• Japan’s famous Nara deer killed by tourists’ plastic waste
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    The Independent

    Japan’s famous Nara deer killed by tourists’ plastic waste

    Japan’s famous wild deer, which attracted more than two million visitors to Nara last year, are dying at the hands of tourists.Six of the deer in Nara Park have been killed due to swallowing plastic left behind by tourists since March.An autopsy showed that one deer had 4.3kg of plastic in its stomach, reports The Telegraph.An additional 29 deer were killed in traffic accidents in 2018, as the animals often wander into the busy road to be fed by visitors.The park, which spans 5,000sq m, is home to around 1,200 sika deer. They are considered sacred and have protected “national treasure” status.For tourists, the main attraction is seeing the deer bow, which they have learnt to do in exchange for food.Stalls selling senbei snacks (Japanese rice crackers) to feed the animals use environmentally friendly packaging, developed by the Nara Deer Welfare Association.However, many tourists will bring their own plastic waste and are not as careful as they should be when discarding of it. Plastic bags, ring pulls, cups and bottles have all been spotted in Nara Park.“It is always advisable not to encourage deer to become reliant on humans for food, but in places such as Nara where it is permitted we recommend that only natural foods endorsed by the local authorities is given, and that processed food items and plastic packaging are avoided,” Charles Smith-Jones, technical adviser at The British Deer Society, told The Independent.“At other times it is always best to simply enjoy watching the deer from a distance. The British Deer Society urges everyone to dispose of their waste responsibly and in such a way that it cannot be a danger to wildlife.”He added that, closer to home, the same species of deer lives in Richmond Park, where around five are thought to be killed each year by consuming litter. Energy gel sachets discarded by cyclists have been highlighted as being of particular concern.

  • South Western Railway strike: Commuters face rush-hour misery as 16-seat minibus turns up as rail replacement bus service
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    The Independent

    South Western Railway strike: Commuters face rush-hour misery as 16-seat minibus turns up as rail replacement bus service

    London commuters faced rush-hour misery this morning, as a five-day South Western Railway (SWR) strike kicked off.At one point, a 16-seater minibus was provided as a rail replacement bus service for a 10-carriage train.Images flooded social media of passengers packed onto trains and station platforms, and some pictured snaking down high streets to board trains.SWR workers have walked out from today until 23.59 on 22 June in a long-running dispute about guards on trains. At Surbiton station, passengers shared pictures of people queueing for 200 metres down the high street as they waited to board services.> Train chaos South Western Railway strikes this is the que down Surbiton high street this morning. I’m now back at home chilling out waiting for the dust to settle. pic.twitter.com/0DOzNBoNp2> > — Shaun Ferguson 🇿🇦🇬🇧🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 (@sferguk) > > June 18, 2019Passengers shared images of empty rails and packed carriages.> Strike week on South Western. pic.twitter.com/8MfsvcSAaf> > — Samuel Gould (@iamsamgould) > > June 18, 2019> Yeah I can’t accept apologies. You are running one bus an hour due to strikes and then can not run that bus but can’t tell anyone and then you think it is safe to allow people to travel like this. This is so unsafe. What about the health and safety of your passengers? pic.twitter.com/NO9jQY2nb0> > — Karlyne Oakes (@KarlyneOakes) > > June 18, 2019One passenger complained that a 16-seater minibus turned up as a replacement bus service.> My replacement bus was a hour late and this is what they sent pic.twitter.com/gw3hl1swXU> > — simon (@aldershot4ever) > > June 18, 2019“We are working with bus operators to provide as many replacement services as possible. In the vast majority of cases, these are single or double deckers,” a South Western Railway spokesperson told The Independent. “In a few instances this has involved using 16 seat coaches to help our passengers complete their journeys. On the few occasions where we use these types of vehicles we try to double up the number.”South Western Railway runs services from London Waterloo to destinations in Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire, with London commuters heavily affected. Travellers to Royal Ascot, which starts today, will also be affected.A reduced service will run on most of the network for the next five days. Some routes will not have any trains, nor run a rail replacement service. SWR says it has laid on extra trains to cope with Ascot demand, although it advises passengers to leave extra time to board services.The strike has been called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).

  • United Airlines flight overrun by ants
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    The Independent

