Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Busy roads, slower speeds, extra taxes – but we'll carry on driving

Britain is more dependent than ever on cars, according to a study published today. Even the poorest families are increasingly reliant on them, and when motoring costs rise they prefer to sacrifice other household spending rather than stop driving.

The number of cars has grown seven times faster than the population. There are 29.6 million cars, up 30 per cent from a decade ago. Over the same period the population has grown by 4 per cent to 60.6 million.

The RAC Foundation commissioned a team of academics from Oxford University, Imperial College and University College London to investigate how reliant Britons were on their cars. They found that people opted for them even for journeys that could easily be walked or cycled and were used for 78 per cent of journeys of two to three miles. Just over three quarters of homes had a car and ownership had grown fastest among the poorest fifth of households, up from 35 per cent in 2000 to 49 per cent in 2006.

The foundation said that government policies purporting to reduce car use — such as raising fuel duty and road tax — could increase social exclusion by penalising poor families. The researchers found a significant fall in the number of homes within easy walking distance of a grocer or chemist.

In addition to analysing Department for Transport data, the team gathered evidence from focus groups and found scepticism about the potential for replacing car trips with public transport. One 75-year-old participant said: “You can get to town [by bus] all right, but Sainsbury’s is a mile and a half that way, Tesco’s is a mile and half the other way. There’s no supermarket in the centre of town.

Professor Stephen Glaister, the foundation’s director, said: “More than four out of five people say they would find it difficult to use their cars less. It is a myth to claim public transport is the magic answer. The Government’s emphasis on high-speed rail ignores the reality of most people’s lives."

“The car is the bedrock of our society and our economy. It has democratised this country. There is no question of getting rid of cars. Instead we must change the type of cars we use — smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient models with less CO2 emissions.”

Click here to open the original Times story in a new window

Council faces £300,000 payout after bus lane sign omits word

A city council faces paying out hundreds of thousands of pounds to motorists who were fined for driving in a bus lane because a warning sign had a word missing.

Derek Brocklehurst was fined £30 for driving in a bus lane - but dodged the penalty after successfully claiming the fine was unenforceable.

Now Derek Brocklehurst may have opened the floodgates for more than 10,000 drivers to reclaim penalties paid to Manchester City Council.After receiving his ticket, sharp-eyed Mr Brocklehurst pointed out to officials that a sign allowing buses, cyclists and black cabs to use the lane did not have the word 'only' on it.

As a result, he argued, the sign was not legally binding and his fine would have to be waived. The city council accepted there had been a mistake and corrected it.

But the authority could now be left with a bill for hundreds of thousands of pounds after it emerged that since the sign was put up on December 15, 10,185 notices of prosecution had been sent out.

Click here to open the original Daily Mail story

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Why Creatives are just big kids

This slideshow was taken from the excellent Scamp blog. The goal was to give Clients, Planners and Agency managers some tips on how to get more out of Creatives, by means of an analogy that would help them understand us better, and would suggest some different behaviours in how they deal with us.

The analogy is that Creatives are a bit like children - both in the positives (curious, imaginative, playful) and the occasional challenges (sulky, fussy etc).

I think it's pretty true (of me anyway) but looking at the comments posted on Scamp, some find it very patronising.

Monday, 6 April 2009

A lesson in customer service

An extract from Alexander Pemberton's Diary, in the current issue of Bus & Coach Professional, shows the industry still has a lot to learn...
Monday was clearly my day for experiencing staff change overs. The good one first. A Sainsbury’s Local supermarket. A line of six tills at the check-out. I approach the first manned till, behind which there are two assistants, apparently involved in a shift change. One looks up, says: “End till, please” and the other rushes off to the end till, apologises for keeping me waiting and as he gives me my change wishes me a nice day. I leave feeling good about Sainsbury's and like a valued customer, even if my spend had been less than a pound on a bottle of water.

Earlier I had decided to travel home by bus while my car was being serviced, rather than take a loan car. The bus arrived at the bus station, and there was a crew change. The temperature is 4degC, and there’s a strong biting wind. Does the incoming driver take the fares of the dozen waiting passengers so they don’t have to stand in the cold? No way. The new driver arrives. The doors close – always a welcoming gesture. He takes off his jacket. He sits down. He adjusts the seat. Up a bit... a bit more... down a bit... OK, he’ll let us on now. no. He adjusts the steering wheel. Now? Can we get on now? No, the seat needs to be adjusted again. Right, surely now. Can we get on now? no. The electric mirrors. Off- side. Zzzzt. Zzzzt, zzzzt. Near- side. Zzzzt. Zzzzt. Then the ticket machine gets some attention. I’m totally supportive of any bus driver making sure his driving position is safe and comfortable. But would it be too much to expect him to let his customers on first?

The message I come away with? Sainsbury’s cares. The bus company – and I’ll spare them their blushes - doesn’t give a stuff.

Virgin gets aggressive with Chiltern

Virgin Trains has placed a series of large posters denigrating Chiltern Railways’ service right outside a number of its key stations including Moor Street in Birmingham and Leamington Spa.

The posters include one headlined Chiltern Snailways in reference to the company’s London-Birmingham journey time. Chiltern’s quickest journey on the route is 2hrs 10mins which is 50 minutes slower than Virgin’s 1hr 20mins.

I like it. But then I like nearly all of Virgin's stuff, it's edgy, which is unusual in the sector. Although, a couple of people in the office don't like the aggressive nature and think this tactic is more like that of a politician - they'd be better concentrating on the positives of their service.

Over to you Chiltern?

Bus livery of the week

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Trains on the silver screen

A festival in France is celebrating the role of railways in the world of the silver screen, but why are there so many trains in the movies we watch?

According to the CineRail Festival website "Trains exert an unfailing power over filmmakers' imagination the world over...
...As they carry people, trains also convey their stories, which make up our history...
...Trains stand for dreams, struggles, expectations, love and hate. They are the purveyors of life, hope or death"

Trains immediately conjure up images of romance, glamour and adventure and have been used in many classic films to create iconic scenes.

Movies including trains include:
  • Brief Encounter
  • Some Like It Hot
  • Sliding Doors
  • North by Northwest
  • Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Runaway Train
  • The Untouchables
  • Mission: Impossible
Perhaps we love to see trains in movies because we still associate them with the romance and cool of the golden age.

I remember a couple of years ago Virgin Trains ran a couple of ads using classic films, they were brilliantly crafted but the current experience of getting a train doesn't really fit with the image most of us have of the golden age.

Even though I'm not old enough to remember the days of steam railways I can still appreciate the special mystique associated with it. It's just that it's slightly harder to see the glamour of a scene taking place in one of the urine-smelling vestibule areas of a 35 year old HST.

Am I being harsh or is there still a certain something about trains? Vote in the poll on the right.