Tag: Transportation

Chris Grayling Branded A ‘Chicken’ For Dropping Out Of Northern Rail Summit

Chris Grayling has been branded a “chicken” for pulling out of a railway conference addressing the travel chaos that has gripped the north in recent weeks.

The transport secretary had been due to speak to the Northern Transport Summit in Manchester on Monday, but he cancelled his appearance in order to be in London for the crunch vote on a third runway at Heathrow. 

“Chicken Grayling” located in Manchester this morning as @RMTunion Protest demands an end to the Northern franchise scandalhttps://t.co/jCEk4dmK40pic.twitter.com/fDXr8HsaZ6

— RMT (@RMTunion) June 25, 2018

Mick Cash, the general secretary of the RMT union, said Grayling was “running scared”. 

“He’s scared of the passengers he’s hung out to dry and he’s scared of the staff whose safety-critical jobs his franchise shambles have left facing the axe,” he said.

“Chris Grayling may have chickened out of meeting RMT members and their supporters today but I’ve got a message for him – you can run but you can’t hide.”

The union tweeted a photo of a man dressed as a chicken wearing a Grayling mask outside the event.

The RMT is embroiled in disputes with five train operators over the role of guards on trains, which have sparked a series of strikes over the past two years.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The secretary of state is not attending the summit as he is in London for the National Policy Statement in Parliament, a hugely significant vote that will benefit the whole country, including the North West.

“We recognise the importance of this event, which is why Transport Minister Baroness Sugg will therefore be attending.”

The transport summit runs from 8.30am until 16.30pm on Monday. The Commons vote on expanding Heathrow is not expected to take place until 10pm.

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Manchester, also hit out at Grayling for ditching the summit. “When the government promised us a Northern Powerhouse, people took that as a clear sign that, at long last, the North was moving to the front of the queue for transport investment,” he said.

“But the government’s failure to stop the recent chaos on our railways, and the Transport Secretary’s disappointing decision to pull out of today’s Northern Transport Summit, suggests that their focus has drifted southwards once again.”

And Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said the “rail mayhem” was caused by Grayling. 

“Passengers across the country are right to be angry at the way he has handled the latest in a long run of rail fiascos. Chris Grayling has lost all credibility and it’s time for him to go,” he said.

Grayling refused to deny suggestions he had considered resigning over the state of the railways when asked by BBC Radio 4′s Today programe.

But he denied he was responsible for the botched introduction of new railway timetables. “Actually no, I don’t run the railways,” he said.

Chaos Until Christmas: Rail Timetable Delays Could Go On For Months

Timetable changes in May led to thousands of commuters across the north and southeast being stranded - further timetable changes are due in December and May 2019

The unprecedented chaos on the railways that has left commuters despairing in recent months shows no sign of letting up, with delays and cancellations due to hit over Christmas too.

Timetable chaos in May, which left thousands of passengers across the north and south east of England stranded, could happen again in December and in May 2019, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) said on Wednesday. 

Timetable changes are routinely made twice a year, but the most recent changes were the biggest in decades, with the next shake-up coming just in time for Christmas.

South Western, Great Western, Northern Rail, TransPennine Express, Govia Thameslink Railway and ScotRail are all expected to make significant changes to their service schedules in December.

But a Network Rail spokesman told HuffPost UK that the timetables due to be published in December may have to be revised in light of recent issues.

“While a large part of the base new timetable for December has already been completed, the industry is looking again at these plans in light of the experience of May,” he said.

“Our collective aim is to deliver a much better outcome for customers, with a high degree of confidence of a smooth introduction.”

According to The Times, the ORR is considering taking enforcement action against Network Rail over its handling of the process, which could lead to a fine being imposed on the state-funded company.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling

The ORR has already launched an investigation into the earlier disruption

Rail bosses, from Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern are due to be grilled by MPs on Monday over why the introduction of the new timetable caused such widespread disruption.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling survived a no-confidence vote in the House of Commons over the railway chaos on Tuesday, with Shadow Transport Secretary Andy McDonald claiming the “breach of faith and trust is so great that the Secretary of State’s credibility can never recover”.

Grayling said yesterday that rail season ticker holders impacted by timetable changes would be given the equivalent of a month’s compensation, with details of the offer expected next week.  

Meanwhile, passenger trains have returned on the Lakes Line, between Oxenholme and Windermere, after a heritage rail firm stepped in after Northern suspended services until July 2. 

In a campaign backed by Cumbrian MP Tim Farron, West Coast Railways (WCR) is to run trains on the line until Northern reinstates its services – suspended on June 4, when an emergency timetable was introduced to combat repeated delays and cancellations across the network.

