QCS finance questioned

first_imgThe future of the high-profile Quaylink bus service in Newcastle has been secured, thanks to Go North East (GNE).The operator has stepped in to provide a commercial service after the councils pulled their funding, leading to questions about their ability to finance Nexus’ proposed Quality Contracts Scheme (QCS).The move comes after Cllr Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council and lead chief executive on transport for the North East Combined Authority, suddenly announced, days before Christmas, that the city council is withdrawing its funding for the service.It followed a similar announcement from Gateshead Council, which also part-funds the current service.Now GNE has stepped in to save the service, which links the Baltic, Sage, Gateshead College and St Peter’s Basin with Newcastle city centre and Gateshead Interchange.Quaylink was launched in 2005. The councils have regularly cited the service as being one of their flagships, and a demonstration of why council-funded services are best. It famously launched with Designline hybrids, operated under contract by Stagecoach. In 2011 they were replaced with diesel-powered Optare Versas after GNE won the contract. The Designline hybrids were sold for scrap.GNE MD Kevin Carr says: “With all our local authorities facing a funding crisis and some considering increasing council taxes, it’s inevitable that front-line services – including those buses funded by councils – will be hit.“I’m pleased that we’ve been able to come up with a plan that will continue to provide a seven-day-a-week bus service to such an important part of Newcastle and Gateshead.“But this must bring into question the Combined Authority’s view that bus services are best controlled by local authorities. If they can’t guarantee a service as important as this, how can they guarantee improvements to the bus network?”last_img read more

Swans orders 10 Irizar i6 integral coaches for 2015

first_imgManchester-based Swans Travel has announced a repeat order with Irizar UK, for 10 new vehicles in 2015.The 2.5m investment will be delivered between March and September.Says MD Kieran Swindells: “With the positive experience of the five coaches bought in 2014, we are pleased to return to Irizar UK for another 10 integral i6 coaches.“2014 was an exceptional year, which gave us the confidence to make such a significant investment. 2015 is already on target for being even better.”The order comprises two tri-axle VIP Class i6s, with 40 leather seats, eight tables, centre kitchen, Sky TV, four screens, Wi-Fi and washroom.Two are two 55-seat Executive Class specification wheelchair-accessible coaches. The other six are Executive Class with 55 half-leather PB seats.last_img

The 21st Nottingham City Transport bus is named

first_imgNottingham City Transport (NTC) has named a bus in honour of Italian footballer, Herbert Kilpin.Nottingham City Transport launched its ‘Herbert Kilpin bus’ outside Herbert’s childhood homeBorn in 1870 in Nottingham, Herbert played for several Nottingham teams at the Forest Recreation Ground.When his work in the lace mills took him to Milan, it was here that he founded Milan Football Club, later to become the world-famous AC Milan.

NCT launched its official ‘Herbert Kilpin bus’ outside Herbert’s childhood home, 191 Mansfield Road, on 22 October – the centenary of his death.The Yellow line number 68/69 bus is the 21st NCT bus to be named and it was unveiled by the Sheriff of Nottingham and local football historian Andy Black.NCT Marketing Manager, Anthony Carver-Smith, says: “Herbert Kilpin was a Nottingham man who made an exciting and valuable contribution to the world of football and he fully deserves to be recognised as one of the city’s heroes.“We hope that our Herbert Kilpin bus will help bring just a little more recognition and fame to his distinctive name, intriguing our customers and passers-by to find out more about the important role he played in the history of football.”

