Posts Tagged ‘travel’

traintrack 300x225 Will double decker trains solve the UKs commuting problem?Overcrowding is a problem on Britain’s trains, with people rammed-on for journeys where your face is pressed into someone’s armpit and the sound of a hundred Beats headphones leaking noise that sounds like mice duelling inside a biscuit tin.

Well, double-decker trains might be the answer.

Network Rail is weighing up the double stuffed trains for a number of peak services. They’re also looking at building ‘flyovers’, so trains can bypass the busiest stations. One of the most likely solutions that is being looked at is narrower seats, so more people can be crammed into carriages.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “It’s right that as part of our plans to increase capacity we fully examine the costs and benefits of double-decker trains, alongside traditional engineering enhancements such as flyovers.”

These proposals have been set out in a number of reports from Network Rail who are looking at ways to fix the problem of increasing passenger numbers.

It is clear they don’t want to invest in more carriages on existing trains, but they’ll need to do something as passenger figures are soaring. We all know they’re going to go for the cheapest option, so expect less leg room in the coming years.

Driverless cars! They might get hacked!

November 21st, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

car in flood Driverless cars! They might get hacked!With all technology, at some point, writers are legally obliged to worry about hackers getting dastardly with it.

And so, to driverless cars, who are now being thought of as an army of marauding, wheeled weapons under the spell of balaclava’d ne’er-do-wells on laptops. No longer are these robot cars the thing that will remove human error and make the roads safer.

Not only do we have to shriek hysterically about hackers taking the wheel, but research conducted via simulators has shown that human drivers may be a huge problem too, if they’re going to mix with our pilotless carriages. It turns out that human beings change the way they drive when using the same roads as autonomous cars by copying the driving styles and leaving less space between themselves and the vehicle in front. Stupid, susceptible human idiots with their slower-than-a-sensor reaction times.

These warnings come as the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) publishes a report on driverless vehicles and how they can be integrated onto our roads.

They think that autonomous vehicles will be commonplace on British roads, with public transport and delivery vehicles being the cheaper, safer option within 15 years. We don’t have to wait that long though, to get a look at them. The first driverless vehicles look like they’ll be on the road from January 2015 in a series of trials from the Department for Transport.

Hugh Boyes, cyber security lead at the IET, said there’s cause for panic: “If the hacker community could start to target vehicles we can imagine a fair amount of chaos. The motor industry is really strong on safety but if someone tries to interfere with the vehicle, tries to hack it and disrupt it, then these don’t fall under the typical safety issues.”

“Unfortunately living in the world today people do try to tamper with technology. The industry is only just starting to recognise this.”

“Recent reports analysing software show that 98% of applications have serious defects and in many cases there were 10-15 defects per application. If ultimately you want to use autonomous vehicles, we need to make sure they don’t have a defect.”

Just wait until we get the first fatality from someone getting run over by a driverless car. That’s when the real shrieking will begin.

 

train Network Rail hammered for dreadful punctuality recordYou’ll never guess what – trains are quite often late. Once you’ve composed yourself over that shock news, Network Rail have been slammed over their woeful performance figures.

Richard Price, head of the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), told Network Rail’s chief executive, Mark Carne, that the company (who happen to manage and maintain 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts and 19 major stations) has to improve and that Network Rail are desperately failing passengers.

In a meeting, which occurred before the release of an ORR report on Network Rail’s performance during the first six months of a £38bn five-year investment plan, it was shown that they’d missed their punctuality target, to the tune of 50,000 more trains running significantly late than expected.

In addition to that, Network Rail are forecast to be £112m over budget this year and thanks to generally being lousy, the company are reacting to problems on the network instead of anticipating them and fixing them before they become a bigger problem.

So, in short, passengers are paying for 60% of the cost of running and maintaining the network through tickets sales and absolutely not getting their money’s worth.

With that, there’s a strong possibility for fines being thrown at Network Rail. Of course, they’ve already been heavily penalised in the past for missing a host of targets.

Richard Price said: “I do not think that Network Rail is performing close to its potential, but the new management does recognise this. We’re now watching Network Rail in much greater detail and getting much more data from them.” Price added that, with Network Rail now a public sector body, they’re no longer able to work with the freedom they had as an independent body, so now the “chickens have come home to roost” as a result of years of under-investment in Britain’s rail infrastructure.

Carne said: “The railway continues to see strong growth in passenger numbers. However, we know that there are too many passengers that do not get the level of reliability they have a right to expect.”

Easyjet see increase in profits and customers

November 18th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

easyjet 300x170 Easyjet see increase in profits and customersEasyjet have announced a 21.5% rise in their annual pre-tax profits.

The company’s profits rose to £581m for the 12 months up to September 2014, which is up from £478m the previous year.

This is said to be down to increased passenger numbers, with a 7% rise on them reported, taking the total to 64.8 million people ferried about.

According to chief executive Carolyn McCall, EasyJet had “opened up clear blue sky” between the airline and its competitors. When chief execs say things like that, you just want to kick them up the arse forever, don’t you?

The budget no frills airline has a fleet of 226 planes, and said that acquiring some slots at Gatwick from their arch rival Flybe had helped them considerably.

