Network Rail Launches New App for Emergency Response

Network Rail, a company that operates the railway network in the UK, is launching a smartphone application to cater for the network’s emergency requirements.

The application links the company’s helicopters to emergency services, and will be able to track crews dealing with incidents on the railway network.

The application, which has been named ‘Where Am I?’, uses GPS to locate the incident and then translates the location into geological references. The app has been created to allow the air crew surveying the railway line to find the locations of incidents and send that information to crew members on the ground, after translating the location into a variety of formats, such as, post codes used by the emergency services, grid references used by helicopters, and mileage-based line references used by the railway.

The director of asset information for Network Rail, Patrick Bossert, said, ‘We are always looking for innovative solutions to the challenges we face in managing assets distributed over a 20,000-mile network. By using modern technology we can offer a step-change in the speed and ease with which we can locate and tackle problems to keep trains running smoothly.’

The app for mobile devices was launched during the 2012 Olympic Games and has proven itself successful in identifying an incident and directing emergency services to the exact location.

The accuracy of the app has been tested to within a radius of five metres, and it will be helpful in identifying emergency situations for the entire railway network in the UK.

Bath Tourism Plus Announces Increase in Bath-based Business Events

Bath Tourism Plus (BTP), a marketing agency for the city of Bath in the UK, has recently released the findings of a report commissioned into Bath’s conference and events market.

The report has indicated that in 2011 there were around 3,750 business events held in the city for around £24.4m in revenue, a rise of 15 percent compared to 2009.

The report, which has been produced by TEAM Tourism Consulting, measures the value and characteristics of Bath’s conference and events market and draws upon data provided to the UK Events Market Trends Survey (UKEMTS) by conference venues across the city.

The report divulged that around 161,000 delegates attended business events in Bath city in 2011, with an average event duration of 1.6 days. The corporate sector has hosted around 74 percent of events, for an average Day Delegate Rate (DDR) of £51, compared to a pan UK average of £41, for the same period.

Nick Brooks Sykes, the chief executive officer, at Bath Tourism Plus, said, ‘These figures are a tremendous boost for the city and highlight the valuable contribution business tourism makes to Bath’s visitor economy. In our strategy, we set ourselves a target of attracting 169,000 business delegates to Bath by 2014, so it’s great to see that we’re already well on the way to achieving this.’

Bath Tourism Plus is continuing a marketing drive to persuade organisers and event planners to host more conferences and events in Bath. The campaign includes the re-launch of a conference venues website, www.bathconference.co.uk.

West Coast Rail Contract Will Be Signed, Says UK Transport Secretary

The new West Coast mainline rail franchise in the UK, which has recently been granted to First Group, a Scotland based transportation company, will be signed later this week despite growing controversy over the decision.

Virgin Trains, a UK-based train company and the present operator of the franchise, has been running an electronic signature campaign to press for a parliamentary discussion against the granting of the operation of the West Coast line to First Group. The campaign has collected around 100,000 signatures to date.

However, transport secretary, Justine Greening, has said that the new contract will be signed soon and there is no chance of it being delayed despite the pressure tactics for a review that are being exerted by Virgin Trains.

Ms Greening said in an interview with the BBC, that, ‘If we want to move away from above-inflation fares, when it comes to franchising lucrative lines we’ve got to get a better deal for taxpayers, and that’s what we’ve done.

We do plan to push on with signing the contract with FirstGroup and I do suspect that, although I have a huge amount of respect for Virgin and the work they have done on the line, had they won the bid, they would have been perfectly happy with the process.’

Earlier, Tim O’Toole, the chief executive officer of First Group, said, ‘We are delighted to be selected by government to operate this unique railway which connects communities across the country and plays a vital role in the UK’s economic growth.

Our winning bid is a deliverable proposition that is compelling for all who want to see a greater use of our rail networks. We will be making significant improvements including reduced journey times and introducing new direct services.’

Fly midweek and save a fortune

Travellers that are keen to get the best possible value for money from their travel arrangements would do well to organise their flights on a day in the middle of the week, according to the findings of a recent survey.

The survey was undertaken by consumer watchdog, Which?, and according to its findings, Tuesday is the cheapest day of the week to book a flight out of the UK, while Sunday is the most expensive.

Flights with budget airlines can be as much as 35 percent more expensive on a Friday than the equivalent flight leaving on Tuesday, according to the study findings. And selecting the most cost effective flights does not stop with simply choosing which day to travel on, the study also revealed that choosing a less popular time to fly, even on the same day, can also pay substantial dividends. For example, 86 percent of BA’s cheapest flights are in the evening.

