Posts Tagged ‘travel’
Just when you thought the rail strikes were off, turns out that it wasn’t a decision that was to last forever, as there’s another strike afoot!
RMT union members at Network Rail are going to go on strike next month after rejecting the latest pay offer.
They’re going to hold a 24-hour strike from 17:00 BST on 4 June and a 48-hour strike from 17:00 BST on 9 June, so update your calendars accordingly.
Basically, staff didn’t walk out last week after a new deal was offered by Network Rail, but the union’s executive suspended strike action while they looked at what was being offered.
Now they’ve looked at what has been tabled, union reps met up today and, after discussions, the offer was rejected, which leads to this fresh batch of announcements of strikes. This, of course, means more disruption for commuters.
We all know that trains can be a royal pain in the hole, but one is coming under intense scrutiny after being accused of having ‘flea infested seats’.
Greater Anglia are coughing up £30 million to fix problems after furious customers complained about the state of the trains that connect London to the south-east of England.
A Twitter page called @Delayed_Again deals with commuters’ complaints about the service, and shares a wide range of negative views. Ian Edwards, who runs the account, told the Mirror that the train carriages are like ‘filthy skips’. He added: ”The carriages have not had a proper clean since the Olympics in 2012. During the Olympics the trains ran brilliantly and were really clean, but it just hasn’t carried on.”
“We’ve got photos of people with flea bites from the seats and the dust that comes up. The toilets are an absolute disgrace – they’re always blocked. I expect a reliably run, air conditioned, clean train and I get none of the above. Instead, I’ve got a 1980s skip that is falling to pieces without air conditioning.”
As you can see from the pictures, the carriages look like they’re in a state of disrepair and could do with more than just a clean.
Abellio Greater Anglia defended themselves by saying that they’ve invested more than £30 million to upgrade their service, including 40 extra cleaners.
A spokesman for Abellio Greater Anglia said: “We are investing more than £30m to improve our train fleet, customer service and train performance and cleanliness. We have recently recruited 40 extra cleaners to bring our train presentation staff to 300 across our company.”
“We have increased the frequency of deep cleans and undertaken more extensive cleaning on trains throughout the day. Our train cleaners are working very hard to improve standards and we welcome customers’ co-operation to keep our trains clean and tidy.”
After all that fuss about the strike that was happening on the railways this Bank Holiday weekend, with people thinking they wouldn’t be able to ride the rails to fun and sunshine (or, seeing parent and being rained on), worry no more!
The strike by various unions has been called off and suspended after Network Rail put a new pay offer on the table. Whether you think they deserve a pay-rise or not, is beside the point – you can catch trains this weekend and worry about it another time.
Meanwhile, the Tube drivers on London Underground are still to be balloted for strikes in a squabble over pay for new all-night services, but that won’t have any impact in the immediate future.
So, will all the trains be running as normal this weekend? Well, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be, but keep an eye out for announcements.
The RMT’s general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “Following the Acas talks, RMT has received a revised offer that enables us to suspend the planned industrial action while we consult in full with our Network Rail representatives.”
Southern Rail are a PR disaster at the moment. A director at the train company admitted that their trains being on time were ‘few and far between’, while one fella hates them so deeply, that they got a tattoo announcing as such, with some rather colourful language to boot.
And now, they’re only making themselves look worse as they’ve fined a bunch of customers who were forced to stand-up because the train was too crowded.
Commuters heading to London found themselves on a train that was so packed that they had to stand-up in the first class section, because their wasn’t room anywhere else. Did anyone make provisions or stop this from happening? Of course not. Southern Rail ticket inspectors were too busy doling out fines because customers didn’t have the right ticket.
Add all this to being one of the least punctual train companies in the country, coupled with some of the highest fares, and you’ll see why people think they’re a laughing stock.
Peter Boyland wrote to his MPs - Crispin Blunt and Sam Gyimah – to complain about all this, saying: ”The train was so packed in fact that the ‘revenue officers’ were unable to pass through to me to check my ticket, despite my clear proximity to them. This is a fine example of the attitude of Southern, who only seem concerned about protecting their revenue, and less about providing an acceptable level of service.”
A Southern Rail spokesperson said that these fines are just dandy, and with a straight-face, said that passengers would have been fined either £20 or twice the price of a single fare – they choose the fine by going for whichever of the two amounts is greater.
“In this instance, passengers who were issued with penalty fares were sitting in first class accommodation whilst holding standard class tickets. First class accommodation is not declassified automatically if the train is busy, but Conductors can use their discretion to declassify if it is deemed necessary,” the spokesperson told The Independent.
