The Anonymous Widower

Next Time I’ll Go By Train

I have just taken thirty minutes to get through aecurity at City Airport. Mainly because there is not enough staff!

Airports in general could also use much more artificial intelligence to speed the process.

A lot would be to apply simple rules to historic passenger flows to make certain there are enough staff.

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

They’re Supposed To Be No Frills Airlines

I am going to Switzerland next week and needed a ticket from Geneva to London to get back.

The process to buy a ticket has grown from a simple choose a flight, put in passenger details and pay, to a complete conversation with the Devil.

I don’t want a hotel, car hire, to pay extra for anything, so please can we have a secret door to by-pass all that junk?

And whilst I’m at it, why not abolish duty-free, as this slows down boarding and costs everybody on their ticket.

I would have taken the train back, but Eurostar is almost sold out and I might not have the flexibility I need in Switzerland.

At least Eurostar has a fairly streamlined booking.

September 9, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Longevity Of Light Aircraft

I am just watching the travel section of BBC Breakfast, where Cat Moh is taking a flight in a light aircraft to Le Touquet from Blackbushe.

The aircraft they are using is G-BJDW, which I have flown many times, when it was based at Ipswich Airport. It was the plane that many, like me, used for instrument-flying training in the 1980s.

I remember flying three Metier employees to Denham from Ipswich one day.

Delta-Whisky looked to be in good condition, as it was thirty or more years ago.

August 12, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , | 2 Comments

Labour Abandons Support For New Heathrow Runway

This title of this post is the same as an article on Page 2 of today’s Times.

This is the first paragraph.

Labour will drop its formal support for a third runway at Heathrow today in a significant U-turn that leaves the plan on a knife edge.

Other points in the article.

  • Labour MPs will have a free vote.
  • 75% of all MPs support a third runway, including the SNP and the DUP.
  • A Labour free vote probably means it would pass a vote.
  • Labour has formally backed a third runway for fifteen years.
  • The unions back the third runway.

It would all be so irrelevant, if we’d built Maplin in the last century. But Harold Wilson cancelled it!

June 20, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Premium Passport Control At Gatwick

By getting lost, I came across Premium Passport Control At Gatwick.

I’d already noticed the lengths of the queues for passport control, so by paying a fiver on my contactless card, I virtually walked at a brisk pace through passport control and security.

I shall certainly book it on my next flights through the airport.

Some will argue that everybody should get this level of service, but as the Gatwick web site says, the service is limited to fifty passengers per hour, just think how big, an area would be needed for the thousands of passengers per hour handled by the airport.

For me though, the service is ideal.

  • At seventy with a few health issues, standing in queues is a pastime I avoid.
  • As a coeliac, I often find food on board a flight is questionable to say the least, so having more time for perhaps something before I fly is an advantage.
  • I can afford the cost!
  • I like to time things as fast as possible.

I would improve the service in two ways.

A Yearly Pass

I do about ten flights a year out of the UK. If for say thirty pounds I could get Premium Passport Control both Outbound and Inbound, I would always fly through Gatwick, as it has flights to where I want to go.

A Duty Free By-Pass

I never buy any traditional duty-free products, although I might buy something in airport shops, like newspapers, snacks or toiletries.

So I would have an optional route straight into the main departure area, by-passing the slow lane through dDuty Free.

Conclusion

I think this will get better!

June 15, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

London To Novara

I flew from between London City and Milan Linate airports and then it was a coach and train to Novara.

These are the various legs of my journey.

Home To London City Airport

I took the following route.

It took just fifty minutes.

It is my closest airport.

London City Airport to Milan Linate Airport

I flew with British Airways Cityflyer.

  • The Airport was busy and there were delays at security.
  • We left a few minutes late.
  • The plane was an Embraer 190 SR.
  • I had a default aisle seat, but the guy in the window seat didn’t come, so I had room to spread about.
  • Some got a free snack, but they had no gluten-free, so BA gave me an extra water from Thirsty Planet.

I took these pictures during the flight.

The flight was more expensive than easyJet or Ruanair, but more refined and not as expensive as British Airways from Heathrow.

It was a route, I’d use again.

Milan Linate Airport To Milan Centrale Station

This was a five euro transfer in a coach from the airport to Milan Centrale station.

As I’d bought the ticket for the bus from a guy by the baggage reclaim, it was a painless business.

Wikipedia says this about Milan Central station.

Milano Centrale has high speed connections to Turin in the west, Venice via Verona in the east and on the north-south mainline to Bologna, Rome, Naples and Salerno. The Simplon and Gotthard railway lines connect Milano Centrale to Bern and Geneva via Domodossola and Zürich via Chiasso in Switzerland.

The station is also an important stop on the Milan Metro.

