AirPortr increases London airports with smartphone bag tracking

Luggage transfer service AirPortr will launch at Heathrow ahead of Christmas, giving travel agents the chance to earn commission on bag transfers to and from three London airports.

The company will collect and deliver passengers’ bags to and from Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and 5 to and from anywhere within the M25 motorway. It charges £25 to central London, with additional bags £5 each.

The launch on December 14 follows the service’s move into Gatwick South in July. It started up at London City more than a year ago.

Passengers can also book and pay at the airport or online and track their bags by smartphone.

AirPortr staff will collect and hand over bags at multiple points at the Heathrow terminals rather than only at dedicated desks.

Commission for agents depends on volume of bookings but agents “can expect to make £3-£5 per average booking”, according to AirPortr head of marketing, Chris Walsh, who said: “We set agents up with a digital interface so they have their own booking dashboard.”

The company scans all bags and aims to deliver when the customer needs their bags. It will extend into Heathrow Terminals 2 and 4 next year and to Gatwick North from February.

Source: Travolution




London taxi drivers and Uber battling to win support with just 14 days left for TfL consultation

Taxi drivers and Uber are gearing up for the final stretch in a race for support ahead of a crunch consultation that will decide the newcomer’s fate in the capital.

Transport for London’s (TfL) consultation on whether to bring in further rules and regulations has just 14 days to run. Uber was given a boost yesterday when the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) took the unusual step of criticising TfL over proposals it says will restrict competition and innovation.

Both sides have been building support to try to sway the final decision. City A.M. understands TfL’s decision will be heavily influenced by the balance of opinion from consultation responses, with the side garnering most support winning out.

In August, Steve McNamara, general secretary of taxi drivers' union the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), one of Uber’s staunchest critics, boasted of his influence over the consultation.

“All of the proposed regulatory changes were proposed by the [taxi] trade,” said McNamara, writing in trade magazine Taxi.

The proposed new laws are the result of an earlier consultation over the summer, which was responded to by “thousands of LTDA members,” he said.

In September TfL asked for industry and public opinion on whether it should bring in a raft of measures, including forcing Uber drivers to wait five minutes before starting a journey and introducing English language requirements for drivers.

Yesterday McNamara told City A.M.: “We’re expecting three or four items from the consultation to go through, such as... landline customer support and advance booking.”

However, in a success for pro-Uber campaigners, McNamara has conceded that “there is no public support for the five minute wait rule”.

The consultation has already received upwards of 8,000 responses. A large proportion of the consultation responses are from taxi and minicab drivers, many of whom are opposed to Uber.

Uber has shown its popularity among the public through a petition that TfL will take into account in its final decision.

Jo Bertram, general manager of Uber in the UK, said: “More than 192,000 people have already signed our petition against these plans and we hope TfL will listen to people across the capital.”

Uber would like to see its support swell to over 200,000 before the 23 December deadline. Uber can also expect the support of various industry bodies before the consultation closes.

The Institute of Directors said yesterday: “The Luddite proposals are little short of protectionist, embedding inefficiency, keeping prices artificially high, and hurting London’s reputation.”

And Richard Dilks, transport director at London First, added: “There is a concern that the proposals would limit businesses coming to the city.”

After the deadline, TfL will review the responses and weigh opinion, aiming to come to a decision “as soon as possible in 2016”.

In an unlikely twist, China’s Geely Holding Group, manufacturer of London’s iconic black cabs, last night said it plans to launch its own taxi app to rival Uber in China.

Source: Cityam



London’s Gatwick Airport launches AirPortr luggage transfer service

Port and London Gatwick announced that the London-based travel tech start-up has just launched its AirPort luggage transfer service at the airport. Gatwick passengers can now take advantage of the same-day, on demand luggage service which provides bag-free travel to and from their home, workplace or holiday destination within London, Gatwick and surrounding/ connecting London corridor*.

AirPort’s team of concierges and drivers collect and deliver passengers’ often burdensome baggage between their location and the airport within hours and at a time suited to them. Passengers can now travel bag-free, resulting in quicker, lighter and stress free journeys.

Departing travellers with an afternoon or evening flight can be free to make the most of their departure day, leaving it later before making the journey to the airport as they no longer have to factor in extra time carrying their heavy luggage.

Arriving passengers offload their bags with the AirPort team when they land and travel straight to their destination, avoiding carrying luggage around with them all day.

AirPort’s service is priced deliberately as an ‘affordable luxury’. For example, two bags whatever their size or weight delivered to or from the airport into Central London costs only £30.

