First class train seats could be given over to standard passengers

The number of first class seats on trains could be hugely reduced as part of a new government initiative headed up by transport secretary Patrick McLaughlin.

Under the new proposals, government would work alongside rail operators to provide them with a subsidy that would reimburse any potential earnings lost by turning first class over to those with standard tickets, telegraph.co.uk reports.

The measure comes after commuters complained they were packed onto trains and made to stand whilst seats in first class went unused. It is hoped the subsidy plan would redress the balance and ease congestion on some of the more popular routes; most notably those going in and out of London.

McLaughlin spoke with representatives from First Great Western, which is expected to run a trial of the scheme before it is considered for a much wider roll-out.

Whilst some commuters have welcomed the move, those travelling in and out of London on business trips could fear that the privacy their more expensive ticket affords could soon be withdrawn.

The government, meanwhile, has urged people against reading too much into the scheme, claiming it is just one of a large number of proposals currently under consideration.

Commenting further, rail minister Stephen Hammond told buyingbusinesstravel.com: “The government understands concerns rail passengers have about the cost of fares and the impact they have on household budgets.

“That is why, for the first time in a decade, regulated fares will not rise on average by more than the rate of inflation, offering relief for families and the hard-working people. As well as protecting regulated fares, the government is driving forwards the biggest programme of rail modernisation programmes ever, with £38 billion being invested over the next five years.”

Make sure you keep wedding details off social media, says wedding planner

A wedding planner has claimed that couples planning their big day need to make sure they keep details off social media sites such as Facebook.

Sandy Malone was writing for huffingtonpost.com this week. She claimed that sharing all information on social media sites means that more people will think that they are valued to give an opinion on the big day. Ms Malone also said that announcing an engagement or wedding details on these sites will mean that more people will expect to be invited.

As well as announcing details, the wedding planner said that brides should make sure they don’t argue with their partner over these sites. She wrote: “…do not fight with your fiancé on social media. Recently, I was appalled to see a married friend change her FB status to “in a complicated relationship.” Really? Really?”

She added: “Do not air your dirty laundry in social media or you’ll never make it down the aisle.”

However, social media sites are becoming more frequently used when it comes to romances for many according to dailyfreeman.com. An article posted on the site this week claimed that there is now a trend for many men to go through elaborate proposals and then share them on sites such as Facebook.

Company-wide meetings are "worth every penny"

“All hands” company meetings where every single employee is present will certainly pay off, despite the huge cost outlay of undertaking them, one expert has claimed.

Writing for entrepreneur.com, business specialist Bryan Burdick explained that, for some businesses, these all hands meetings can cost anything from five to seven-figure totals, in not only organising the meeting but taking time away from the job at hand. Despite this, he still argued that such meetings were “worth every penny”.

First, Burdick said that getting everyone from a company together provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce the business ethos among them. This is especially beneficial for new starters, as they can be “indoctrinated” into a company philosophy, Burdick added.

Not only that, experienced workers can then be in a room with their newer peers, which gives them the chance to converse face-to-face.

This togetherness is also a benefit for companies which exist in numerous locations across the country or even over the world. Getting everyone together in a central location alleviates the fragmented nature and illustrates just how a business is developing.

Offering up advice for businesses giving it a thought, Burdick told arcmarketingnm.com: “Be thoughtful about how you approach an all-hands meeting.

“Invest the time in advance to ensure that you deliver value for everyone who attends – if you try to just slap something together, you will end up communicating the wrong message. Be sincere, be focused, be passionate and for goodness sake, don’t be afraid to even be a little silly.”

London could get cycle highways in the sky

An architect has unveiled his design for a network of cycle lanes elevated above the city, with the aim of cutting down travelling times and improving safety for cyclists across London.

The network of raised bike paths (designed by Norman Foste)  has been named ‘SkyCycle’ and will allow cyclists to be exempt from the usual road traffic, rushlane.com reports. If the project goes ahead, it is likely to benefit tourists, business travellers and regular commuters alike by encouraging people to cycle and freeing up space on the current transport system.

The project already has the support of Transport for London and Network Rail, but the there is still a question mark over the financing of the project. The developers of the SkyCycle are currently seeking funding to conduct a feasibility study.

Lead architect, Norman Foster, told bbc.co.uk that cities where walking and cycling is made easier are generally better places to live and visit, but for this to happen cycling has to be made safe. This biggest problem facing the project is finding space for the segregated cycle lanes, as London is already an overcrowded city.

Mr Foster said: “SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”

Event industry needs to focus more on sustainability

Event professionals should be more concerned about the green credentials, then use this information as a competitive differentiator, one expert has claimed.

Dru Morton, who is the ‘Green Advocate’ at England rugby HQ Twickenham, told meetpie.com that events professionals need to stay “ahead of the game” where sustainability was concerned.

He went on to add that anyone who shuns green measures may risk negatively impacting their bottom line, as sustainability programmes often offer a competitive – and therefore financial – advantage.

Morton’s comments come at a time when sustainability is again becoming a hot topic. Following on from Britain’s escalation to global leader in terms of efficiency at the time of the 2012 Olympics, this status is now deemed to have waned, which was the outcome of an investigation by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events.

The end result of this investigation was that events professionals should be more open about the issues of sustainability, acknowledging both the good and bad of the industry, before then looking to work further on it, businessvisitsandeventpartnership.com notes.

Offering his own take, Morton said: “Events are a primary communication platform for any organisation.