Looking up on Loco2.com, it would appear that most major cities in Italy have an hourly direct service to and from Milan Central.

Many are high speed trains, like the French TGV, which are called Freciarossa.

My journey between aiirport and station took forty minutes.

Unless I need a specific train, I rarely buy a ticket until I get to the station in Italy.

You can either go straight on to your destination on the next train, or dump your luggage in the left luggage lockers and take a couple of stops on the Metro to the cathedral to have a quick look at Milan.

Milan Centrale Station To Novara Station

To get to Novara station, I used the hourly express commuter service, that goes to Turin.

Note.

  1. The hour’s journey took about an hour and cost me five and a half euros.
  2. My train ran to the timetable.
  3. Usually, you can board a train about fifteen minutes before it leaves.
  4. The Italians paint a lot of rails white. It keeps them cool!

I arrived in Novara about five hours after I took off from London City Airport, so the total journey time coul;d have been under seven hours.

 

May 29, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

First Qatar Airways Flight From Doha Lands In Cardiff

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

The story is also reported in the Business section of The Times under a title of Direction Of Travel Brings Qatar Airways To Cardiff Airport.

This is the first paragraph from the latter article.

Trade winds from the Middle East have brought a whiff of what a successful Brexit might look like: a 300-seat, state-of-the-art Qatar Airways jetliner carrying a full business-class cabin and several tonnes of freight that has travelled from the 35C of Persian Gulf heat to 10C of Welsh drizzle.

To some it might seem to be a surprising new route.

As a former private pilot, who knew many of the UK’s airports pretty well, Cardiff Airport has many advantages.

  • It has a long runway.
  • It is not very busy.
  • Air traffic control and other services are top class.
  • It has a terminal capable of handling a large number of planes.
  • British Airways have a large maintenance centre at the Airport.
  • Ground transport to Cardiff includes buses and a railway station at Rhoose Cardiff International Airport station.

It could be an airport, that just needs more airlines and passengers to take advantage of its facilities.

The two articles suggest various reasons, why Qatar are going to run a service, that will be daily by July.

  • It gives Cardiff a direct link to the world’s fastest growing hub airport at Doha.
  • Qatar have lots of investments all over the UK.
  • Doha gives direct access flights to to Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand, to give six examples.
  • Cardiff Airport wants to develop as a warehousing hub and Qatar Airways is big in freight.
  • The export market for Welsh food and other perishables could be transformed.
  • The Times reminds us there are nine million sheep in Wales.

The Times also has this memorable phrase.

Quite why the flights have been launched has as much to do with Welsh lamb as it does with not being Bristol.

But I think there are other reasons.

New Routes For Qatar Airways To North America

Look at Qatar Airways routes to North America.

  • They serve mostly Eastern seaboard destinations from Doha.
  • Chicago and Los Angeles are also served from Doha, but they are long flights of over sixteen hours.
  • San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver are not served.

So would Cardiff with its top-class facilities make an excellent hub for Qatar Airways?

Would a pos-Brexit UK be free to allow Qatar Airways to run services from Cardiff to selected destinations in North America?

Remember, it’s also about freight!

Improved Rail Access

This Google Map shows the Airport.

Note.

  1. Rhoose Cardiff International station is South of the Airport at the bottom of the map.
  2. The main terminal is on the North side of the Airport.
  3. The Vale of Glamorgan Line through the station and then skirts past the Eastern end of the runway on its way to Cardiff.
  4. The Vale of Glamorgan Line is double-track with sections of single-track.
  5. The Vale of Glamorgan Line was scheduled to be electrified.

It would appear that providing better passenger and freight access would not be the most challenging of problems, if they were to become needed in the future.

Improved Passenger Services

The current service at Rhoose Cardiff International station is as follows.

  • An hourly service to Bridgend.
  • An hourly service to Cardiff Central, Cardiff Queen Street and Aberdare.
  • On Sundays the service is only two-hourly.

The service needs to be improved.

It would be possible to run a service from Cardiff to Swansea along the Vale of Glamorgan Line.

  • The service would call at Rhoose Cardiff International station.
  • The service could be run by trains designed for an airport service.
  • The service would connect to all the Cardiff Valley Lines at Cardiff Central station.
  • The service could be extended at the Western end to Llanelli and Fishguard.
  • The service could be extended at the Eastern end to Newport, Bristol Parkway and Bristol Temple Meads.

If bi-mode or diesel trains were to be used no new infrastructure would be needed.

Two trains per hour are needed and may be possible, but it might be necessary to find a solution to the two single-trac sections of line.

Freight Services

After reading, the two articles, I’m convinced that both Cardiff Airport and Qatar Airways are backing the use of the airport as a freight hub.

