Monday, 24 February 2014

Heritage Routemaster Buses To Be Axed . . .


Heritage Routemaster Buses To Be Axed

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London’s Heritage Routemaster buses could be consigned to the history books as Transport for London has announced plans to scrap the iconic vehicles.

The historic route 9, which runs vintage buses between High Street Kensington and Trafalgar Square, looks set to be taken off the roads in July leaving only the route 15 to continue th service.

When the original Routemasters were axed in 2005, the then London Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced two heritage routes in an attempt to soften public disapproval at the removal of the popular tourist attractions.

Leon Daniels, managing director of TFL’s Surface Transport, revealed the decision to axe them on his blog, he said: “All good things, as they say, come to an end and I am afraid I have to announce that traditional Routemasters will be withdrawn from route 9 this July.”

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the Routemaster and the Mayor Boris Johnson launching his Year of the Bus campaign, the timing of the decision is odd.

The plans have been met with dismay from bus enthusiasts, although TFL have said a final decision has yet to be made and that a “consultation period” will now begin.

TFL believe the introduction of the new Boris Buses, which are due to total 600 by 2016, has dampened public interest in the classic models and the money spent on upkeep could be re-invested more effectively.

“We are considering the removal of this service because it costs more than £1m a year to operate, owing in large part to the upkeep of the 60 year old buses, and a low level of use by passengers,” Peter Bradley, head of Consultation Delivery said.

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Friday, 21 February 2014

Car smoking ban 'will be brought in' . . .


Car smoking ban 'will be brought in' . . .

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Parliament had spoken and a ban would happen, the Downing Street source said

The UK government will make it a criminal offence to smoke in cars in England when children are passengers, a Downing Street source has said.

MPs voted in favour of an amendment to the Children and Families Bill, which empowers, but does not compel, ministers to bring in a ban in England.

The source told the BBC that Parliament had spoken and a ban would happen.

The vote - passed by 376 votes to 107 - also gave the Welsh government the power to bring in a ban in Wales.

The liberty to smoke in your car in front of a child doesn't seem to me that important and protecting a child's health does seem to me to be incredibly important”Norman LambHealth Minister

Welsh ministers must now decide if they want to make smoking in cars carrying children illegal in Wales.

Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb, speaking to BBC Radio 4's World Tonight programme on Monday, said he hoped a ban would be established.

He said the majority of 269 was "so decisive that I think there's a very clear mandate now to get on and legislate, but we will have that discussion".

He added: "You have to ask yourself the question, 'How important is the liberty that we're infringing here?'

"The liberty to smoke in your car in front of a child doesn't seem to me that important and protecting a child's health does seem to me to be incredibly important."

'Great victory'

After the debate, shadow public health minister Luciana Berger warned ministers not to "kick this into the long grass".

Bans on smoking in cars when children are present already exist in some US states, including California, as well as in parts of Canada and Australia.

"This is a great victory for child health, which will benefit hundreds of thousands of young people across our country. It is a matter of child protection, not adult choice," she said.

She added: "The will of Parliament has been clearly expressed today and this must be respected.

"Ministers now have a duty to bring forward regulations so that we can make this measure a reality and put protections for children in place as soon as possible."

Neither Health Minister Jane Ellison, in the House of Commons, nor a Department of Health spokesman gave any commitment.

Opening the debate on Monday evening, Ms Ellison said only: "We will see what the view of the House is and we will take our steer on the principle of the issue then having heard the views of both Houses."

The House of Lords passed the amendment last month. The bill returned to the Commons on Monday for debate.

'Absolutely delighted'

The government gave its MPs a free vote in the Commons on the issue.

We have consistently stated that we will consider the possibility of legislation once we have fully evaluated the impact of the campaign”Welsh government spokesperson

Prime Minister David Cameron missed the vote because he is staying in the South West overnight to visit areas affected by flooding.

Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: "Having campaigned on this issue for many years, we're absolutely delighted that MPs have backed the ban on smoking in cars carrying children. This could prove a great leap forward for the health of our nation's children."

But Simon Clark, director of smokers' lobby group Forest, said smoking in cars with children was "inconsiderate", but there was "a line the state shouldn't cross when it comes to dictating how people behave in private places".

After the Commons vote, a Welsh government spokesperson said: "We have consistently stated that we will consider the possibility of legislation once we have fully evaluated the impact of the campaign.