“They are a shop window for a brand, and any organisation with stated sustainability of corporate responsibility commitments will find it increasingly important that its events actively and visibly reflect these standards.”

Britain should be more welcoming to business travellers

The welcome given to international business travellers at Britain’s borders should be improved, a new report has claimed.

According to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Events, the way in which Britain welcomes those from overseas is in need of a huge overhaul, businessvisitsandeventspartnership.com reports.     

The report’s starting point came from a recent UNESCO tourism report, which placed Britain 136th out of 139 countries for the welcoming nature of its entry process. This appalling statistic prompted the 23 MPs to call for an overhaul of the entire system in order to provide a much warmer welcome.

It added, however, that this needn’t come from throwing huge investment into border control, but instead for the government to provide much more practical help in order to elevate Britain beyond 136th place.

Among the suggestions put forward was that of cutting red tape for international business travellers, in a bid to separate them from holidaymakers or asylum seekers and therefore make their entry a much quicker process.

Commenting on Britain’s 136th placement, MP Nick de Bois, who was part of the parliamentary group, told meetpie.com: “That, frankly, is extraordinary and is not good enough.

“If event visas have been authorised for the Commonwealth Games then let’s extend them for trade shows and other events.”

UK business travel market heading for strong performance in 2014

Despite having to focus on stretching budgets and cutting corners in recent years, new research indicates that business travel managers will enjoy a much more fruitful year in 2014.

Britain’s own business travel market has been tipped to experience a great deal of growth this year as companies start to react to the improved economic outlook.

According to a survey of 183 professionals from the Business Travel Show, 76 per cent of corporate travel buyers will have more money at their disposal over 2014, compared to their budgets last year.

Meetpie.com says this marks a four per cent increase on the total in 2013 and the third consecutive year that budgets have increased.

The research noted that 76 per cent of airline budgets will either rise or stay the same this year, while 74 per cent of accommodation budgets will increase.

David Chapple, director of the Business Travel Show, told internationalmeetingsreview.com the survey is “great news” for buyers in the UK.

“The figures in our survey also support the Global Business Travel Association’s (GBTA) own predictions that the UK business travel industry is heading for very strong growth in 2014 and 2015 and, following a trying few years, western Europe’s major markets should see a bounce back over the next five years.”

London's Overground to be extended

London’s Overground train service is to be extended as two east London suburban rail services are incorporated into the Transport for London (TfL) network.

The developments will see 25 stations added to the Tube map as part of the Overground network in 2015, the Now Here This blog on timeout.com reports.

These plans come as welcome news after the constant rising of train fares and rail closures, which has caused unrest amongst commuters and business travellers across the capital.

The business plan also revealed that the use of London’s Overground services had increased by 160 per cent in the past five years. This was significantly boosted by the opening of the East London line which quadrupled its demand in 2010.

The takeover of the West Anglia main line is part of TfL’s plans to increase the amount of National Rail services serving London. It has also been revealed that TfL is planning further improvements to its Overground service with another 23 stations to be upgraded by 2016.

Whilst speaking to standard.co.uk, Mike Stubbs, TfL’s director of London Overground, said: “In July 2013 the Secretary of State agreed to devolve some West Anglia main line services to the Mayor and we are working with the Department for Transport and Abellio Greater Anglia to deliver a full transfer in 2015.”

Keep the music appropriate for a wedding reception to run smoothly, says guide

A wedding guide has recommended brides and grooms keep reception music appropriate if they want it to run smoothly. 

The post, published on femalefirst.co.uk this week, read: “The wedding where the thumping of techno music begins the second that the couple walks through the door and doesn’t end until the cake-cutting. That is not the way to do it.”

It continued: “Your guests might be too polite to say this to you, but don’t be surprised to find a group of them standing in the toilet to avoid the loud music.” 

Instead it was recommended that music is played lightly throughout the cocktail hour so that guests are able to talk to each other easily and only turned up when it’s time to hit the dance floor. 

Another suggestion for a successful wedding reception, according to the article, is to make sure all guests are greeted. It is claimed that even a quick “hi, how are you, thanks for coming and bye” greeting can make guests feel appreciated.

A further article posted this week on hellomagazine.com also gave tips about how to have a successful wedding day. These included banning social media, setting a clear dress code for guests to follow and keeping things personal to the bride and groom, rather than following formalities.

London airports to boost standards and lower costs under new regulations

The UK’s airport regulator, the Civilian Aviation Authority (CAA), has placed tighter regulations on Gatwick and Heathrow to ensure their fares are competitive and that customer service standards remain high.

The CAA has revealed that it will force Heathrow to cut the amount it charges airlines by 1.5 per cent from 2014 to 2019, a cost that is passed on to passengers.

This announcement has come after airlines continuing to apply pressure on the CAA to take action, particularly British Airways who accused Heathrow of ripping off passengers in 2013.

According to rte.ie, the CAA also said that they would ensure that both airports were better equipped to deal with disruption to the running of their services, so it could deal with it efficiently when it does occur.

Deirdre Hutton, chairwoman of CAA, told online.wsj.com that this drop in charges is good news for air travellers who will see a drop in ticket prices, whilst still being able to enjoy the high standards that they have come to expect from Britain’s busiest airports.

Ms Hutton said: “London’s airports have benefited from substantial investment over the past decade, which has created world-class facilities for passengers. But prices have risen substantially in that time, with service quality sometimes failing to match the standards passengers have every right to expect.”