The 925 to Windermere leaves Oxenholme on time! For the first time in more than 2 weeks, we have a timetabled train on the Lakes Line. Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. pic.twitter.com/fH7I9mHbDz

— Tim Farron (@timfarron) June 18, 2018

Farron, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, said WCR’s intervention was not a “long-term solution” but “it demonstrates what you can do if you put your mind to it”.

The MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, told the BBC on Monday that a three-coach heritage train was “full” during a trial run the previous day. 

“Between us we managed to get a good rail service, not a complete one, but a rail service running over the next couple of weeks starting properly this morning, in a way that the Department for Transport and Northern Rail and have not managed to do,” he added.

“It’s a reminder that if we give the rail franchise for our area to somebody who actually cares about it, we might get a decent service.”

Uber Suspends Driver After Women Kicked Out Of Car Over Backseat Kiss

Uber has suspended the licence of one of its drivers after a lesbian couple were allegedly booted out of his car in New York City.

Alex Iovine, 26, and her girlfriend, Emma Pichl, 24, said they were told to get out of the vehicle for sharing a “peck” in the backseat on Saturday.

The driver has been identified as Ahmad El Boutari by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission, WABC-TV reported.  The pair had ordered the taxi to take them from Brooklyn to Manhattan. 

As they were crossing the Manhattan bridge, Iovine said the couple leaned over to share a quick kiss. “We were sitting on opposite sides of the car,” Iovine told the New York Daily News. “We leaned in for a peck, and that’s what it was, a legit peck.”

Iovine said that the driver suddenly pulled over once they had crossed the bridge and they were told to get out of the car. Iovine said she then began filming the confrontation on her phone.

“It is illegal,” the driver is seen telling the couple in the cellphone video, obtained by WABC-TV. “It is disrespectful.”

“Kissing is not illegal,” the women protested. 

“I don’t want to argue with you,” the driver said. “Just get out of my car.”

Alex Iovine (left) and Emma Pichl were asked to get out of their vehicle by an Uber driver.

A spokesman for the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission said they were investigating the incident. “The blatantly discriminatory behaviour described by the complainant is repugnant,” said the spokesman.

Uber is also investigating the case and said it had suspended the driver’s access to its app, The Associated Press reports.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told the New York Post on Monday that drivers like El Boutari “don’t belong on Uber.”

“This is an open society and Uber is a platform that is available to anybody regardless of your background, your orientation, and that is sacred to us,” Khosrowshahi said. “It’s an unfortunate circumstance and we will do everything we can for that not to repeat.”

El Boutari, 35, told the Daily News that the couple had been acting “crudely” in his car before the kiss and said that one woman put her feet on his seat and played loud music on their phones. 

Iovine denied that the couple had “disrespected” El Boutari’s car, adding: “We always handle ourselves appropriately in public.”

The couple said they were deeply shaken by the incident, which occurred during Pride Month.

Queen’s Birthday Honours 2018 Sees Network Rail Boss Mark Carne Awarded CBE

Outgoing chief executive Mark Carne has been given a Queen's Birthday honour

Following unprecedented chaos on the railway networks this week, the news that outgoing boss of Network Rail, Mark Carne, is to receive a Queen’s birthday honour is not likely to sit well with commuters. 

Carne, who announced his departure as chief executive of Network Rail in February, has been made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

He joins around 1,350 people on the Queen’s honours list, many of them gaining MBEs, CBEs, OBEs, and knighthoods.

However, the announcement is likely to be met with intense criticism after commuters across the North faced weeks of rail chaos due to a change of timetable, with thousands left stranded after trains were cancelled or severely delayed.

The Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, blamed the service breakdown on Government-owned Network Rail for late-running engineering projects, however Govia Thameslink Railway and Northern trains were also running reduced services. 

On Monday, more than 100 trains were cancelled or severely delayed, affecting passengers in Manchester, Lancashire and the Lake District. Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern also introduced a reduced service.

The disruption led to 25 northern newspapers joining forces to send a front-page “enough is enough” to the Government and calls for Network Rail bosses to resign. 

25 northern newspapers campaigned against poor railway services this week amidst unprecedented delays and cancellations

Just met with Chief Exec Network Rail in the South, Chief Exec and Chief Operating Officer of GTR to complain in the strongest terms of the abysmal failings of their operations following Time Table changes urged vastly better comms and urgent need to predict services #appalling

— Nicholas Soames (@NSoames) June 6, 2018

I asked Chris Grayling whether the chairman of Network Rail should resign or be sacked for current trains debacle. He replied: “I don’t think he bears responsibility in this, I think others in Network Rail may do”.