"We have commissioned studies of children's exposure to second-hand smoke in cars and results will be available later this year."

In Scotland, Liberal Democrat MSP Jim Hume has indicated he will be presenting a bill this year to bring in a ban, while Northern Ireland's health minister has announced plans for a consultation on the issue.

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

More M25 speed cameras to clamp down on dangerous drivers . . .


More M25 speed cameras to clamp down on dangerous drivers . . .

cited at:

Grey speed cameras could soon be placed on the M25, to catch motorists exceeding the 70mph speed limit.

The cameras, which had previously only been on stretches of road with roadworks to enforce variable speed limits, will be put on the country’s busiest motorways.

The Highways Agency wants to introduce the “stealth cameras” to prevent traffic jams and create better traffic flow by controlling drivers’ speed.

The new cameras, part of the Highways Agency digital enforcement camera system, will be up and running on 100 mile of motorway in the next two years, with further rollout expected to cover 400 miles of road.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “These are not stealth cameras they are more visible than they were before.

“These motorways are not about speed limits. They are about smoothing the traffic flows and increasing capacity.

“The onus is on the driver to abide by the speed limit.”

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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

EU Police Group Contemplates 'Remote Stopping' Cars . . .


EU Police Group Contemplates 'Remote Stopping' Cars . . .

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Senior police across the European Union have been secretly considering the feasibility of remotely stopping vehicles, according to a report, with a proposal suggesting the capability is built in as ‘standard’ for all new cars in the region.

Civil liberties group Statewatch leaked the document, which was put together by European Network of Law Enforcement Technology Services (Enlets), a group that seeks to build cooperation across EU states in the adoption of technology in policing. Not a great deal is known about Enlets, but it emerged as part of the EU Council’s Law Enforcement Working Party, a European initiative designed to tackle organized crime. According to this page, Enlets has one contact in every EU country “who is responsible for collecting information on the technological needs and for presenting those needs to Enlets”.

The report, first sent from Brussels and dated December 4, 2013, reads: “Cars on the run have proven to be dangerous for citizens. Criminal offenders (from robbery to a simple theft) will take risks to escape after a crime. In most cases the police are unable to chase the criminal due to the lack of efficient means to stop the vehicle safely. This project starts with the knowledge that insufficient tools are available to be used as part of a proportionate response.

“This project will work on a technological solution that can be a “built in standard” for all cars that enter the European market.”

Other listed proposals include sharing the best available video systems in surveillance technologies, making use of open source intelligence, building closer relationships between police and private industry, and identifying “potential threats and opportunities as well as potential changes in the way technology is used.”

Anti-EU campaigners have slammed the document, but the BBC claims the project is “at the early stages of looking into feasibility,” and that there are currently no plans to introduce such technology into private vehicles.

Antoine Rizk, VP of vertical markets at Axway, a security company that also specializes in the connected car, told Forbes that although remote operation of cars is already possible, any official attempts would have to be very carefully considered.

“Any connected cars can be controlled remotely” Rizk said. “There are now apps for your smartphone that enable a driver to monitor, and in the future, even stop his car if it’s stolen.

“While the technology is currently available, the big hold up here is security risk, especially if the police are looking to manage such a project. Without an extremely secure API gateway in place, each party is leaving itself wide open to attack.

“The police will need a fleet management style platform in place, which could hold potentially confidential data, and the driver could be left at serious risk if someone is able to tamper with his car, even turning off the engine, without any warning,” Rizk said.

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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

60mph speed limit proposed for stretch of M3 motorway . . .


60mph speed limit proposed for stretch of M3 motorway . . .

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The government is considering imposing a 60mph speed limit on a second stretch of motorway in an effort to cut air pollution.

The Highways Agency is already consulting, on a reduced speed limit on a 32-mile section of the M1.

It has now launched a consultation on a similar move on a 2.8-mile section of the M3 between junctions 3 and 4.

The Highways Agency says the new restriction would apply from 7am to 7pm, seven days a week.

It would be in place between Junction 3 at Lightwater and Junction 4 near Farnborough on what the agency describes as "this major motorway link between London and the Port of Southampton and the South West of England".

'Landmark announcement'

The proposal has been prompted by concerns about higher levels of pollution at peak times following the conversion of the hard shoulder into a traffic-carrying lane - something which is happening at other parts of the motorway network as part of efforts to cut congestion.