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Coaching without the romance: the Passenger Plus way

first_imgThe last time we spoke to Passenger Plus, the company was in its infancy, albeit a very successful one. Four years later, it continues to go from strength to strength. Beth Hutson visits to discuss the last four years with Managing Director Mark DruryIt’s been a busy four years for joint Directors Mark Drury and Kevin Hughes of Passenger Plus. From its inception in 2012, where 11 vehicles were bought outright with no part exchange, the company has steadily grown, acquiring more clients, staff and vehicles, along with accreditations from CoachMarque and BUSK, and two Route One Awards along the way.Passenger Plus seems naturally geared towards the corporate environment – 80% of the work Passenger Plus do is B2B, much for other coach operators who have benefitted from their location between Gatwick and Heathrow, and just 12 miles from central London. The fleet is immaculately turned out, and as Mark explains, running the newest possible vehicles is an important part of the business model, with all but four vehicles in the fleet ready for Euro 6.Today, Mark tells me that the fleet consists of ’20 PCVs and some 8 seaters, and in 2016 the company grew by £500,000 – pushing its annual turnover to £2 million. What was once 15 staff is now 38 – but it’s not all change at Passenger Plus.“The company is now four times bigger in turnover terms than it was in 2013. Vehicle-wise, we’ve basically doubled the size of the fleet, with plans for more,” he explains. “Our business model is, as it was back then, very much around providing services for corporate clients who predominately don’t have enough car parking space – that’s normally where we can add value, not just with shuttlebus services, but with train discounts, car share schemes and a range of green travel solutions. A consultancy service which formulates and reports on company travel plans is also offered which allows a client’s complete sustainable travel responsibilities to be taken care of.“We spent quite a lot of money last year replacing our 2012 Sprinter’s up to Euro 6 – we’ve got our eye on two or three years time.”The right people at the right timeWhile the Passenger Plus workforce has grown, Mark tells me that getting the right members of staff is a constant challenge for the company.“We’ve learnt from the growing pains of the last four years. It’s almost always about getting the right people in the right positions all the time. We’re constantly interviewing and trying to take people on. It’s a big issue for us,” he says. “Where we’re located, it’s an extremely expensive place to live, and it’s quite hard work getting the people that we want.”The corporate environment comes with its own set of challenges for drivers, and Mark explains how this can make finding the right people even harder.“Our clients are used to the same level of service that you get with a chauffeur, and a chauffeur will always get out and open the door, and we expect our employees to do that as a matter of course,” he tells me. “It’s not anything that most decent drivers wouldn’t do, but we need to do that every single time – even if it’s chucking it down with rain, our driver has to greet our clients with an umbrella, and a smile!  When new people come to us, depending where they come from, that’s the sort of thing that we have to spend quite a lot of time on at the beginning.”Understanding the needs of the workforce is important to Mark, and he tells me that the money aspect of the job plays only a part in what his employees want. “We came to the realisation that if we want the right people, we have to start thinking about what they actually want – and it’s not all about money,” he says. “We cant’ keep paying people more, so what else can we do to make it nice to work here? To a degree, it almost feels like you’re selling the job to a driver when they come for an interview. But if you look after your employees, they hopefully stay. Instilling a sense of pride is key.”Brand recognition is important, with all vehicles bearing the same clean liveryManaging Director Mark Drury: “We are very proud of what we do”A growing client baseThe last few years for the company have been transformative, and 2016 in particular, where the company saw a growth of £500,000, has been a period of change. “We were successful in winning three sizable contracts, and the company grew by about £500,000 worth of turnover. It’s jumped really quickly.” says Mark. The success has not been without it’s challenges though, as Mark explains how the growth has highlighted the need to ‘start putting a few more management layers in place’ to deal with the increasing demand. When we last spoke to Passenger Plus, green travel was often an important consideration for their clients – and for many of them this remains the same. “For all corporates, sustainability is important,” he says. “We excel in delivering the service our clients need at an affordable