Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Money vs Environment

The government wants everyone to be greener. I’m in agreement with this, but sadly, economics does play a part in being green.

I could have caught a train back from Carlisle to London, which would have been environmentally much friendlier than flying back from Glasgow (ignoring the fact that an electric train still creates a pocket of pollution wherever the electricity to power it is being generated, but in any instance this is significantly less than the output of a plane)

However, the economics don’t stack up. It’s the half term holiday, and despite checking every couple of days from thirteen weeks out no cheap tickets were ever released. At eight weeks out I had to give up looking and make a decision. Do I pay £133 for the cheapest ticket I can find for the train, or do I look at alternatives.

So in the words of the MasterCard adverts
Train from Carlisle to Glasgow (First class) - £11
Night in a hotel in Glasgow - £50
Flight Glasgow to London City - £39
Saving £33 on the train fare, do you still wonder why people fly!

And the worst thing is that could have been even cheaper if I had gone standard (though I wouldn’t have got the very pleasant Breakfast from Transpennine Express), booked the hotel earlier and flown back into Gatwick with easyJet rather than city with BA.

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Thursday, 12 March 2009

Spain, where we can all enjoy the EU bandwagon

There are a lot of people who have a very negative view towards the European Union (mostly they are called Brits), but there are a lot of advantages of being a member. The unfettered travel between member stated (unless you are British or Irish who haven’t joined the Schengen agreement and therefore still need their passports to get into the continent), the relatively strong currency (unless you are a Brit), the maximum 48 hour week (unless you are a Brit), the sense of a continent in Harmony (unless you are a Brit and read the Daily Mail).

One of the biggest advantages, at least when in Spain, is the amount of culture you can get for free.

Sure the really big sights like the Alhambra charge, but lots of the other museums and historical attractions don’t.

Walking around the city today I’ve been into two museums, the remains of a Moorish bath house, and a couple of churches. Total spend, just over a euro for one of the Churches.

Most municipal museums are free if you can produce evidence of your membership of the EU, that small burgundy document saves you cash. Whilst this may not off set all the ills of the EU, even the most die-hard Daily Mail reader would agree that saving money is, at least, a partial advantage of membership

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Burying bad news

With their usual level of contempt for their customers, Ryanair have managed to slide out one piece of troublesome news covered by a bigger and noisier, literally, story.

Whilst most people have been discussing the horrific plans to allow mobile phones to be used on Ryanair flights (can’t people be out of contact for just a couple of hours, can’t everyone else be spare their inane chatter for the length of the flight!), another piece of news was release.

By the end of 2009, Ryanair will do away with the checkin desks at all their airports. All passengers will have to checkin online prior to leaving their home, or their hotel for the return leg. Which begs the question, what happens if you don’t have access to a printer at your campsite. Do you have to find an internet café and pay there to checkin? Are Ryanair thinking of setting up rip-off priced internet stalls in place of their checkin desks at airports for those whose relaxing beach break doesn’t involve visiting an internet café?

This naturally leads to the question, what next – you can only print your boarding pass on special Ryanair branded paper which you have to buy in advance, perhaps a final and complete ban on luggage (which is the subtext of what they are trying to achieve) so that they can cut their costs even further?

Those cheap Ryanair flights really aren’t what they once were.

The following is from Reuters 21/02/2009:
LONDON, Feb 21 (Reuters)
- Europe's largest low-fare airline Ryanair said on Saturday it planned to save costs by closing all its airport check-in desks by the end of the year and have passengers check in online instead.

"All we will have is a bag drop where passengers can drop off their luggage, otherwise everything will be done online," Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary told the Daily Telegraph.

He said the savings would be passed on to passengers in the form of lower fares.

Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara told Reuters that 75 percent of the airline's passenger already used its online check-in services.

"We are trying to encourage the remaining 25 percent to do the same," he said.

"Hopefully by the end of the year we will have bag drop-in areas instead, which will be manned."

The airline would continue to have staff running ticket desks at airports, he said.

The change would lead to layoffs but the airline used many third-party staff at airports and would attempt to limit the effect of the reduction.

"We are hoping the job cuts will be minor," McNamara said.

(Additional reporting by Carmel Crimmins in Dublin)
(Reporting by Tim Castle; editing by Chris Pizzey)

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Sunday, 25 January 2009

Public Transport as a Public Service

Being a Londoner I am pretty used to crowded public transport, even on a Sunday.

