Richard Branson, Virgin Trains, Thetrainline.com and ‘the best rail network in Europe’ by 2002

The CrossCountry Voyager trains referred to in this article are no longer run by Virgin, and despite the words of Richard Branson, Virgin Trains (or any other UK train firm) is still not the best rail network in Europe.

My article on Virgin Trains’ Pendolinos (and Eurostars) for T3 is here.

For further reading on Richard Branson, try Tom Bower’s biography.
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Hotel rooms under the hammer

Hoteliers don’t like empty rooms, which is why hotel businesses are using online auctions to bring in extra bookings

For many hotel chains, dynamic pricing has become standard, but back in 2002 auctioning rooms on eBay (and its defunct competitor QXL) was pretty smart. It was nice to see Blackpool hotels getting in the on the act, found simply by searches on the appropriate eBay category.
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Track your every move: using the Data Protection Act on supermarkets, ISPs, banks and telcos

In 2012, the government is considering telling companies to provide personal data in a machine readable format. But as long as you don’t mind getting wodges of paper you have been able to get this data for many years, under the Data Protection Act (something I also used to find the base stations used by my mobile phone).

This is what I found out for the Guardian about my own shopping and web-surfing habits in 2002: the costs and time limits still apply, and I have updated links and contact details. Freeserve no longer exists, but in general the following would remain my advice for anyone wishing to access their data, unless there’s very obvious information about subject access request processes on the organisation’s web site.
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Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains

First published in T3, March 2002

‘Fast’ and ‘trains’: two words that tend to be strangers in Britain at the moment, what with strikes, complaints about service levels and fare-rises and the demise of Railtrack, the company meant to look after the tracks. Despite all that, 2002 will see Britain’s biggest rail operator begin replacing its entire fleet of vehicles – with ones that go faster.

Virgin Trains operates two of the four long-distance UK networks. West Coast runs from London Euston to Birmingham, then on to the north-west, north Wales and Scotland. CrossCountry runs the long-distance trains that go everywhere from Penzance to Aberdeen, through a hub at Birmingham New Street. The company is probably the least popular rail operator at the moment, with a poor record for punctuality and reliability. Continue reading “Full tilt: Virgin’s 140mph Pendolino trains”

You can ring, but you can’t hide: mobile phone tracking of user locations

This was the first of several articles I wrote on mobile phone tracking of users for Guardian Online, with later articles on services using the same technology to track children, and to let the emergency services locate callers.

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