    United Airlines flight overrun by ants

    Passengers on a United Airlines flight were left shuddering after an infestation of ants was discovered onboard.Travellers started to notice the creepy-crawlies while the service from Venice, Italy, to Newark, New Jersey was still taxiing on the runway.Charlotte Burns, a podcast editor onboard flight 169, called the experience “heeby-jeeby-goose-bumpy-get-me-a-gin-gross” while hilariously live tweeting about it during the nine-hour service on 17 June.“On the plane from Venice to New York when a large, fat ant walks over my pillow. Hmmm. That’s odd,” she started by tweeting.“Minutes later, another fat little bug hurries over the television screen.“Then another one – on my arm! These are bold. I start to feel itchy.”Burns said she alerted cabin crew to the situation, but they asked her to wait until the flight had taken off.> And I definitely got bit *shudders* pic.twitter.com/WjL5uNfygo> > — charlotte burns (@charlieburns) > > June 17, 2019Her and a fellow passenger noticed an increasing number of the insects as the journey progressed.“The part of me that, you know, doesn’t want to be difficult or cause a fuss is being taken over by the part of me that really doesn’t like ants on airplanes,” said Burns.A flight attendant’s attempts to tackle the ant invasion with “a wet cloth” proved largely ineffectual.Another traveller encouraged crew to inspect the overhead bins, whereupon it was discovered that the ants originated from one man’s bag.“The guy in front pulls down his case (which btw isn’t zipped shut, as middle aisle guy notes to me in an aside) and ants ants ants spill out, running in every which direction,” wrote Burns.“This is where things start to get more inept. They open the suitcase ON THE SEAT! why? Ants running everywhere and guy in front is using his hands as little tweezers, picking them off one by one. Cabin guy is using sterile lemon wipes.”United Airlines confirmed the aircraft had been taken out of service once it reached Newark for thorough cleaning.A spokesperson said: “We are concerned by the experience our customer reported on United Flight 169 from Venice to Newark. We had been in contact with the crew during the flight, where they advised the ants were isolated from a customer’s bag in the overhead bin, and was contained to a limited area of the cabin.“The airplane landed at Newark this afternoon and has be taken out of service for extermination. We followed proper protocol by notifying customs, immigration, as well as agriculture of the issue.”

  • What are the key issues surrounding public transport and mental health?
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    The Independent

    What are the key issues surrounding public transport and mental health?

    The Centre for Transport Studies at University College London (UCL) carried out an online survey of people with mental health conditions in order to establish the difficulties that people with mental health conditions have when travelling and to identify ways in which these can be overcome.There were 385 respondents to the survey, all of whom had one or more mental health conditions. Half the respondents said they are unable to travel by bus and train because of their mental health condition. Some frequent public transport problems, such as delays, missed connections and out-of-order toilets, present far greater challenges for those with mental health conditions.But the report, by Professor Roger Mackett, makes clear that there are opportunities for both the industry and fellow travellers to make journeys easier for people with mental health conditions.These are the key points. What kinds of worries do people have about trains?For many of the respondents, panic attacks on trains are brought on by overcrowding, having to cross a high or wide gap between the train and the platform and tight connections with the next train because of delays. But problems can start at the station, and the report recommends: “Network Rail and train operating companies should ensure that the design of ticket machines is improved to make them more intuitive and less confusing by consulting with people with mental health conditions about the design. “Pay-as-you-go ticketing on railways should be extended nationwide in order to, amongst other benefits, remove the need to speak to a member of staff in order to buy a ticket.”Noise is also distressing for some people. There is also a call for more quiet carriages, and for rules to be more strictly enforced.The concept should be extended to stations, says the report. Network Rail and train operating companies should provide quiet areas on stations where people with mental health conditions can get away from crowds.The Rail Delivery Group, representing the rail industry, says station are becoming more accessible – not only for those living with mobility disabilities but also for people affected with less visible illnesses.Last week, Network Rail opened a new assisted travel lounge in Birmingham New Street at a cost of £175,000. The aim is to provide a calm and relaxing environment. How good is special assistance?While rail, bus and airport operators are improving care for people with mental illness, the help provided can be patchy.Special assistance should certainly be requested by people with serious mental health conditions, but the respondents to the survey said the quality is uneven. A man in his fifties said: “You can turn up and there is no one to assist you, or they bring a wheelchair. Why? I can walk. It’s my mind that is affected.”Professor Mackett said: “Apart from better behaviour by their fellow travellers, factors that would encourage them to travel more by bus and train are clearer information before and during travel, better trained staff, and, in the case of train, being able to contact a member of staff in person when onboard." Some respondents mentioned concerns about hot food. What is the problem?For many anxious travellers, vomiting in public is a significant fear. Many people with mental health conditions feel sick and become distressed when other passengers are eating hot food in a confined environment.The report recommends: “Transport operators should ban the eating of hot food on public transport except in designated areas.” What about interactions with staff?On buses, nearly half the respondents said that having to talk to drivers makes them anxious. A woman in her thirties said: “Buses are particularly difficult, and therefore my last resort option for travel, as there is no way of using them without being forced to speak to the driver, and also there's lots of anxiety about not knowing what to ask for. I will sometimes buy an all-day travel pass even though I know I will only make one single journey because it's easier to ask for. Professor Mackett recommends that concessionary bus passes should be made available to people with mental health conditions who have difficulty communicating with staff.He recommends that transport operators should ensure that all passenger-facing staff receive training about how to interact with people with mental health conditions, in particular bus drivers and station assistance staff.Transport for Wales (TfW) has introduced a system called the Orange Wallet Scheme, which it says is particularly designed for passengers with an autism spectrum disorder. TfW says: “The wallet has plastic pockets where you can put words and pictures to help you communicate your needs to transport staff across Wales. “Show it to the station and onboard staff when you're travelling or buying a ticket. They're trained to recognise the wallet and provide appropriate help.” The card is available free from some local libraries.Virgin Trains has introduced JAM cards, standing for Just A Minute, which travellers can use to indicate discreetly to staff that they have an invisible disability. What about other passengers?People can be made to feel anxious by bad behaviour by others even if it is not directed towards them. Another woman in her thirties said: “Just the other week, when on a bus home from a mental health support appointment, some of the other bus users were inconsiderate, abusive to each other, shouting and swearing etc.“One lady's comments to another particularly upset me. I cried behind my sunglasses and hid my panic attack from all of them until I got home.” Where is transport most difficult?The report says that services in rural areas must be improved. But at the other end of the transport spectrum, the London Underground is singled out as the most problematic for people with mental health conditions. Many respondents said that trains stopping in tunnels between stations – as they are prone to do – can trigger panic attacks.A woman in her thirties said: “I’m petrified of going on London Underground – I’m claustrophobic and scared that we’ll get stuck in the tunnel and won’t get help and I’ll die there.” Are there any examples of good practice?Yes. One positive experience was reported by a woman in her twenties travelling on Megabus from Victoria Coach Station in London to Manchester. “I usually make sure I’m really early and in the front of the queue so I can select a seat in a place that feels most comfortable and less anxious. “In this particular journey, my train to London Victoria was delayed, meaning I only arrived at the coach station five minutes before the coach was due to depart. I was already very anxious and upset, so when I discovered the bus was completely full and everyone was already seated, and there were only two seats left (both in unsuitable places for me), I had a full meltdown.“The staff were brilliant however. One recognised me from a previous incident. They let me wait for 90 minutes in the mobility/disabled waiting room until the next bus.“They also gave me priority boarding, and two reserved seats on the next coach in my preferred location, which meant I didn’t have to sit next to anybody else as I find this difficult.“This was the first time anybody had ever shown me this much compassion in a time of distress while I was in a public place.”Public transport users, as well as staff, should be more aware of the needs and behaviour of people with mental health conditions, to help build confidence, reduce distress and provide empowerment to enjoy the freedom to travel that many of us take for granted.