Refund and Compensation
If you think you’re entitled to a refund or some compensation, have a look at our guide to getting your money back. While the train wasn’t late enough to get reimbursed, the fact remains that Southern didn’t provide an adequate service and it is worth trying to dispute the fines and asking for the price of your ticket back.
Let us know how you get on.
We’ve told you how to get a refund from train companies, but what about Transport for London? If your DLR or London Underground tube train left you unsatisfied, you can get compensation, and here’s how.
If your Tube or DLR service was delayed by 15 minutes or more, or your London Overground service was delayed by 30 minutes or more, TfL will refund you the single fare for the journey you were delayed on.
Of course, they’ll only refund you if the service is delayed by something that they deem to be in their hands. They won’t cough-up if the journey has been held up by planned service changes and engineering work.
They won’t pay out if there’s a security alert, or ‘a customer incident’. There’s the old chestnut of ‘averse weather conditions’ too. Also, if you’re enjoying free travel concessions, you can’t get a refund on that.
How To Apply For A Refund
Okay, if you made your journey with an Oyster card, a paper ticket, key card or c2c smartcard, here’s how you apply for a refund. You have to apply within 14 days of your delayed journey. You’ll need your Oyster card to do it – then, click here, and start the refund process.
Sign-in online and hit the ’My Refunds’ tab, hit ’service delay refund’ and follow the instructions there.
There’s a ‘paper ticket’ option, which allows you to claim back for other types of journey. Or, if you travelled with a contactless payment card, you’ll have to sign-in to your TfL online account and then click on the contactless payment card you travelled with and in the ‘card details’ bit, hit the ‘claim for service delay’ option.
And you can watch this video too.
It seems that the unions are planning on having a load of walkouts and only have to give 7-days notice for a strike, which means that everything could go, scientifically speaking, tits up for a bit. This newest strike has the backing of 60% of the members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union.
General secretary of the RMT Mick Cash said: “Our members have decisively rejected the pay package offered by Network Rail. This is a massive mandate for action and shows the anger of safety-critical staff across the rail network at attacks on their standards of living and their job security.”
“It is now down to NR to start taking this issue seriously, to understand the deep-seated grievance felt by their staff and to come forward with a renewed offer which protects pay and jobs.”
“As far as we are concerned, the one-off, non-consolidated, lump-sum payment this year is wholly inadequate and fails to recognise the massive pressures staff are working under to keep services running at a time when the company is generating profits of £1 billion.”
So, go buy a bicycle or a car or something.
Their results for the six months to 31st March showed a pre-tax profit of £7m, which is not bad at all, considering that the same period last year saw them making a loss of £53m.
So what caused this upsurge? Well, easyJet said that Easter being earlier helped to boost their revenue and profits, as it fell inside the reporting period, when normally, it doesn’t. Fuel bills being somewhat cheaper didn’t do them any harm either.
easyJet’s revenues grew as they made an average profit of 21p per seat, trouncing the previous year’s results of a £1.70 loss per seat.
Chief executive Carolyn McCall said: “easyJet has delivered a record performance in the first half of the year by continuing to deliver its strategy of making travel easy and affordable for passengers. The profit in the half reflects the delivery of our customer focused revenue initiatives and a strong finish to the ski season as well as the benefit we received from the lower fuel price and favourable foreign exchange movements.”
“As we enter the important summer season forward bookings are in line with last year and as we predicted passengers are benefiting as fares fall to reflect a more competitive operating environment and lower fuel costs.”
Well, it seems that people have been missing out on billions in compensation for delayed flights, as airline companies defer payouts to passengers who have been held up.
This is according to Sky News, who learned that data is showing 3.27 million passengers travelling to and from UK airports each year might have a potential claim on their hands. And the amount of cash floating around is quite something.
After the European Commission introduced the compensation laws a decade ago, an average claim is around £320, which means, according to Sky’s figures, that €1.4bn a year in compensation might be up for grabs for those who have had flights delayed by 3 or more hours. However, it seems that this has only just come to light thanks to landmark court rulings that have established a clear precedent.
Coby Benson, an aviation lawyer with Bott & Co, said: “The intention of the European Commission is that lawyers should never have been involved in this the first place. It was supposed to be a very easy system for passengers to gain compensation themselves when their flights are cancelled or delayed or they have been denied boarding.”
“It’s just unfortunate that the airlines more often than not make it extremely difficult for passengers to claim compensation and put obstacles in their way.”
In a way similar to getting compensation for train journeys, if your flight isn’t delayed by ”extraordinary circumstances” like really bad weather, terrorism and acts of vandalism, you should be able to claim compensation. According to figures, around 1.5% of flights in-and-out of the UK are delayed for longer than three hours.
