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Cold weather causes mass transport delays

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Motorists endured a miserable and cold return to work yesterday with delays occurring on road, rail and on the Tube.

Following a freezing night which saw temperatures drop to minus 12C in parts, a series of accidents led to traffic jams on major road routes.

Over-running rail engineering works caused hour-long peak delays to trains in and out of London’s Liverpool Street station.

With engineering work on the railways overrun at Liverpool Street station, the Stansted Express and services run by National Express East Anglia also experienced delays.

There were also many delays due to a train which broke down on the London over ground line in north and east London while passengers on Merseyrail services faced delays of up to 30 minutes.

On the London Underground, morning peak hour services were affected by signal failures at Bromley-by-Bow in East London and at Putney Bridge in south-west London.

This meant the District line was suspended between Wimbledon and Parsons Green and the Hammersmith and City line had been suspended between Whitechapel and Barking.

Temperatures in central London were only expected to reach 2C (36F).

Forecaster with MeteoGroup, Brendan Jones, said that the UK was experiencing winds from the north and the east that was bringing in cold air from the Arctic and or Scandinavia.

He continued by saying that it will be pretty chilly for the next few days, and there will be much frost overnight and day-time temperatures were going to struggle to get above freezing.

Winter motoring advice for festive season

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

With inclement weather being experienced around the UK in the past week and even more forecasted on the way, motorists around the nation are strongly urged to take note of advice being offered to drivers to help stay safe on the roads during the festive season.

With the icy conditions forecasted by the Met Office, motorists are advised to check the level of antifreeze in their car and the manual provided to ensure the right type of antifreeze is needed.  Some do not mix well and can form a sludge that can clog up the engine and cause irreparable damage.

Motorists are also advised to check the tread on their tyres prior to driving, in order to maintain sufficient grip on the roads, which reduces the risk of losing control of the vehicle in wet or icy conditions.

Visibility is also a key factor in winter conditions, as rain and fog can severely hamper vision.  By ensuring that your lights are in working order can improve your chances of seeing hazards and obstacles on the road.

Once on the road, drivers are advised to allow additional space between your car and the one in front of you.  In icy conditions it can take about 10 times the stopping distance than in normal conditions.  Smooth driving is also the key, as sharp sudden movements on slippery surfaces can lead to control of the car being lost.

For those looking to hire a car for their journey over the festive season are strongly advised to book sooner rather than later, as the Christmas peak travel season is one of the busiest times of year for car hire firms, and availability is limited.

Weather stops Eurostar services for another day

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Eurostar cross-channel services faced another day of suspensions yesterday after tests concluded that the trains needed extra winter-proofing to avoid a repeat of the train failures that left many passengers stranded.

The issues were discovered after Eurostar suspended services on Sunday and instead allowed engineers to carry out tests to find out the cause of the problems over the weekend when five trains simultaneously malfunctioned in the tunnel on Friday.

Cladding fitted to the power cars of the train each winter to stop the build-up of snow was being reinforced yesterday.  The trains failed after built-up snow in northern France melted in the warmer tunnel and damaged sensitive electrical equipment.

The problems for Eurostar, which has been especially busy in the lead-up to Christmas, has been amongst the worst in a series of weather-related incidents on transport systems across northern Europe and the UK.

The weather also forced the closure of the UK’s fourth busiest airport, which led to the most hectic day for this year’s winter for the AA’s breakdown services, caused disruption to rail services and created long queues for those travelling on cross-Channel transport.

The Met Office has forecast further difficult conditions, including widespread ice on roads with improving conditions in sight.

Eurostar said in a statement that their top priority was to ensure that when services resume, customers would be provided with a robust and reliable operation.

The company regretted having to take that decision and understood how frustrated and disappointed travellers would be.

The cross-Channel trains are fitted with some of the most technologically advanced equipment to deal with the differences of signalling and procedures between the two countries as well as the changes in climate.

