9 AUGUST 2010

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Aer Arann curtails east coast of Ireland services

CORK is no longer to be connected by Aer Arann to Dublin and Belfast from the end of August.  The Irish carrier currently operates one return flight a day, except Saturdays, from the southern Irish city to the two capitals.  The independent airline, now linked to Aer Lingus with a franchise agreement, says it remains committed to Cork Airport and just three weeks ago announced additional flights from Cork to Manchester and Birmingham.  This development will mean that the airline will base a second ATR-72 aircraft in Cork from the start of the winter schedule at the end of October. www.aerarann.com

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Beijing airport hotel

HILTON has opened the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport Hotel, just one minute by free shuttle bus from the international terminal.  The property features more than 320 guest rooms, seven restaurants and bars with 32 private dining rooms, two ballrooms and 21 meeting rooms, executive concierge services, a luxury spa and state-of-the-art fitness centre.  It is very close to the Beijing Airport Rail Link that provides 16-minute access to the city centre and is just ten minutes away from the new China International Exhibition Centre. www1.hilton.com/en

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Central America problems

MEXICANA, a member of oneworld, has filed for insolvency proceedings in Mexico and bankruptcy protection in the USA to enable it to restructure in line with what it calls “market conditions”.  The case is closely aligned to pilot wages said to be nearly 50% more than competing airlines.  Last Wednesday ticket sales were suspended.  Affiliates MexicanaClick and MexicanaLink, also part of oneworld, operate independently of Mexicana itself and are not affected by the mainline airline's reorganisation process. http://cmainforma.com/cma-informs

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Fat controllers in Spanish air dispute

MONARCH Managing Director Tim Jeans alluded to the possibility of strikes by Spanish air traffic controllers in his ON THE SOAPBOX article in last week’s AERBT.  It seems that his dire warning could come true, right in the middle of the August school holidays.  In a union vote 92% of members have come out in favour of withdrawing their labour.  The problem is due to very generous working conditions that the state-owned company which employs them wants to amend, reducing the amount of triple pay overtime paid and being tougher regarding sick-leave.  Ten days’ warning of a walkout is required with the government saying it will use every facility to keep the skies open.  Readers are advised to follow developments and if flying after 18 August to check their air carrier's website. www.monarch.co.uk

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Kent airport changes it name

MANSTON, KENT'S INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT is now the official name of England’s most south easterly airport.  It has flirted with several, some would say misleading, titles over the last few years.  The airport says it is entering a fresh era under owner Infratil Airports Europe.  In place is a new Managing Director, Charles Buchannan, formerly of London City Airport.  Also proving successful is the introduction of Flybe Edinburgh flights and from 6 September a weekdaily service to Manchester. www.manstonairport.com

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New Doha International Airport

QATAR’S new international airport, sited just under three miles east of the existing operation continues to make progress, albeit at a slower rate than first envisaged.  Originally scheduled to be open during 2009, but like the A380, around which it was planned, somewhat behind schedule.  A date towards the end of 2011 is now being suggested, although even this is not firm.  During Farnborough a statement was issued noting that the two runways, 4850m and 4250m, were almost complete, as was the dredging work with 60% of the land required being reclaimed.  Facilities include a VIP terminal, 100-room hotel, free trade zone, Qatar Airways headquarters and general aviation terminal and new hangar. www.ndiaproject.com/main.html

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Spanish rivals combined 10m

VUELING, subject to what was in some ways a reverse takeover by former Spanish rival Clickair, flew more than 10m passengers over the last 12 months, an increase of 81% compared with the previous year.  Almost 3.5m (30% of the total transported) originated outside Spain – foreigners travelling to Spain for both leisure and business.  On some of the airline’s routes, the proportion of overseas travellers is markedly higher.  “The merger was accomplished at a very complex time,” said Vueling CEO Alex Cruz who held the same position at Clickair.  “One of the catalysts to the success of this merger process has been and continues to be our obsession with cost savings.  In 2009, €11.4m was saved in cost synergies.  During 2010 this will increase to a further €15.5m,” he added. www.vueling.com

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MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

SKODA SUPERB 2.0 GREENLINE

Clean-up with this fine Skoda

There’s all sorts of car deals going on at the moment, some of them are very short term in an effort to ‘shift the metal', though serious car buyers should always shop on the basis of the product’s track record and then see what deals are available.