How To Get A Refund
There’s an app to help you get a refund or compensation for delayed flights, which outlines your rights and whatnot. You can have a look at that by downloading it here. If you want to write a letter of complaint to an airline, then Which!!! have a template you can use.
We spoken about train compensation before on Bitterwallet, but the whole thing is still far too tricky. As the UK has a variety of different companies, that means a dizzying variation on the rules they have in place. If you’re wanting reimbursement or compo from them, any help is worthwhile.
One useful thing is that National Rail has underlying guidelines for those travelling by train. Basically, the National Rail Conditions of Carriage are the underlying conditions for all train travel and they set what compensation you’re entitled to.
If your train is delayed or late, then you’re entitled to a minimum of 20% of your single ticket or, 10% of your return. Regarding the latter, you’re entitled to 20% if both legs of your journey was late. Crucially, your train has be more than an hour late.
A lot of the train companies have different compensatory rules on this, so it is worth checking them first, as they’re likely to be more generous with payouts. Generally, train companies will pay out 50% of your ticket if your train is more than 30 minutes late. Don’t be surprised if you get vouchers, rather than money. If you’d rather have the cash, be sure to state this clearly when making your complaint.
If you’re getting a refunds for season ticket, then your compensation will be based on a calculation of the cost of your daily travel.
Your Rights in a Smartphone App
One thing you should know about is that the European Commission have an app for passengers’rights, should you need to make a complaint. If you want that, click here.
Of course, there’s exceptions. If you have a delay, a cancellation or poor service that is deemed to be outside the train’s control, then they could well tell you to sling it. What are these things? They include gas leaks, acts of terrorism, fires, things done by vandals, suicides, riots, industrial action, lines that have been closed at the request of the emergency services and… here we go… exceptionally severe weather conditions.
Now, if there’s bad weather and you want compensation, Network Rail and the train companies have to be in agreement that the weather is, indeed, exceptionally severe. Basically, that means that, if other types of transport have been affected by the weather – if they have, you don’t get any compensation. However, if other types of transport are fine, then it is worth a punt.
One trick is, if severe weather has made your train over 1 hour late, then don’t get on your train at all and claim a refund, rather than go for compensation.
Duty of Care if you’re Stranded
If you end up stranded because of your train company, you’re in business. Basically, your train company should either get you to your destination or, if that’s not possible, they should give you overnight accommodation. If they don’t, you should raise hell.
This week, they announced that they’re changing some of the things they do, such as lowering their airport check-in fee from €70 to €45. And, if for missed departures, the fee has been reduced from €110 to €100. Now, it’d be much better if they killed the fees entirely, but there we go.
This is all thanks to the cuddly new Ryanair who are in the middle of their initiative called ‘Always Getting Better’, which basically means that they’ve stopped trolling everyone and trying to bleed every last penny out of humans, in favour of some customer service.
This follows Ryanair’s commitment to provide allocated seating, allowing second carry-on bags, a nice new website and a Business Plus service. The ‘Always Getting Better’ project has seen an increase in customers and is set to run for three-years. After that, they might turn into ogres again. However, while they’re making money on all this, chances are, they won’t.
So what’s next? Well, soon, Ryanair say that customers can look forward to “a brand new personalised website and app with a ‘hold the fare’ feature,” as well as new cabin interiors, crew uniforms and in-flight menus. Very nice.
CEO Michael O’Leary has said; “I would have been nicer to customers years earlier”, if he’d known that there was some money in it. He’s also vowed to slowly back away from being the public face of the airline, which is a very wise move business-wise, even if it is going to give us less things to write about.
In the past two years, Network Rail has spent £1.3million on domestic flights for its staff. That might not seem like such a big deal, but consider this – the company has pledged to always travel by the cheapest means possible.
So, given that Network Rail run our tracks, you’d hope that they might see something wrong with the fact that it is more expensive to travel by train than plane.
This data was found after a Freedom of Information request, which showed that Network Rail sends its employees on 12 domestic flights every day. If staff need to travel abroad, then fine, but this shows a huge lack of confidence in their own services.
A spokesman said that the company travels by air because it is cheaper than riding the rails. They were pained to point out the amount of rail travel they pay for too: “Network Rail’s 35,000 people have to pay the going rate for all travel, be it air, rail or car. Our people are also obliged to use the cheapest method available, sometimes that means by air – around £650,000 last year – but mostly we travel by rail – almost £16million last year.”
Naturally, we thought we’d check to see if Network Rail staff get discounted rail travel and, hey presto! THEY DO! On the ‘employee benefits’ section of their site, it says that staff can “claim subsidies of up to 75% on rail and Underground season tickets”. So if travelling by air is cheaper than someone with a cheap ticket, then something is very wrong.
