Thursday, December 20, 2012

To TfL re. Barclays Cycle Hire update PRICE DOUBLING


I would like to know what the rationale is behind DOUBLING those fares and what plans you have to improve your service levels?


From: Transport for London <>
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 10:42 AM
Subject: Barclays Cycle Hire update

TFL - Service Changes
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Barclays Cycle Hire
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Dear Mr Leforestier,

We recently announced that the tariff for Barclays Cycle Hire is changing from Wednesday 2 January 2013:
  • 24 hour access will increase from £1 to £2
  • Weekly access will increase from £5 to £10
  • Annual membership will increase from £45 to £90
After hiring a bike, the first thirty minutes of use will still be free. All other usage charges and additional charges including late return, non return and bicycle damage will not change.

As you have Auto Renew set up on your account, you will automatically be charged the new access fee when you next hire a bike on or after 2 January. Access periods purchased before 2 January are unaffected, even if they run beyond this date.

If you have multiple keys on your account, the same access fee will be charged for each key.

The access fee increases are the first since the scheme was introduced and will be used to make improvements to the future operation of the scheme. Visit our website to read about our expansion plans.

To find out more about the tariff changes, please click here

Yours sincerely,

Nick Aldworth
General Manager, Barclays Cycle Hire
Transport for London
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Friday, December 07, 2012

Richmond pubs: the blog!

Some reading for the winter month, with this blog that reviews all Richmond pubs:

Good reading, all the miss is the pub address and the name of the beers.

Monday, October 08, 2012

IKEA, flat packed house fires?

Melting transformer under the stairs, house fire narrowly avoided...

Thank you not #IKEA.

Wondering if that's a common occurence and a known fire hazard?

Ikea item reference S0303(SANSA)
Made in China by Tongxiang Yongda Telecomunications Co., Ltd under model YD-60A-2

Update 15/10/12
  • Ikea called me yesterday (Sunday) to address the issue.
  • A very nice lady asked me details as they were concerned by the fire risk
  • The product appears discontinued so they can't withdraw it from sale
  • She will send a £20 voucher to use in store
Bottom line: a late but very good reaction from IKEA, addressing both the safety aspect and the customer satisfaction aspects.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The catholic school issue

It's not hard to get lost in the Great School Debate that's filling in the RTT front page and letters column, let alone several Facebook groups -and even this blog: On the LBRUT's catholic obsession.

In the latest amazing twist, the council issued a press release with a very personal and combative langage against the opposition figurehead, Jeremy Rodell: Secretary of State for Education confirms Council decision on Catholic Schools is lawful - London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
Not quite what you'd expect from a lord...

What's the issue then?
In a nutshell, the council is spending £8.5 millions to buy a site for a catholic school, to be run by the Diocese of Westminster (with a dotted line to the pope in Rome then). The admission policy means that with 10% of catholics in the borough, over 70% of pupils will be from outside. The council argued that there's no NEED for secondary schools, and that therefore I'd be nice to have a catholic school, as there are primary catholic schools but the secondary ones had long been closed.

Maybe I'm being naive, but I view this as simple supply and demand question. If there were more good grammar schools, surely parents would put their children in state schools instead of going private?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Richmond park given a rebuke on parties

The park is a very special place indeed, but it seems not everyone is in agreement on what that means.

The Friends of Richmond Park like it quiet. Very quiet. This time, they were not ranting about cyclists but had a gripe about a party held by Range Rover at the Royal Lower Ballet school. I actually quite agree this was way over the top we should leave deers and runners alone in the dark...  Good that they got their way. Mind you, they hold late night weddings at Pembroke Lodge -the extension disfigured it it to increase the capacity, not something the Friends care about apparently?

Royal Ballet School Range Rover Launch - YouTube

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On the LBRUT's catholic obsession

There's been much coverage about the London Borough of Richmond plan to open a catholic secondary school.  It would be all well IF there was not a shortage of secondary school places in the borough, IF the council was not spending £8m to buy the site and hand it free to the diocese and IF catholics did not make just 10% of the borough's population.

Why this plan then? See my comment on Twickerati: Lord disappointed by acolyte
The council spending £8m to create a faith-school that will provide endoctrinationquality education for catholic pupils, 70% coming OUT of the borough.