News that the restriction should lead to higher average traffic speeds on this stretch is something of a consolation for commuters”David BizleyRAC technical director

The agency says that the extra lanes will cut journey times during peak times, so even with the lower speed limit, journeys will be quicker.

It said it also expects to be able to remove the 60mph limit by 2019, as cars become less polluting.

Motoring group the RAC warned it could pave the way for a reduction from the national standard 70mph to 60mph at other parts of the network where hard-shoulder running is to be allowed.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: "Given the landmark announcement in early January about a reduced speed limit of 60mph on a 32-mile stretch of the M1 in order to protect air quality in the area, this should really not come as a surprise.

"It does, however, come hot on the heels of the first announcement and invites the question as to whether any of the eight other planned all-lane running, smart motorway schemes which the government have heavily invested in will also need to have reduced speed limits put in place to protect air quality?

"News that the restriction should lead to higher average traffic speeds on this stretch is something of a consolation for commuters, but others who travel outside of peak times will no doubt wonder why they can't drive at 70mph on a clear motorway."

Motorists and other interested parties have until 11 April to comment on the M3 proposals.

The M1 consultation ends on 3 March.

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Monday, 17 February 2014

4 in 10 drivers ‘do not concentrate’ . . .


4 in 10 drivers ‘do not concentrate’ . . .

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A significant proportion of drivers do not concentrate properly when behind the wheel, and are thereby placing both their own lives and those of other road users at risk.

That is the key finding of a new report by the(IAM) Institute of Advanced Motorists, which reveals that only 60 per cent of motorists focus at all times when behind the wheel, though this figures rises or falls depending on how old people are and where they are located.

While 73 per cent of over 65s say that they concentrate all the time when on the road, this falls to just 50 per cent for the least experienced drivers, aged under 24. Similarly, only 53 per cent of 24 to 34-year-olds focus all of the time.

The most common reason for a lack of concentration is daydreaming, with a quarter of survey residents admitting this, while other factors cited include stress (22 per cent), thinking about what people will be doing when they arrive (21 per cent) and thinking about family, friends and personal relationships (21 per cent).

A high proportion of motorists in Yorkshire, the south-west and Scotland are also guilty of failing to concentrate, with 46 per cent of drivers admitting they lose focus – a percentage that is far too high, according to IAM Chief Executive Simon Best.

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Thursday, 6 February 2014

Caught using his PHONE at the wheel doing 60mph on the motorway . . .


Caught using his PHONE at the wheel doing 60mph on the motorway . . .

Cited at:
Driver of packed National Express coach doing 60mph on the motorway caught using his PHONE at the wheel - but firm can't work out who he is . . . ! 
  • Worried passenger photographed the driver checking his mobile 
  • Driver of the 50-seater coach takes his eyes off the road while on M5 
  • Coach appears to be travelling just feet from the vehicles in front 
  • National Express launch investigation to identified the driver 
  • Firm are unable to confirm if the driver is still employed by them 
A coach company has launched an investigation after one of its drivers was pictured appearing to use his mobile phone at 60mph on a motorway. An alarmed passenger caught the driver in the act at the wheel of a National Express service on the M5 - as the 50-seater coach travels just feet from the vehicles in front. But despite being aware of the image, the company has not yet been able to find out who the driver is.

Danger: The driver of the National Express coach appears to take his eyes of the road as he checks his mobile phone in this photo taken by a worried passenger

The traveller took a photograph of the driver in his rear-view mirror which shows him with his eyes off the road looking down at the handset in his left hand. 'I was amazed at what he was doing, said the 36-year-old passenger, who asked not to be named.

'The motorway was busy and the coach was fully packed and doing around 60mph in the inside lane. 'He was putting other people’s lives at risk, both on the coach and other drivers.'

He added: 'I wouldn’t have expected that kind of behaviour from someone who was a professional driver.

Worrying: The driver is just a few feet from the back of the car in front as he seems to check his phone while heading along the M5 near Taunton, Somerset.

Route: The national express coach service was travelling from Bristol to Plymouth, Devon. (Stock picture)

'It was even more surprising because there was a CCTV camera installed in the coach covering the driver’s area.

