Last-ditch talks aim to avert tube strikes

Union leaders are today (Monday) set to hold last-ditch talks in the hope of avoiding a proposed 48-hour Tube worker walkout in protest at job cuts, bbc.co.uk reports.

London Underground workers are expected to go on strike for two days from tomorrow, amid the ongoing war of words regarding job cuts and underground restructures. The contentious issue revolves around tube chiefs looking to close every single ticket booth on the network and instead place workers on the platforms. In doing so, however, more than 700 jobs could be lost.

Now, representatives from the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union have said they are planning to hold a series of 11th hour talks to try and avert industrial action. The hope is that a mutual resolution can be agreed upon that will remove the need for strikes and prevent disruption on the tubes.

Offering a warning to Londoners and those heading to the capital on business, Transport for London (TfL) claimed that the network could be affected by “serious disruption” if the proposed strikes go ahead. Not only that, it claimed that disruption would not be localised, as all lines would be affected.

Making the point, a TfL spokesperson told buyingbusinesstravel.com: “Should the RMT and TSSA strike action go ahead, London Underground will keep as many stations open and run as many trains as possible.

“Services will be affected from 9:30pm on Tuesday February 4, so customers are asked to try to complete journeys as early as possible that evening. If your Oyster card needs topping up, it may help to do this in advance of the industrial action starting. There will be disruption to journeys on Wednesday and Thursday, when Tube services will start later and finish earlier than normal.”

Positive 2013 business travel figures to continue into 2014

Results from the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC) showed that the final quarter of 2013 was positive for business travel and it looks as if that success is set to continue into 2014. 

According to buyingbusinesstravel.com, data from the GTMC revealed that transactions increased by seven per cent in the three months leading up to December, in comparison to the same period the previous year. Rail and air travel sales rose too, by seven and four per cent respectively.

Over the entire year, transactions saw a six per cent boost, reports e-tid.com. Car hire sales increased by eight per cent, followed by rail travel (five per cent) and air (three per cent). Sales of other services, such as currency exchange, ferries, visas and consultancy, rose by six per cent over the year, despite seeing a three per cent decline in the final quarter.

Paul Wait, GTMC’s chief executive, said 2013’s figures show that business travel is going from “strength to strength” and believes 2014 looks positive for business travel too.

“Now that the people holding the purse strings are becoming more optimistic, the overall economic outlook is positive,” he explained. “Confidence has a big impact on business behaviour and this attitude shift should deliver increased demand for business travel.”

Buffets better than traditional meal for weddings, says expert

A wedding expert has given a number of reasons why buffets are the top choice for receptions.      

Kellee Khalil, founder of wedding organising site Lover.ly, was writing for huffingtonpost.com. She claimed that there are many benefits to couples having a wedding buffet, rather than a sit-down meal. One of these advantages was that buffets are a lot faster.     

Ms Khalil wrote: “By making all of the courses of your wedding menu available via a buffet, as opposed to serving each course one-by-one, you optimize all of your time.”

She continued: “You and your guests are able to enjoy the meal while continuing to mix and mingle. Bonus: everyone will have more time to hit the dance floor.”

Another gain couples can have from having a buffet is cost, as they are usually a lot cheaper than a formal dinner. This is due to the fact that people will probably eat less, there will be less wastage and a full staff of waiters won’t be needed.

Whatever food option that bride-and-grooms go for though, they need to make sure that they pick their caterer wisely, according to newswire.net.

Rebecca Mead, author of ‘One Perfect Day: the Selling of the American Wedding’, told the site that couples should look out for caterers who have a lot of experience if they want to avoid disastrous wedding food.

Over 80 per cent of directors made ten or more trips last year

The business travel industry is continuing to perform well, as more than 80 per cent of directors and managing directors took ten or more business trips last year, a new report has shown.

According to travelweekly.co.uk, the poll, which was conducted by Amadeus, revealed that overall, the number of trips taken per business traveller did increase slightly last year compared to the previous year. The average businessperson took 13.1 trips in 2013, compared to an average of 12.7 in 2012. Moreover, the percentage of respondents taking one or more business trips has doubled between 2011 and 2013, from four per cent to eight per cent.

