UK Rail Passengers Will Not Be Affected By Development Work during Christmas

The Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the central agency for passenger rail operators in the UK, has reported that most rail passengers will be unaffected by a series of planned improvement works that are expected to be carried out between the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

As the upcoming holiday period is going to see a slow down in passenger traffic, new statistics from the agency show that number of replacement buses will be much less than the same period last year. The majority of rail routes in the UK will stay open despite the planned improvement work.

Michael Roberts, the chief executive of ATOC, said, ‘A great deal of effort and planning goes into making sure that work to improve stations and make journeys faster and more reliable goes on while minimising disruption for our passengers.

This year, we have again been able to reduce the number of people who will have to get on to a replacement bus. Once again train companies have been working closely with Network Rail to make sure that we keep people on trains wherever we can.’

Network Rail, a company that operates the railway network in the UK, has announced that its engineers will be working all through the holiday period to improve signalling, place tracks, renovate bridges and refurbish rail stations to improve its passenger experience.

Robin Gisby, the Network Rail managing director for network operations, said, ‘We’re doing a lot of work this year to improve Britain’s railway and there will be some disruption to passengers over the Christmas period, but the overall effect on passengers is much lower than in previous years.

Passengers will see fewer buses and a better service this Christmas holiday period as our vital improvement work uses new techniques and equipment that reduces the impact on train services. This will be the model for the years ahead as we invest heavily to build a bigger, better railway and support Britain’s economic growth.’

Hyatt Affiliate purchases Hyatt Regency Birmingham

Hyatt Hotels, the US-based hospitality company that owns brands such as Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Andaz, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and others, is reporting that a company affiliate has acquired the Hyatt Regency Birmingham hotel in the UK.

The hotel, which was only partly owned by the company affiliate, will now be fully owned for a price of GBP27 million.

Tim Flodin, the general manager at Hyatt Regency Birmingham, said, ‘The team at the hotel is delighted at the news that a Hyatt affiliate has purchased the hotel, and as one of the most popular hotels in the city amongst both business and leisure guests, we have a proud history of hospitality in Birmingham and look forward to the exciting times ahead.

At Hyatt Regency Birmingham, we are committed to supporting the local community, working closely with surrounding businesses, colleges and charities, including the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Stourbridge College, University College Birmingham and catering college KHCSC.’

The hotel has been operating as Hyatt Regency Birmingham since its opening in 1990. The Hyatt affiliate intends to invest around GBP6 million in 2013 to refurbish the hotel as one of the foremost hotels in Birmingham.

Claiming to be one of the best-situated hotels, Hyatt Regency Birmingham is a contemporary, four-star hotel located in Birmingham city centre. The hotel has 319 luxury rooms and suites, the Amala Spa & Club, a 16-meter indoor swimming pool and a fitness area, the signature Aria Restaurant and Pravda Bar, and 10 meeting and event rooms.

Michael Gray, the Hyatt Hotels area director for UK and Ireland, said, ‘Birmingham is one of the leading business tourism destinations in the United Kingdom, and Hyatt Regency Birmingham has long been a favourite choice in the city.

Hyatt has successfully provided management services for the hotel for many years and we are delighted that a Hyatt affiliate is once again the owner of this hotel, one of our key hotels in the United Kingdom. We believe that the hotel’s excellent location and full range of services, event capabilities and dining options will continue to make this one of the city’s very best places to stay and to hold an event, and we are very enthused about this investment in the property. Indeed on top of its existing strengths, we expect that improved transport links, such as the extended runway at Birmingham Airport and the high-speed London rail link will no doubt even further increase the attractiveness of Birmingham as an event destination in the future. We are also very enthusiastic about this because of Hyatt’s long and proud history in the UK.’

Air New Zealand Cancels London to Hong Kong Service from March 2013

Air New Zealand, a New Zealand-based airline company, has announced the withdrawal of services between Hong Kong and London Heathrow Airport in the UK.

The services will be terminated, effective from March 4, 2013. The airline has confirmed that there will be no changes to its daily London Heathrow to Auckland service, via Los Angeles, in the US.

The airline, which has conducted a comprehensive review of the Hong Kong to London service, has reported that the route has become unprofitable to operate. The termination of the service will lead to job losses for around 70 of the airline’s London-based cabin crew.

Around 8,000 customers that have bought tickets to travel between Hong Kong and London from March 4, 2012, will be booked on to other flights on the same route, mostly with Cathay Pacific, a Hong Kong based airline operator.