cost. With Euro 6 we can demonstrate our low emission credentials and prove this by recording and reporting the CO2 emissions for our vehicles from our tracking software. As a company we like measurable and tangible results, and we find our clients appreciate hard facts when it comes to green travel.” While the core business of corporate shuttle services remains key to the company, other revenue streams have been exploited to keep this most modern of fleets working outside of the traditional business working week. Cruise terminal transfers are one such example, with the work dovetailing with the demands of contract customers. Pharmaceutical, financial services and motor industry PR companies, feature prominently in the impressive client list, but as Mark points out ‘we have a very good grasp of our costs, so we will consider any work, as long as it pays’The insides of all vehicles are high-spec and immaculately turned outChanging with technologyKeeping up-to-date with and utilising technology in order to better the experience of both the clients and the Passenger Plus workforce is incredibly important to the company. At the Surrey depot, Mark shows me the online employee resource centre, and explains how all employees must go through the company’s policies and procedures thoroughly when they first join, electronically signing each document once read and understood.Mark also walks me through Wufoo – an online form generator, introduced to him by another operator, which Passenger Plus uses for job applications, vehicle type training and post-incident report forms. “When something doesn’t go quite right, we sit the driver down and complete an online form, where we highlight how much an incident actually costs, including downtime, delivery to the repair centre and any reputational damage” he says.And it seems to be making a difference – in the first six months of 2014 the amount spent on own-fault damage was £8000, which dropped to just £200 the following six months after this system was put into place. “We’ve found this really useful. When we started doing this and sitting down with drivers and actually making them culpable for what they’ve done, very quickly it changed.” Mark explains.While Passenger Plus aims to be as tech-savvy as possible, Mark says that recognising when something just doesn’t work is important.“We’ve spent some time on some things that have been a waste of time – for example trying to get remote digital tachograph downloads via our tracking system, and it just didn’t work,” he tells me. “As with tracking, all vehicles have CCTV, but we’ve got two or three vehicles where we have remote live view so we can see images in real time, either on-line or on our smartphones. We thought this might be something we want to roll out across the whole fleet, but it doesn’t work well enough, and we still end up downloading the vehicle hard drives. We’ve learnt that some things don’t work, and we’ve not been afraid to say ‘that’s not working for us, lets stop doing it’.” The original fleet of 11 vehicles has been more than doubled since 2012Looking to the futureThere’s no time for complacency, and Mark doesn’t intend to rest on his laurels. There’s plenty in the works over the next year, including plans to increase their licence. “We are very active with bidding on contracts and we’ve got another couple on the go at the moment. We’re going to need to increase our licence, so that’s something for us to do this year,” says Mark.“We have a menu of proven, core services that our clients are able to pick from, including a comprehensive online reporting suite that allows clients to see how their service is performing in real time, against key performance indicators. This level of detail, available 24/7 is becoming something that most corporate clients expect, and we can tailor our offering to suit their wants and needs.Mark says that his eye is on Euro 6, which he feels will work in favour for the modern Passenger Plus fleet. “We invested nearly three quarters of a million pounds last year replacing our 2012 Sprinters up to Euro 6 and expanding the fleet – we’ve got our eye on two or three years’ time. We’ve got to be ahead of the game. We always buy new, getting the most favourable warranty and R&M terms we can, enabling us to operate a nearly new fleet with fixed costs.” The bottom line for both Mark and Kevin continues to be turning a profit while meeting the needs of their clients in an effective and efficient way.  “We had a 5 year plan which we are delighted to say we are well ahead of, so we have just re-worked our 10 year plan based on performance so far.We have a strong, scalable brand, and we will continue to grow organically, and, if the right opportunity arises by acquisition. “You couldn’t be in this industry if you didn’t love it, but there’s no romance for us in running coaches. We are very proud of what we do, and aim to offer an industry leading service, but we’re a business, and we’re here to make money.”last_img read more