— Robert Peston (@Peston) June 5, 2018

The disruptions show no signs of ending with staff at Northern Rail set to stage a series of fresh strikes over a long-running dispute over the role of guards on trains on June 19, 21 and 23, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Carne, a former Shell oil executive, joined Network Rail in 2014 and steered the company though its reclassification into the public sector.

The timing of his resignation means a new chief executive will be in place before Network Rail’s next five-year work programme begins in April 2019. 

Announcing Carne’s departure, Network Rail said he had led a “transformational change” at the company and had delivered “the biggest projects in the history of the company, such as the iconic London Bridge station, which opened on schedule last month, and Birmingham New Street station in 2015”.

Speaking on behalf of the Board, the chairman of Network Rail, Sir Peter Hendy CBE, said at the time: “Mark has done an outstanding job and I want to applaud him for what he has achieved in his time at Network Rail. His leadership steadied the ship during the challenging transition to a public sector organisation and he has been the architect behind the huge positive changes in the company, driving transformation, devolution and efficiency, with an emphasis on equality and diversity too.”

Grayling added that Carne had done an “excellent job” presiding over the “biggest modernisation of our rail infrastructure since Victorian times”. 

“He has provided very strong industry leadership on safety and digital rail, and Network Rail has significantly improved the railway for its customers under his direction,” he said in February.    

While Carne was recognised in the honours, those who responded to the Grenfell Tower blaze on June 14 last year are still yet to be honoured for their bravery. Seventy two people died in the tragedy. 

Questions were raised in December 2017 when Grenfell’s hero respondents were not recognised in the New Year’s Honours, but authorities reassured the public that it was due to the time it took to process nominations. 

In the wake of the latest omission, the Government has again reiterated that Grenfell respondents will be recognised “at the earliest opportunity”.

A public inquiry into the tragedy may well impact decisions with the Metropolitan Police saying this week that they are investigating the fire brigade’s ‘stay put’ directive issued to residents. 

The other honourees…

Meanwhile, Liverpool football great Kenny Dalglish is to be been knighted for his steadfast support for the Hillsborough families in their lengthy quest for justice following the 1989 disaster that claimed 96 lives.

Author Kazuo Ishiguro will also receive a knighthood, less than a year after winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Ishiguro said he was “proud of Britain, its open, democratic traditions and literary culture”.

Leading actresses Emma Thompson and Keira Knightley have also been honoured.

Thompson, a stalwart of the big and small screen since the late 1980s, has been made a Dame for services to drama and Knightley will receive a OBE for services to drama and charity. 

Rapper Ms Dynamite will be recognised with an MBE for services to music and footballer Jermain Defoe is to receive a OBE for services to football and the Jermain Defoe Foundation.

In what might be the most heartwarming inclusion, Britain’s longest selling poppy seller, Rosemary Powell, is to receive an MBE. 

At 103, Powell, a former nurse in the Second World War, finally decided to stop selling poppies, Sky News reported earlier this month. She had done so for 97 years.

Powell began selling poppies at the age of six with her mother for the Royal British Legion’s first Poppy Appeal in 1921.

More Travel Chaos As Northern Rail Say They Will Cancel 165 Trains Per Day Until July

Stock image. Commuters face another day of train chaos 

Train operator Northern Rail has announced it is removing 165 trains per day from schedules until the end of July to “stabilise service levels” amid major disruption following the introduction of a new timetable.

Commuters today faced another day of travel chaos as the new train timetables introduced in an attempt to modernise the UK’s railways continue to cause delays. 

A shortage of train drivers meant that Northern cancelled more than 100 trains that would otherwise have set off over the course of Friday, with severe disruption reported between Manchester Airport and Blackpool North. 

The route between Windermere and Oxenholme was also heavily affected, Northern warned passengers via Twitter. 

⚠️ NORTHERN SERVICE UPDATE ⚠️ 

🔴Please see below for current disruption on our network👇

📱For information on delays and cancellations, check before you travel:  👉https://t.co/6U2PzA1znQ 

💷You can claim compensation here: 👉https://t.co/J1CCsJ3qI3pic.twitter.com/zSIwLTtWik

— Northern (@northernassist) June 1, 2018

Meanwhile, the UK’s largest train operating company, Govia Thameslink Railway, which is responsible for Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express – announced that five of its morning Thameslink services were reduced in capacity by a third. 

Angry travellers took to Twitter this morning to bemoan the service, with users saying they are “tired of always getting home late and being late for work”. 