But all freight would have to leave the airport by truck, as there is no rail connection.

Because of the closeness of the Vale of Glamorgan Line to the airport, it would be possible to create a high-quality cargo-handling facility, with rail access.

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT), I proposed using four-car Class 321 trains as parcel and pallet carriers.

  • These could serve anywhere in the UK from Cardiff Airport.
  • If from the Airport to Cardiff were to be electrified, electric freight could go fast to London and the South East.
  • Cardiff could be used as an alternative freight hub,, for an over-crowded Heathrow.

I shall be interested to see how Cardiff Airport develops a cargo terminal..

Conclusion

Qatar Airways may have more money than Croesus, but they seem to be spending it wisely, in developing a route to Cardiff.

 

 

 

 

May 3, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Time To Spare Go By Air

The title of this post was given to me by a pilot by the name of Dick Fox, who was one of men and women, who taught me to fly properly. We also did a few trips to places like Stockholm, Dusseldorf and Cologne. At the latter airport, we had a battery failure so Dick stepped up to the plate and got my Cessna 340, in the yraditional way, by swinging the propeller and starting it by hand.

Today, I’m at Gatwick on my way to Berlin. It never surprised me, the way airports make the process of flying less efficient.

Slow Walking Routes

I’m flying from the North Terminal and arrived at Gatwick by train.

Where is the direct route from the station to the North Terminal shuttle? You have to walk in a loop through the crowds in the Main Terminal to get to it.

Surely, separate routes would be more efficient for passengers and the Airport.

Security

It was better today, but I suspect Gatwick are applying a bit of looking at passengers to speed some through. I suspect that being 70 and grey, I wasn’t asked to take my boots off.

My bag also failed the search and I had to wait for it. But it was all done politely.

I hope that security goes along the route of more technology and AI.

Compulsory Visiting Of Duty Free

We still live in a free country and if I want to visit Duty Free, it should be my choice.

So why do I have to wak threough the Duty Free area?

Needing A Boarding Pass To Buy Anything After Security

Why? As it slows down queuing for small goods you need.

I suspect it’s all about VAT. But surely, if companies abolished it for small purchases, everybody would win.

Slow Service In Restaurants

I queued in Jamie Oliver’s for perhaps ten minutes, but I was out in thirty. It seems they’ve got their systems better.

Conclusion

Any London Airport that speeds up their systems will get my custom.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Travel | , | 1 Comment

O’Leary Gets His Planning Wrong

This article on the BBC talks about the mess Ryanair has got itself into.

I have not flown Ryanair since June 2009, when I flew to Lamezia in Southern Italy.

In Why I Avoid Flying Ryanair, written in February 2014, I said this.

It’s not the fact that I want to avoid eleven hour delays, as these can happen to any airline, but it does seem that Ryanair don’t have a reasonable Plan-B to look after passengers in such circumstances.

In the current mess they haven’t even got a Plan-A!

Even now at seventy, I could probably write a program in Visual Basic 6, that took an airline’s schedules and gave them details of their needs for aircraft, pilots, cabin staff and lucky shamrocks for a required number of years.

Obviously, their planning doesn’t include such a system.

But I bet Norwegian have such a system!

The key to any successful business is getting your planning right!

“It Won’t Happen To Me!”

Do passengers think this when they fly somewhere.

Let’s face it, most of the journeys we do by car, bus and train in the UK, have an outcome as expected or perhaps we might get compensation for a late train.

And if the latter happens, we usually get a prompt refund.

Unlike in my adventures described in From Hamburg To Osnabruck By Train, where I suffered at the hands of Deutsche Bahn in Germany, where I had to pay for my hotel and had to buy a new ticket.

Conclusion

My rule is to use Ryanair as an airline of last resort, when they are the only airline flying to where I want to go. So if they mess up on the outward leg, I get an extra night in my own bed.

But then I can afford some extra expense and often, I’m travelling alone.

 

September 19, 2017 Posted by | Computing, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Cargo Hub Is Latest Plan To Get Manston Airfield Off Ground

The title of this post is the same as a news item in the business section of The Times today.

This is the first paragraph.

It is the airport that refuses to take off. But the latest attempt to turn the Battle of Britain airfield if Manston into a sstainable commercial proposition could take wing this autumn.

The Plan

The plan for Manston Airport is roughly on the following lines.

  • The airport becomes a passenger and freight airport.
  • Help create employment in a depressed area.
  • Talk of a £300 million investment.
  • A potential to take air cargo out of Gatwick and Heathrow.

But I’m fairly sceptical given that so many attempts have failed in the past.

This Google Map shows the position of the airport.

Note how the airport is ringed by the Thanet towns.

This Google Map is a close-up of the Airport.

Note

These are my observations.