Where's the democracy in there?

By the way, why did Lord True not disclose his interests (see above, his wife is catholic and heads up the SIR HAROLD HOOD'S CHARITABLE TRUST, whose aim is quite vaguely "To benefit such Roman Catholic Charitable purposes as the Trustees shall in their absolute discretion from time to time think fit".
This trust has £30m in the bank...

See also:

Monday, September 17, 2012

How often do plane stowaways fall from the sky?

Wheel well attemptsThe Beeb wakes up after under-reporting past cases with this article: BBC News - How often do plane stowaways fall from the sky? Interestingly enough, they don't answer the question.  I've done the maths though: it's one every four years. Just on Richmond borough.
List of reported stowaways reported on Heathrow-bound planes
Year Provenance Airline Number Condition Impact/Retrival Source
2010 Austria Dubai royal family private jet 1 Alive LHR link
1996 India 2 Dead Sainsbury's building site? link
2012 South Africa BA 1 Dead LHR link
2001 Bahrein BA 1 Dead Homebase car park, Richmond link
2012 1 Dead Portman avenue, East Sheen link
2002 Ghana Ghana Airways 2 Dead LHR link
2002 Ghana BA Dead link
2000 1 Dead Broadstone farm, Rudwick, Sussex? link
2002 Uganda DAS Air Cargo 1 Dead LHR link
2007 LHR
See my previous post on the subject:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Stowaway death is a chilling reminder that the Heathrow runways point directly over London and 2 millions Londoners

A stowaway fell on a Sheen road on Sunday:
UPDATE: 'I heard a monstrous bang', says woman after body found in street (From Richmond and Twickenham Times)

In 2001, a man fell from a British Airways Boeing 777 which was heading towards Heathrow and landed in a Homebase car park in Richmond.

Heathrow is in the wrong place, it's only a question of time before someone (or worse, a plane) falls on a house:

Friday, September 07, 2012

How to milk a captive market? Tap commuters

Rail commuters probably wonder what made them look so much like the golden eggs goose when reading pieces such as this one:
Rail fare rises: UK commuter train tickets 10 times the price of European equivalents | This is Money

Aren't they "carbon friendly" and part of the essential workforce of the nation after all?
The truth is that subsidy levels are decreasing, which means a commuter in the UK will pay about 70% of the costs -at least that's a stated government goal.

The problem though, is that years of under-investment and also deregulations have made this essential service costly to run.

If only the service was ten times better than on the continent...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Another accident at North Sheen level crossing

Another proof that a level crossing has no place in a dense urban setting.

A vehicle smashed a barrier at the level crossing on Manor road. The barrier was lying on the pavement tonight (on the right on the picture) and all traffic was interrupted -including for pedestrians as there's no footbridge to the South side of Manor road (see posts below).

At the time of writing, three police patrol cars and a Network Rail engineer were on site.

This is the second incident in a week, as I saw the police at the same place on Monday apparently carrying checks for motorists running through the crossing lights...

See my previous posts on the subject:

Monday, July 02, 2012

Cyclist fatalities increase in London -I squarely blame TfL for not providing adequate infrastructure

Cyclists in the City just came up with this Boris-seeking missile:  Outrageous: 33% more pedestrians killed, 60% more cyclists killed and 21% more cyclists seriously injured. Boris Johnson - your traffic smoothing policy is killing people.

Personally, I'm not sure Boris or Ken made much improvements -or to put it correctly, they slowly gave in to pressure but both failed to redesign the city to put bikes first. Because you see, this is what the Dutch have done, something that even the LCC don't really recognise.

In essence, the infrastructure is still grossly inadequate -something I've blogged about previously. In a nutshell, I think TfL has absolutely no idea whatsoever on what a "cycle track" is. I don't think any of their engineers actually cycles. Can't be. Or that would be an all time height for ineptitude.

And those sad numbers? As far as I am concerned, the fact there's been a huge increase in cycling can not play a contributing factor. Many of those cyclists are not that proficient either, nor are the drivers.

Related posts:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Works in Waterloo: an improvement or just a cash making scheme?