'I would have thought the presence of that would have dissuaded him.' The incident happened as the coach was in the vicinity of Taunton, Somerset, on its way from Bristol to Plymouth, Devon, some time in September. It is understood National Express have not yet been able to identify the driver because there is insufficient information in the photograph to pinpoint records confirming who was behind the wheel. Despite knowing the start point and destination of the coach, National Express has been unable to confirm if the driver is still working for them. But a spokesperson said: 'Safety is our number one priority and we are in the process of investigating this matter'.

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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Highways Agency reveals 'Hadecs3' speed camera . . .


Highways Agency reveals 'Hadecs3' speed camera

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Hadecs3 'stealth' speed cameras said to be more cost effective.

Whether you like speed cameras or not, it seems they are here to stay. The Highways Agency has revealed a more cost effective camera known as Hadecs3, short for 'Highways Agency digital enforcement camera system'.

Hadecs3 will replace the Hadecs2 system currently used monitor the UK's 'smart motorways' ─ motorways that have a variable speed limit such as on the M1, M6 and M25. They will be painted grey instead of yellow.

The Highways Agency plans to roll out the new speed cameras across 100 miles of motorway over the next two years, with a final goal of at least 400 miles.

One of the cost effective benefits of Hadecs3 touted is that the spot-camera system can monitor multiple lanes at once, instead of one camera per lane. Each camera will be mounted on top of large poles located beside the motorway.

The Highways Agency said the new speed cameras are all about “smoothing traffic flow and increasing [motorway] capacity”, not enforcing the 70mph legal limit. It did admit, however, that police forces will be able to choose to use then for speed enforcement as they can do now.

Critics argue the grey 'stealth' cameras do little to convince the motorist they are more about raking in cash than safety. Fortunately, it appears the Hadecs3 system's roadside mounting should make them easier to spot than a camera hidden behind a gantry.

In light of the Hadecs3 cameras the RAC urged the government to rethink its stance on the 80mph speed limit. “If the new HADECS3 cameras are to be used more generally we think that this will result in better adherence to speed limits," RAC technical director David Bizley commented.

"One of the objections to an 80mph limit was that motorists would be more likely to travel at 90mph or more. But with better enforcement, it would be appropriate to revisit the 80mph motorway debate given that the majority of motorists support raising the speed limit on motorways.

Bizley also mentioned the safety aspect. "One of the key concerns about static speed cameras is there potential to create a dangerous ‘stop start’ driving style caused by motorists suddenly slowing down when they spot them."

The Highways Agency proposed a speed limit reduction to 60mph on a section of the M1 in January 2014 as part of a plan to improve local air quality, sparking fears the days of the 70mph limit could be numbered.

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Monday, 3 February 2014

It’s the Year of the Bus! Look out for the celebratory silver Boris Bus . . .


It’s the Year of the Bus! Look out for the celebratory silver Boris Bus . . .

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Last year was the Year of the Tube (well, its 150th anniversary anyway) and now it’s the turn of London’s buses to be lavished with glory. And glory they shall have. This afternoon, the Mayor launched the ‘Year of the Bus’, celebrating the humble people carriers of the past, present and future.

But, aside for the simple sake of inter-transport rivalry, why now? 2014 is a significantly bus-tastic year for a number of reasons: it’s 60 years since the creation of the Routemaster, 75 years since the launch of its predecessor the RT-Type bus and 100 years since London buses were sent to the Western Front in WW1. Buses may not have the sentimental allure of the tube, but they do carry 6.5 million passengers a day (impressive fact: this epic number makes up half of all the bus journeys in England!)

To celebrate, TfL and the London Transport Museum will be putting a year of events, exhibitions, recreations and other happenings in an attempt to reignite London’s love for our trusty red friends. Oh and they’ve painted a new Boris Bus silver, which will be cruising along route 9 (and moving to 10 in the spring). First one to spot it wins… errr, nothing. Except for the glory that comes with having acute observation skills. And that’s plenty.

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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hate Parking Tickets? . . .


Hate Parking Tickets? 

'Fixed' Fights Them In Court For You . . .

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Up to 50 percent of parking tickets are dismissed when fought in court, but it takes knowledge and time to do it. 

Fixed A new app being trialed in America will do it for you. Take a photo of your ticket, Fixed contests it, and if it’s dismissed, you pay Fixed 25 percent of the ticket price. If Fixed loses, you pay it nothing, so there’s nothing to lose. Fixed just launched in San Francisco, but wants to fight tickets nationwide.