@northernassist the northern rail service is a joke. 3 days in a row, cancelled trains short notice due to a shortage of train crew? How about not changing the timetable until you know you can get the staff? Tired of always getting home late and being late for work! 😡 #nothappy

— Jenna Cooper (@Jenna_L_C) June 1, 2018

For f*** sake @TLRailUK .. just go back to the old timetable! The trains were packed but AT LEAST THEY RAN 7:52 #Hackbridge to #CityThameslink#Cancelled#Again#Thameslink

— Nikki Muller (@NikkiMuller3) June 1, 2018

Another morning of furious passengers trying to get a Thameslink service. Cancelled trains, Late trains, moving platforms, no trains. #thameslink

— louise male (@malemedia) June 1, 2018

Transport union RMT said railway workers were “bearing the brunt of public anger”, criticising the train companies and the Department of Transport for a lack of support. 

Calling for the transport secretary to step down over the issue, RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Not only is Chris Grayling incompetent and not fit to run a railway but he is a coward as well, leaving RMT members to take the flack for failed policies that are his responsibility.

“Grayling should get out, the private companies he is propping up should be sacked and the vital rail services the nation depends on should be returned to public ownership.”

On Thursday, the two rail operators released a join statement alongside Network Rail blaming the disruption on the new timetable being released later than normal, meaning train companies had less time to prepare for the changes – including training drivers for the new routes. 

Operators were left at a loss to “address all of the logistical challenges”, the companies said. 

The Times reported that rail disruptions caused by the new timetables were likely to cause commuter misery until August. 

Smart Traffic Lights Could Actually Cut Harmful Car Emissions

Imagine never having to encounter a red light ever again? Sounds bliss doesn’t it, and in fact a new set of smart traffic lights that are being tested in the UK could fulfil this wish.

The the traffic lights work by advising motorists and vehicles what speed they should drive at so they arrive at the next set of lights just as they turn green.

Engineering firm AECOM is developing the scheme to cut congestion and reduce vehicle emissions through more efficient driving.

It will be tested using a simulation model of the A59 in York.

The concept is one of five shortlisted entries in a competition launched by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), Highways England and Innovate UK to create roads for driverless cars.

AECOM principal consultant Heather Hawkins said: “We are excited and are eager to get started so we can better understand the potential impact of vehicle-to-infrastructure technologies on our local road network in York.

“We are fortunate to be living and working in a city which has chosen to be an early innovator, deploying and testing these technologies on-street through existing research programmes. It’s truly inspiring and we are grateful to be a part of it.”

NIC chairman Sir John Armitt said: “We can see for ourselves the progress in developing cars for the future, with trials of driverless cars taking place across the country.

“We now need to make sure the technology on our roads keeps up.”

RAC spokesman Rod Dennis said: “It is great to see novel technology like this being trialled.

“Stop-start traffic causes drivers to use their brakes more, which causes wear, and accelerate more, which can increase vehicle emissions.”

Rail Network Timetable Changes Come Into Effect Today

More than four million trains across Britain will be rescheduled from Sunday in the largest timetable change for decades.

The number of alterations is seven times larger than normal due to the introduction of new trains and services following billions of pounds of investment.

The shake-up is designed to increase overall frequencies and reliability, but some passengers will find their regular journeys are no longer possible.

Some disruption is expected while trains and crews are redeployed over the coming weeks.

Many of the timetable changes are a result of the £7 billion invested in the Thameslink programme in the South East, including rebuilding London Bridge station, new trains and track improvements.

Departure times will change for every train run by the UK’s busiest franchise – Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) – which consists of Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express.

There will be almost 400 additional GTR trains every day.

The new GTR timetable was developed from scratch and was designed to tackle existing issues by extending stop times at busier stations and increasing turnaround times at destination stations.

Some passengers in a number of locations complained they will be served with fewer or slower services, including in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Kent, East Sussex and Surrey, where many pay several thousands of pounds for annual season tickets to London.

Emily Ketchin, founder of campaign group Harpenden Thameslink Commuters, claimed the operator is “slashing key Harpenden services by a third”.

GTR said it carried out the biggest consultation of its kind, receiving 28,000 responses over 18 months.

Slashing key Harpenden services by a third is not an enhancement – the only thing you should be spinning are train wheels. The fact that @TLRailUK think it acceptable to reduce services even further shows the contempt they have for people who rely on their service. #saveHPDtrainshttps://t.co/YDYM55G1GT

— Harpenden Thameslink Commuters (@HPDCommuters) May 19, 2018

@Se_Railway why are all the thameslink trains through maze hill cancelled today? This is literally day 1 of the new timetable and you’ve cancelled all of them. That is embarrassing. Why?

