Friday, December 20, 2013

On the aviation consultation -lobbies hijacked a great opportunity to get it right

Lobbies have hijacked the aviation consultation, and it's a shame that prevents Britain to enter the 21st century when it comes to air travel.

Here are my comments to the Economist article:

Short sighted indeed... You forgot some other important considerations.
1. External costs.
LHR is in the worst place possible -a marshland that requires to fly over 2m people and space constrained.

2. Fragmentation.
All other capitals have consolidated and moved their hub airports, but for London no one's talking about CLOSING any.

3. Substitutes
No one is either seriously planning to offload shorthaul flights with HS2, even though Eurostar has 70% of passenger share between London and Paris.

In a nutshell: a botched consultation that's been hijacked by lobbies -in particular those using and owning Heathrow.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mini-Holland or mini-Neverland?

So, here we go, the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames (LBURT) has gone forth with its proposal to apply for a cycling scheme funding.

Given the shoddy work they've done on cycle path in the past, no doubt they'll excel this time around. Call me a cynic, but shouldn't they have done this anyway?

Here's the application:

And my comment on this article, reacting to grumpy residents:
Clearly, no one reading this thread (probably not even the LBRUT planning committee members) have been to the Netherlands.

Doing school runs and any other short journeys by car, as it is the norm in our borough, is not sustainable. It is about time to provide safe facilities for cyclists -and yes, that means reallocating space.

Looking at the A316 for instance, it is quite clear that space is mostly designed for cars. The Richmond roundabout is a great case in point of that flawed approach: when it was redesigned, another lane was added for cars but cycling is still on a shared space with pedestrians -a recipe for disaster. Not one single cycling approach provides a safe and continuous passage to bicycles.
In a nutshell, it's designed for through (non-local) car traffic, at the expense of (local) pedestrians and cyclists.

Why should we allocate highways to folks passing through?

PS: see also this RCC post

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Homebase asked for my views....

... and so I'd think I'd share them.

Here's the survey I filled after I went there to buy some ericaceous compost -which, as usual, was out of stock.

Very limited product range, not for serious DIY, high-prices, items always out of stock.

If you want to be positioned lifestyle, then you'd be stocking exciting things, not middle of the road products.

I only go there because it's close to home, otherwise B&Q and Screwfix are my first choice for DIY, Squires is way better for gardening and Wickes is way cheaper.

Bottom line: you are on several distinct segments and you do all of quite badly.

Is there anyone out there to defend them or are they quickly becoming irrelevant?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Cyclists unloved

This week's roundup

RT @RichmondCycling
 "Up to 75% of peak traffic now people on bicycles yet no consistent policy for making those roads safe for cycling"

Royal Parks finally comes out: they don't like cyclists. Too pleb?

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Richmond council planning schizophrenia

The council and Lord True is frankly disingenuous in those RTT article citations: Richmond loses out on planning rules appeal.

Just last year, they've approved 300 flats in North Sheen, with no provision for "vital infrastructure such as schools" or transportation.
In the process, retail and office space was also added to the already vacant stock on the same stretch of Lower Richmond road.   See also:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Richmond Council Planning Department: for developpers profits only

Here's what happens when the council and their deranged planning "policy" allows developpers to pack low standards, non-eco friendly in what was orchards and then cottages before they turned it into a light industrial estate:

Long-suffering residents at wits' end with Garden Road flats (RTT)

It would have been nicer if they had pushed for normal density terraced houses, but when fools run the asylum this is what is to be expected.

See my previous post on the subject:
The lost orchards of North Sheen and Richmond Council's cunning plan to impose a new tax?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

North Sheen station closed because of suspected WWII bomb

@ZeLondonNiouves Ambulance stuck at the Manor road level crossing: hope it's not too urgent... #fail
Following the decision of the lunatics running the council and Network rail of building a footbridge on the wrong side of Manor Road instead of where it happily was before, workmen have found a suspicious device.

Well done all.

JourneyCheck - South West Trains - All Stations to All Stations - Live Train Disruption/Cancellations/Delays and Real Time Departure/Arrival Boards
Line problem: at North Sheen.
Owing to a security alert at North Sheen all lines are blocked.
Train services running through this station may be cancelled, delayed or revised at short notice. An estimate for the resumption of normal services will be provided as soon as the problem has been fully assessed.
Customer Advice:
A suspicious device has been found at North Sheen level crossing. Staff are on site and investigating, but until such time as the area can be declared safe, we are unable to run trains between Barnes and Feltham via Richmond.
Local bus services are conveying passengers via any reasonable route until further notice.
Underground services are conveying passengers between Richmond and London Waterloo in both directions until further notice.
Message Received :14/03/2013 13:15

See also:

Monday, February 18, 2013

DAY NICE: the web team comes AAround

Great surprise this morning: a tweet from @AmericanAir.