The luggage delivery service can be booked in advance or on the day of travel (

Gatwick Product Manager for Premium and Business Services Toby Tait said, “Gatwick is always striving to make our passengers’ travel through our airport quick, convenient and hassle-free.

“The arrival of AirPort now means that the convenience our passengers experience at the airport extends to their travel to and from Gatwick. Carrying heavy bags on the journey to and from the airport can now be a thing of the past for our passengers.”

Head of Customer Experience at Port Chris Walsh said, “Since launching the AirPort experience we have overwhelmingly seen how the service literally changes the way people now plan and make their journeys.

“Of course we are in the business of same day luggage delivery and ensuring your bags travel when and where you want them, but really AirPort is all about the time and convenience aspect of the service that we in reality aspire to deliver.

“More time to do what you want and need to do versus having your luggage inconveniently dictating your itinerary i.e. what we like to think is truly travelling with ‘Luggage Freedom’.”

Source: FTN News




London has embraced Uber but loves its traditional London taxi black cabs too. What to do?


Last week, London black cab drivers made their latest protest outside Transport for London’s Victoria Street headquarters against the presence of Uber taxis on London’s streets. Last month, a Conservative MP told the Commons that the capital would have to choose between the traditional licensed trade, with its proud values and special Knowledge, and its Californian internet age rival with its disruptive phone app technology. “London can’t have it both ways,” he declared.

But now comes survey data suggesting that Londoners might quite like a bit of both, especially if black cab drivers can adjust to a fast-changing situation without losing their unique identity. Pollsters YouGov and the communications firm PLMR have published research indicating that 55% of Londoners think the newer services are a good thing for them compared with only 16% who don’t. At the the same time, 42% think black cabs will still be in business 20 years from now compared with 30% who think they’ll be extinct.

This belief in London black taxis’ staying power is interpreted by PLMR, which commissioned the research for itself rather than for any client, as indicating a durable demand for the capital’s legendary cabbies. However, they point to the survey’s third finding, which is that a massive 75% of the 1,000 Londoners asked think they should always be able to pay their black cab fare using contactless tech. All this, reckons PLMR, shows that black cabs are still held in great affection but that they need to adapt quickly to changing times. TfL appears to thinks so too: its board is to consider making it compulsory for black cabs to offer electronic payment facilities. This follows a public consultation whose results are not yet public but are widely believed to have found strong support for the idea.

The row between TfL and London cabbies over Uber has been rancorous indeed, with the legality or otherwise of the Uber app - which the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association claims is a taxi meter, and should therefore disqualify the company from operating in London - to be decided on at the High Court this autumn. Boris Johnson, though, is not alone in being absolutely sure that if m’learned friend concludes that TfL was wrong to have given Uber the go-ahead back in 2012, Uber will have a way around that setback to hand.

The Evening Standard’s Andrew Neather wrote an admirably clear account of the tensions between TfL, black cabs and whole private hire spectrum back in January. Aspiring mayors have since pitched in on the issue. Tessa Jowell has said she is boycotting Uber, which is legally based in the Netherlands, until it pays taxes in the UK. Christian Wolmar would like the black cab trade to embrace apps: “Do you really need to go out and hail cabs?” he’s inquired. There are concerns about the control and conduct of Uber and there’s been harsh criticism of the mayor and TfL by the London Assembly’s transport committee, which says they’ve failed to get a grip on a fraught and fragmented situation. Meanwhile, Uber (and other) private hire drivers are proliferating. Johnson, anxious to claw back a bit of the support from cabbies he used to enjoy, is now arguing for a cap on their numbers.

Where will it all end? The answer is bound to be where customer preference leads, but those survey findings do indeed suggest this needn’t spell the end for the black cab. My experience of Uber is limited to a single late night ride from Chiswick, where I’d been visiting some friends, to my home in Hackney. The fare was just over £24 - it’s hard to argue with a price that low. Yet the London black cab trade is an extraordinary institution whose distinctive qualities many will go on appreciating. A way has to be found to accommodate and properly regulate the full range of taxi services London wants. I wonder what it is.

Source: The Guardian




London Heathrow Airport Will Test Steeper Plane Approaches to Reduce Noise


London’s Heathrow Airport is trialing steeper landing approaches to reduce aircraft noise next month, following British Airways’ Airbus A380 trial flights in May.

