Royal fail

The Royal Mail was dealt two damning blows over the past week as its first class service came under scrutiny, whilst the fate of over 9,000 post offices could be on the line when it is to be sold to a private company.

Under its current universal legal obligations, The Royal Mail should have the birthday card you posted to Gran on Monday morning delivered by Tuesday if sent first class. However, there have been reports that first class post is slowly being changed to an alternate day service. Next day delivery for first class post could become a thing of the past as the Royal Mail struggles to cover days off and refuses to pay overtime to employees who extend their routes.

A Royal Mail spokesman said: “There’s no truth in that whatsoever. It’s a short-term situation in a very small number of areas…We are delivering the Universal Service apart from in certain cases which we are trying to resolve.”

A spokesman for the Communication Workers Union, which represents Royal Mail staff, said: “It won’t admit to it but it’s attempting to cut costs by not providing cover. Royal Mail is not coming clean but it’s trying to introduce this “under the radar” in rural areas and it’s only going to spread unless action is taken.”

The bad news continues over fears that the Royal Mail sell-off could result in the closing of over 9,000 post offices. Again, it appears that is the country folk who will suffer the most, especially in areas where there is only one post office.

On Tuesday Edward Davey, Postal Affairs Minister, said the Government is doing everything it can to protect post offices. It has signed a £1.34billion funding deal over the next four years, equal to more than £330million a year.

Longer lorries means fewer empty vehicles

That’s the UK government’s argument when they announced plans to allow longer lorries of up to 17% longer than existing ones.

Whilst this sounds fine in theory, since the last increase in lorry dimensions, on average, one in four HGVs is still driving around empty. This means there has not been any direct evidence of longer lorries leading to reduction in empty running vehicles.

With 70% of UK registered HGVs at the top limit, statistics show that hauliers tend to buy the largest vehicles permitted by law and use them to carry out both large and small loads.

Therefore, the problem is probably not which vehicles are being used but the efficiency of using them. In Germany, their Maut lorry road-user charging system has resulted in 11% reduction in empty running lorries in a five year period up to 2009.

Another potential risk with longer HGVs is the increase in road injuries as the proposed HGV will be even longer than the 18 metres bendy bus, which is being phased out by the Mayor of London due to twice as many injuries caused compared to other buses.

What do you think about these proposed plans? Please share your thoughts with others below.

Ironing out the M1

Turning tragedy into triumph, this extreme house husband used the empty lanes of the M1 to get his Sunday best ironed to perfection.

Looking the part in a fetching dressing gown, the mystery man was recorded by a cameraman covering the recent M1 closure on Monday morning

The M1 has been closed since last Friday due to a scrapyard fire that took firemen hours to put out.

A Highways Agency spokesman said: “We are working as fast as we can to reopen the road as soon as it is safe to do so.” However, structural analysts have reported that parts of the M1 are simply beyond repair.

Bell tolls for EU hauliers

The economic respite for the transport industry will be cut short for UK hauliers who travel through the EU due to increasing toll charges. Eurocrats announced yesterday plans to increase toll charges by 30 per cent to help combat noise and air pollution.

Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union to the European Tax Policy Forum and Centre for European Policy Studies, stated, “Our objective is less about introducing a new tax than about restructuring energy taxation.”

UK Hauliers who operate in Europe are already charged a 18p per kilometre as part of EU law, however European transport companies are not charged for using UK roads.

Kate Gibbs of the Road Haulage Association said: “This will just be horrendous. We have to pay tolls when we go to Europe, but their lorry drivers don’t when they come here, as well as more in petrol and diesel tax.

“Hauliers are already operating at the very tightest possible margins. A 30 per cent rise in toll charges is too big to absorb. Consumers will see it passed on as the cost of all goods in all shops will rise.”

These costs will likely have a knock on effect on the wider public; critics have argued this would increase the price of food and other imported goods.

Ice cold eco

This absolute beast is making headlines as the custom truck taking on the land speed record for reaching the South Pole. The previous record of 2 days 21 hours and 21 minutes is the time to beat for the team sponsored by Thomson Reuters. Their success depends on the Polar Performance Vehicle, which has been specifically designed for the challenge.

The truck has been built by the Artic Trucks of Iceland, responsible for the customised Toyota that was featured in the Polar Special episode on Top Gear. Whilst it seems to be cut from the same cloth, it’s the trucks green credentials that make it truly unique. The trucks packs a 4.0 litre V6 with 340hp, capable of running on a yet to be revealed bio-fuel. If for any reason the engine dies the truck can then make use of solar cells and a wind-powered generator to pick up the slack.

The Shiply team wishes them Godspeed!

Financial support for London’s white van men

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced the introduction of a van exchange scheme, with the backing of several van manufacturers, ahead of the planned changes to the Low Emission Zone next year. Citroën, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Peugeot and Volkswagen are all taking part in the scheme and will be offering reductions as incentives to upgrade to their greener, more efficient fleets.

Beginning Jan 3, 2012, those who drive older commercial vehicles that do not meet the requirements of the stricter emissions standard will be subject to a hefty fee. A daily fee of £100 will be charged along with a potential £500 penalty.

In his typically bombastic style, Boris remarked,  that vans were the lifeblood of London: “Their drivers are knights of the road, an army of entrepreneurs who decorate our homes, fix our plumbing, and generally provide all the vital goods and services essential to the smooth running of our city.” He went on to say, “This noble bunch is mostly small business owners and independent traders who are focused on grafting hard to support their families and build a better future.

“The vast majority of people who are affected by these new changes have upgraded their vehicles and need not take any action but for those remaining people I know these are difficult times and that their vehicles are essential for their livelihoods.”

Do you currently own a older commercial vehicle in London, if so, how soon are you looking to exchange to a newer model – if at all?

You can find out whether your vehicle is affected by the new LEZ standards here.

Will and Kate push the envelope

If it isn’t commemorative crockery, it’s Royal top trumps – you cannot move for Will and Kate related merchandise as the Royal Wedding looms closer. Keen to get in on the action, the Royal Mail will be issuing commemorative stamps of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
The formal picture was taken in the Council Chamber of St James’s Palace in London and the “informal” image shows the couple in the Palace’s Cornwall room.
“We are honored to be celebrating this very special and historic occasion,” said the Royal Mail’s Stephen Agar. “We believe that that this set of stamps will be very popular with people both in the U.K. and around the world.”
You can bang down the doors of you local Post Office on April 21st, 8 days before the Royal Wedding. Plenty of time to send post to your jealous friends across the globe.