Also, the amount of available seats on Easyjet flights grew by 5.1% to 71.5 million, of which almost 91% were filled.

Easyjet are also seeing customers returning to them, not put off by being cheap and cheery, and 57% of customers are rebooking each year. ”When people sample us, when they try us for the first time, they tend not to go back to legacy airlines,” McCall told the BBC.

A new loyalty card scheme – which had be trialled on 15,000 passengers – had proven quite popular, as it cut out some of the additional faff and made it easier for regular fliers to come back and forth. It’s all reasonably rosy, although they have warned that costs-per-seat may increase due to rising airport, navigation and maintenance charges.

On the other hand, the airline also said an expected fall in fuel prices could drive costs down by as much as £22m over the next six months.

Oyster customers being fleeced

November 7th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

oyster swipe Oyster customers being fleecedOyster Pay As You Go (PAYG) customers are being charged up to £107 more per week, than people using Contactless payment for travel in London, according to research.

Passengers who use Oyster PAYG and Contactless are doing the same journeys, however Contactless fares are capped weekly, whereas Oysters are capped daily meaning that passengers are paying far more.

According to a Labour press release: “A peak-time commuter who hits the daily cap travelling between zones 4 and 7 for example would pay £19.60 a day using Oyster. On Contactless this would only cost £29.40 for a whole week meaning savings of £107.80 over Oyster if they were to hit the daily cap for a whole week. For those only commuting Monday to Friday, the saving on Contactless would still be £68.60.”

“A zone 1-6 commuter who hits the peak-time daily cap would save £53.40 per week by switching from Oyster to Contactless.”

TfL’s guide to fares says the daily peak Oyster fare is capped at £19.60, yet if you travel at the weekend it’s capped at £11.60. Basically making a weekly cost of £121.20.

The weekly Contactless fare is £29.40, which may not quite be the £107 that Labour are banging on about, but still a significant saving.

However, it all depends on where you’re at London-wise, as a weekly Zone 1-3 travelcard is £36.80, whereas Contactless doing the same would work out as £42.40.

It’s a wonder anyone manages to live in London at all.

finger airline Flights delayed or cancelled? Things are looking up!Chances are, you’ve had a delayed flight at some point or, worse still, a flight that has been cancelled altogether.

Well, things are about to change on that front. No, delayed and cancelled flights aren’t going to become a thing of the past, but rather, your rights surrounding them. There’s been two Supreme Court decisions against Thomson and Jet2, which means we’ll all have improved rights when it comes to getting compensation.

The Supreme Court ruled on two cases relating to the European Denied Boarding Regulation, which sounds boring, but that’s the thing that sorts your right to compensation if your flight gets cancelled or if it is delayed, and with that, the airlines might get their arses in gear and start running a better service for everyone.

In the case ‘Dawson v Thomson’, Thomson denied owing a certain Mr Dawson (no, not that one) compensation because he had waited more than two years after his flight to make a claim. The airline argued that consumers have a two-year window if they want to claim compensation, however, Mr Dawson pointed out that the law gives six years for claims. The Court of Appeal agreed and Thomson don’t have the right to appeal.

The other case – ‘Huzar v Jet2- Mr Huzar’s flight had been delayed thanks to a technical fault with the aircraft. The law says that airlines don’t have to pay compensation if a delay is caused by “extraordinary circumstances”. You’d think that technical problems were a fairly regular occurrence, but Jet2 claimed that technical difficulties constitute “extraordinary circumstances”. That means they don’t have to pay compo to passengers. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed and denied Jet2 the right to appeal.

So now, the law says that travellers have six years to flex their rights in a bid to claim for compensation for a cancellation or delay and there’s not much the airlines can do about it. They might weasel their way out of it somehow, but for now, it is 2-0 to the consumer.

That said, if you’ve but a claim in for some reimbursement, it now might go through, albeit delayed thanks to the airlines now having something of a large backlog of complaints. If you are getting close to six years, then you can send your complaints to the Civil Aviation Authority or the small claims court.

Go get ‘em.

Looks like the whole of England is going Oyster mad

November 3rd, 2014 1 Comment By Mof Gimmers

oyster swipe Looks like the whole of England is going Oyster madBus companies have been looking at London’s Oyster system rather enviously and it looks like the whole of England wants to try it out.

Initially, we’re looking at the largest urban areas in the country who will be getting a similar service, and of course, some places already have their own versions.

Greater Manchester passengers will be the first to get the new format, rolled out in 2015. Presumably, it’ll be an extension of the ‘Get Me There’ card which already exists in Manchester, enabling people to get on the trams.

In the West Midlands, a number of public transport operators are already part of the Swift scheme.

These swipey payment cards are going to be implemented in Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire too. Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol might be having them as well. Everyone wants to go cashless.

So, if you catch a bus that is owned by Arriva, Stagecoach, First, Go Ahead and National Express, chances are that, soon enough, offering actually money to a driver will be no use to anyone.

In a joint statement, the chief executives of the companies involved said the move would deliver a “wider benefit than the capital’s Oyster system”, adding: ”Millions of people in our biggest city regions will benefit from this transformational initiative to provide London-style smart ticketing. Bus operators share the aspirations of our city regions to become growing economic powerhouses and we know high quality public transport is an important part of making that happen.”