Skoda’s Superb flagship model range is what I call a real deal.  Not so long ago I waxed strongly on the value and merits of a near range topping 2.0-litre Elegance model which gave a good bit of change out of £25,000, now I state the case for those who really want their cake and eat it.

It comes in the form of the Skoda Superb 2.0 Greenline version that also has a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, though producing 105 bhp as opposed to the 170 bhp output of the Elegance and comes with a conventional 5-speed manual gearbox in place of the impressive DSG selectable automatic unit.

Here is a price saving of nearly £8,000, a lower road tax and at least another nine miles or so (a combined figure of 55.4 mpg as opposed to 46.3 mpg!) to each costly gallon of oil at a sacrifice of about 18 mph off the top speed and clearly slower acceleration.  Fact is, a claimed top speed of 120 mph is hypothetical for all law abiding drivers in this, and most civilised countries, and an acceleration time to 60 mph of about 12 seconds is very acceptable considering this is a larger than average five-seat family/executive class car.

Worth also taking into consideration is the excellent flexibility and quiet refinement of the 4-cylinder diesel engine that is complemented by an accurate and light changing transmission and an impressive handling response, both through the steering and the all-disc braking system.

The ride quality is good, perhaps a little firmer than the Elegance version and that could be a result of the Greenline version having a slightly lower ride height, though it remains very competent on our noticeably deteriorating road surfaces.

I admire the imposing styling of the Superb (built on a lengthened Passat platform) and the ivory white test car certainly looked imposing even to my Jaguar driving colleague when I took him for a spin one night – he did not know anything about the Superb but once he had enjoyed the comfort and spaciousness of the interior, commented on the impressive fascia and had his attention drawn to the high standard of appointments and range of equipment he was wiser and realised this car could have helped him retain more of his hard earned cash.  (But arriving in the Jag is far more impressive than in the excellent Skoda – Editor)

Yes, there is a heck of a lot to the Skoda Superb, even this Greenline version, which is just one above the S entry level version but it is certainly not lacking equipment.  It builds on the excellent standard package with the addition of the now all important cruise control (all versions have a speed warning indicator system), some smart chrome trim bits, a boot spoiler, tinted rear glass and, would you believe, an umbrella in one of the rear doors!

Why the Greenline designation?  One important reason is that it is the greenest version in the range with a CO2 figure of 136g/km achieved by the use of a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).  This filter cleans the emissions before they reach the atmosphere and regenerates when longer journeys are undertaken.  Every little helps! 

Without considering the price or the fact that the Skoda Superb comes with a 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating, this car gives me a feel good factor, it is an honest to goodness offering, generous in the extreme, truly practical with a enormous boot that can be accessed either by opening the boot lid or the whole of the tail-gate – a saloon that is also a hatchback and above all extremely refined and utterly comfortable.

Even Ebenezer Scrooge would approve! 

RIVALS INCLUDE: Citroen C5 1.6 HDI SX £18,195, Peugeot 407 1.6 HDI £19,785, VW Passat 2.0 TDI Blue Motion £18,655, Renault Laguna 1.5 DCI 110 Eco2 £17,750.