  • 10 reasons to visit Uganda: From golden monkeys to gorillas
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    The Independent

    10 reasons to visit Uganda: From golden monkeys to gorillas

    Easily overlooked for the quiet charm of neighbouring Rwanda or the pull of big game in nearby Kenya, Uganda is arguably the most underrated destination in east Africa.Home to superb street food and fascinating ancient tribes, not to mention an array of wildlife that puts more popular African countries in the shade, it’s the ideal place to explore for those who want an adventure away from the crowds. Pick up a rolexNo, not knock off luxury watches. Rather, the ultimate street-side breakfast treat. An omelette with red onions, cabbage, peppers and tomatoes wrapped in a fresh chapati, this delicious snack was once known simply as “rolled eggs” before tourists simply started calling them “rolex” instead. They’re the perfect way to fill up before a trek across Uganda’s vast savannah or virgin rainforest. And unlike their costly namesakes, these will only set you back 2,000 Ugandan shillings. A grand total of 40p. Get up close and personal with mountain gorillasAlong with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda is home to the last remaining population of mountain gorillas on Earth. Families are found in Mgahinga National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, in the country’s far southwest. Bwindi is home to 14 habituated groups of gorillas, with a total population of 400 according to the last regional census in 2012. Groups of eight people, led by armed rangers and qualified trackers, can spend an hour with these beguiling primates, usually after an arduous trek through thick rainforest. At $600 (£480), permits are expensive, but far cheaper than the $1,500 required to see gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Cruise the KazingaConnecting Lake Edward and Lake George in western Uganda, this 40km channel is home to the largest concentration of hippopotami in Africa. At only 8m deep, the channel makes for the perfect resting place for these hulking mammals, which spend most of the day bathing in the shallows along its banks. It’s also possible to see large groups of elephants, as well as African fish eagles and pied kingfishers. Be sure to pack binoculars and charter a smaller boat in order to get first-hand information from the pilots who are also naturalists. Spend time with the BatwaThe Batwa, once known as pygmies, are conservation refugees. Traditional hunter-gatherers, they were thrown out of Mgahinga and Bwindi when both became national parks in 1991. Since then, they have been marginalised, forced to eke out a living working on others’ land and losing their traditional skills. Through its Partnership Trust, tour operator Volcanoes Safaris purchased and gifted 10 acres of land near its Mount Gahinga lodge on the edge of the national park for local Batwa people in 2018, helping them build 18 homes and a community centre, with access to medical care. Tribe elder Safari Monday holds special sessions for guests at the lodge, teaching them about traditional hunting and herbal medicine, with the chance to visit the village and learn more about their plight. Catch a glimpse of tree-climbing lionsFound only in Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park and the Ishasha plains of Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park, these rare big cats spend most of the day lounging in acacia trees, rather than sleeping on the ground like their regular cousins. There’s a small population of around 50 such lions in this part of Uganda, meaning it pays to go with a qualified guide who can get intel from park rangers on their location. Support a life-changing women’s non-profitRide 4 A Woman is a nonprofit organisation set up by Evelyn Habasa. Conceived as a way to help local victims of domestic violence and HIV sufferers learn new skills, the organisation is run from the sprawling Bwindi community centre, 1km from the main entrance to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the village of Buhoma. The site is home to budget accommodation, while also selling handmade crafts including jewellery, clothing and handbags. All money spent goes towards providing wages, food and shelter for the 300 female members. Understand Uganda’s past in KampalaUganda’s capital offers the ideal window into the country’s past. The most chilling but essential stop off is Mengo Palace. The former home of Kabaka Mutesa II, ousted as king in 1966 by prime minister Milton Obote and the then army chief Idi Amin, it’s perhaps more famous for its underground prison. The prison was used by Amin when he took control of Uganda and is a stark reminder of the brutality of what people here had to suffer throughout the late 20th century. Tours of the prison are available for 35,000 Ugandan shillings (£7). Track endangered golden monkeysFound only in the Virunga Volcanoes forests that stretch across the borders of Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo, golden monkeys number just 4,000. Unlike mountain gorillas, however, they tend to stay put, meaning treks to find them within Mgahinga National Park’s swathes of bamboo are relatively straightforward, if somewhat strenuous on the thighs. Permits cost $90 (£68), with visitors allowed an hour with the habituated groups. Learn all about coffee while being pampered at KyamburaRenovated in 2018, Kyambura Gorge Lodge is one of Uganda’s hottest luxury hotels, with just eight standalone “bandas”, or houses, offering sweeping savannah views over Queen Elizabeth National Park and the newly protected gorge. While its spa and pool make for the ultimate rest stop after a day’s wildlife watching, the nearby Omwani Coffee Cooperative is a must-see. Run by 11 local women and their families, the cooperative teaches guests at Kyambura about the coffee making process, and travellers can tour the 100-acre farm before sipping on samples that make Starbucks’ finest taste like cheap instant by comparison. Murchison Falls National ParkSpreading northeast from Lake Albert, Murchison Falls National Park is another gem for wildlife lovers. As well as the largest population of Nile crocodiles in Uganda, there are also elephants and Rothschild’s giraffes. It’s also possible to fish for Nile perch in the raging white waters of the world’s longest river as it crashes into a waterfall. With over 450 different birds, including the rare shoebill stork, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers too. Travel essentials Visiting thereAn eight-night package with Africa Odyssey starts from £7,030, based on two people sharing a room. Includes international flights, internal flights, ground transport, two nights on full board at each of Volcanoes Safaris’ four lodges, plus one gorilla permit and one golden monkey permit.For information about visiting Uganda, see visituganda.com.