The trial, which will start Sept. 14 and has been approved by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), is planned to run until March 16, 2016. It is one of 10 practical steps Heathrow is taking to explore ways to improve the noise climate around the airport. If adopted, Heathrow will be the only airport in the UK to introduce steeper approaches as a means of reducing noise on the ground.

The aim of the trial is to test whether a steeper approach angle is possible and will reduce noise for people living near the airport. 

The international standard approach to most airports in the world is set at 3 degrees, except for obstacle clearance, but Heathrow will trial a 3.2 degree approach with the aim ultimately of increasing that to 3.5 degrees. Heathrow said that the introduction of steeper approach angles at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport had had a positive impact on noise pollution.

The trial will only affect arriving aircraft on final approach into Heathrow, but should position those aircraft between 300 and 500 feet higher when they are 10 miles from touchdown using the 3.2 degree approach than they would be using the conventional approach angle. It will be used on all four runway approaches (27R, 27L, 09R, 09L).

While the trial is optional, Heathrow expects “a large number of airlines that have the necessary standard of navigational equipment for this approach” to take part.

Steeper approaches, combined with other new operating procedures and new aircraft technology, are aimed at ensuring that, even with proposed expansion of the airport, fewer people around Heathrow would be affected by aircraft noise.

Heathrow director of sustainability and environment Matt Gorman said: “Steeper approaches are just one step in the right direction, and along with other quieter operating procedures and incentives to bring quieter aircraft into operation, will ensure fewer people are affected by noise, even with an expanded airport.”

Source: Air Transport World




The Battle of London Airport


On the night of 28 July 1948, a gang of nine thieves prepared to pull off one of the most audacious heists in British history. But little did they know, things wouldn’t work out quite as they planned.

In a bonded warehouse belonging to the British Overseas Airways Corporation at London Airport, since renamed Heathrow, sat goods worth £224,580, with £13,900 locked away in the safe. A further £100,000 of goods was stashed nearby in the British South American Corporation building, of which £1,000 was in gold bullion. It was a staggering amount of money – the equivalent of over £10m today.

The plan was as simple as it was reminiscent of a B-movie crime thriller. One of the guards on duty that night had been persuaded to drug the tea, and send his colleagues off to sleep. What the gang didn’t know, however, was that their inside man had had a change of heart, and informed the police.

Later that night, in the wee hours, the getaway van pulled up outside the office of the bonded warehouse. The thieves hopped out, led by Alfred Roome, brandishing an iron bar. Samuel Ross turned to his accomplice, John Wallis, and said, “Let’s settle these geezers”, before going into the office and finding three men in airport uniforms, who were pretending to be unconscious.

Ross and Wallis tied up and frisked the men for the chain of keys. Finding what they were looking for, Wallis handed the keys to Roome, who had no sooner than put the key in the lock of the safe, when a cry arose from out of the shadows.

“We are police of the flying squad”, yelled Inspector Roberts. “Stand where you are!” The crooks made a dash for the door, but found themselves surrounded. “Kill the swines’” yelled one of the criminals (the actual expletive was too rich for The Times). A desperate struggle ensued with the flailing of various “murderous weapons” and police truncheons.

Amazingly, nobody was killed during the ‘Battle of London Airport’. But before the gang could be subdued and arrested, seven of the villains had been injured, and nine of the policemen.

In September, the criminals were sentenced to hard labour, ranging from five years. Passing sentence, the judge, with typical 1940s bravado, taunted the men: “A raid on this scale profoundly shocks society. You went prepared for violence and you got it. You got the worst of it, and you can hardly complain about that.”

Source: MoneyWeek




The Great Barrier Relief – Inside London's heavy metal and concrete defence act

Geek's Guide to Britain Last time London flooded was 1953. Three hundred lives were lost, 30,000 evacuated and the damage totalled a considerable £5bn in today’s money.

Given how London has expanded since then, the record-breaking wet winter of 2014 would have been worse had it not been for the presence of 51,000 tonnes of metal and 210,000 cubic meters of concrete – called the Thames Barrier.

The barrier has been raised 174 times in the 35 years of its life: and 50 of those took place during that three-month period of 2014.

That year saw one the wettest winter since records began in 1766 – 435mm of rain, beating incumbent 1915 of 423mm, with the flood walls of 1953 that breached still in place. The barrier added a crucial extra three meters to their height.

Without that, a 125-square-kilometres-area of London was at risk: historical landmarks, commercial and residential buildings, and underground lines and stations in a city that contributes £250bn to the UK's economy.