Of course, the main bugbear here is that train tickets are rising too high, too frequently. Some have risen by 30% in 5 years. Network Rail have also overseen numerous engineering works which have cocked-up and left the lines in chaos. If Network Rail won’t travel from London to Scotland by train, why should they expect anyone else to use their shitty service?
Are you planning on going abroad this year and driving while you’re there? Well, there’s something you need to know - after 8th June, you’ll need to take a special code with you if you want to hire a car.
This is all to do with the computerisation of the paper counterpart of UK driving licences. Now, if you want to hire a motor when overseas, you’ll officially need a code to show convictions for offences like speeding.
You’ll have to go to the DVLA website for all that.
Get this – the code will only be valid for 72 hours, so if you’re planning on hiring a car after three days of your trip, you’ll have to get a code while you’re on holiday. If you don’t have internet access, there’ll be a phone number you can ring. All sounds like a bit of a faff, doesn’t it?
Concerning the paper bit of your driving licence, the DVLA is saying you can shred it and bin it after 8th June. However, the AA aren’t so sure about that. They clearly don’t trust a word the DVLA says. It would be wise to hang on to that document, in case some hire companies aren’t aware of the new arrangement.
“Not all car rental companies, or indeed traffic police abroad, will be aware of the changes, so a ‘belt and braces’ approach of also taking the counterpart might help,” said AA president Edmund King.
Now a new Star Wars trailer has landed online, everyone of a certain age has been reduced to a dribbling, nostalgic wreck. As Star Wars is such a huge deal, the hype surrounding it and marketing opportunities are not like any other franchise.
Not many films can get an airline so excited that they paint one of their planes like R2D2. That’s exactly the craic with Japanese airline All Nippon Airways who unveiled plans to dress their plane in a way that will see everyone making puns on ‘may the air force be with you’.
In a couple of months, there’s going to be a Boeing 787 flying around the sky looking like Artoo.
This design is part of the airline’s five-year “Star Wars Project”, which means more Star Wars themed aircraft. We’re hoping for a Jabba The Hut one, as that’d look disgusting.
And while we’re here, we might as well watch the second trailer of Star Wars Episode VII and dribble all over ourselves with excitement. Yes. We know it’s a children’s film.
A steward for Ryanair found a passenger’s camera on a flight. Now, you’d think they’d hand it in to lost property and that would be the end of it, right?
Well, this particular steward thought he’d have it for himself and flog it on eBay. Fernando Miguel Andrade Viseu didn’t realise these things can be tracked and on the auction, he found he’d got a message from the owner.
The camera owner, a teacher called Aaron Galloway, was going on a break when he forgot his camera on the seat of the plane. He told the crew about it and they said they saw no sign of the £499 Nikon camera.
Galloway got home, looked on eBay and BAM, there it was. And so, he sent the vendor a message.
Viseu replied, saying how dreadfully sorry he was and that the camera would be returned at the airport.
How did it end?
Well, Viseu was promptly arrested and ordered to pay compensation of £145 and carry out 100 hours of community service. Oh, and now he’s on the internet known as a snide.
A spokesman for Essex Police said: “We arrested a 34-year-old man from the Stansted area on Friday February 20 on suspicion of theft. He was taken to Stansted area police station where he was interviewed and subsequently charged with theft of a camera and a Kindle.”
What do Ryanair think of it all? They said: “While we don’t comment on legal matters, we can confirm that this individual no longer works for Ryanair.”
A report from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has fired off a warning to you sun-worshippers, saying that some holidaymakers who have booked vacations online have been collectively conned out of £2.2m in 2014.
Crims have been targeting online booking firms to swipe money from unsuspecting folk, and many of those only find out that they’ve been had once they arrive at their hotel, who tell them that there’s no record of their booking.
The NFIB report shows, during a 12-month period, that 1,569 cases of holiday booking fraud were reported to the police’s fraud squad, with most complaints relating to plane tickets, hacking accounts, posting fake adverts online and setting-up bogus sites. Two groups particularly targeted were sports fans and religious groups, paying for fake tickets to religious sites and/or sporting events, where places are limited and people can charge more.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA chief executive, said: “Holiday fraud is a particularly distressing form of fraud as the loss to the victim is not just financial but it can also have a high emotional impact. Many victims are unable to get away on a long-awaited holiday or visit to loved ones and the financial loss is accompanied by a personal loss.”
“We would also encourage anyone who has been the victim of a travel-related fraud to report it so that the police can build up a case, catch the perpetrators and prevent other unsuspecting people from falling victim.”