New director for German tourist office

first_imgNew director for German tourist office[85]Beatrix Haun has been appointed as the new director of the German National Tourist Office (GNTO) for the UK and Ireland.Ms Haun was previously director of the German National Tourist Board in France, based in the Paris office. She took up her new post in August and succeeds Klaus Lohmann.She says: “I am delighted to be taking up the post of Director for the GNTO UK and Ireland; these are ranked among the most important source markets for incoming tourism to Germany worldwide.”last_img

UrbanThings launches self-scan ticketing system

first_imgAccrington-based bus operator Pilkington Bus has become the first school bus service in the UK to introduce a self-scan mobile ticketing system which alerts parents and guardians that their child has safely boarded the vehicle.The system uses UrbanThings’ smart ticketing solution Ticketless which consists of a mobile app coupled with a cloud-based mobility platform.Ticketless uses Hex Tag technology which allows passengers to purchase tickets through the app then scan a unique QR code when boarding the vehicle to validate their ticket. As the QR code is placed on the vehicle parents receive an instant notification to indicate that their child has boarded the bus.Since launching in September 2019, more than 8,000 Hex Tags are now scanned monthly by students using the app.Carl Partridge, CEO of UrbanThings, says: “Hex Tag technology flips around the traditional concept of onboard ticket validators, turning the passenger’s smartphone into the validator instead.”last_img read more

Man arrested after after threatening a police officer in South Bend

first_img Pinterest Man arrested after after threatening a police officer in South Bend By Carl Stutsman – January 27, 2020 0 275 (“Cuffs4” by banspy, Attribution 2.0 Generic) A patient from Memorial Hospital in South Bend was arrested last week after threatening an officer following his discharge.Investigators say Calvin Grayson was told that he needed to leave the hospital, but refused.When an officer showed up to escort him out he continued to demand a doctor.Minutes after being escorted out he returned the building an engaged the same officer again.It was during the confrontation that Grayson made a threat toward the officer and began reaching into his pockets.When he was arrested, police found a knife in his pocket. WhatsApp Google+ IndianaLocalNews Twitter Facebook Twitter Facebook Google+ Pinterest WhatsApp Previous articleHomeless man who died was close to receiving housing helpNext articleMetro Homicide investigating deadly shooting on Liberty Street in South Bend Carl Stutsmanlast_img read more

German voters endorse Kohl’s European policies

first_imgWith the embattled liberal Freie Demokratische Partei (FDP) achieving unexpectedly strong showings in all three Länder, and the Christlich Demokratische Union (CDU) scoring slight gains, the Bonn coalition received surprisingly unambiguous backing from an electorate deeply worried about growing unemployment and the need for further cost-cutting in German industry.The vote has substantially strengthened Chancellor Kohl’s hand as he prepares to go into battle at the Intergovernmental Conference in pursuit of his dream of closer political union in Europe – and it has confounded those who suggested that his ardent support for the single currency was damaging the government’s standing with German voters.The Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands’ (SPD) share of the votes, meanwhile, shrank in all three elections. In the important south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, where the Social Democrats waged a highly controversial election campaign with distinctly Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant overtones, the party met with disaster. Germany’s main opposition party attracted no more than 25% of the vote, prompting its local leader Dieter Spöri to relinquish all leadership posts.The SPD’s miserable showing in Baden-Württemberg is also a personal defeat for new party leader Oskar Lafontaine, who had backed the local party’s much-criticised shift towards a populist agenda, while whipping up fears about the burdens of monetary union and the unfettered immigration of ethnic Germans.The rejection the Social Democrats suffered from an electorate opting for stability was secretly welcomed by many German Socialist MEPs, who viewed with dismay the party leadership’s efforts to woo the electorate with anti-EMU rhetoric and Eurosceptic remarks.The collapse of that strategy – and Lafontaine’s apparent lack of electoral appeal – might well send the SPD into a new and prolonged period of damaging public wrangling about the best platform for the general election scheduled for the last months of 1998.In the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein, the SPD’s substantial losses mean the party will have to enter a coalition, probably with the Greens, to keep its hold on government.In the western state of Rheinland-Pfalz, the ruling coalition of Social Democrats and Liberals managed to hang on to their parliamentary majority, thanks to the swollen FDP share ofthe vote. For the Liberals, who had been haunted by fears of complete electoral annihilation at regional level after the party was ejected from most Länder parliaments during previous regional polls, Sunday’s vote brought a much-needed respite.It confirmed the old suspicion that voters will save the FDP whenever the party seems seriously threatened, and took pressure off the coalition in Bonn, where the Liberals’ weakness was perceived as the biggest threat to the government’s long-term survival.The true impact on the balance of power in Bonn, however, is more psychological than real. While the Social Democrats’ majority in the Bundesrat has been slightly weakened, the Federal government will still need to negotiate with the SPD if it wants to achieve substantial reform.last_img read more

