Tag Archives: London

The End of the Line

Party on the tubeSo a few weeks after coming into office, midnight saw the high profile enactment of one of Boris Johnson’s election pledges, the banning of alcohol from all London public transport, the logic being that if you curb low level disorder it will help make steps towards curbing the bigger problem. There are needless to say a number of problems, in particular being that it will be the normal staff who will have to enforce the ban – however before the ban came in, there was an internet organised final party, mainly taking place on the Circle Line – and for many it proved the point.

If you looked at the news pictures earlier on, it was all good-natured enough, with people dressing up for the occasion, indeed some people dressed for a black tie occasion sipping cocktails. One participant, a banker was quoted as saying:

“I’ve come along with a bottle of Champagne because I want to show that you can drink responsibly on the Tube and not cause trouble.â€?

Ride home for one party goerUnfortunately, that isn’t the way it turned out, and by the end of the night six stations had had to be closed and four tube drivers, three other staff members and two police officers had been assaulted and there had been seventeen arrests, proving to many who have to use the system precisely why drink should be banned.

Needless to say, whether the ban will actually be enforceable, or whether it will be widely flouted remains to be seen – this will probably be one of the first and most visible big tests of Boris Johnson as mayor. Equally whether the ban makes late night travel on the London Underground any more attractive remains to be seen – certainly if we’re coming back late from something in London we’ll tend to opt for a taxi to get us to the mainline train at Waterloo rather than using the Underground, although since more often than not we’re rushing for one of the hourly fast trains in those situations, we might well still opt for the taxi anyway!

Party on the tube” and “Ride home for one party goer” originally uploaded by kujunu.

Schedule Change

Booking flights you do get used to schedule changes coming through, especially if you book a long way ahead, but usually it’s a shift of a few hours in the time of departure or arrival. I’ve just had one for our upcoming Canadian trip where Air Canada have shifted our flight by an entire day – apparently they’re not keen on flying from Edmonton to London on a Thursday any more… Will have to investigate, but we’ll either have to extend the car rental, or opt for a different routing on the way home.

Mac Expo and the Launch of Leopard

Lots of Space as No Apple Stand!

I have to say that if I’d paid £15 per person to come into this years Mac Expo I’d be decidedly disappointed. In our case, having got complimentary tickets we made the best of it and headed off into central London.

Anyway, what was wrong with the expo? Firstly it was noticeably smaller – although having the seminar theatre made up for it a bit, the biggest absence was glaringly obvious the moment you walked through the door – Apple themselves.

Last year they had the largest stand at the show, and had their entire range of hardware and software on show for you to play with. I wanted to have a play with the new iPod’s and they were nowhere to be seen – other stands had the new iMac’s to play with, and the organisers had managed to pull together a number of Mac’s to demonstrate what you could do with the platform. There were some big stands though – with Quark, HP and Microsoft all having big stands. Amusingly Microsoft were trying to plug Office 2008 – but demo wise aside from the Mac version of Expression, only had Office 2004 to show.

So where on earth were Apple? You didn’t have to go very far to find out. A trip on the Underground up to Regent Street and at the flagship UK Apple Store and you found out – it was absolute chaos!

An Empty Apple Store

When we got there at 4pm the store itself was closed, but was filled with a lot of staff frantically rushing around ready for the 6pm launch of Leopard. There were seemingly as many on the pavement outside. Several were managing the queue that even at this point was around the corner of the block and halfway over to Hannover Square – many sitting there with MacBook’s open. Other staff were fielding questions from people wanting to go into the store – one was even running an impromptu Genius Bar with a girl who had come up especially with a MacBook problem.

We hung around outside the store for a bit, and overheard a couple of conversations which highlights quite what the store is known for. Firstly a guy came past and asked why the store was closed, and was told it was for the launch of a new operating system – “What, for the iPod?â€? came the reply. I heard other people describe it as “The iPod Storeâ€? too.

Not wanting to hang around in the queue – I’m doing my usual wait-and-see with regards to Leopard – we headed off to have some dinner, and came back just after 6pm to see how it was going.