  • South Western Railway strike: Thousands of commuters and Ascot racegoers face disruption
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    The Independent

    South Western Railway strike: Thousands of commuters and Ascot racegoers face disruption

    Commuters using Britain’s busiest railway station, London Waterloo, face days of disruption as the latest strike over the role of guards gets under way.From 18 to 22 June, hundreds of trains will be cancelled across the South Western network. The dates coincide with the Royal Ascot racing festival – to which many visitors normally arrive by train.On main lines, services have been sharply reduced.Between Portsmouth and London Waterloo, services are halved, with only one fast and one slow train an hour .On the link to Winchester, Southampton and Bournemouth, only one train an hour will run, with an hourly shuttle from Bournemouth to the end of the line at Weymouth.The Waterloo-Reading line, which serves Ascot, is reduced from three to two hourly trains. But South Western Railway says: “Additional train services will be in operation if you are travelling to Royal Ascot. “Queueing systems will be in place at some stations during this event, so it may take extra time to board your train. “We recommend you check your journey before travelling and leave plenty of time to complete your journey.”Many branch lines will have no trains at all, with bus replacement services on some, but not all, routes.Trains between Southampton Central and Portsmouth are being cut to one train every two hours, with a change at Fratton required. South Western Railway says: "Due to the nature of industrial action, please note that last minute changes may still occur. You are advised to check again before you travel.”Members of the RMT union working as guards and drivers for South Western Railway are taking industrial action because, say officials, “heel-dragging” in talks over driver-only operation.A protracted series of strikes came to an end in February with a general agreement, says the union, that “each passenger train shall operate with a guard with safety critical competencies.”The RMT general secretary, Mick Cash, said: “For more than three months we have sought to negotiate a conclusion to this dispute and it is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been signed off. “That situation has been compounded by an insistence that future operational models will be governed by the protection of company profits and not the safety of the travelling public.”A South Western Railway spokesperson said: “Clearly, they have decided to target popular events such as Royal Ascot with this cynical action which is driven by internal RMT politics.”The RMT has always said it wanted us to keep the guard on every train which is what we have offered as part of a framework agreement. We want to move the conversation on to how we operate our new trains and take advantage of the new technology on board to benefit our customers.“Fans attending events at Twickenham, Hampton Court, Royal Ascot, and elsewhere, are advised to allow extra time for their travel.”Stormy weather could also affect South Western Railway services. The train operator says: “A band of stormy weather will cross areas of our network bringing some rain and potential thunder storms in the evening.“The Hampshire region is predicted to be most affected, with the weather pushing from an easterly direction, and the worst of the storms taking place between 8 and 9pm.”