Finnish question disallowed

first_imgThen a Finnish journalist threw things by deciding to ask a question in her own language. There was a mass fumbling for headphones and total silence from the booths. Finally someone explained rather lamely that there was no Finnish, and indeed no Swedish available.The Finnish journalist continued in perfect English, shaking her head in disbelief that there was not enough money in the budget for her to ask Liikanen a question in his and her own language.No precedent has been set by the incident, although years ago, the then Commission President Roy Jenkins spent several minutes searching for interpretation from Danish when questioned in the press room by a journalist from Copenhagen. Eventually he was told that there was no Danishinterpretation – five years after Denmark had joined the EU. The point was taken. Linguistic equality was accorded to the Danes within weeks. Now how about it, Mr Liikanen? You have to admit, it is pretty hard to explain why a Finnish journalist should have to put a question to a Finnish Commissioner in English just because no one has provided adequate interpreting facilities to allow them to communicate with each other in their own language.Swedish is also badly represented, partly due to insufficient interpretation booths and partly because Swedes (as well as Finns) are embarrassingly competentin English and do not need to be pampered.There are someCommissioners who would not be prepared to address a press conference if their own language were not available in the booths – but Budget Commissioner Erkki Liikanen is not one of them. He gave his presentation in English and then fielded questions in both English and French.last_img read more