The Evening standard continues with their objective questionable journalistic, er, standards and regurgitates yet another press pack, this time from Network Rail for a change:
Waterloo station turns trendy as Carluccio's, Corney and Barrow, and Thomas Pink open up on new concourse - Transport - News - Evening Standard

Just to put things in perspective:
1. On congestion, Network Rail have made it worse by making the underground concourses longer and shut outside of peak hours

2. The Eurostar platform has been mothballed for the last 5 year... with four EMPTY platforms -quite a disgrace.

3. Finally, are they going to pull down that hideous screen/wall between the concourse and the plaforms? There's no reason Waterloo can't be as beautiful as the Gare du Nord in Paris.

To me it seems the only goal of this revamp is to provide more retail space, in other words it's a cash generating scheme that adds no benefits to the commuters.

Previous posts on Water-loo station: 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Lobbies and lazy journalism

Crisis: Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 today
Here's a great example of lobbies taking over column inches, in this case on a subject that's close to my heart:
David Cameron told: Act now to save Heathrow Airport - Transport - News - Evening Standard

Prime example of lazy "journalism", writing up a quick piece straight off the press pack from BAA. Any proper newspaper article would have tried to show both sides of the story, with counterpoints.

I hope Jonathan and Lucy enjoyed a really nice lunch paid for by Ferrovial (BAA's Spanish owner) and a few nice gifts too.

Just a reminder to set the record straight, London has FIVE international airport (actually, now SEVEN if you count Manston and Southend), totalling seven runways (not including the unused backup one at Gatwick), most being under-used. Heathrow is a WWII planning mistake, its flight path goes over 2m people. Those five airports handle over 130 millions passengers on their six runways, about 150% of the traffic in Paris (LHR + CDG).

It's about time we stop comparing LHR to other European cities and instead do what they've done: build a new airport with enough room for expansion. If it needs to be in the Thames estuary, so be it. 

Previous posts on the same subject:

Friday, May 04, 2012

Barclaycard, you're failing to provide a good customer experience to commuters

This is a follow-up from my previous post: Dear BarclayCard...
My beef with BarclayCard (BARC:LN, @barclaycard) isn't over, I'm actually quite annoyed now.

My advice to Barclays? If your brand name is associated to transportation services, you should ensure a good customer experience. Failing to do so impacts negatively your brand.

Here's a quick summary:
-          I own a BarclayCard Visa that comes with an OysterCard built-in. Barclays sent me a new card and the Oyster stopped working. Resolving this is quite an annoyance. In the Twitterverse we'd say #fail.
-          I also use Barclays Cyclehire, in fact another TfL service, sponsored by the same bonus-happy bank. I use it everyday but it turns out they can slap you a £150 fine just because their processes are also a #fail. That's more than an annoyance

Failure number one: Barclays, when you send me a new card, just make sure it works
-          I've got a Barclaycard VISA, coming with no less than four payment mechanisms: a magnetic strip, a chip (and PIN), a contactless payment chip (RFID) and an Oyster card.
-          It expired, so they sent me a new one.
-          Because I suspected their processes would be sub-optimal, I called them up to ensure the Oyster would be transferred across to the new card. They assured me it was or would be but I still did not trust them. You see, when I wanted to move from a BarclayCard Platinum to that BarclayCard Oyster, they got me to re-apply just like for a new card. I wasn't impressed, after being a client for over 10 years. So, I did not destroy the old card straight away, just in case…
-          As I feared, the Oyster card did not work.
-          I sent an email to complain and ask Barclays to fix this. They tried to call me when I was at work and after several tries I ended up to speaking to a Barclaycard call-centre agent (actually very nice and patient) who could not solve my problem and had to transfer me to TfL.
-          In between those calls, I tried to register my new Oyster card on the TfL website (turns out the number is on the back of the Barclaycard) but that did not work either. See, Barclaycard registered my card already but did not give me the password.
-          When I finally got to speak with TfL agents, they were equally patient, well trained and polite. They  transferred the balance from the old virtual (because it's on my Barclaycard) Oyster card to the new one. But then to complete it, I have to predict where I'll touch in next as they me to tap my Oyster card on a specific tube station within 8 days. I don't usually commute by tube, so it's hard to know where and when I'll next start a tube journey.
-          The next process failure I have experienced, still speaking with TfL is that once they transfer the balance of an Oyster card and until you've tapped it on a reader at the designated station, you can't transfer the 'auto top-up'. Which I had to do because my old Barclaycard wasn't valid anymore, remember?