Sadly, these cards can’t do a thing about crazy, ranting bus drivers.

RAC say fuel prices are “highway robbery”

October 30th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

petrol guage 300x199 RAC say fuel prices are highway robberyThe RAC have had enough of fuel prices at motoroway service stations, calling them “21st century highway robbery.”

They said that they’ve looked into the whole practice and researched it all, and their findings show that petrol and diesel costs are sometimes over 15p-per-litre more expensive than normal stations, which is unacceptable for drivers who are being had over a barrel (of oil).

RAC’s survey showed that motorist felt they were being “held to ransom” and one-in-four said that they refused to buy fuel at services. Two-thirds who took part in the survey said that they wanted a price cap and that the industry or Government needed to take action. Holding your breath is not advisable if you are waiting for the industry or parliament to sort this out.

The results of the investigation show that there’s “real concern” about drivers risking running on empty fuel tanks rather than filling up at motorway services.

The RAC’s fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “It’s no wonder that motorists feel held to ransom with prices on the motorways inflated to such an extent. In some cases motorway petrol and diesel might even be 15p dearer than the cheapest forecourts, which would add as much as £8 to the price of a tank of an average family-sized vehicle.”

“We can see no reason why motorway fuel should be so much more expensive. In fact, arguably it is much easier from a delivery point of view than it is getting fuel to urban filling stations. We’re calling for motorway fuel retailers to be more reasonable with their pricing.”

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.

HS3 trains to halve travel times in the North?

October 27th, 2014 No Comments By Mof Gimmers

train HS3 trains to halve travel times in the North?The time a train journey takes between Northern English cities could halve if predictions about the new high-speed rail project are correct, according to a report.

The HS3 plans were backed by Prime Minister David Cameron who reckons the new fast railways will ‘create a northern powerhouse’ by giving a shot in the arm to jobs and businesses.

Sir David Higgins, the head of the £50billion HS2 project, unveiled the next phase of plans which will potentially see travel times reduced between Leeds and Manchester, not to mention a host of other journeys.

He described it a ‘strategic necessity’ and as important to the North as the Crossrail is to London.

Cameron added: “Improving connectivity and reducing journey times between our great northern cities is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan for the north. That’s why we are backing HS3.”

The improvements would be in addition to the north-of-Birmingham phase two of HS2 which will see a Y-shaped route going to Manchester and Leeds.

With HS2/3, the predicted times are indeed, much shorter, with Manchester to Leeds taking half an hour, Birmingham to Sheffield taking three quarters of an hour and Manchester to York being doable in under an hour. How much it will cost everyone to use this service and whether trains will be on-time, is quite another matter.

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.

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.”

Chancellor selling Eurostar

October 13th, 2014 8 Comments By Mof Gimmers

george osborne 300x300 Chancellor selling EurostarSeeing as the government is unwilling to chase big companies for the tax they haven’t paid, there’s only one thing for it – selling off the family silver.

With that, George Osborne is going to sell its 40% stake in Eurostar before the election.

Gideon says that he’s looking for bid by the end of this month and hopes that the privatisation of the Channel tunnel train operator will raise £300m for the country. Looks like we’re selling a company that is making a profit (£18.6m last year and £16.3m the year before).

Of course, selling a profitable business is not a new thing or indeed, a bad idea. However, you can’t help but wonder if we’re all looking at a repeat of the absolute farce that was the Royal Mail sell-off.

Today, Osborne will say: “I am determined that we go on making the decisions to reform the British economy and tackle our debts. So we will proceed with the potential sale of the UK’s shareholding in Eurostar today. Ensuring we can deliver the best quality infrastructure for Britain and the best value for money for the taxpayer are key parts of our long-term economic plan.”

“As part of our aim to achieve £20bn from asset sales by 2020, the sale proceeds would make an important contribution to the task of reducing the public sector debt.”

Here’s a thing – Britain’s national debt is £1.4tn, so the sale of Eurostar isn’t going to make much of a dent and, of course, privatising railways hasn’t really worked out for everyone.

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?

London Underground Strike Action – October 2014

October 7th, 2014 2 Comments By Bitterwallet News

london tube strike 300x207 London Underground Strike Action   October 2014 If you’re travelling into or around the capital next week, prepare for a rough commute – London Underground workers are set to strike again next week as part of the long running dispute over ticket office closures.

Strike action starts at 9pm on Tuesday 14th October and runs for 48hrs, enough time to really piss off workers and those reliant on The Tube right before the weekend.

Octobers planned strikes are the latest walkout in RMT’s “Every Job Matters” campaign. Recent talks between the union and London Underground have fallen flat and whilst the union said small amounts of progress had been made, it clearly wasn’t enough to satisfy RMT’s executives after months and months of negotiations and meeting room fun.

Aside from the loss of all ticket offices and over 750 jobs by 2015, RMT’s Mick Cash said that the closures and staff loss would “render the tube a no-go zone for many people with disabilities and for women travelling alone”.

Not patronising at all.