Just a flashback from previous episodes: I've booked some tickets for a family holiday around Xmas but they were not ticketed, despite me calling back to check. Since, it appears clearly to me that the reservations department failed to resubmit the transaction as confirmed by BarclayCard and to contact me about it. Obviously, by then the fares had doubled, which meant explaining the kids we were no longer going to see the Grand Canyon.

I've made a bit of a stink about it, on Twittter, Facebook and directly before that with the Customer Relations department.

Following all that, the web team who operates Twitter and Facebook contacted reservations and confirmed that they had never emailed me after all. They then tweeted me yesterday and proposed to reinstate the booking.


In about 30 mn after I cam back to them via DM, they had ticketed our booking! WOW.

So what now? We're relived after a few really stressful days. But then, we're looking forward to our holidays. Thank you to the American Airlines web team.

Based on this personal story, here are my thoughts on the customer experience aspects:
  • First, I have to praise @barclaycard who was incredibly responsive. They called me up to do the fraud check the next day, which is annoying but I suppose fine. Then I got them on the phone and that was not very conclusive but then they came back quickly by email. When I tweeted though, they were right away on the case.
  •  Secondly, after some denying and passing on the parcel, the @AmericanAir crew really helped. I'm not sure what went on between them and the reservations department, but I guess they put some pressure. So, thank you web team. I've checked the volumme of comments on Facebook and Twitter, and it's quite impressive. Clearly they're busy!
  • The AA reservation department though is a bit of a mess. There's probably quite a lot of manual processes. They're hard to reach and agents don't seem to have authority to do much, not even escalate a complaint.
  • For customers then, social media (SocMed) is a great new avenue to engage with brands, directly and using channel of choices -it's much easier to tweet or Facebook than waiting 20 mn for an agent.
  • For brands, it can be a way to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty with quicker issue resolution. And also an easier way to trip in public if responses fall short of the mark.

Previous post in this series:
  • American Airlines -DAY FOUR, now own up!
  • American Airlines, give me my booking back!
  • Thursday, February 14, 2013

    DAY FIVE with American Airlines: w're merging with US Air, talk to the hand!

    OK, it's now DAY 5 since I've started my complaint about AA losing my booking.  It's now clear that someone in their reservations department made a mistake by not calling me, I suspect not emailing me and probably not trying to take the payment from my credit card company as confirmed by BarclayCard.

    Yes, their so called "customer relations" doesn't want to be involved in investigating the matter further because they're not "equipped." A feeble excuse and a poor way to treat their customers.

    It's clear now that not only they don't have a single view of the customer, that their reservations and payment processing systems are not quite state of the art, and that more worryingly they don't have a "voice of the customer" office. No wonder they went bust.

    Here's their latest letter (below), you can judge for yourself.

    February 13, 2013

    Dear *****

    Thank you again for contacting us, and I do apologize for the inconvenience this is causing you by being passed on, from department to department.

    I also understand your frustration, however as I had advised you in my previous response, Customer Relations is only equipped to handle and work to resolve a variety of past travel issues and we are not equipped with the systems required to handle or resolve future reservations issues hence we recommend that you contact our Reservations Team for immediate assistance. Our Agents have complete access to the most current schedule and fare information, and are much better equipped to provide assistance for any issues relating to impending / future travel.

    They will be more equipped to assist you, and I do apologize that this has not been the case in the past. Again, as we only deal with past dated travel through Customer Relations, I am afraid I am unable to assist you further.

    M** **, I apologize again for this inconvenience and I do hope you will find a quick resolution to your booking.


    Olivia Kacisolomone
    Customer Relations
    American Airlines
    AA Ref#1-809646144

    For security purposes and to protect privacy, our process does not allow for replies to this message. If we can assist you further, please let us know by clicking

    Previous post in the saga:

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    American Airlines -DAY FOUR, now own up!

    American Airlines (ex. AMR, now AAMRQ) is probably too busy merging with US Air but in any case, it's no surprise they went busy given the way they treat their customers. It's day four, and the responses we're getting are still "contact that other department" or "your fare is no longer available". That's not good enough, as per my email below.

    If you've missed the beggining of the saga, here's the start: American Airlines, give me my booking back!
    Check also this Facebook thread.

    Re your latest email AA Ref#1-808589557, it is still my intimate conviction that there's a mistake on AA's part.

    I would very much like you to recognise this and rebook my flights at the original price. Passing back the parcel to reservations doesn't help because they don't have the authority to do this.