The Thames is not unique in having a flood defence system – other big cities and waterways have them, too, with at least six in Northern Europe: in Venice, Holland and St Petersburg all of various systems. There’s a further eight systems on the Thames across tributaries that – with the Thames Barrier – are links in London's flood-defence chain.

Where the Thames Barrier stands out is in the fact it married forward-thinking design with innovative, yet practical, engineering. It's not the biggest flood barrier in the world, but it is the largest moveable barrier.

The secret was a new floodgate design – the rising-sector gate conceived by those designing the barrier – that's both powerful enough to withstand nearly ten thousand tons of water pressure yet wide enough for commercial and leisure craft to pass through into, and out of, London.

The barrier's gates rely on a simple system of industrial plant with multiple levels of redundancy. In a nightmare scenario of lost power and computers, it is possible to operate the gates manually out on the barrier.

Then there's that look. Bigger barriers in St Petersberg and Holland are testament to their municipal roots or practical purpose: squat concrete cubes or guillotine gates serving as bulwarks against angry Mother Nature.

The Thames Barrier's signature are a set of seven, silver-coloured domes on boat-shaped piers that straddle the river and resemble a fleet of yachts with the wind behind them, in flight into the center of London.

These domes and piers might well serve a practical purpose by housing the barrier's machinery from the elements, but they have also earned iconic status. Any picture of the London skyline that includes Nelson's Column, Tower Bridge and St Paul's is incomplete without the Thames Barrier.

I survey this sight from my vantage point high in the barrier's control room. I'm clutching a blue hard hat as I’ll be out there in a few minutes, descending walkways, and squeezing past gears and pistons on a journey through this water-control machine and under the Thames to pier number seven.

It’s a brisk and breezy December afternoon when I visit. Daylight is waning with Canary Wharf and the O2 receding in purple gloom and a banshee wind screeching around the piers. I feel like Ripley and the Colonial Marines in the terraformer on LV-426.

Compounding this, is the secure feel of this facility. The control room on the south bank tops a tower in the middle of a small complex containing a power station and workshops and protected by stout walls, heavy gates and a very taking-no-chances pillbox-like entry point. It's testament to the barrier's status as a piece of critical national infrastructure.

Inside the control room, however, all is calm (mundane even) with barely a handful of staff visible. The presence of flat-screen monitors, workstations and carpet makes it feel rather office like, albeit an office with a commanding view. There's glass on three sides: to the left the City, ahead the north bank's tower blocks, and east Woolwich Ferry and beyond.

But don’t be fooled. Everything is arranged with purpose like the bridge of a ship, like the USS Enterprise, even. This bridge is split into distinct ares of activity: on one side weather monitoring, opposite are systems that raise and lower the gates, across the back run desks and phones where supervisors filter incoming data and assess whether to close the gates. In the far corner is comms who relay to the world any decision to raise or lower the flood control gates spanning the Thames.

Thames tidal defence operations manager Andy Batchelor is my guide. Batchelor is one of those who'd sit on that desk at the back, and who's authorized to give the order to open and close the barrier. He’s been working here since 1984, when it was officially opened by HM the Queen and Prince Phillip.

Source: The Register




London underground drivers to stage second strike in a month over 24-hour service


A third union has said its members will join a second London Underground strike in a dispute over night Tube plans.

The Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said members would join a 24-hour walkout from 21:30 BST on 5 August.

On Monday, Aslef and Unite announced they would go on strike. Last week's strike closed the entire Tube network.

The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has not confirmed whether it will take part.

Unions are unhappy about pay and shifts for the overnight service, which is due to start on 12 September.

RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: "Workers in all grades are furious at the attempt to rip up long-standing agreements in an effort to bulldoze through these wholly unacceptable new working patterns.

"RMT also remains in dispute over the parallel issue of the axing of 850 station staff jobs, cuts which make a mockery of the safe delivery of the night tube in just a few weeks time."

Members of the RMT union, TSSA, Unite and Aslef were all involved in last week's strike

Talks between the four unions and London Underground (LU) at the conciliation service Acas were held earlier.

An Acas spokesman: "All the parties involved in the London Underground dispute have begun exploratory talks at Acas this morning."

Members of the RMT union, TSSA and Unite started their 24-hour strike at 18:30 on 8 July, while Aslef drivers started their 24-hour action from 21:30.

The row is over a 2% average pay rise offer for LU members and workers' terms and conditions linked to plans to introduce an all-night Tube service on the Jubilee and Victoria lines and and most of the Central, Northern and Piccadilly lines.