— James Johnson (@james_JJ4217) May 20, 2018

These new train timetables are impossible to understand and the various websites showing ravensborne to st pancras as ‘not a valid route’, which is rubbish. Going to be pot luck whether ppl get trains tomorrow or not, I think #thameslink#southeastern@TLRailUK#mess

— Heather Nicholson (@AitchNic) May 20, 2018

IMPORTANT – for the first few weeks some of the NEW @TLRailUK trains between London and Rainham WILL be cancelled as not enough drivers have been trained. #railplan2020

— Thameslink Medway – Commuters Group (@TLMedwayGroup) May 19, 2018

 

It says it will have space for an extra 50,000 passengers travelling to London in the morning peak each day, and 80 more stations will have direct services to the centre of the capital.

GTR chief executive Charles Horton said: “We are introducing the biggest ever change to rail timetables to significantly boost capacity on the UK’s most congested network.”

The new timetable arrangements were described as a “disgusting insult” to disabled passengers by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

@RMTunion slams new GTR timetable as a disgusting insult to disabled passengershttps://t.co/9xlGOfPOWC@ABCommuters@Dis_PPL_Protestpic.twitter.com/7VCGFk5pLK

— RMT (@RMTunion) May 18, 2018

 

It said the latest instruction from GTR tells staff not to attempt to place people of reduced mobility on a train if there is a possibility of delaying the service.

A GTR spokesman insisted “we place a priority on making our services accessible to all” but said it cannot hold trains when people arrive at a station without enough time to board.

The train you are catching today will change next week as part of the biggest rail timetable change in decades – check out our chief exec @anthonysmithTF‘s blog on what it means for passengers ⏰🚉https://t.co/BylAUJODUXpic.twitter.com/nGZNBuIKZ1

— Transport Focus (@TransportFocus) May 18, 2018

 

Delays to electrification work between Manchester and Bolton in addition to a shortage of diesel rolling stock mean many of Northern’s planned improvements have been deferred.

TransPennine Express (TPE) becomes the sole operator between Manchester and Huddersfield outside peak times from Sunday. This adds extra capacity but trains will only stop at every other station to save time, affecting passengers wanting to make local trips.

Some passengers from Levenshulme and Heaton Chapel in Manchester will also suffer as they go from four trains per hour into Manchester down to three in the off peak, with a gap between services of up to 49 minutes.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of passenger watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Having plenty of staff on the ground from the start and during the initial transition, when changes bed down, will be critical.”

Coastguard Search As Car ‘Plunges Off Beachy Head Cliffs’

A coastguard is searching for a car that reportedly plunged hundreds of feet off the cliffs at Beachy Head in Sussex.The Marine Coastguard said East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service contacted them at 11.15am on Thursday, after reports “a car had go…

Tesla Driver Banned For Running Supercar On Autopilot On The M1 While In Passenger Seat

A driver who moved to the passenger seat after switching on his car’s “autopilot” feature as he travelled on the motorway has been banned from the roads for 18 months.

Bhavesh Patel, 39, appeared to have his hands behind his head when he was filmed by a passenger in another car.

While driving his white Tesla S 60 along the M1, Patel switched on the supercar’s autopilot function before moving to the passenger seat, leaving the steering wheel and foot controls unmanned, police said.

A witness, who spotted the vehicle with no-one in the driving seat, said they thought the car was going at around 40mph.

Patel, from Nottingham, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving over the incident on the motorway near Hemel Hempstead, in Hertfordshire, at around 7.40pm on May 21 last year.

At St Albans Crown Court on Friday April 20, he was banned from driving for 18 months, ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work and 10 days’ rehabilitation, and told to pay £1,800 costs, police said.

Patel told officers he knew what he had done was “silly”, but said the car was capable of something “amazing” and that he was “the unlucky one who got caught”.

Pc Kirk Caldicutt, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire road policing unit, said: “What Patel did was grossly irresponsible and could have easily ended in tragedy.

“He not only endangered his own life but the lives of other innocent people using the motorway on that day.

“This case should serve as an example to all drivers who have access to autopilot controls and have thought about attempting something similar.

“I want to stress that they are in no way a substitute for a competent motorist in the driving seat who can react appropriately to the road ahead.

“I hope Patel uses his disqualification period to reflect on why he chose to make such a reckless decision on that day.”

Investigators were told by a Tesla engineer the autopilot function, including traffic-aware cruise control and auto-steer, is intended to provide assistance to a “fully attentive driver”.