    1. We have been in touch with you re. this booking, but at no point AA said there was a problem.

    2. I dispute the fact AA has tried to contact me. Actually, I know AA haven't called. And I am convinced AA did not send those emails about a credit card problem.

    3. I heard back from my credit card company who says you HAVE NOT tried to resubmit this transaction. See below.

    Do the right thing please. Own up. Rebook us.


    Dear *****

    Thanks for your message.

    I have checked your account and can confirm that there are no Outstanding Authorisations for the amounts you specified on your account at present. This could be because the transaction has either completed, which you can view under 'Recent Transactions', or it may have dropped off your account.

    Outstanding Authorisations are usually held on an account for seven to 10 days before they are either removed or are fully debited upon receipt of the sales voucher receipt from the company or merchant who your account is being debited to.

    An account can only legally be debited once the credit card company is in receipt of the Sales Voucher Receipt. Sales Voucher Receipts are usually received within 7 to 10 days. However, merchants do have six years and one day in which they

    can legally produce the sales voucher receipt. Therefore, an outstanding authorisation could be pending on an account for anytime within that period and then debited to the account.

    I trust this information is of assistance.

    Should you have any further queries, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

    Kind Regards,

    Customer Service Advisor
    Barclaycard Customer Services

    13/2/13 UPDATE: to my great surprised, BarclayCard actually called me back after my tweet and confirmed that AA did not retry to submit the transaction. My conclusion? AA failed their duties of caring for their customers. And lied. They look bad. Someone screwed up there and they should really own up rather than burying their head in the sand. 
    Top marks for the @barclaycard web team anyway. At least someone's doing their job.

    Tuesday, February 12, 2013

    American Airlines, give me my booking back!

    New logo. Old AA.
    Here's my letter to AA tonight, has anyone experienced the same?


    This is a formal complaint after I feel I have exhausted all avenues via different channels. I can't even start to explain how frustrated I am about your customer service procedures, or the lack thereof.

    Here's my story of how AA screwed up our family holidays of a lifetime.

    Until recently, I was really looking forward to taking our two young daughters and my wife into the Wild West, through the Grand Canyon to see the Big Landscapes. The tickets were dear but heck we've saved and we booked long in advance to ensure we'd get a good price.

    So, right after Christmas I went onto and booked some flights. Took us quite a while to figure out the options but it was done and we bought the travel guides.

    Alas, the next day my credit card company left me a voice mail saying they had a case of suspected fraud. I called them back, confirmed all was OK and they said they'd authorise the transaction. In the evening, I called AA's reservation line -I guess using the **** number because we were staying there with family for the holidays. Ahah, they said, we need to rebook you because the payment was not processed. Which they did. It took a painfully long call to do this but then the agent was nice and I did not yet know it would be the first of a series of calls.

    At that point, they gave me a different booking number: ******. I did not make a note of the first one but I did not think much about it.

    I logged in the day after and saw my flight as purchased but not ticketed. Hum, I thought. And so I called again to check all was OK with the payments. After all, I used my **** card and it's a small provincial building society which might not get on with a US large company?
    The agent told me that "everything was OK with my booking". I was reassured. And wrong.

    On the week of the 7th January, I checked on the website out of instinct and saw the reservation status was still "purchased". I'm quite busy with my day job that week and so I send a few emails around to AAdvantage, who tell me to contact reservations by phone. Quite useless you'd admit. So I ask my wife to call. Why? Because I'm busy -you were not paying attention. She can't get through to an agent but the robot tells her the reservation is OK, lists all the flights and so on. Hum. So it must be surely?

    I got the credit card statements, and to my surprise nothing on it. Strange I think. I quickly log in, see the reservation is still "purchased" and have to go travel on business for a few days. Upon my return, I login yesterday night and see my reservation as "cancelled." Mouth opens, closes, opens again, heartbeats skip. Expletive follows. I pick-up the phone yesterday night (on Sunday 9th February of what still is 2013 but now feels 1984) and get told that reservation can rebook it (sigh) but, ah, the price now jumps up by something obscene like 2,000 quids. Yep. Two thousand British Pounds. TWO GRAND. I don't find that funny, at all, and explain the agent (remaining calm, after all she's just a cog in the machine speaking in an 8 hour shift to just another customer) that I just want my booking back. In the meantime, I email back AAdvantage. She tells me she's got no record of my emails asking for clarification because it's another department, nor from my previous calls. Great.