Business travel is deemed very important by some businesspeople, as one in ten believe taking less trips has led to lost business or reduction in their customers’ satisfaction.

However, the poll also revealed that some people spend too much money on a business trip, with 18 per cent claiming they were not reimbursed for £100 or more. The main reason cited by 56 per cent of business travellers was that they had spent money on expenses that weren’t part of the policy. Some 14 per cent of travellers said they had just simply lost their receipts and a shocking 12 per cent are too lazy to try and claim it back, reports buyingbusinesstravel.com.

Amadeus UK and Ireland managing director, Diane Bouzebiba, said that providing customers with a personalised travel experience can benefit the business travel industry.

“We are delighted to see the growing optimism in economic outlook translating into an increase in travel as indicated by our survey, especially given the pivotal role it plays in both employee and customer satisfaction,” she commented.

Couples now opting to marry later

Couples appear to be waiting later to marry and this could be influencing the type of gifts they request from their wedding guests.

New research from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) reveals that in 2011, the average man living in England and Wales chose to tie the knot at 36. The average woman became a wife at 33 – a staggering eight years after they would have done in 1971.

While it’s not known exactly why modern day couples are deciding to marry later than their 1970s counterparts, the FSCS did state that this was impacting the type of gifts that are presented to newly weds.

According to skegnessstandard.co.uk, rather than allowing their friends and family to gift them something unique, 40 per cent of the 500 Brits surveyed by the FSCS said they had asked to be given money towards the cost of something.  

Just one-fifth (21 per cent) had requested their guests to give them an actual present.

The FSCS said asking for “cash gifts” was an entirely innocent practice and simply a result of couples accumulating all the household items they need by living together for many years. 

Weddings.about.com writer Nina Callaway agrees with this view on the matter, stating that couples will be more grateful for money to put towards a down payment on a house than a second toaster.

However, some couples may wish to re-think their requests for cash gifts, as 26 per cent of the people who had recently attended a wedding admitted to feeling uncomfortable about having to hand over money instead of a present. On the other hand, a much higher total of 63 per cent said they were perfectly fine with being dealt this request.

Surprise weddings becoming a new trend

Surprise weddings are apparently becoming a new trend for 2014, according to an industry expert.

Wedding planner Carmen Feliciano, CEO of company PennyandMary.com, was writing for huffingtonpost.com this week. She claimed that many couples are now taking inspiration from celebrities by surprising friends and family with a late notice ceremony. The trend is said to also be known as an ‘ambush wedding’.

According to Ms Feliciano, there are a number of benefits to the trend. These include less stress, an excuse to get rid of unwanted traditions and less time organising. The planner also said that surprise weddings can be even more fun.

She did admit that the trend may not be to everyone’s tastes however, writing: “Of course, a surprise wedding is not for everyone. If you have a very clear vision of your wedding and actually do enjoy the planning process, then this option is not for you.”

Feliciano continued: “If you also like travel and do not want to deal with orchestrating a surprise event, then eloping still remains a popular option for an intimate and easy affair.”

Another upcoming trend that may end up filtering into the UK is a ceremony which features robots. The machines circulate amongst guests and can be used for video, so that friends and families in other countries can be a part of the ceremony.

The trend has already been seen in the US, according to smh.com.au.

New gadget could revolutionize London taxi business

New ‘kiosks’ are to be set up across London which will make it easier for visitors to the city to book a taxi, oxgadgets.com reports.

The scheme, set up by Get Taxi, will see stands erected at hotels, airports, train stations, restaurants and business locations across the capital, from which visitors can book a cab. It is operated through a tablet device, upon which visitors can input their intended destination and time in which they need to travel, so a taxi can be dispatched without the need for phone calls.

If the scheme proves to be a success, it could also be rolled out much further, potentially even being included on trains, aeroplanes or buses so that travellers can arrange for a taxi to be waiting for them the moment they alight.