  • South Western Railway strike: When is it and which services are affected?
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    The Independent

    South Western Railway strike: When is it and which services are affected?

    Passengers face disruption this week as South Western Railway (SWR) workers walk out for five days from today, 18 June, in a long-running dispute about guards on trains.The strike has been called by the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).Thousands of commuters as well as Royal Ascot racegoers will be affected.Here is everything you need to know about the strike. When is the strike?RMT has instructed all guards and drivers working for SWR to walk out between 00.01 and 23.59 from 18 to 22 June – five days in total.South Western Railway runs services from London Waterloo to destinations in Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire.A reduced service will run on South Western Railway from tomorrow until 23 June. Some routes will not have any trains, nor run a rail replacement service. What is the strike about?The row focuses on the role of guards. The union wants the rail operator to guarantee the role of guards onboard its trains.The strike is the latest in a series for South Western Railway. There were previous strikes last Christmas, as well as in February and March.RMT general secretary Mick Cash said: “Our members are angry and frustrated that despite suspending action in good faith, and entering into talks in a positive and constructive manner, South Western Railway have dragged their heels and failed to bolt down an agreement that matches up top our expectations on the guard guarantee.“For more than three months we have sought to negotiate a conclusion to this dispute and it is wholly down to the management side that the core issue of the safety critical competencies and the role of the guard has not been signed off. It is because of that crucial failure by SWR that we have had no option but to lift the suspension and move back into strike action.” Which SWR services are affected?A reduced service will run between Basingstoke, Alton and Woking and London Waterloo.A reduced service will run between Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier.An hourly service will run between Salisbury and London Waterloo. A reduced service will run between Salisbury and Exeter, but trains will not stop at all stations.No trains will run between Salisbury and Bristol Temple Meads. Customers should use Great Western Railways instead.A reduced service will run between Aldershot and Ascot every 70 minutes. There will be no service between Aldershot and Guildford.A reduced service will run between Portsmouth Harbour and London Waterloo via Guildford, with two trains an hour – one fast and one slow. Trains between London Waterloo and Haslemere will not run.Trains will run between Southampton Central and Fratton every two hours. Change at Fratton for services to Southampton.Trains will run hourly between Portsmouth and Southsea and Winchester. Change at Winchester for services to London Waterloo.Trains will run every 30 minutes between London Waterloo and Epsom, with no service between Leatherhead and Dorking. A bus replacement service will run between Effingham Junction and Epsom.An hourly service will run between Surbiton and Guildford via Cobham.Replacement buses will run every half-hour between Hampton Court and Surbiton.A reduced service will run between Chessington South and London Waterloo until 19.00.No trains will run between Shepperton and London Waterloo. Replacement buses will serve some stations.A half-hourly service will run between London Waterloo and Windsor & Eton Riverside.Two trains an hour will run between London Waterloo and Reading.No trains will run between London Waterloo and Weybridge via Staines. Change at Virginia Water for a replacement bus service.A reduced service will run between London Waterloo and Weymouth. There will be hourly fast trains from London Waterloo to Bournemouth, and an hourly train shuttle service between Bournemouth and Weymouth.No trains will run between London Waterloo and Poole.No trains will run from Salisbury to Romsey via Southampton Central.SWR advises passengers to check the website for updated information on the strike. Which services are unaffected?A normal service will run on the circular route between London Waterloo and London Waterloo via Strawberry Hill.The Island Line on the Isle of Wight is unaffected. How can I get to Royal Ascot?Ascot is on the line from London Waterloo to Reading, between which there will be two trains an hour. There will be a service between Aldershot and Ascot every 70 minutes between 10.00 and 21.45.Additional trains will be operating to Ascot to help with demand, says SWR.“Queueing systems will be in place at some stations during this event, so it may take extra time to board your train. We recommend you check your journey before travelling and leave plenty of time to complete your journey.” How can I get to Hampton Court?SWR says there will be a “limited train service” operating to Hampton Court for the Hampton Court Palace Music Festival. Again, queueing systems will be in place, and travellers should leave extra time. What does South Western Railway say?An SWR spokesperson said that the new strikes were “disappointing”, and that it was “committed to finding a solution” to the row.“We will do everything we can to keep customers moving during these strikes but would like to apologise for the disruption this unnecessary action will cause.“Passengers are strongly advised to plan their travel in advance as services are likely to be busier than usual because of the strike action. Rail replacement services and ticket acceptance on other bus and rail networks have been organised where possible, whilst fans attending events at Twickenham, Hampton Court, Royal Ascot, and elsewhere, are advised to allow extra time for their travel.“Customers will be able to see amendments to their train services, as currently published on our website, in journey planning systems from tomorrow. Further information on additional main line peak-time services – over and above the amended timetable – will be announced in due course.”