STAR RATINGS
Performance 9
Handling 8
Transmission 9
Noise 9
Economy 9
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 9
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 89%

 

NOTES FROM TED WILKINSON‘S MOTORING DIARY


ASTON MARTIN: A recent marketing service for customers seeking new and used Aston Martins of any type has been launched. www.astonfinder.com

CITROEN: The Citroen C1 hatch back VTR has been replaced by an upgraded VTR+ model featuring part leather trim and a shiny black interior finish.  Prices will start from £8,495. www.citroen.co.uk

HONDA: A small concept car developed by Honda Siel Cars India has been revealed in New Delhi.  Honda plans to produce a new model based on the concept for launch in 2011. www.honda.co.uk

IAM: The Institute of Advanced Motorists has highlighted the dangers of overgrown trees and bushes, citing the case of a pedestrian who was hit by a vehicle on a crossing that was partially obscured by vegetation.  They call on motorists and local authorities to play a greater role in dealing with this problem. www.iam.org.uk

JAGUAR: UK sales for the year to date are up by 42.5%, a major contributor being the XJ model which was the market leader, according to Jaguar, outstripping both Mercedes-Benz s class and the BMW 7-Series. www.jaguar.com

MERCEDES-BENZ: An exciting programme of summer motoring activities are being staged at the Mercedes-Benz World Centre at Brooklands in Surrey. Examples include an opportunity to compete against 2008 World champion Lewis Hamilton, kids 4x4 driving experiences, ‘hot lap' passenger rides for £15 and breathtaking driving displays. www.mercedes-benzworld.co.uk

NISSAN: A small Nissan Crossover model, called Juke, has been unveiled with sales commencing in October.  It will be made in the UK. www.nissan.co.uk

SEAT: The Spanish car maker has continued to develop its range of Ecomotive low running cost models, first seen on the Ibiza with versions of the Leon hatch back and the Altea compact MPV.  The Leon has a combined figure of 74.3 mpg providing a potential range of nearly 900 miles while the Altea’s combined figure is equally attractive at 62.8 mpg.  Leon Ecomotive is priced from £18,140, Altea Ecomotive from £18,725. www.seat.co.uk  

VAUXHALL has joined the trend towards more generous car warranties in the UK market with a new form of cover, the Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty.  It has no time limit but is restricted to 100,000 miles.  Previously the most generous cover was provided by the Korean manufacturers Kia (seven years) and Hyundai (five years).  Full details of Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty have not yet been released, but the company says it covers the powertrain, steering system, brake system and electrical equipment throughout the life of the vehicle. www.vauxhall.co.uk

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COMMENT: Do you know where your passport is?

With the holiday season in the UK at its peak the Home Office Identity and Passport Service has issued figures showing that more than 60,000 British travellers reported their passport lost or stolen abroad between April 2009 and March 2010.  This is despite new research by the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), which shows that 83% of people say they always store their passport in a safe place.  The full number of passports that were replaced last year for one reason or another was 270,000. 

IPS is today urging passport holders to take a few simple steps to keep their documents safe abroad and in the UK.

This is what the agency. which is part of the Home Office, has to say.  In the US passports are handled by the State Department – which we call the Foreign Office.


1. When travelling, take two photocopies of your passport, leaving one at home and keeping one separate from your passport.

2. Keep your passport with you at all times.  It can come in very useful.  For instance over 65s get discounts and even free perks, but a passport will be needed for identity proof.

3. Be wary if you are asked to surrender your passport; and always report a lost or stolen passport to the local police and inform the British Consulate when abroad and to IPS and the police when in the UK.

Three very simple steps.

Sarah Rapson, Chief Executive of IPS, said:

“It is vital that people take care of their passports, both at home and abroad. Passports are increasingly attractive documents to organised criminals.

“Hijacking someone else’s identity can help facilitate a wide range of very serious crimes.”  A recent case concerning the Middle East highlights this.

When a person reports their passport lost or stolen, IPS logs the details and cancels it on its system.  It then notifies immigration and law enforcement agencies around the world to try and minimise the risk of it being misused.

Experience shows that losing a passport abroad can be a serious inconvenience.  It is very easy to safeguard oneself.  Take the three steps.  It is not a lot of effort.  It will pay dividends in the long run.

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Aerolineas Argentinas takes first Embraer

EMBRAER has delivered the first of 20 Embraer 190 aircraft to Aerolíneas Argentinas for use on its Austral domestic routes.  The aircraft are configured with a 1+2 Business Class section and 2+2 in Economy Class.  All seat backs are provided with video screens and info/entertainment packages.  Austral (not to be confused with the French airline Air Austral based at Reunion) has been part of the national airline since 1990 and is Argentina’s second largest domestic carrier.  It is centred on Buenos Aires old downtown airport Jorge Newbery. www.aerolineas.com

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British aircraft owners

RBS AVIATION CAPITAL, one of the world's largest leasing companies, has ordered 95 aircraft worth £5bn.  It currently controls a fleet of around 210 planes and is also an active aircraft trader.  It is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland, itself 83% owned by the British taxpayer.  Both Airbus and Boeing confirmed during the Farnborough Air Show that they had taken commitments from the Dublin-based company for 52 Airbus A320s and 43 Boeing 737s respectively with delivery due between now and 2015.  It does seem that RBS had signed the deals some time previously but for its own reasons kept the arrangement quiet.  Going the rounds at Farnborough was a story that Business Secretary Vince Cable was none too pleased that RBS was lending an Indonesian airline money to buy aircraft whilst restricting funds to UK enterprises.  Last week RBS reported an operating profit of £1.6bn compared with the previous loss of £3.4bn.  www.rbs.com

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Delhi to Kuala Lumpur

AIR ASIA X has introduced a daily Delhi – Kuala Lumpur service and become the first new airline to operate from the recently opened Terminal 3.  New Delhi is AirAsia X's 10th destination worldwide and the 2nd in India after Mumbai.  Passengers on the services will experience the same Airbus A330 aircraft as used on the airline's Australian routes.  Sited unusually in the centre of the aircraft, the Premium Class section features fully flat seats giving a total length of 77 inches.  The seats feature universal power sockets, adjustable headrests and built-in personal utilities including a large tray table, drink holder, reading light and privacy screen. www.airasia.com

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Flybe in tie-up with Finnair

FINNAIR has announced an unlikely collaborator for regional services in the Scandinavian and Baltic Sea area, Britain’s Flybe.  Oneworld Finnair partner British Airways is a 15% shareholder in Flybe which is heavily committed to a relationship with Air France.  Both airlines operate Embraer e-series aircraft with Flybe at Farnborough announcing an order that could take its fleet up to well over 100 aircraft.  The co-operation will begin 31 October 2010 with Flybe commencing services to key Scandinavian and Baltic markets from Helsinki that will include Tallinn, Tampere and Turku.  This service provision is expected to grow beyond three aircraft in the summer of 2011. ww.flybe.com www.finnair.com

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London Underground gets some air conditioning

AIR CONDITONING has at last arrived on the London Underground.  It has taken time however, the first modern system credited to Buffalo, New York State in 1902.  The problem is that Bombardier units are first being introduced on the Metropolitan Line, which does not run properly underground.  Users of the often sweltering Piccadilly, Northern and Central lines will have to wait.  The relatively new Victoria Line does not even have the space for the units.  “We are looking at solutions,” said a spokesman.  The roll-out on the ‘Met’ will be complete by the end of 2011 when deliveries start on the Circle and Hammersmith & City services, followed by the District Line.  All more or less on the surface. www.tfl.gov.uk

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Paris from London on the cheap

EUROLINES is expanding services on its popular London to Paris route.  The demand is being fuelled by travellers seeking a low cost, but comfortable and convenient way to get to the Continent.  The company now operates eight services a day.  The journey begins at London’s Victoria Coach Station and takes passengers via Eurotunnel directly to Gallieni Coach Station in Paris in just seven hours.  The first daily service departs London Victoria Coach Station at 08:00 arriving in Paris at 16:30.  Departures then run throughout the day until 22:30.  This convenient overnight run reaches Paris city centre at 07:30 the next morning (all times local).  Travellers can carry two pieces of luggage for free and there are no extra charges or costs.  Prices start at £15 one way. www.eurolines.co.uk

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Stansted to Plovdiv

PLOVDIV (PDV) is so obscure in Eastern Europe that OAG does not even list scheduled flights, but it is Bulgaria’s second largest city with a population of nearly 400,000.  It is also convenient for the ski resorts of Bansko and Pamporovo.  On 1 November Ryanair will commence a twice weekly service on Tuesdays and Saturdays.  British Airways, easyJet and Wizz Air compete from Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton respectively to Sofia with a flight time of around three hours. www.ryanair.com

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HAPPY TALK: Has someone seen my car?

It was going to be a terrific holiday.  Take the car to Folkestone, hand it over to the Eurotunnel train crew, jump on board, and pick up the said vehicle at the other end.

The problem was that it did not seem to be at the other end!

Where was the car?  And that of other concerned passengers too?

“Well sir, we have a slight problem,” said the man from Eurotunnel.  “It does seem that the cars are on their way back to Folkestone.”

When the train reached Calais, staff unloaded the front cars but did not appreciate there were more behind an empty wagon.

The Train crews realised what had happened on the way back to Kent, a bit late in the day.

The wait was two-and-a-half hours.  Was it worth the stay for a refund and a free ticket for the next time?

(A true story which actually happened last week.)

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So you have children to entertain during the holidays

THE SCIENCE MUSEUM, in London's South Kensington, will host a season of events in August designed for those on school holidays.  These include the opportunity to fly with the Red Arrows in the world’s first 3D aerobatic motion experience.  Family groups visiting the museum’s fascinating flight gallery will also be able to join a new 30-minute tour to discover the history of flight and meet an Amy Johnson drama character recalling Amy’s achievement of being the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia.  Under 7s can enjoy Up, Up and Away, a high flying adventure through the clouds.  Children of all ages are catered for with exhibits.  The Science Museum’s opening hours have been extended to 19:00 between 9 and 22 August.  It normally closes at 18:00.  Entrance is free.  www.sciencemuseum.org.uk

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Airport tops out changes

LONDON CITY AIRPORT users may not notice the difference as they rush into the building to catch their flight but the new mezzanine floor, covering much of the old atrium area, is now in place.  Natural light is still available in the centre of the building where a staircase is being added parallel to the existing escalator.  A £7m investment is under way to further increase the size of the security search area as well as enlarging the passenger departure lounge.  Travellers will have more space and enhanced retail and catering offerings.  The work is expected to be complete by the spring of next year. www.londoncityairport.com

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Cathay goes Airbus

AIRBUS has won the race for Cathay Pacific’s mid-size fleet renewal with an order for 30 Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft for delivery between 2016 and 2019.  Rolls-Royce Trent engines will power the Toulouse-built aircraft.  The A350-900 variant is capable of flying over 8,000 nautical miles non-stop, which will enable Cathay to operate the 'planes across its network, including on non-stop flights to Europe and North America.  The airline has also expressed its intention to exercise existing purchase rights in respect of six Boeing 777-300ERs, bringing its 777 fleet up to 30 by the end of 2012.  The Hong Kong-based airline currently operates a fleet of 128 wide-body aircraft including 25 freighters. www.cathaypacific.com

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EasyHotel opens in Dubai

DUBAI is the location for the latest easyHotel opening, which took place yesterday (Sunday 8 August).  The easyHotel Dubai Jebel Ali is located five minutes’ walk from the Jebel Ali Metro Station No 42.  All the bedrooms are air conditioned, are equipped with wireless internet access and have a work desk space.  The 216-room property will be the group’s first venture outside Europe.  On 31 August the easyHotel Princes Street, Edinburgh, opens opposite Princes Street Gardens, within a very short walk of Waverley Station.  It has 29 rooms.  With the opening of this franchise easyHotel will total 14 properties, seven in the UK, six in mainland Europe plus Dubai. www.easyHotel.com

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Greek merger questions

AEGEAN AIRLINES proposed acquisition of the regenerated Olympic Airlines could be delayed according to a report in the London Financial Times.  Officials at the European Commission are said to have told the newspaper that their initial investigation had shown that the proposed merger could raise serious competition concerns, with the combined business having “very high, if not monopolistic market shares on all domestic routes, and on a number of international routes where both parties operate.”  The Commission seems to think that it would have an impact on ground handling services at a number of Greek airports and tendering for “public service obligation” routes, which are subsidised monopolies, although bids are open to any EU carrier. www.aegeanair.com www.olympicair.com

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Narita speeds up access

TOKYO has a new express train service connecting the central station and Narita Airport.  Travel is now as little as 36mins, about 15mins less than the existing Narita Express service.  Called Sky Access, trains can reach a maximum speed of 100mph and have wider seating and luggage space, higher ceilings, AC power and security cameras at the luggage space and decks.  Tokyo Haneda Airport’s new fourth runway opens at the beginning of the winter timetable, and with it the transfer of some flights from Narita.  The monorail to Haneda from downtown Tokyo takes about 20mins. www.keisei.co.jp/keisei/tetudou/skyliner/us/skyliner.html

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South East Asia airline to take off

THAI TIGER is a name that travellers within and into South East Asia will get to know over the coming months, and into the future.  Thai Airlines, Thailand’s flag carrier, is teaming up with Singapore’s budget operator Tiger Airways to launch a low-cost airline capitalising on the growing Asian low cost requirement.  The new airline will be based in Bangkok and focus on destinations within a five-hour flying radius, putting the growing tourist and intra-regional business markets of China, India and Indonesia firmly within its target area.  A planned start date of 1 February 2011 has been announced. www.thaiairways.com www.tigerairways.com

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ON TOUR: Steam engine Tornado and a Brunel day out

Those in the airline business are always worried by what is called ‘range and performance’, meaning how far will the aircraft fly carrying how much by way of passengers and freight.  At London City, and other airports with restricted runways, you can add in ‘how high’ and ‘how long’, meaning where is the airport in terms of sea level and the runway length.  These are crucial performance factors.

Now it may surprise readers but the Victorian railway engineers had the same problem too.  OK it did not matter in terms of altitude (at least in England) but the trains of old consumed coal at a fast rate and, would you believe it, water too.  Coal was no real problem, the onboard bunker just got larger, but water posed real difficulties.  About 100 miles was all they could manage, or 5,000 gallons. 

Someone then came up with a great idea.  Water troughs, or high speed transfer systems in today’s parlance.  All along the networks of old these were incorporated as part of the system, sat between the lines, with scoops on the actual engines. 

With the demise of the steam locomotive they were all dug up.

This brings us neatly to 60163 Tornado, the first steam engine to be built in the UK since 1960.  Tornado is a fascinating tale itself.  Built at York, the spiritual home of railway engineering, it weighs 166 tons and is limited to 75mph.  Its coal bunker holds seven tons.  Prince Charles gave it a splendid send-off in August 2008.  She cost around £3m. 

Our thanks go to the Amethyst Experience who invited AERBT to participate in one of their regular enthusiast excursions behind this mighty locomotive. 

Ashford was the first passenger boarding point for the all Pullman style train with various pick-up points along the route.  Our day started at one of London’s less well known stations, Kensington Olympia, and consisted of a return trip to Bristol Temple Meads, the terminus for ‘Gods Wonderful Railway’ GWR.

Whilst waiting at Olympia for the train we were treated to the solo Tornado running along the same track.  Soon after Olympia, at Old Oak Common, our train stopped, changing the diesel unit for the steam locomotive. 