New features could also be on the horizon for the app, which would allow users to input their credit card details if they would like to pay for the journey ahead of time.

Whilst still in its early stages, the new system had a baptism of fire after developers heralded their busiest period yet during the last day or so as Londoners looked for alternatives to the Tube during industrial action.

Commenting on the future of his scheme, Get Taxi founder, Shahar Waiser, told businesstraveller.com: “Our vision is to have Get Taxi kiosks at key locations all around cities, creating virtual taxi ranks, as a reliable, safe and fast alternative to the minicab service.”

Boris Johnson shares excitement for "world-class" Crossrail service

London mayor Boris Johnson has shared his excitement for the £1 billion Crossrail project. 

The new high speed rail service will provide vital rail links between the capital and the South East.

As reported by telegraph.co.uk, the plans took a step forward this week after Canadian-based company Bombardier was commissioned to supply 65 new trains a new Crossrail depot at Old Oak Common.

Mr Johnson backed the project to bring huge benefits for the capital, the South East and Derby, where most of the 1,000 jobs created by Crossrail are expected to be heading.

“The manufacture of these new trains will not only revolutionise rail travel in London, they will deliver jobs and economic growth in their birthplace in Derby and across the UK,” he announced. 

Cited by standard.co.uk, the major went on to state that with Bombardier now on board to deliver the plans, London was set to welcome a “truly world-class” railway.  

Crossrail has been tipped to improve journey times across London and ease congestion around a number of boroughs.

The Department for Transport and Transport for London have been keen to stress the benefits of encouraging visitors from the likes of Maidenhead, Shenfield and Abbey Wood.

Crossrail will also become the first service to offer a direct connection between all of London’s main employment centres – including Heathrow, the West End, the City and Canary Wharf.

Treat your guests to special surprises for a unique wedding day

A wedding expert has said that brides and grooms-to-be should make sure they line up a host of surprises for guests at their wedding day.

Rhiannon Banda Scott, from wedding planning firm Hey Gorgeous Events, said that making guests happy can make couples’ weddings happier too. She told huffingtonpost.com this week: “If you were a guest coming to your own big day, what sorts of surprises, offerings and setups would delight you? Maybe it’s a milkshake station, a cotton candy machine, a bonfire with a s’mores bar, a live band, a stand-up cocktail reception or picnic tables with open seating.”

Ms Scott added: “…you want your guests to feel taken care of. When your guests’ needs are considered, your wedding is sure to stand out in their memories for years to come.”

Other tips given in the article about how to make weddings stand out included looking for a meaningful venue, looking for unique decorations and starting unique traditions.

Meanwhile, another post published this week has also recommended that social media should be carefully controlled when it comes to weddings. The article, published on glamour.com claimed social media shouldn’t be used to send thank-you notes for wedding gifts. This could be due to the fact that it is more impersonal than hand-written notes.

However, using social media to set a dress code was labelled as fine to make sure guests get their outfits right for the big day.

Crossrail 2 to boost London’s transport capacity

A proposed new railway project in London could improve the city’s transport system significantly, it has been claimed.

According to Mayor Boris Johnson, the Crossrail 2 network, which would add tracks linking Wimbledon in the south of the city to Tottenham in the north, could potentially increase London’s rail capacity by 12 per cent.

It is hoped the changes will benefit people who already live and work in the capital, as well as those who travel there for events and meetings. According to ft.com, London is expecting to welcome a further 1.5 million residents in the next two decades.

Mr Johnson’s claims come after promoting group London First released a report suggesting that the £12 billion cost of the project should be split into three parts. Its proposal would see Transport for London (TfL) and passengers meet one third of the cost; Network Rail paying another third; and businesses and residents around the affected areas paying the rest.

According to Francis Salway, the chair of London First, investment in the scheme is vital. He was quoted by building.co.uk as saying: “Failure to invest would make life intolerable for Londoners, hamper London’s economic growth and hit government tax receipts.”

Adding to this, Mr Johnson said that he was confident that funding could be arranged for the project.