  • Heathrow reveals expansion plans – but could be scuppered at hands of Boris Johnson
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    The Independent

    Heathrow reveals expansion plans – but could be scuppered at hands of Boris Johnson

    Heathrow has revealed detailed plans for a third runway – on the day when the highest profile opponent of expansion moves closer to power.Europe’s biggest airport has outlined its growth trajectory, as well as new measures to reduce emissions.It is beginning a statutory 12-week consultation on the expansion proposals. The results will inform the airport’s “Development Consent Order“ application – planning permission – which is expected to be submitted next year.The masterplan includes a controversial proposal to bring in an 25,000 extra flights a year in advance of a third runway opening.Emma Gilthorpe, Heathrow’s executive director for expansion, said: “Expansion must not come at any cost. That is why we have been working with partners at the airport, in local communities and in government to ensure our plans show how we can grow sustainably and responsibly – with environmental considerations at the heart of expansion.”A year ago, MPs voted to approve the Airports National Policy Statement by 415 to 119.Legal challenges to Heathrow's expansion were rejected by the High Court earlier this year.But Boris Johnson, whose Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is close to Heathrow, pledged in 2015 to prevent the third runway going ahead.He said: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, the campaign group which opposes a third runway, said: “What hits you is the scale of these proposals.“The impact on local people could be severe for many years to come. Disruption from construction; the demolition of homes; the reality of more than 700 extra planes a day.”Responses to the consultation are open until 13 September 2019.

  • Public transport providers must do more to help those with mental health issues, says new report
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    The Independent

    Public transport providers must do more to help those with mental health issues, says new report

    “It takes me a long time, often days, to prepare myself to use public transport,” says one young woman with a mental health condition.“Often the day I need to go, I get sick in the morning.”Hers is one of many examples of the trauma that travelling by train and bus can involve for people battling mental illness, as outlined in a new report. Professor Roger Mackett of the Centre for Transport Studies at University College London conducted an online survey of nearly 400 people with mental health conditions. His conclusion: the transport industry and other passengers must show much more understanding of the needs of anxious travellers.“The report looks at both the difficulties they have when travelling and some ways in which these can be addressed,” said Professor Mackett.Nine out of 10 of the 385 survey respondents suffer anxiety issues. Seven out of 10 experience panic attacks. Two thirds have depression.Over one-third are frequently unable to leave home because of their mental health – and this happens to nearly all of them some of the time.The study says: “The main cause of anxiety when travelling is the attitudes and behaviour of other people, particularly ‘What other people think about me’.”A woman in her thirties explained the distress she feels: “I’m constantly afraid of being laughed at or humiliated by people in public. “In my area, people who most often use public transport are teenage school children who are more likely to say or do something cruel.”A women in her forties said disruption caused particular problems: “High anxiety levels from transport running late and missed connections feed into higher anxiety, which became visually obvious to others, which you can see happening and feeds anxiety more.“No one has ever asked me if I’m OK or can they help. All this increases the anxiety, which by that point is a full-blown panic attack.“I have to get off at the next stop, which is problematic if I don’t know where it is or if I can get from there to where I’m going.” Some respondents called for public education to make other travellers more aware of the effects of mental health problems and appreciate that behaviour is not due to alcohol or drugs.Professor Mackett said: “Members of the public need to understand how they can be empathetic and provide appropriate support and how their actions can have an adverse effect on people with mental health conditions, for example by pushing in crowds.”Shockingly, some fellow passengers exploit the anxiety of travellers with mental health conditions. Another woman in her forties said she has on occasion offered people money to give up their seat for her. “Last time it cost me £30,” she told researchers.The report reveals some serious challenges for the rail industry about how to make travelling easier for people with mental health conditions.Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they cannot buy rail tickets in advance because they do not know how they will feel on the day of travel. Therefore they miss out on the cheapest fares.For older travellers, the proportion who are unable to commit is much higher: nine out of 10.Professor Mackett says: “Train operating companies should enable people who are unable to buy rail tickets in advance because of their mental health condition to be able to purchase tickets on the day at the advance price or postpone their journey to another day.”Dominic Lund-Conlon, head of accessibility and inclusion at the Rail Delivery Group which represents the rail industry, said: “We want everyone to be able to use the railway with confidence.“Alongside our upcoming passenger assist app, we are supporting train operators to create safe and welcoming environments in stations.“The industry is also providing staff with mental health training and train companies are improving services to tackle situations that may cause anxiety for customers.”

  • US visa application: Can you still get an Esta if you've taken drugs?
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    The Independent

    US visa application: Can you still get an Esta if you've taken drugs?