Local Residents

The runway is roughly East-West on an alignment of 10-28.

Most take-offs and landings will probably we towards the West using Eunway 28.

I don’t know the area well, but I did get this image from Google Maps.

Note this housing just to the South of the final approach to Runway 28.

This Google Map shows the housing, the runway and the A299.

The residents can’t be too pleased of the plans.

Especially, as Google StreetView shows some of these houses to be newly-built sizeable bungalows.

Road Access

Road access to the airport would need to be substantially improved.

I can’t expect that the residents of Thanet will be pleased if a motorway is built across the countryside from the A2 South of Canterbury.

Rail Access

London’s newest airport is Southend Airport on the North bank of the Thames. The airport is growing as a base for easyJet and other low-cost airlines.

Southend Airport has several advantages, one of which is that the terminal is only a hundred metres from Southend Airport railway station, which is fifty minutes from Liverpool Street station.

In this day and age, I don’t believe that planning permission will be given for Manston Airport, unless a large proportion of freight, travellers and airport workers travel to and from the airport by rail.

Consider the current situation.

  • As the Ashford to Ramsgate Line passes just to the South of Manston Airport, I would expect that the development would involve diverting this rail line, so it passed close to the airport.
  • Current passenger services on the line, link to Ashford, Canterbury, Dover,  Margate and Ramsgate, so at least it would be ideal for local airport workers.
  • There are also a couple of trains per hour (tph) to and from London Victoria.
  • Class 395 trains or Javelins also run using HS1 into St. Pancras. Currently, the fastest trains from |St. Pancras to Ramsgate take 79 minutes, so I suspect that to Manston Airport will take about 75 minutes.

The new Southeastern Franchise, which is currently being bid for will see improved access to this area of Kent, which could include.

  • A second HighSpeed route opened into either Victoria or Waterloo using the route that used to be taken by Eurostar to Waterloo.
  • Increase in HighSpeed services to Kent.
  • Replacement of all the slow trains to speed up faster services.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that Ramsgate gets the following HighSpeed services to London in every hour, that would call at Manston Airport.

  1. Two fast trains to St. Pancras.
  2. Two fast trains to Victoria
  3. Two fast trains to St. Pancras via the Medway towns.

Certainly, the frequency will be good.

Getting Passengers To And From The Airport

It is 2026 and these will be the times from Oxford Circus to the various London airports.

  • Birmingham – 45 minutes – via HS2
  • Gatwick – 68 minutes
  • Heathrow – 27 minutes
  • London City – 20 minutes
  • Luton – 43 minutes
  • Manston – 75 minutes
  • Southend – 60 minutes
  • Stansted – 43 minutes

Access from London might be by HighSpeed train, but people complain about the time it gets to Stansted now, so a time of 75 minutes may be a discouragement, when there are so many alternatives.

I believe that coupled with road access, which will be difficult to improve, that Manston Airport, will never be a significant player in the passenger market.

Getting Cargo To And From The Airport

The local residents are not going to want large numbers of trucks taking cargo to the airport.

But I believe that a lot of parcel and pallet transport, can go by train.

Doncaster-Sheffield Airport, which is also serious about cargo, is proposing to divert the East Coast Main Line, so that cargo trains can call at the airport. Manston Airport would have equally good rail access.

The interesting concept is what I call a HSPT or High Speed Parcel/Pallet train. The idea was first proposed in the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which talks about high-value parcel carriers.

I have developed the concept, as I’m inclined to do in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier (HSPT).

I would use some of the soon-to-be redundant Class 321 trains and convert them into parcel and pallet carriers.

  • They are four-car 100 mph dual voltage electric multiple units.
  • They can run in lengths of twelve-cars if required.
  • There are over a hundred of them of which the large proportion will need new caring owners.
  • The trains may be thirty-five years old, but they are reliable and built out of steel to take punishment.
  • They can easily be converted to bi-mode units, by adding underfloor diesel engines, so they can go anywhere in the UK.
  • They could even go through the Channel Tunnel and run on the the French 25 KVAC network.

How many trucks would be taken from the UK’s crowded roads.

An Integrated Cargo Airport

An integrated cargo airport may have appeal.

Consider.

  • Air cargo is increasingly  containerised.
  • Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are short of slots for passenger aircraft.
  • Manston has a long runway, that could handle the largest cargo planes.
  • The airport could easily have rail access to the |Channel Tunnel.
  • The proposed HSPTs could use the Channel Tunnel with the correct signalling.

I worry that the poor road access would be a problem.

The Competition

Doncaster Sheffield Airport could be a serious competitor with equally good train and much better road access.

Conclusion

As in the past, it will be a difficult project to get working well

I also think the road access problems might kill it.

 

 

August 31, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 5 Comments