    We're Monday 10th February. 10/2/13 as we say here. I'm supposed to do the school run but tell the kids to be ready and to wait on the stairs landing while I call back the UK call centre. The agent can't do anything but they tell me they've sent me some emails saying that my credit card has been declined. It's interesting because I never got them despite checking my spam etc. I ask her to forward that email. The girls have now been waiting 40 minutes in the hall and we're getting late for school.

    I hang up and glance at my email. The email I never received has been pasted into a new email but without the headers, so there's no mention of when it was really sent.

    During the day I kick up a fuss on twitter, which comes to the same conclusion: although they own the planes and all, AA can't rebook me at the original price.

    Now, what's funny about you AA is that you seem to record the things you like. Or those that fit your version of the truth. Like the call in chapter 3 wasn't logged into your CRM system, maybe because the agent just peeked at the record but did not modify it. Or that emails suddenly pops in, no probs at all, except when they're supposed to (I never got your emails stating the CC transaction did not go through).
    Because I actually don't believe you've tried to contact me about this booking. What I know for sure is that I've enquired many times about this booking. American Airlines, you did bad and need to apologise and own up to it. I want my booking back.

    In addition to screwing up my booking, your "customer experience" is pretty poor too. As a customer, I don't want to be passed around between department who are are passing on the baby. I. Don't. Care. Which. Department. You're all American Airlines for what I know. And. Pon't. Put. Me. On. Hold. All. The. Time. It's especially annoying as you're speaking to folks who don't seem to have a last name, which means that when the line cuts -as it did several times during that whole story- you have to start all over again.

    See, it's our holidays of a lifetime. A special treat for the girls. And I'd like to have it back. Please.



    12/2/13 Update: go an inate response from customer relations telling me to call reservations.  Clearly, they get neither customer nor relations. In the meantime, here's a link to this post on the AA Facebook page. Please "like" and "share".
    On twitter, AA told me they could not help except rebooking me at the grossly inflated price. The story continues.
    And tonight, I've called back my credit card company who assured me they did not decline any transactions. Someone's telling porkies, and given AA's track record at communicating and inventing emails, I know where my suspicions lie.

    Wednesday, January 09, 2013

    Response from TfL re. Barclays Cycle Hire update PRICE DOUBLING


    It's all well and good except for regular users who I suspect make most of your revenues?

    For instance, this morning there wasn't 2x more bikes at the Waterloo
    docking stations.



    On 31/12/2012, BarclaysCycleHire wrote:
    > Dear Mr Windsor
    >Thank you for your email regarding the tariff changes for Barclays Cycle
    >Hire in 2013.
    >The scheme is regularly monitored and continually reviewed to identify any
    >opportunities for improving users' experience.
    >We are undertaking important system software upgrades and website
    >improvements in 2013 to meet this goal. These include, for example:
    >Enabling casual users to hire cycles with a single swipe of their payment
    >card. This will greatly simplify (and thereby speed up) the process of
    >hiring a bike on street
    >Members will be able to hire bikes as casual users using their registered
    >payment card. This will benefit members who may have forgotten to bring
    >their key or who would like to casually hire cycles for friends and family
    >to accompany them
    >Changes to the BCH website to improve the user experience, including
    >enhanced docking station status information, online account management and
    >an improved BCH journey planner.
    >The on-street experience will also be improved through a number of changes
    >at docking stations, including:
    >Enhancements to the terminal touch screen interface to provide better
    >information about nearby docking stations and improved foreign-language
    >information about using the scheme, as well as enabling the single-swipe
    >payment process noted above
    >Improvements and updates to the terminal panels themselves, with new and
    >updated maps, nearest docking station information, and clearer information
    >about tariffs and charges
    >We will continue to focus on improved bike redistribution and cycle repair
    >strategies to ensure that bikes and free docking points are as available to
    >users as possible, and that cycles with reported faults are repaired swiftly
    >and returned to the scheme. Ongoing maintenance of docking stations will
    >also continue to be a priority.
    >In addition to these system-wide improvements, the planning and roll-out of
    >the Cycle Hire Expansion and Intensification (CHEI) programme into south
    >west London is another key focus for us in the coming months. The Mayor has
    >always viewed cycle hire as an expanding programme and has asked TfL to look
    >at ways to expand and improve the scheme in a sustainable way into the
    >Additional revenue generated from the increase in the tariff will be put
    >towards the above developments as well as other improvement opportunities
    >that may arise, and we are confident that the scheme will continue to grow
    >and develop.
    >Barclays Cycle Hire has been a fantastic success, introducing millions of
    >people to the joys of cycling in the capital. Indeed we saw record highs of
    >over 47,000 hires in one day, and 3 months of over a million hires during
    >the summer.
    >Kind regards
    >Tristan John
    >Barclays Cycle Hire