Last week's strike saw long delays and rush hour began earlier than normal as commuters tried to find alternative ways to get to and from work.

Millions of passengers walked, cycled, and took the bus and river services. Car booking firm Uber was criticised for its price surging practice as fares increased many times the normal price amid elevated demand.

London Mayor Boris Johnson condemned the strike as "unnecessary" and transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin urged workers to accept the offer made by London Underground.

Source: BBC




Backing for London Heathrow Airport third runway flawed and unfair, claims London Gatwick Airport

Gatwick has challenged the Airports Commission’s backing for Heathrow expansion by denouncing its report as unfair and flawed.

The airport said the commission’s data and analysis fell short of the standard required for balance and fairness and that it was writing to the prime minister to express its concerns.

The commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, earlier this month recommended that an additional runway be built at Heathrow instead of Gatwick.

But Gatwick accused it of skewing its forecasts of passenger numbers and economic benefits, and glossing over factors including the number of people that would be affected by aircraft noise.

Sir Roy McNulty, chairman of Gatwick, said: “Our view has always been that the assessments on which the commission’s conclusions are based must be thorough, balanced, fair and well evidenced.

“We believe that the commission’s report falls short of this standard in a number of very important respects. The many strengths of Gatwick and the many challenges of Heathrow are underplayed, leading to a conclusion which we believe is flawed.”

The commission published its evidence last November and held a three-month consultation seeking responses, but Gatwick said its full submissions had not been published. McNulty claimed Davies had “dismissed our criticisms with a fairly superficial analysis”, and said there were serious air quality and environmental issues that the commission had not yet assessed.

McNulty said he did not think the commission had set out to back Heathrow, but added: “We can understand why some people say that.”

A spokesperson for the Airports Commission said: “These are not new issues and have been considered in the commission’s final report. Following three years of extensive consultation and analysis, the Airports Commission is confident that its recommendations are robust and based on the best evidence available.”

Stewart Wingate, Gatwick chief executive, said the recommendation, to expand Heathrow with a package of measures to limit the effects on local communities, was now in doubt: “You start to see the report itself called into question by Heathrow themselves, within 10 days of it being issued.”

On Monday, Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, indicated that the airport could have difficulty meeting two of Davies’s conditions: a ban on night flights and legislation to rule out a future fourth runway. Heathrow said neither was within its own power, and it would set out its response at a later date.

Holland-Kaye has previously apologised for Heathrow’s historical broken promises on expansion and would be reluctant to make a similar pledge two years after the airport outlined a four-runway plan.

The government is expected to give its response to the Davies report in the autumn.

Source: The Guardian




Zero emissions London Taxi proposals launched for central London



TfL (Transport for London) has launched a consultation process on proposed changes to taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) licensing ahead of the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone), due to be introduced in central London in 2020.
There are two primary proposals. The first is that, from 1 January 2018, all new taxis and PHVs must be zero emission capable (ZEC). The second is to retain the existing 15 year age limit and to encourage retirement of the oldest, most polluting vehicles through a voluntary decommissioning scheme.
The proposals will be supported by a £65 million fund, secured by the Mayor of London, to encourage the take up of new vehicles and the decommissioning of old ones.
ZEC taxis will be based on pure electric or hybrid engine technology capable of running with zero emissions at the tailpipe for all or part of the time (maximum 50g/km CO2 and minimum range of 30 miles).
TfL is working with several manufacturers and says it is confident that ZEC taxis will be available for sale from 2017, well ahead of the deadline.
The agency explains that funding would be made available to enable up to £8,000 in grants for buying ZEC taxis as a £3,000 top-up to the £5,000 OLEV plug-in car grant.
Meanwhile, the mayor is proposing to align the PHV ZEC criteria to match that of the government's plug-in car grant criteria – meaning a greater choice of vehicles, including the Toyota Prius and Mercedes-Benz S-class.
Specifications for ZEC taxis and PHVs will be confirmed once the final licensing requirements have been agreed.
Meanwhile, if the proposals pass scrutiny, from 2017, drivers of taxis more than 10 years old would be able to claim up to £5,000, depending on the age of their vehicle.
"We believe the £65 million fund will encourage the uptake of cleaner, greener taxis well ahead of the 2020 deadline," comments Garrett Emmerson, TfL's chief operating officer for surface transport.
With the new proposals, the overall ULEZ package is projected to nearly halve emissions of NOx from vehicle exhausts in central London. This means more than 80% of central London is expected to meet the NO2 annual legal limits in 2020.

Source: Transport Engineer