After 6pm it was even more chaotic. Crowded around the doors were camera crews filming the events, the rush hour commuters were all trying to get past on the street, and the queue had now reached back round into Hannover Square itself, despite the store now being full of customers putting down the cash for Leopard and in some cases putting down a lot more money to buy a new Mac. If you want to see what the launch was like from someone in the queue, check out this great photo set by Christianno Betta – as you can see from this set he also got a copy of Leopard too.

So that it seems was where Apple were. Whilst the Mac Expo organisers we’re busily trying to attract people by opening late for the launch – the real action, and all the hard-core Apple fans were queuing outside the Apple Store hence it was all hands on deck for that, and I guess they couldn’t spare the staff to man a stand at the show.

Just as a postscript, looking at the seminar schedule, Apple are going to be there today – demonstrating Leopard not surprisingly! It wasn’t a total dead loss from our point of view either, as over in the corner we found the stock picture site that Beth has been using for some of the online look of Displaced Moose who said that there are no problems with her using the same images on her business cards – the only no-no is reselling the pictures themselves.

Better Late than Never

200px-crossrail.PNG

Today, the CrossRail project was finally given the go-ahead.

To give you some idea of how long the project has been trying to get the go ahead, it was originally announced when I was still at school and Margret Thatcher was Prime Minister but ever since then nobody has stumped up the cash to actually complete the project.

The basic idea behind the project is simple – getting across London by public transport is very slow. If for example you want to take the train to get from Essex to Heathrow Airport it involves taking a train into central London, then taking the Underground – probably the Circle Line – around to Paddington to catch the Heathrow Express. The line proposed is a new high speed route running under central London on an East/West route – something that would make that journey a lot quicker and simpler.

Back when the route was originally proposed it was a bit more extensive, with a branch running out to Amersham and Watford, and extending as far as Reading. What has now been given the green light is not quite as extensive with the line only reaching as far as Maidenhead in the west, with a branch to Heathrow. Needless to say from a personal point of view that does slightly lessen it’s convenience for us out here as we’d still require a train change at Maidenhead – having said that it certainly will make getting into central London a lot more convenient. Sadly though it won’t be ready in time for the London Olympics – probably the biggest upcoming event that would benefit as the railway won’t be finished until 2017, five years too late.

The Fastest Way to Brussels

You can always rely on Ryanair and it’s charismatic boss Michael O’Leary for some entertaining news stories. After discriminating against disabled passengers by charging them for a wheelchair, winding up the green lobby and sitting right at the bottom of the pile as the worlds least favourite airline, today it lost out in another battle over one of it’s adverts, this time claiming that it in a comparison with Eurostar it was the fastest and cheapest way to get from London to Brussels.

In order to make this comparison, they compared the time it takes the train to get from London to Brussels, with the time for their closest route, which flies from London Stansted airport 30 miles north-east of London to Charleroi Airport 28.75 miles from Brussels. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the comparison of both time and cost were misleading because the comparison did not include the time and additional cost to get to and from Stansted or Charleroi.

The response from Ryanair was typical – they said that time and costs involved in getting to an airport or railway station were irrelevant as they applied to both modes of transport – they also said that “no stupid rulingâ€? could hide the success of the airline.

Not surprisingly, I don’t agree – if I’m wanting to go somewhere, the time taken for the whole journey is the most important, as is the convenience of the schedule. Last year when I went on a day trip to Brussels I made exactly that decision. For a start, Ryanair didn’t get a look in – flying from pretty well the opposite side of London to somewhere miles outside Brussels it was a non starter. We did consider the Eurostar, but that lost out because to get to the terminal we needed to spend an hour on South West Trains to get there and back. In the end, thanks to our close proximity to London Heathrow, and the much closer location of the main Brussels Airport to the city compared to Charleroi where Ryanair arrive, we opted for a BMI flight instead.

The basis of the Advertising Standards Authority ruling is that comparing the time from central London to central Brussels is a fair comparison – in which case the Eurostar wins easily as it’s only a short hop on the respective city metro system to the terminal rather than a much longer and more expensive journey out to the airport. Put simply, they are saying that the only fair way to compare is to pick a start and end location and compare the whole journey. Having said that, Ryanair would probably pick Stansted and Charleroi and add the time to get to each airport to the time for the Eurostar

Eurostar originally uploaded by Boxley.