The conclusions were drawn following research into 1,174 flights in September, to three European destinations, Dublin, Barcelona and Alicante. The survey benchmark was a return flight for one person with one piece of checked-in luggage, and the prices were compiled in August.

Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, was quoted in the Daily Mail, saying: ‘With household budgets squeezed, holidaymakers will want to make sure they are getting a good deal on their flights. We found that people can save a significant sum of money if they shop around and can be flexible, changing the day or time they choose to travel.’

The Landmark London Hotel Announces Charity Opera Event

The Landmark London, a luxury hotel in London, will be hosting a new opera event for its guests.

The event is being hosted in a partnership with Streetwise Opera, a charity organisation that offers homeless people a chance to take part in an opera. The show will be held on October 5, 2012, and will be followed by a charity dinner.

The dinner, an event that is ticket only, will be held at the hotel’s Winter Garden restaurant, below an eight-storey atrium with a glass ceiling, and includes a five-course meal, interspersed with three musical interludes of 20 minutes each.

The hotel is located just across from Marylebone Tube Station, in Marylebone, as well as being in close proximity to Oxford Circus, Piccadilly Circus and London’s renowned theatre district. The building reflects Victorian Gothic architecture, the highlight of which is the eight-story glass atrium

The hotel is offering 253 rooms and 56 suites, each with high-speed Internet access. The dining options at the hotel include two restaurants, a cocktail bar and 24-hour room service. The hotel is also offering flexible meeting and conference spaces for corporate events and private functions.

The Landmark Spa and Health Club is located inside the hotel, offering a 15-metre heated swimming pool, a gymnasium, four spa treatment rooms, a heat therapy facility, steam rooms, a spa pool and a range of therapy programmes.

The hotel is currently offering a 20 percent discount on its suite rates, as well as various other room rate packages for its guests.

South West Trains Announce Special Fares for 2012 Paralympic Games

South West Trains, a UK-based train operating company, is offering special fares for the 2012 Paralympic Games to be held in London.

The company is to continue with the special 2012 Games Trains Tickets that it launched for the 2012 Olympic Games, throughout the duration of the Paralympic Games. The tickets allow flexibility for the passengers to change the time of their return in case an event is rescheduled, or if they simply wish to stay at the venue for longer than expected.

The special train tickets are available to book online at www.nationalrailgamestravel.co.uk, and may be booked by Paralympic ticket holders.

The company is expecting to schedule many late night services during the Paralympic Games, offering around 400,000 extra seats during the period.

Jake Kelly, the customer service director for the company, said, ‘With the Paralympic Games widely anticipated to be the best ever, we’re certain that many people will take the opportunity to be part of this great event.

We’ll be providing more than 400,000 extra seats throughout these Games and many of our evening services will run later than normal to help spectators return home after events.

There are still some great value tickets available for people to buy at www.nationalrailgamestravel.co.uk and we’d urge anybody planning to travel during the Paralympics to book ahead and take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.

As with the Olympic Games, we’ll have extra staff on hand to help passengers with any assistance they need, but we would strongly advise that people travelling in large groups or passengers with special mobility requirements use our dedicated Assisted Travel Team to pre-book their travel with us.’

Travellers Often Pay Extra on All Inclusive Holidays

British holidaymakers opting for an all-inclusive vacation may be paying extra for amenities that were supposed to be covered under the package price.

The Post Office All Inclusive Holiday Report has questioned around 14 million holidaymakers worldwide to suggest that while all-inclusive packages are supposed to cater for all meals, often hotels only include some meals, and travellers find themselves having to pay for the rest.

The report highlights that around three-quarters of British holidaymakers have paid for extras on all-inclusive holidays, which they originally expected to have included in the package rates. The extra amenities often charged for by hotels and resorts, over and above the all-inclusive rates, include alcoholic and non-alcoholic liquor brands, wine by the bottle, bottled water, as well as Internet access and a la carte meals.

Around 88 percent of travellers opting for all-inclusive packages expected all meals to be included, while a survey of 40 hotels in 20 destinations globally has registered that only a third of the hotels actually covered all meals. While some cover buffet meals, many often charge extra for a la carte dining.

Around three million UK travellers have paid a total of £76.8 million extra for meal alternatives.