Unleashing the EU’s creativity to generate jobs

first_imgBut all this will be of no use if the pace of change remains leisurely and if the progress achieved on paper is not translated into real advances for Europe’s citizens on the ground.How to achieve this is quite another matter. But there is no alternative. We must increase our competitiveness and stimulate innovation in our companies and in society at large. The building of a short and strong link between innovation and job creation requires that we overcome a number of formidable barriers.There must be immediate action on six fronts, namely: changing attitudes; creating new businesses; research and development; knowledge and skills; finance and risk capital; and government and legislation.Attitudes must change in the labour market. Jobs associated with new technology do not follow the pattern of traditional jobs. It is important therefore to win public acceptance of the entrepreneurial model of employment: flexible, mobile, risk-taking and increasingly working at home for multiple employers.School-leavers must be ready for a working and living environment very different from that of their parents. Europe needs a highly knowledgeable workforce with a constantly evolving palette of skills and aptitudes. We need to train people to be able to adapt to future jobs in areas which have not been identified yet.Our European cultures favour achieving greater security, stability and equality over risk-taking, creativity and innovation. Our education system is more focused on avoiding failure than on taking risks. All too often, the education process is entrusted to people who appear to have no dialogue with, nor understanding of, industry and the path of progress. It does not have to be that way.We have the capability to create job opportunities for everyone if only we would unleash the creativity which lies dormant in all walks of life.For a generation, Europe has failed to match a substantial economic growth with job creation, despite its potentially formidable strengths: the largest single market in the world and a deep and wide knowledge base. It is now widely acknowledged that resistance to change, unwillingness to take risks, over-regulation, taxation and administrative disincentives, lack of entrepreneurship, and rigid labour market rules stand firm in the way of job creation.Other, lesser-known obstacles exist, such as unwieldy approval procedures for new products, slow and expensive patent systems, inefficient research funding and, of particular concern, an inability to move quickly from the research idea to market success.But there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. In countries where markets are freeing up, an increasing number of innovative companies are being founded, revealing a new economic vigour. There is an encouraging revival of venture capital and new stock markets are being created to target small companies.In other countries, regrettably, we are still visibly held back by barriers to entry and by limits placed on entrepreneurs and on established new businesses.It must be said that the EU and national governments are already addressing some of these issues. Implementation of the First Action Plan for Innovation in Europe has started, spearheaded by Commissioner Edith Cresson.Advances have been made in protecting intellectual property rights, financing innovation, administrative simplification, education and training, and gearing research to innovation. Far too many job opportunities in Europe’s network of businesses are lost because of obstacles set up by European traditions and over-prescriptive legislative systems.The key to unlocking the potential of all Europeans is innovation. Tomorrow’s jobs rely on our ability to build the right conditions for innovation today, whatever the strength or weakness of the current economic cycle. Only greater competitiveness and innovation can create sustainable new jobs.Innovation is not only about new technology, science and research; it is also about attitudes of mind which should permeate government, businesses, academia, indeed the whole of society. It is therefore neither useful nor helpful to address innovation as a strictly economic issue.Innovation is an antidote to inertia and complacency. By itself, it is not a panacea. It will not on its own provide a definitive solution to excessive unemployment.But innovation challenges stale and hidebound ways of thinking and acting. It invites us to look with fresh eyes, to think in different ways, to seek out new answers to old problems.More to the point, innovation leads to the creation of completely new markets, and there is no way to predict exactly what these will be, let alone how far they will transform our lives. It also enables us to organise our work and social structures in more efficient and thus more humane ways. It taps people’s creative energies. It makes the workplace more competitive and therefore more satisfying.That is why we have to establish a close connection in Europe between innovation, economic growth and job creation. While the task is huge, there is ground for optimism.Our single market of 350 million people will be significantly reinforced by economic and monetary union and the introduction of the single currency. This will quickly widen capital markets and provide greater venture opportunities.In addition, enlargement of the European Union in the not too distant future to new member states will add – in population terms – a new Germany in the first phase and a new France in the second.The new market conditions will inevitably transform our economies. This cannot but encourage companies of all sizes to be more mobile and forward-looking. The capital markets themselves will expand exponentially.The more money that is available, the greater the chances that entrepreneurs will benefit from this expansion. But before this happens, there are many obstacles which Europe must overcome. This goes some way to explaining the persistent mismatch between the skills required by employers and those offered by entrants in the labour market. We must improve Europe’s knowledge and skills by reigniting enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship in the educational environment.The largest corporations already play an important part in generating new jobs by nurturing the creation and growth of small and medium enterprises which are in a better position to exploit new ideas. But this is not enough.Government must play a leading role in helping to change society by brokering the opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship to the public. They can themselves become more innovative and entrepreneurial, as the UK government has done. These cultural changes are as important as opening up markets and removing rules and regulations that visibly block progress.There is a great deal that governments in Europe can do to create an environment receptive to innovation.The more active European governments have started bench-marking their policies and services to ensure that quality keeps pace with new demands made by the public and imposed by new technologies. Others, however, declare their good intentions but with little real follow-up.It is essential to complete single market legislation and to enforce national implementation of EU laws. While there is broad agreement on the principle of liberalisation of markets for products, labour and capital, member states argue that this should be done in a way that does not undermine a European social model which aims to ensure job security.The irony of it all is that western Europe, despite its claim to job security for everyone, has long suffered the highest unemployment rate amongst industrial countries.It is obvious, therefore, that we need to act now. This is a critical time for Europe, with the single currency about to become reality and the enlargement of the European Union on the near horizon. Europe must create more jobs. We owe this to all our citizens.Baron Daniel Janssen is chairman of chemical giant Solvay and a member of the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT) which has just published a report on ‘Job Creation and Competitiveness through Innovation’.last_img read more