitive data could be put at risk.”

Free travel in London on NYE

December 8th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

london underground sign 300x199 Free travel in London on NYEIf you’re in That London for New Year’s Eve, here’s some good news – you can travel for free on the Tube! That’s alright isn’t it?

Transport for London has announced that it will offer free travel on the London Underground, as well as buses, trams, the DLR, TfL Rail and London overground.

So here’s what you need to know – travel will be free from 11.45pm on December 31st until 4.30am on January 1st, thanks to a sponsorship deal with Kayak.co.uk.

Graeme Craig, Director of Commercial Development at TfL, says: “Our partnership with KAYAK.co.uk will ensure that revellers will be able to welcome in the New Year knowing that they will be able to get home safely and for free.”

“We look forward to welcoming everyone to London’s celebrations and encourage customers to plan their journeys in advance so that they are aware of all their travel options.”

Of course, the services will be limited slightly. The Tube, Overground, DLR and trams will run a Saturday service. As for National Rail services, they won’t be running from Charing Cross, Waterloo East and Cannon St from Christmas Day until Sunday 3rd January 2016. There’ll be a reduction in services at Victoria, Liverpool Street and London Bridge.

More information about Christmas trains can be found at nationalrail.co.uk/christmas.

train Network Rail sets up £4.1m passenger fund as alternative to fineNetwork Rail are setting up a £4.1 million fund, which is meant to benefit passengers, in a bid to dodge a massie fine after the terrible planning of upgrades. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) have previously said that they might hit NR with a fine of £2 million, after the nonsense that went on at London Bridge station.

The ORR found that Network Rail had “failed to engage adequately” with train operators over what could happen to passengers if they ploughed on with work. Of course, these improvement to the network meant that Southern and Govia Thameslink Railway missed a host of punctuality targets, accounting for a third of delays and almost half the cancelled and significantly-delayed services in England and Wales.

However, to sidestep the fine, the ORR has accepted an offer from NR if they create a fund for passengers on Thameslink, Southern and Gatwick Express services. What does this fund actually do? Well, it should mean extra staff at their stations. There’ll also be improvements to information displays, and new track workers.

Of course, if they were making these improvements as it was, which caused all this mess in the first place, Network Rail have brokered themselves a sweet little deal.

NR managing director Phil Hufton said: “Passengers expect and deserve a high standard of service, and we accept that we fell short for those travelling on Southern and Thameslink services last year. Since then we have invested £11 million to improve the railway around London Bridge and elsewhere in the region, and performance has increased as a result.”

“This extra £4 million will continue the improvements we have already made and it is good news for passengers that the ORR has recognised this as a positive and practical alternative to a fine.”

ORR chief executive Richard Price said: “We welcome Network Rail’s commitment to improve passenger services. The new fund will enhance the service for passengers affected by this poor performance.”

Sharm el Sheikh flights cancelled into 2016

November 25th, 2015 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

peter graves airplane1 Sharm el Sheikh flights cancelled into 2016British Airways and EasyJet are extending their cancellation on flights to and from Sharm el Sheikh, until the New Year. There’s been security alerts from the government, and the airlines aren’t taking any chances.

BA have said that, “following discussions with the Government”, they are cancelling all flights to and from Sharm until 14th January. EasyJet have said the same, cancelling flights until 6th January.

Serious business. If you have flights to Sharm booked with either of these companies, contact them to see what your options are. Customers on any cancelled flights can claim a full refund, or if you prefer, you can use the value of the ticket towards another flight. If you’re determined to fly to Sharm, you can postpone your ticket for a later date.

British Airways said: “We are keeping flights which are scheduled to operate from Saturday January 16, 2016 under review. The safety and security of our customers will continue to be our top priorities in any decisions we may make.”

EasyJet have said that this move is “to help provide some certainty for our customers’ travel arrangements over the Christmas period. We are sorry for the inconvenience this will obviously cause, but we hope that being clear with all our customers at this point helps you to manage your plans with more certainty.”

“The situation is beyond our control and passenger safety will always be our number one priority.”

To contact EasyJet, their customer services are open 7 days a week, 8am-8pm, at 0330 365 5000. For British Airways, call their customer service team at 0344 493 0787.