Failure number two: Barclays, the Borisbikes give you a bad name
-          I should make clear that just like I am well aware that TfL and Barclays are two distinct companies, I know Barclays only sponsors the London bike rental scheme, which is in fact sub-contracted to Serco –the guys who run the prison vans and other stuff.
-          This is not to complain there's never enough bikes or point that it's ridiculous to require buying a separate key while they could use an Oyster card to unlock your bikes. Actually, given what's above, one could think not using Oyster would be a good thing…
-          It's not. Here's what happened to me. To use bikes, you need to buy a key for £3. You can then set it up and once you unlock your bike you pay £1 for a 24h access period. The actual rental is free for 30 mn. Fair enough.
-          I've used it 3-5 times a week for almost a year, with only hassles when I can't find a bike (the un-predictability isn't great if you have a morning meeting) or can't return them (which means missing your train).
-          Trouble starts if you use your bike after the 'access period' has ended. The problem is that the access period isn't renewed automatically if you're on the bike, resulting in a £150 fine! If you're like me, you're thinking who's going to want to lug those heavy beasts for over 24 hours? But if for instance your train is late on day 1 (I hear it can happen sometimes) and you pick a bike up at say 0830. If on day two you pick a bike up at for instance 0829, cycle to your destination and dock it at 0834, you're done. Bang, they've slapped you a £150 fine.
-          This happened to me. For 40 seconds.
-          Of course it doesn't make sense, but try to explain common sense to TfL.

Bottom line: Barclays should ensure that customer experience is good for services they lend their name to. Failing to do this damages their reputation –exactly the point of this blog post.

Some conclusions for Barclays:
-          Don’t expect your customers to do the leg work: I'm a customer and if break it, I expect you to fix it
-          Make sure you communicate all the information you need (including passwords) on all the products you have on a given card

Some advice to TfL:
-          The obligation to touch in at a given tube station to complete an action is impractical
-          The quality of service for the Boris Bikes is not great but you should at least fix the processes that are plainly wrong

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Dear BarclayCard...

Barclaycard OnePulseI like two in ones. Go-fast estate cars. Choc-biscuits. Fridge-freezers.  The idea of a Swiss knife usually works: unless you're after something heavy duty, it does the everyday jobs well -like corking a wine bottle and spreading chese on a ciabatta. So I thought if the concept works for picnics, it might help reducing the number of cards I've got to carry and went for a Barclaycard that does Visa and Oyster. 
Turns out two-in-ones are good for tools but combo's don't really work in the financial world, just like for food -just like a surf'n'turf never does justice to either.
See for yourself my email to Barclays. What do you think?

Dear Barclaycard,

A while back I moved from a Platinum card to a Barclaycard-Oyster. I thought the process was pretty clunky when you got me to re-apply for a new card, having been a customer for about 10 years but never mind.

You sent me a brand new card a few months ago and I thought I'd better check if my Oyster card would be transferred. The call centre agent told me "yes". Turns out it's the wrong answer.

Could you please fix this?

PS: I don't really care who's right or wrong, that TfL is not Barclays, etc. The card says Barclays, so you really ought to pull yourselves together and resolve this.

Thanks in advance,


Friday, April 27, 2012

North Sheen Footbridge update

Local politicians are busy visiting us before next week's elections, including the chap who's designed a new version. They seem to be all quite happy about finally getting a resolution, thought they quickly admit it's only a fix to part of the issue.

I'm not sure why they think we should settle for something half-baked?

Here's my comment on Zac Goldsmith's website, since Katharine Harborne doesn't seem to believe in getting direct feedback on hers.

We should not let Network Rail get away with this band-aid solution as it solves only a part of the problem.

1. It doesn't solve the car congestion issue. A level crossing simply has no place in a densely populated area in 2012.

2. It doesn't help with the station access for less able and parents with children. Or commuters living on the South of the railway line.

3. It doesn't improve the miserable station that North Sheen is, with for instance cycle parking.

Bottom line: Network Rail broke it 17 years ago, they should fix it by moving the signalling equipment they installed where the old footpath was.

See my previous posts on the subject: