Camberley residents campaigning for speedy rail trips into London

Train journeys between Camberley and London Waterloo could be slashed down to 50 minutes if residents of the Sussex town get their way, reports bbc.co.uk.

The area is situated 31 miles southwest of central London and has become a popular place for London workers to call home. With a view to providing these commuters and other Sussex residents with quick access into the capital, the Camberley Society is campaigning to bring back a rail link which was axed in the 1960s.

The current journey takes an hour and 15 minutes via Ascot, with the alternative being a five mile car trip to Farnborough to get a train which takes 43 minutes. However, getsurrey.co.uk claims a time of 50 minutes would be achievable through the new line.

This would help commuters cut hours off their weekly travel, while better access could also encourage Sussex businesses to consider venues for hire in London for their conferences or meetings.

The campaign has received support from Tory MP Michael Gove along with Surrey County Council and Surrey Heath Borough Council, who are working together to develop a wider rail strategy.

A spokesman for the Council said: “We’d very much like to hear from the Camberley Society as part of the consultation to help shape the future of Surrey’s railways.”

South West Trains, the current train operator for Camberley, said it always welcomed feedback from passengers regarding possible improvements for existing services.   

Expert outlines tips on surviving dull meetings

Daydreaming and even nodding off during a dull meeting is a common occurrence for some but one expert has highlighted a number of tips to help attendees ‘thrive and survive’ business meetings. 

In a guest post for businessinsider.com, lifestyle blog Brazen Life believes that instead of drawing inappropriate doodles on a notepad during a meandering meeting, express that artful creative streak about the meeting subject.

“For example, during the portion of the meeting about the upcoming expense report, doodle a spreadsheet with important names or symbols. Then, snap a photo and file for later,” writes the blog.

In addition, it remains important to focus on the speaker and the firm organising the event. Whether the subject is interesting or not, the chances are the firm has worked hard to book conference space for the event while the speaker has practiced their presentation for hours on end.

Finally, another way to beat boredom is to not take notes, but make action tasks. Instead of boring notes about “what other people are doing, give yourself a follow-up task list”, adds Brazen Life to brazencareerist.com.

Not only will this give attendees a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished outside of the meeting, but attendees will also have pre-invested time in the to-do list.

Same-sex weddings are creating new popular traditions

Same-sex couples who are getting married are creating new traditions of their own, according to dailymail.co.uk. American couples who have been able to marry are changing the concept of marriage ceremonies. 

The traditional running of the day is evolving, with couples choosing to have women as best men, or men as maids of honour.

Same-sex couples in the UK may break the classic traditions to incorporate their own personal beliefs into their big day.

According to abcnews.go.com, author Steven Petrow said one new tradition involves passing the wedding rings around the party to be blessed by everyone there. He said: “It’s like a metaphor for a group hug. It’s incredibly moving.”

He went on to say that couples often walk down the aisle together, or if they have children, the entire family may be involved in the procession.

The new trends may influence couples all over the world to incorporate these traditions into their own ceremony. Everything from the theme of the wedding reception venue to the choice of the maid of honour could see an overhaul as people try to keep up with the current fashions.

With same-sex marriage not currently being legal across the whole of America, some couples are choosing to make their big day a political statement, another trend that could also be mirrored across the Atlantic, as people show their support to the cause and fight to legalise same-sex marriage internationally.

Sewing programme could boost DIY weddings

New sewing programme ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ could prompt a rise in the number of DIY weddings. Couples may start to get more hands-on with their special day.

Walesonline.co.uk reports baking, knitting and sewing are seeing a surge in popularity, with some fans even making custom pieces for weddings.

Blogger Helen Woodward said: “As a maid of honour for a friend recently, I customised her mother’s old wedding dress so I could wear it as a jacket and also made fabric flower bouquets for the bridesmaids.”

The sewing trend could branch out to people making customised table cloths and centre pieces for the wedding reception venue – and even their own dress.

According to stuff.co.nz, handmade items make the big day completely unique. It can also save a lot of money by making things, rather than forking out for a company to create wedding favours or the veil for the bride.

While brides may not go as far as sewing their own gown, the handmade trend could certainly be commonplace for bridesmaid’s outfits and smaller bridal accessories.

Alternative bouquets have been increasing in popularity, with styles involving brooches, fabrics and even feathers being popular with brides. The idea of being able to keep the bouquet after the big day could be one reason for brides choosing a handmade, fabric option over fresh flowers.

UK companies to increase business travel spend over 2013

Britain is one of the many parts of Europe that will witness an increase in business travel spend over the course of 2013, according to new forecasts.

Predictions from The Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) latest report suggest that UK firms will spend 1.9 per cent more on corporate travel over the next year, bringing the total amount to £27.2 billion.

The report claimed a rise in expenditure will be fuelled by domestic business travel, meaning UK-based venues for hire could benefit hugely from the growth. However, it might be a case of pulling out all the stops this year, as GBTA believes most of the growth for Western Europe in 2014 will be underpinned by more international outbound travel.

Even so, Britain is still expected to see spend on both international and domestic outbound travel accelerate in 2014. Meetpie.com says trips abroad will grow three per cent to reach £9 billion, while domestic travel will rise 4.4 per cent to hit £18.8 billion.

This is far from the case around other parts of Europe, as France, Spain and Italy are all braced for declines of -1.4 per cent, -6.2 per cent and -2.9 per cent respectively.  

Cited by travelagentcentral.com, GBTA regional director Catherine McGavock said: “There are signs of recovery in Germany and the UK, with both expected to experience growth in business travel spending this year.

“We believe that this is the beginning of a wider trend in the region and expect growth in business travel spending to accelerate in 2014 to the levels we saw before the Eurozone crisis.”

Meetings expert jokes about tricks to creating an 'unproductive' meeting

Companies looking to create ‘wildly unproductive’ meetings need to schedule their meetings at inconvenient times, omit details from the invite and start the meeting late.

That’s according to blogger Richard Perfect, writing for businessinsider.com, who has sarcastically listed all of the tips and tricks that meeting organisers should use if they want to ‘waste everyone’s time’.

For instance, those attempting to organise an unproductive meeting should book a conference space with a start time that is inconvenient for everyone involved.

‘The best times for unproductive meetings are lunchtime or after 3.00pm on Friday afternoons. Meetings right before extended holiday weekends are also guaranteed to be unproductive,’ he said, cited by brazencareerist.com.

Another top tip for wasting attendees’ time is to start the meeting late, advises Perfect. As a result, it is essential to start talking about something completely unrelated for ten minutes at the start of the meeting. Recent vacations, football and detailing what was eaten at lunch are ‘good time-wasting topics’, says a dry Perfect.

Finally, attendees should make sure to answer their mobile in the middle of the meeting.

‘If your cell phone rings mid-meeting, answer it right away. The call might be more important than this meeting and will only take a second or two to find out,’ jokes Perfect. ‘Once you’ve told the person, “I’m in a meeting and will call you back later,” give them the opportunity to squeeze in their request anyway.’

Add structure to your meetings to improve productivity, claims study

New research suggests that adding structure to company meetings could make them more productive, reports businessnewsdaily.com.

A study by the University of Alabama suggests that employees improve their performance when business meetings are conducted in a ‘structured environment’. This way, employees attending corporate venues for meetings can reflect on their role and how it relates to their overall performance, claims the study.

The study found 40 teams of four members to play a simulated fire rescue video game designed for training purposes called Network Operations Fire. One half of the 40 teams conducted reflexive meetings during the game while the other half did not.

The 20 teams who did engage in reflexive phases after the first game improved their subsequent performance by a ‘significant margin’ compared to those who did not.

Team members in the reflexive roles were able to increase awareness of their own roles and discuss how to make everything ‘fit’, which could influence decision makers next time they book a meeting.

Kristen Weger, one of the study’s authors, commented on the game to newswise.com: “Each team member had a task, like one would operate the fire engine and one would run the helicopter. Giving them guidance in what to talk about influences their ability to communicate together and perform together.

Boris Johnson announces £22 million boost for SMEs of London

London’s small-and-medium businesses may be rejoicing after hearing of a £22 million equity fund designed to help them grow in the capital.

According to techweekeurope.co.uk, London mayor Boris Johnson revealed plans to snap up stock in local startups that are focused on creative industries such as the ‘digital economy’, along with those in leisure, education and healthcare.

The fund will bring in private sector investment using a £10 million donation from City Hall, while the influence of equity fund manager MMC Ventures will draw in more money from other private sources.  

Images of the London skyline featuring buildings like The Shard and The Gherkin might give off the impression that the city is dominated by industry giants. However, freshbusinessthinking.com reports that SMEs deliver 50 per cent of its workforce, and they’ll be free to generate many more roles with the added support.  

It’s been estimated that 420 jobs could be created through the scheme over the next two years, while a number of other businesses are likely to benefit from the news. This could be the case with venues for hire, as small firms without the space to host big meetings regularly book with local providers.

Announcing the news, Mr Johnson said: “London’s small to medium companies are a vital component of this city’s economy, supporting significant numbers of jobs.

“It is a top priority for me that these entrepreneurial enterprises receive practical support to thrive and grow, not least as many have the potential to become major employers in the future.”   

Couples-to-be urged to buy outfits and champagne out of season

Wedding necessities like champagne and outfits should be snapped up out of season so couples-to-be can drive down the costs of their big days.

That’s according to finance expert Tahmina Mannan, who recently took to yourmoney.com to outline the best months to bag wedding bargains.

Ms Mannan believes honeymoons are best booked in February, jewellery is cheapest in May, while December provides the best window for buying cut-price wedding dresses and champagne.

Cited by my.opera.com, she explains: “Many brides are busy planning summer weddings and tend to leave buying the dress until spring, meaning December is a great month to negotiate a deal on that dream dress.”

Then, with the wedding reception venue and guestlist all in place, the couple can begin to sort out their food and drink for the after-party. Bottles of bubbly often find their way into the shopping list and Ms Mannan believes there’s a trick to buying this too.

While people might think the price of champagne hikes during Christmas and New Year as demand reaches a peak, she claims this period often sees winemakers competing to sell even more bottles – which causes them to reduce their prices.

She said: “This means that supermarkets and stores are able to offer consumers reduced prices on their favourite celebratory tipple.”

Heathrow and Gatwick see increased passenger numbers in March

Heathrow and Gatwick Airports both saw a boost in spring-time travellers during March, freshbusinessthinking.com reports.

The two busiest London airports, which collectively see around 104 million passengers pass through their terminals every year, experienced heightened volumes during March, with Heathrow even setting a new record for the month.

In total, some 5.9 million travellers passed through Heathrow during March, which represents a 3.9 per cent increase year-on-year. Furthermore, the increase also made flights more economical for operators, with average load factor – which illustrates how full each plane is – rising by 2.4 percentage points to 75.8 per cent.

Gatwick, meanwhile, saw a 2.5 per cent year-on-year rise for March, with 2.5 million passengers heading through the gates last month.

Whilst it is probable that many of these travellers were Brits heading out for some spring-time sun during the wet Easter weekend, it is also thought many of these passengers could have been business travellers journeying to meetings in London’s corporate venues.

Commenting on the positive results Gatwick has seen in recent months, the airport’s chief executive, Steward Wingate, told travelweekly.co.uk: “This year Gatwick has continued to compete with other London airports in attracting more passengers, new airlines and new routes.

“Through our continuing investment in the airport and relentless focus on improving the passenger experience, we have seen traffic figures rise despite the backdrop of tough economic conditions at home and abroad. We have seen existing airlines like easyJet, British Airways and Norwegian Air Shuttle grow and new airlines arrive, opening up even more choice and connectivity for passengers.”