    After a British tourist was banned from entering the US for 10 years over a text referring to taking cocaine, here’s everything you need to know about how previous drug offences could affect your travel plans. What happened?Isabella Brazier-Jones travelled to Los Angeles with her friend in March to embark on a two-month trip, but the pair were stopped by Customs officials who suspected they were planning to overstay their visas.Brazier-Jones, 28, and her companion Olivia Cura, 26, were questioned about their plans and finances. Cura was released after an hour or so, while Brazier-Jones’s bag and phone were seized.Brazier-Jones said she was subjected to a full body search and held in a cell with four other women, an experience she described as “torture”.Meanwhile, officials searched her phone and found a text that suggested she had taken cocaine.The former private chef and aspiring actor admitted to having taken the class A drug in 2017, after which she was deported to the UK and told she was banned from visiting the US for a decade. Why would admitting to drug use lead to deportation?The US regards admission of drug abuse as evidence of “moral turpitude” – a legal concept in the United States and some other countries that refers to “an act or behaviour that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community”. It is no longer grounds for outright exclusion from America, as John Lennon experienced for a time. However, the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (the “online visa” known as Esta) asks applicants whether they have ever taken drugs in the past under the “eligibility” section: “Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?” Answering yes to this question means it is likely the applicant will be denied an Esta.Presuming Ms Brazier-Jones answered “no” to this question, the search of her phone found this assertion to be false, meaning she lied on the form.“Lying on the Esta represents separate grounds of inadmissibility to the USA under the material misrepresentation or fraud provision,” Ioana Hyde, US Immigration Attorney at American Immigration Law Office Ltd, told The Independent. “If this finding is made, then a person subsequently applying for a visa to the USA may well be denied due to misrepresentation or fraud.”Kaitlin Davies, a solicitor with US immigration specialists Davies Legal, adds that Brazier-Jones’s own admission of guilt may have been a factor in the severity of the penalty.“On strict application of the law, social media posts regarding drug use should not be sufficient, in the absence of more evidence,” she said. “Had Ms Brazier not admitted controlled substance use to the interviewing officer, it is possible that the outcome could have been different.“The likely ground on which Ms. Brazier was banned for 10 years, although we cannot be certain, would relate to misrepresentation of her prior ‘violation [of] any law related to possessing [and/or] using... illegal drugs’.“Misrepresentation and fraud often form the basis of lengthy bans.” What happens if I lie on my Esta application?Nacro (previously the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders) provides an answer on its survey about declaring a criminal record when travelling abroad:“If I lie on the Esta form, will I be found out?”“The short answer is: probably not. The US authorities do not have access to criminal record information held on the Police National Computer. However, if the authorities have particular concerns about an individual, they may request criminal record information from the Home Office by making an application through Interpol. Such requests, however, are rare.”However, since 2018 US border agents have had the authority to seize and search individuals’ phones and electronic devices “without probable cause” – ie they don’t need to provide a reason for doing so. Refusing to hand it over along with your password could mean you’re denied entry to the country regardless.In Ms Brazier-Jones’s case, they found reference to previous drug taking, which along with her admission of guilt was enough to bar her from the country for a decade.Kaitlin Davies says that those who have previously taken drugs should consult an immigration lawyer before applying for a US visa. “It is notable that even if an applicant has previously used or abused substances, and is therefore deemed ineligible to travel on Esta, they may still successfully apply for a B-1/B-2 Temporary Visitor visa, as we do for hundreds of clients, some with extensive drug use and/or convictions,” she said. Should I delete incriminating pictures or messages from my phone?Experts advise checking what information is stored on your phone and electronic devices prior to travel.Ioana Hyde says: “In recent times, I have spoken to individuals who ran into difficulties at the US border after being sent images through WhatsApp or similar messaging apps where images received from others are automatically downloaded and stored on the device without the user’s specific intent to save a photo.“The photo showed possible drug use or other potentially illegal activities which in turn resulted in difficulties to the applicant for entry into the USA, including in the worst case being summarily removed which then carries a five-year bar from entering the USA unless a waiver (additional permissions) can be secured.”Davies also recommends reviewing your social media before travelling to the US. “Anything, drug-related or otherwise, including expressions of ‘moving to the US’ or the previous famous example of a British citizen writing about ‘destroying the US’ in colloquial terms, may cause problems at the border,” she says. “In the current climate, applicants should be mindful that posts and photographs can be misinterpreted.”

  • Couple spend night in car when they find their holiday apartment shut
    Style
    The Independent

    Couple spend night in car when they find their holiday apartment shut

    A couple in their sixties spent the first night of their holiday in Sardinia sleeping in a car beside a beach.Georgina Lewis and Derek Nicholls, from Shropshire, booked a trip to the Italian island with the online travel agent Loveholidays.The couple arrived at Olbia on schedule at 7.45pm on 2 May. They picked up a rental car and arrived an hour later at their booked apartment – only to find a notice saying the reception was closed from 8pm to 9.30am the following morning.Ms Lewis, former director of Wolverhampton Swimming School, said: “We rang the emergency number on the door but got no answer.“We then called the Loveholidays emergency number a couple of times but were told they could not contact anyone.”The company disputes this version of events, saying that Loveholidays was alerted to the issue just before 10pm. An agent contacted the service provider, a “bed bank” called HotelBeds, and called the couple back at 10.15pm to advise that a solution was being sought.Loveholidays said the couple were called again shortly before midnight and were advised to check into an adjacent apartment complex. “The customer advised that they were also going to look for their own accommodation for the evening and we didn’t hear anything back from them,” said the company.Loveholidays also says that a member of its staff made another call at 3.16am “to check on them and advising them to check in to the alternative accommodation for the night but they said they opted to sleep in the car”.Ms Lewis told The Independent: “We were miles from anywhere and all the hotels were shut. There was nowhere open.”The couple parked their small Fiat rental car close to the beach, and tried to sleep. The next morning they returned to the booked apartment only to find that major building work was going on, with pneumatic drills being used.Ms Lewis said: “The lady on reception said that they were not open properly till June.”Eventually, they say, Loveholidays called with a new accommodation option at 4.30pm on day two. They declined it because by then they had made their own arrangements.The company said: “We did not have the opportunity to offer alternative accommodation, at this time, as they advised that they had already checked out and booked alternative accommodation themselves.”Under the Package Travel Regulations, Loveholidays is responsible for delivering the booked holiday – or making suitable alternatives available. The travel firm told the couple on their holiday confirmation: “We do not create or organise package holidays.”But it told The Independent: “Loveholidays can confirm that this booking is covered by the Package Travel Regulations.Regarding the original problem of the apartment complex being closed, the firm said: ”The complaint has been logged and is being investigated with the accommodation supplier.”Loveholidays said: “We will be in touch with Mr Nicholls shortly to find a way to resolve this issue to his satisfaction.”The couple say they were initially offered £15 in compensation, which then rose to £20.