David Hegarty started Fixed after paying four parking tickets one morning only to come to his car and find two more. “The tickets were complete bullshit, and I knew they had been erroneously issued,” he tells me.

Sure, you could say he should have been more careful/not parked like an idiot. But in many cities, and especially San Francisco, parking rules are very complicated. Even if you manage to follow them all, the police and meter maids screw up sometimes too and wrongly give you a ticket.

So Hegarty did the research, figured out how to contest parking tickets, and submitted appeals on his two new tickets. He got both dismissed, so he started contesting all his tickets and frequently won. Soon he realized he wasn’t the only one sick of parking tickets, so he created Fixed with David Sanghera and DJ Burdick.

Here’s how it works:
Sign-up for Fixed (currently in a small beta trial in San Francisco) and enter your credit card details.
Come back to your car, find a parking ticket you think was unfairly issued, take a photo of it with Fixed, and type in the violation number.
Fixed looks up the violation type, tells you the probability of getting that type dismissed, and prompts you to take photos as evidence.
If the ticket is for street cleaning, you might be prompted to take a photo of a missing street cleaning times sign. If it’s a “red curb” violation, you might be asked to photograph the faded curb paint. Fixed supplements the evidence with data like when the curb was supposed to be repainted, or whether the street was actually steep enough to warrant a “wheels not curbed” ticket.
Fixed prepares a “contest letter” to fight the ticket, has you digitally sign it, mails it on your behalf, and takes care of all correspondence with the court.
If Fixed gets your ticket dismissed, you pay it 25 percent of what the ticket would have cost. If it loses, you pay the ticket like normal but pay Fixed nothing.

The idea was so popular that Fixed filled up its early beta group in SF almost as soon as it launched its site, but you can sign up for the waiting list now.

For now, Fixed is bootstrapped, but it may need to raise money to expand its team to match demand for the service. It says San Francisco alone issues about $100 million worth of parking tickets a year, and estimates the US as a whole doles out over $3 billion in tickets. That’s a lucrative market that could help it raise venture capital to bring its ticket-fighting app across the country. And one day, it hopes to expand into contesting traffic tickets and moving violations.

In the meantime, it will have to compete with clumsier web-based services Parkingticket.comand ParkingTicketGuys. Scaling will be a serious challenge, and the company could run into trouble dealing with city governments. “They’ve seen parking fines as a cash cow that they milked from motorists,” Hegarty says. “If we start helping the motorist fight back, we don’t know how they’ll react.” Hopefully local governments would just nuke Fixed with some law like “only you and your lawyer may contest tickets on your behalf.”

Now, there’s an argument to be made that fighting parking tickets just takes money from the community. Ticket revenue can go to pay for important local infrastructure, and a lot of tickets are designed to prevent people from unsafely parking, obstructing other cars, or endlessly squatting on spots. And sending frivolous contest letters could slow down the whole legal system.

But still, I agree with Hegarty that it sometimes feels like city governments are unfairly sucking blood from people who can’t afford garages or private car services like Uber. $64 tickets (in SF) for not re-parking your car at 6 a.m. every other day seems a bit outrageous. If cities want to hammer people with expensive tickets, they should have to make parking rules clear and enforce them fairly. If they don’t, Hegarty says Fixed is “here to restore a little bit of justice to your day.”

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Saturday, 1 February 2014

Electric Buses Charged Wirelessly, Set To Begin Service . . .


Electric Buses Charged Wirelessly, Set To Begin Service . . .

Cited at:


Wireless charging is a topic that we have covered from time to time, even as recently as earlier this evening. Here we are with word from developers of electric buses that are about to begin service will also be able to enjoy wireless charging capability. This new fleet of electric buses will comprise of 8 vehicles in total, where they will be operating along a busy route in Milton Keynes from late January onward. These buses have the ability to run for a longer period of time thanks to a wireless booster charge that they will receive right at the beginning as well as at the end of the route, thanks to plates which are embedded in the road itself, making such buses the first of their kind in the UK to enter service.

The inductive charging capable fleet will run on the Number 7 route, where it will cover the length of 5km (15 miles) between the Milton Keynes suburbs of Wolverton and Bletchley, and it has been estimated to carry around 800,000 passengers annually. A full night’s worth of charging at the depot should be able to let it go to “work” with vigor, and being on the receiving end of the booster charges throughout the entire working day.

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