For those not into ‘railways’ the whole setup is interesting.  Amethyst Experience is a marketing company who hire the engine and the carriages each separately, plus the specialist caterers, very experienced with train operations.  The actual routing then has to be negotiated with Network Rail to ensure that Tornado can fit in with the timetabled services.  Without the scoop previously mentioned watering has to be planned, a donation to a local fire brigade en-route sorting that one out.  However National Rail has to find a siding that the rail set can fit into.

With Bucks Fizz to send the day off plus breakfast and a light lunch served in style, the journey passes very quickly, Heathrow Express riders finding it very odd as they pass what is termed ‘The Bath & Bristol Explorer’ building up speed on the main line towards Hayes.  The ride is smoother than that experienced with the Orient Express carriages.

For some the outward journey was complete at Bath, with plenty of hours to explore that most interesting of cities.  AERBT stayed on board arriving at Bristol in plenty of time to take the short walk to the Avon Ferry, cruise through the city centre, and a visit to the SS Great Britain.  Very relaxing and most pleasant.

Anyone interested in transport over the ages ought to make SS Great Britain a MUST when visiting Bristol.

When launched in 1843, she was by far the largest vessel afloat.  The genius behind the project was once again the GWR man Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Prince Albert taking the train from London to initiate the ship.  She could carry up to 750 passengers and was well ahead of her time.  Whilst the ship certainly had her problems during the early days she is best known for a regular service to Australia, but finished her days as a coal hulk in the Falkland Islands in the 1880s.

Fast forward to 1970 and still afloat.  Funds were established for her to be brought back to her place of birth, the dry dock in the Great Western Dockyard Bristol.

Today she is open to the public, 200,000 a year, and a wonderful memorial to Brunel himself, and the merchant seamen of 150 years ago. 

Time did not permit a close inspection of yet another example of Brunel’s engineering genius in Bristol, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

The next Amethyst Experience takes place on Saturday 21 August and again starts at Ashford with stops until Kensington and thence on to the West Somerset Railway, a true country branch line with ten stations and its own historic steam locomotives, coaches and wagons.  The trip takes in the gently rolling Quantock hills and unspoilt villages and farms, plus the Bristol Channel coast with views of distant South Wales, Dunster's imposing Castle and Minehead's seaside charm. 

The Silver Service package is £219.00 per person including the Bucks Fizz welcome, a full English breakfast and light lunch, whilst on the way back a memorable five course freshly prepared dinner is served.  There is a First Class deal with morning Coffee and Danish pastries outbound and tea and biscuits on the return at £159, or at the very back of the train Standard Class seating at £99.  Bring your own food or pop into the bar.  www.amethyst-experience.com www.ssgreatbritain.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ON TOUR EXTRA:   More on packing

 

Following the ON TOUR article on packing in last week's AERBT, George Horsley whose company supplies specialist hygiene products to the airline industry, and typifies the broad range of our readers, has supplied us with some tips he picked up in a book written by a valet for packing men’s suits.

 

Lay the trousers out flat with the seams together. 

 

Place the first pair of trousers across the length of the suitcase with the trouser band just inside the case and the legs hanging out at the other end.

 

Repeat the process with the second pair of trousers but from the other side of the case. 

 

If you are packing more than two pairs of trousers continue the process but spreading the trousers across the depth of the case.

 

Next take the jackets, lay flat with the front uppermost. 

 

Make sure the button holes are lined up with the buttonholes but are not secured.

 

Fold the arms of the jacket across the front of the jacket in a diagonal direction. 

 

Fold the jacket in half at the waist and place on top of the trousers.

 

Subsequent jackets should be folded in the same manner but when placed on top of the preceding jacket the fold is on the opposite side.

 

When this exercise is completed fold the trousers over the jackets and smooth out any creases. 

 

Fold the trousers over the jacket alternatively from each side of the case.

 

This method of packing stops the jackets and trousers moving around and getting creased.  It provides a flat area in the case and avoids the traditional pyramid?

 

And like the other suggestion it makes it very easy to get to items packed beneath.

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