I know that once you get out of London the frequency and coverage of public transport is hit and miss, given that a lot of it has to be done for a profit, and if the local council doesn’t support it, it doesn’t run.

However, I was pleasantly surprised as to how easy it was to get from Berwick to Warkworth on a Sunday, quick connections and a service every two hours.

I was even more surprised by how empty the buses were. On the first leg of the journey to Alnwick I was the only person on the bus for virtually the whole way, and from Alnwick onto Warkworth there were only a handful of other people.

Virtually the same back, less than half a dozen people on the bus from Warkworth and only me and one other person for most of the way from Alnwick to Berwick.

Whilst the tickets may have been quite expensive (only just the right side of £10 in total), it still couldn’t possibly have paid for the trip, and if I hadn’t been out today one of the legs would have had nobody on it.

So a thank-you.

To the people of Northumberland, thanks for subsidising my journey today. Your council taxes enabled me to go and visit a castle that I couldn’t have otherwise reached.

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Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Holidaying in Britain II

Of course, if you can get your hands on a dirt cheap flight to Ireland then I could be tempted to not spend the whole of the summer going for Donkey rides up the beach at Blackpool.

God bless easyJet and their next to nothing flights to Belfast. Looks like I’ll be spending part of the summer going round Ireland (though I would like to make it absolutely clear at this point that I will not be taking any kitchen equipment with me, especially not Fridges!)

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Holidaying in Britain, it’s all the rage

So as the pound nears parity with the Euro the whole concept of popping across to the continent for a short break starts to look fiendishly expensive.

So it is with great joy that I was up early this morning joining the hundreds of others taking part in the sales. Except, I wasn’t buying DVDs, or the fixtures and fittings from a bankrupt Woolworths store.

No, today I had my cyber elbows sharpened as I dived into the melee of the Travelodge Christmas sale.

Whilst I have several objections to Travelodge, my experience with their London City hotel being my main negative against them, you have to agree that a £9 a night for a hotel room your principles can become a little looser than normal.

Given the number of times I got the “Server Busy” message and had to repeatedly hit reload, it would appear that they were doing pretty brisk business.

But still, I managed to walk away with some stunning bargains.

Consequently I’m going to be spending a little more time exploring my own country this year (or until such time as I get a 100% pay rise [impossible], the pound surges to record highs against the Euro [almost impossible], or just recovers so it’s back around the 1.20 mark [still highly unlikely]).

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Monday, 22 December 2008

Why is Flanders not bankrupt?

Today was an historic day.

I’ve been to the Flemish part of Belgium on a number of occasions, and I’ve visited a few of the main towns.

And until today on every occasion something has been happening that made the local transport free.

When I visited Bruges in 2004 the bus from the station was free because there was an exhibition going on in town.

When I visited Antwerp in 2006 they were celebrating the opening of an extension to the pre-metro and all the travel for the whole weekend was free.

When I went to Ghent from Antwerp I discovered that the celebrations appeared to be across Flanders as all of Ghent’s public transport was free.

Yesterday, I, lazily, caught a bus from the centre of town to the station and, because it was the last Sunday before Christmas, all the buses were free.

Finally, today, on the costal tram I had to buy a ticket for the day, a whole €5, the first time I had actually had to pay to be transported on a De Lijn service (it should be noted that I have never experienced free travel on TEC services in Walloon or the MIVB/STIB services in Brussels).

Which leads me to the question, with this amount of free public transport sloshing around – even being given to the tourists, why is Flanders still the rich part of the country and not facing imminent bankruptcy

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Monday, 21 July 2008

All aboard screaming air

There were just a few babies on the flight (at one point I counted five separate sets of screaming coming from different parts of the plane!), and with a bumpy take off and landing they were more screamy than normal.

Still, despite that, the flight was comfortable, and more importatnly on-time. My luggage managed to keep it's almost unbroken record of being about the last off the plane, but it meant that I only had to wait a couple of minutes for the bus into town.

Room wasn't instantly ready, but after a quick cup of tea and a read through the key bits of the guidebook to Gdansk it was. Very nice room, balcony overlooking some parkland. It's all gone rather too smoothly, but I am happy for it to stay that way. Now I've just got to find a cash point which will take my bank card...

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