In another decision, the airline has entered into a strategic agreement with Cathay Pacific, for the Auckland to Hong Kong route, effective from December 12, 2012. The agreement includes code sharing between the two carriers on existing Auckland and Hong Kong services, which will also provide the airline’s passengers with connections to Mainland China and beyond.

Rob Fyfe, the airline chief executive officer, said, ‘The agreement will see both carriers continue to operate the same frequency between Auckland and Hong Kong while introducing code share on each other’s flights as well as opening up excellent connections between New Zealand and Mainland China.

At the same time, we wanted to strengthen our presence in Hong Kong, which is an important market and vital gateway into mainland China for Air New Zealand. In line with this we have received approval from the New Zealand Ministry of Transport to form a strategic agreement with Cathay Pacific effective from December 12, 2012.’

DoubleTree by Hilton Announces New Hotel in Scotland

The DoubleTree by Hilton hotel brand is to open its new DoubleTree by Hilton Dundee hotel in Scotland, after Hilton Worldwide, the brand owner, entered into a franchise agreement with BDL Select Operations Limited.

The new hotel will be converted from the previous Landmark Hotel, a 95-guestroom property, and is expected to open in spring of 2013. The hotel will be located in a 100-year-old listed mansion house, and its neighbouring gardens.

Patrick Fitzgibbon, the Hilton Worldwide senior vice president of development, for Europe and Africa, said, ‘DoubleTree by Hilton is one of our most successful growth brands in the UK and we’re delighted to be introducing it to Dundee. The hotel will join more than 9 other UK properties, which have been welcomed into the brand in less than 12 months, for a total of 18 in the UK, 36 across Europe with a further 20 in the pipeline for the continent.

Once converted, DoubleTree by Hilton Dundee will serve as a perfect example of the benefits the brand offers guests and owners alike. The hotel will keep a strong sense of its unique heritage and identity whilst also benefiting from Hilton Worldwide’s global systems and Hilton HHonors guest loyalty programme.’

The hotel will have five meeting rooms, a restaurant inside a conservatory, a health club, spa and indoor swimming pool.

Rob Palleschi, the global head of DoubleTree by Hilton brand, said, ‘As we continue our growth in the UK, we look to partner with developers who share our DoubleTree by Hilton belief in offering consistency through a superior guest experience while allowing a property to keep its natural character. DoubleTree by Hilton Dundee is a unique, ideally located property, which will be a fantastic addition to the brand. We look forward to welcoming our first guests with our delicious, signature chocolate chip cookie at check-in.’

Megabus Announces Winter Promotion with Complimentary Seats

Megabus, a city-to-city express bus service operating in the UK, is offering complimentary seats as part of its winter promotion.

The low cost transport operator is offering around 10,000 complimentary seats on its coach networks in England and Wales. The offer is available for travel on weekdays between January 14, and February 28, 2013, and may be booked online at the megabus.com website.

The general manager of megabus.com, Ian Laing, said, ‘Everybody loves a bargain and we hope this huge seat giveaway will help our passengers beat the winter blues. We have a loyal customer base and we’re delighted to be offering them this special promotion. We also hope it will encourage new customers to give our services a try and make the switch to greener, smarter and better value coach travel.’

The company is currently offering fares commencing from GBP1 and operates to a number of destinations in England and Wales, including Newcastle, Bristol, Manchester, Preston, London, Birmingham, Norwich, Swindon, Plymouth, Newport and Swansea.

Megabus.com is part of the Stagecoach Group, and is poised to extend its capacity. Stagecoach has announced a GBP3.2m investment in a fleet of coaches for the megabus.com inter-city travel service. The new fleet will comprise of eleven 15-metre-long coaches, with complimentary Wi-Fi, that will operate on new routes in Scotland and England.

The new fleet has around 20 percent additional capacity over the existing fleet, with more luggage storage space. The vehicles will also have access for wheelchair users and other passengers with disabilities.

Ian laing added, ‘Demand for great value inter-city travel just keeps on growing, especially with the rising cost of owning and running a car and the further stretch on household budgets. These new state-of-the-art coaches will deliver more capacity on key routes we operate in the UK.

We have worked closely with Plaxton over the past 10 months on developing this new model. It sets new standards of accessibility for our customers with impaired mobility, as well as offering great comfort all round. The new fleet will also provide even greener travel for our customers and a lower carbon footprint for our business.’