Hertz to rebrand and upgrade facilities

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Global car hire giant, Hertz, has announced plans to upgrade facilities and streamline its service by making car rental bookings available through iPhone and Blackberry smart phone applications.

Hertz said it would introduce the free apps for mobile devices in the first quarter of 2010, with the applications allowing users to hire cars, find Hertz locations and receive promotions over the phone.

The company is also modernising facilities, with LCD screens replacing most signs.  New facilities would also be launched this year in Atlanta, Chicago, Frankfurt and Shanghai.

Hertz will also be revamping its logo, unveiling a new, more contemporary logo that retains the familiar yellow colour.

The company did not say how much the rebranding plans would cost the world’s largest general use car hire company, which has about 8,000 locations in 145 countries.  Hertz saw revenue hurt earlier this year as the economic downturn affected business and pleasure travel.  However it increased its 2009 profit and revenue in October, citing stronger-than-expected results from its global car rental business in the third quarter and solid projections for the fourth quarter.

Europcar survey optimistic for car rental firms

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Worldwide car hire giant Europcar has released figures from a survey to discover the truth behind the habits of drivers, revealing that 8 out of 10 drivers have considered car hire as an alternative option to owning and running their own car.

It also revealed that 7 out of 10 people have also seriously considered the option of car hire in order to reduce extra costs during the credit crunch.

Increases in vehicle running costs, such as rising fuel prices, added to the current economic climate, has meant that many people are seeking new ways to save money on transport, with car hire proving to be a good option in some circumstances.

Many families with two cares have decided to do away with their second vehicle during the recession, and have opted to hire a vehicle as and when it is needed.  By doing this, the annual running costs of maintaining a private car are massively reduced.

The survey by Europcar also showed that 68 per cent of participants in the poll had hired a car for a holiday in the last 12 months, while the main reason for car hirers opting to rent a vehicle was in order to avoid extra wear and tear on their vehicle by renting.  Experts have also predicted that car hire figures are set to rise with 73 per cent of Brits opting to rent a car whilst on holidays in 2010.

Rome promotes tourist friendly taxis

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

The largest taxi cooperative in Rome is attempting to improve the bad name of the city’s taxi drivers, notorious among tourists to one of the world’s most loved tourist cities.

A ride from either of Rome’s airports to the city centre can cost twice as much as it should, with drivers often bickering over the right to carry apparently inexperienced visitors and inventing excuses not to pick up locals.

According to Radiotaxi 3570, this is set to end, as the company has launched a system for tourists to pay on line before they leave home.

Chairman of the cooperative, Loreno Bittarelli, said they want to change the public’s perceptions about Rome taxi drivers, adding the same services would soon become available at other large Italian cities.

The new internet booking system would also allow tourists to order a driver who speaks English, French, Spanish or German, with another scheme allowing passengers to order and pay via SMS.

The improvement to the image of taxi drivers is part of a broader plan to spruce up services for visitors and to end scams.

A billboard campaign has recently been launched by the town council, which reads Rome loves tourists.

Under the slogan, it says Be smart, don’t try to be clever, and is aimed at taxi drivers, hoteliers and shopkeepers that more honesty and transparency would help Rome.

New Sixt blog up and running

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

European car hire giant Sixt Rent-A-Car has recently launched a new blog aimed to provide internet users with fun stories and exciting news from around the World as well as travel advice and tips for Sixt customers on renting a vehicle.

The new website will also feature regular guest blog posts about travel and local events, and is open to anyone.  The Sixt blog will also provide a platform for content and interaction away from the traditional website service, and is able to provide visitors to the website updates of live traffic and giving up-to-the-minute information on road travel problems.

The blog, which has been online since Summer, has recorded a rising number of visitors each month and is becoming a useful tool for customers with questions and queries, with a popular feature of the blog including a section called ‘ask the expert’;, which offers expert car hire advice on the lesser known aspects of vehicle rental such as what fuel policies would apply and winter tyre requirements for those customers wanting to rent a car in ski resorts.

