Thursday, 27 August 2009

Nexus asks to shut down Facebook fare cheats group

Tyne and Wear PTE Nexus, which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro, has acted to close down a Facebook newsgroup aimed at tracking the movements of its ticket inspectors.

Facebook agreed on August 20 to close down the newsgroup, which had attracted several hundred members in the last two weeks, after Nexus complained that it broke the website’s guidelines.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Are some customers paying too much?

The local bus sector has been referred to the Competition Commission by the Office of Fair Trading amid complaints of "predatory tactics" by companies.

The OFT said evidence suggested limits on competition may be leading to higher prices for users in England, Wales and Scotland and follows a five-month investigation into the industry. An OFT spokesman said the issues it had identified "clearly justify a full investigation".

Findings include:

• The majority of local routes are operated by a small number of large bus companies

• There were higher fares in areas where operators with a strong market position are not challenged by a large, well-resourced rival

• Many complaints alleged "predatory" behaviour by incumbent firms designed to eliminate competition from new entrants

• There were few bids for supported service contracts in many areas, with just one bidder for a quarter of tenders.

Click here to read the full story from the BBC

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Arriva tops big five in corporate website survey

Arriva has landed second place in the Investis FTSE 250 quarterly ranking of corporate websites.

Stagecoach is fifth and National Express seventh and Go Ahead down at no.57.

The FTSE 250 is loosely the list of the 101st to 350th largest companies on the London stock exchange. To come second is a tremendous accomplishment. To achieve this accolade, the web design needs to be crisp and clear, colourful and simple, obviously, but there’s much more to it.

Investis has 188 categories, in fact. You and I might rank the site on its look, transport functionality and feel. Investis considers more sober components such as corporate governance, investor relations, corporate strategy, business performance and, with increasing importance, third party content. This is a *corporate* ranking, remember.

But what about First Group’s site? Well First’s not in the FTSE 250 it’s in the FTSE top 100. Here, it’s down one at no. 75, scoring lower than Arriva, Stagecoach and NatEx and this in spite of a significant makeover within the last six months.

click here to download the full report

FGW Off-Peak fares 20% more expensive

First Great Western (FGW) is set to introduce new restrictions on its cheapest Off-Peak tickets which will mean many passengers travelling into London in the morning and out of London in the afternoon will see their fares rise by 20%.

On Sunday 6 September, FGW will replace its Off-Peak ticket with a new Super Off-Peak fare at the same price but with much tighter time restrictions. A 20% more expensive Off-Peak fare will be introduced to cover times excluded by the new Super Off-Peak rules. Off-Peak single journeys and a small number of peak journeys will become cheaper but car-parking charges will go up by 25% and Advance tickets bought at the ticket office will go up by 11%.

Ashwin Kumar, Passenger Focus director, said: “This adds even more complexity to an already complicated system. Passengers who have to travel at these times will find it hard to believe they are being asked to pay such increases when inflation is so low. This comes on top of First Great Western increasing their car-parking charges by 25%.

“The reduction in Off-Peak single fares at least allows passengers to mix and match different ticket types in one return journey. But passengers shouldn’t have to wade through a forest of complexity to get the best deal. Families with children wanting a day out in London will be particularly hard hit as the new Super Off-Peak ticket doesn’t allow a return from London between 3 and 7pm.

click here to read the full story

Friday, 14 August 2009

Now I've heard it all. A certificate for catching the BUS!

Fare achievement ... bemused student Bobby, seen here waiting for a bus


A teenager was gobsmacked when he got a certificate for catching the BUS.


Bobby McHale, 15, was posted the award by his local council. Accredited by an official exam board and entitled Using Public Transport, it recognised his ability to:
  • WALK to the bus stop
  • STAND or SIT at a bus stop and wait for the arrival of a public bus
  • Sit on the bus and OBSERVE through windows
  • WAIT until it stops and exit the bus
Bizarre ... the certificate which praises him for being able to 'sit and observe through the windows'

Bobby did a three-week course at a youth centre when he chalked up the certificate without realising.

Bobby said: "At first I thought I'd got a GCSE early. When I read it out to the family we all fell about laughing." He was one of 920 11 to 15-year-olds on the council-run Bury and Rochdale Activity Generation outdoor activities scheme in Lancashire.

About 300 on the Government-funded £20,000-a-year initiative got certificates - ratified by exam board AQA - recognising achievements in various areas.

Other certificates were handed out for using a cafe, undressing and dressing, washing hands and making a cold drink.

Dad Andy said: "We're bemused. We think he may go far - if he gets the bus!"

Barbara Lewis, manager of Bury Youth Support Services, said: "This certificate isn't just about getting on a bus, it's about time management, working out bus routes and travelling alone."

Just when I thought the world couldn't get any more ludicrous! You have to laugh.

story from The Sun

Thursday, 13 August 2009

First Group steers Greyhound to new horizons

AMERICA’s Greyhound buses, celebrated in song and film, will soon be roaring down UK motorways.

First Group, which bought Greyhound two years ago, is to start services from London next month. The company, led by Sir Moir Lockhead, chief executive, plans to use the famous brand to take on National Express and Megabus, which is owned by Stagecoach. Fares will start at £1.

The first routes will be to cities within a two-and-a-half hour drive of the capital, in Oxfordshire and the Midlands. First Group declined to comment but it is understood it will start small, with “tens” of buses rather than a big fleet, and will use the grey Greyhound livery.

The US company was set up in Minnesota in 1914 by Carl Wickman, a Swedish immigrant. The coaches’ grey livery led to them being nicknamed “greyhounds” and the company took on the name in 1929. Mass car ownership and low-cost airlines brought hard times and the company has twice filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. First Group bought its parent company, Laidlaw International, for £1.9 billion.

First Group will model its service on Bolt Bus, an American division of Greyhound aimed at younger travellers, with facilities such as wi-fi.

Free bus passes are 'inefficient'

Providing free bus travel for all pensioners is an "inefficient" use of public funds, a report has concluded.

The study by the consultancy Oxera for the Local Government Association says councils would be better off targeting those who were most in need.

Free bus passes for over-60s in England were introduced by the government in 2008, but many councils say the funding arrangements leave them out of pocket.

But the LGA said ending such a "popular policy" would be "problematic".

Prime Minister Gordon Brown first announced the £1bn national scheme, giving pensioners a pass to use buses for free, in 2005 ahead of a general election.

And, at first, the policy was only for routes within the local council area where the pensioner lived, but the scheme was extended to allow unlimited travel anywhere in England between 0930 and 2300 for pass holders.

click here to read the full story or here to read the full report

Rail strike on after talks falter

Strike action on some of the busiest railway lines into London has begun after talks failed between unions and National Express.

It is the third 48-hour strike to affect trains between London and Essex, Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire,

A spokesman for Aslef said the union's executive had also decided to call a full week of strike action next month.

The action is by members of Aslef, the RMT union and the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA).

It started at 0001 Thursday and will end at 2359 BST on Friday.

National Express East Anglia said "most services will not run" adding that any trains which did run were expected to be "extremely busy".

The dispute is over pay and condition.

click here to read the full story

Monday, 3 August 2009

The best way to Land's End

I've just spent the last week on holiday in St Ives - a lovely part of the world but with narrow, winding roads not really built for cars or buses. Knowing the weather was going to be dodgy we decided to look into a trip to Land's End to make the time pass, and decided we didn't want to lose our precious car parking space, so would take the train instead. The following conversation occurred between myself and the chap 'selling' tickets on behalf of FGW.

"What's the best way to get to Land's End mate?"

"Drive".

Yet again, you couldn't make it up.