Andrew Brown, the head of travel money for Post Office Travel Insurance, a UK-based travel insurance company, said, ‘All Inclusive holidays are definitely on the increase, especially in Europe, which, according to our research, now accounts for two-thirds of All Inclusive trips by UK holidaymakers.

However, as the numbers rise, so do expectations and in almost every cost category that we looked at the All Inclusive offer made by hotels fell short of what holidaymakers expected.’

Yusmarg to become tourist beacon for Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian state Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is looking to attract tourists with the promotion of Yusmarg as an eco-tourism hub.

The state, which was once a tourist’s paradise, has seen a steady depletion of tourist resources. However, the government is now making efforts to attract tourists with new offers and better tourism initiatives to rebuild traveller’s confidence in the destination.

Yusmarg, located in the Budgam district, is well known for its scenic beauty, and the government there is planning a three-day tourism festival to help promote it. The local administration is inviting several of the nation’s prominent tour and travel firms to Yusmarg to acquaint them with the vast tourism potential that is on offer there.

The fourth board meeting of the Yusmarg Development Authority (YDA) also has other plans to create an eco-tourism hub. The board said that the Indian Union Ministry for Tourism has sanctioned INR40m for the construction of recreation and sports centres at Yusmarg. There are also plans to develop the area into a unique adventure tourist destination and it will soon be offering activities that include mountain biking and bungee jumping. Personnel from the Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering, Pahalgam, will train those tourists who are keen to try their hand at these pastimes but have no previous experience.

There are plans to develop a herbal garden in the area, with active help from the forest department. Nature lovers will also have the chance to explore the area using exclusive trekking routes and wayside facilities at nearby places, including Doodhganga, Drugdolen, Burga and Kalnag. A golf course is also to be built at Hayjan village.

Isaac ruins travel plans

Travel and tourism have been badly affected throughout south Florida in recent days because of tropical storm, Isaac.

Tourists and travellers were stranded at airports and ports after flights and cruise ships were cancelled due to bad weather. However, it is expected that travel will resume from Tuesday after the storm started to abate and show signs of moving on.

Stranded passengers from all over the world had no choice but to sit and wait for the storm to pass after learning that their flights could be delayed for two to three days. Weather forecasts suggest that while air and sea travel in south Florida could return to normal by Tuesday, cities along the nation’s northern Gulf will continue to suffer weather-related restrictions.

On Monday, local travellers were left stranded after 158 flights were cancelled and 117 delayed at Miami-Dade. About a dozen flights were cancelled and 30 delayed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Port Miami had been closed until Monday afternoon and some cruise ships were delayed. Cruise passengers had to stay on their ships for longer than expected and had to join the queues to search for temporary lodging or to change flight plans after landing. Some cruise lines offered compensation to clients for the delay in reaching port.

Hundreds of flights to New Orleans are due to be cancelled on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For their part, air carriers are mostly allowing customers to change their flights without penalty, even though some conditions apply. Most firms are waiving change fees and some are not charging for the difference in rebooked fares.

It’s discount time at Disney!

Disney Resort hotels are offering sizeable autumn discounts.

Holidaymakers planning a family vacation at Disney Resorts will find that they can benefit from up to 30 percent discount on accommodation at hotels located on site. With room rates in decline, now is a good time to book a family vacation that offers the thrills and spills of Disney’s total entertainment resorts. With cooler weather and smaller crowds adding to the attraction of the latest room deals, holidays at Disney resorts are expected to show a sharp increase in popularity.

Discounts are available dependent on travel dates. A discount of 25 to 30 percent is being offered for most stays at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – with a standard view.

Alternatively, between 15 and 20 percent discounts are available for stays at Disney’s Contemporary Resort (excluding Magic Kingdom view rooms) and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.

Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West Resort, Boardwalk Villas, and Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House and Kidani Village, standard view, are offering discounts of 25 to 30 percent depending on the dates of travel. Other hotels are also offering similar discounts that are likely to be of interest to the prudent holidaymaker.

For those who are travelling with families, discounts of up to 15 percent are available at Disney’s Art of Animation – Family Suites. Visitors are also encouraged to mix and match offers to spice up their stay in the resort. For example, it is possible to add a day or two on to a Free Dining vacation, or to try a multiple-resort stay to benefit from discounts while experiencing other resorts. Alternatively, the Free Dining promotion can be passed up for a better deal stays. There are endless permutations for the creative holidaymaker.

The offers are limited, so Disney advise that reservations need to be made soon to avoid disappointment.