The blog also gives users modern features so that readers can rate an article and recommend content to friends and family, and an interactive comment facility allows visitors to leave their feedback and opinions on articles.  Regular readers to the website can subscribe to the RSS feed so that the content is automatically fed into their preferred source.

Internet marketing executive at Sixt, David Jackson, said the new blog offered the company a platform to relay news and advice to both potential and existing customers, and aims to provide content that appeals to a broad audience and avoid only publishing car hire information.

The blog has been performing well, with an increase by 650 per cent in the first 6 month it has been running.

M&S insurance offers new customers free car washes

Monday, November 30th, 2009

Customers who sign up to take out car insurance with Marks & Spencer through website moneysupermarket.com could receive free car washes for a year.

The promotion for free monthly auto cleaning services is available throughout 2010 and could save policy holders £84.

The new car wash incentive is open until December 23, and with those who sign up before this date will receive a booklet of 12 vouchers which are valid each month throughout the year at any ARC location across Britain.

The policy gives holders in the UK ad Europe breakdown cover and 14 days car hire in case of fire, theft or accident.

Head of motor insurance at the price comparison website, Steve Sweeney, said the chance to keep your car clean for a year for free, and is a great deal, especially when we are all looking for ways to make the most of our cash at the moment.

Meanwhile, figures recently announced in October showed that the BR7 postal district in Bromley was the area of the country which was most likely to be making claims for theft.

Peugeot launch new car sharing scheme

Monday, November 16th, 2009

Car manufacturer Peugeot-Citroën will offer pre-paid car by the day to young car-hirers as part of the company’s push to regain market share as well as enhancing the appeal of its brands with consumers and investors.

The new car sharing business called Mu, is to be launched in Paris, Berlin and Amsterdam by this winter, and will most likely reach the UK before the summer, meaning that Londoners will be offered pre-paid mobility on demand from Peugeot dealerships through a payment card that offers consumers the choice of a car, small van or a scooter for the day or weekend.

Peugeot-Citroën jump into the car hire market came to life in a presentation by Peugeot-Citroën management yesterday, in which Philippe Varin, chief executive, promised to bring the French company back into profit, achieving €3.3 billion in operating margin by 2012.  Varin said that he forecasts a steady improvement adding €1 billion to operating profit each year through improved sales and margins in Europe, cost-cutting and by increasing the company’s weak market share in China.

Mr Varin forecast positive cashflow for the year, and said that sales have been stronger than earlier predicted, with the third quarter market share up by 0.5 per cent.

The new Mu brand will be targeted at young people in cities, and is part of Peugeot’s higher service strategy but the added benefit of generating income from the stock of vehicles sitting in dealership car parks, a huge drag on dealer profitability.

Customers of Mu will be able to pre-pay for cars, with the pilot programme in France offering a Peugeot 207 at a cost of £50 per day, or for the same price, rent a scooter for three days.

Electric car charge points set up at Sainsbury’s

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Sainsbury has implemented a number of electric car charging points around London in a move to boost Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan to make London the electric vehicle capital of Europe.

He hopes to see 25,000 refuelling docks located in London’s workplaces, retail parks, streets and public car parks by 2015, catering for 100,000 electric cars.

Sainsbury has become the first business to introduce a cross-city network of publicly accessible electric parking spots.

The company has installed two in nine stores, including on in Camden Chiswick, Greenwich and Beckton, with Wandsworth and Whitechapel to implement the scheme later this month.  If they prove popular, more will be set up.

Commercial director for Sainsbury, Neil Sachdev, said that this would turn London into an electric vehicle super-highway.  Electric vehicles create less noise and aid in keeping the city’s air clean.

Boris Johnson’s £60 million charging points scheme is part of a drive to cut carbon emissions by 60 percent by the year 2025.

He hopes to deliver 2,500 recharging spaces, with companies expected to provide roughly 22,500.

Johnson said that he welcomes the arrival of the Sainsbury network, which will put half of London’s population within three miles of a charge point.

So far, there are approximately 5,000 registered battery-powered cars operating in the UK.