  • Loss-making bus firm 'pauses' operations amid funding search
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    The Independent

    Loss-making bus firm 'pauses' operations amid funding search

    Snap, an innovative intercity bus operator, has announced a “temporary pause in operations” while talks with its backers continue.The business model involves using spare capacity from local coach companies to run long-distance services, mainly to and from London.Its slogan promises a trip from “A to B like a VIP” for fares as low as £5, with demand aggregated and trips operated only when there are enough passengers.Passengers register their interest in travelling on a particular route on a specific date on their smartphones.Since Snap began running coaches between Nottingham and London in 2016, it has carried 220,000 passengers.At the end of service on Monday 17 June, services will stop and booked passengers will be given full refunds.The firm’s founder and chief executive, Thomas Ableman, said he hoped operations would resume in SeptemberSince its launch in October 2016, Snap has been financed by venture capital funding markets.It raised additional funds in September 2017. Another investment round, which began in January 2019, has not yet closed.While some individual routes have been “cash positive”, Snap is loss-making as a whole.Mr Ableman said: ”This is not an unusual model for businesses such as Snap that have a central tech development overhead.”“Despite strong support from our largest investor, we still need to close a deal with new co-investors to ensure we have sufficient growth capital for future cities.“Many businesses at this stage would keep quiet, carry on fundraising in the background and not reveal there was a problem until they went bust. That is not the kind of company I have set out to lead.“All our operators will receive full payment for trips run and will be offered payment equal to the profits they would have earned for future contracted trips.”It faced competition from established coach operators, Megabus and National Express, as well as the railways.

  • Java Jazz Festival: Inside Jakarta’s jazz scene, the coolest in southeast Asia
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    The Independent

    Java Jazz Festival: Inside Jakarta’s jazz scene, the coolest in southeast Asia

    I’m standing in a hot, cramped toilet cubicle in Jakarta while a man I’ve just met fiddles with something behind the toilet cistern. Seconds later, the entire back wall swings open and I step into Jakarta’s most popular jazz club.Prohibition Asia is a speakeasy that looks, feels and smells (you can smoke in bars here, and cigars are the indulgence of choice) like a bar Sinatra might have propped up in his heyday. One wall has been covered with a mural depicting a pistol-toting, fedora-wearing wise guy, and the bare bulbs dangling above the bar, while leather seats and backdrop of artfully exposed brickwork give the room a golden glow. “We’re going for a 1920s vibe,” says wonderfully dapper food and beverage manager Kenny Riyanto. “This includes the drinks – we’ve got lots of prohibition-era cocktails, such as negronis.”I'm in town for Jakarta’s Java Jazz Festival – an odd concept for a country more famous for its beach parties. But jazz is huge in Indonesia, and the festival celebrated its 15th anniversary this year. The majority of Asia’s best jazz musicians hail from Indonesia. Take Joey Alexander, an Indonesian pianist whose album topped the global jazz charts within a week of its release in 2015 (Joey was 11 at the time), or the late Bubi Chen, regarded as the godfather of Indonesian jazz. He honed his craft with the help of a two-year stint in America under the tutelage of pianist Teddy Wilson, who regularly accompanied Billie Holiday. Why Indonesia? There are various theories. Many claim better access to the internet (Indonesia has always had strict laws relating to censorship of online content) has exposed Indonesian music fans to a wider range of genres than ever before. “We’ve got 34 provinces and each one has its own music style,” says Anwar Sani, whose jazz band is topping the bill at Prohibition Asia tonight. “Indonesians love music, whether it’s blues, rock’n’roll or jazz.”Anwar’s favourite jazz musician is the late Chet Baker, but we bond over a shared love of Brit pop band Suede, while manager Kenny reveals a soft spot for punk band Rancid. Similarly, the packed line up at Java Jazz – there are 11 stages – is nothing if not diverse. Jamie Cullum, Dionne Warwick and Joss Stone have all headlined. But so have Sting and the Goo Goo Dolls – a reminder that organisers are all too aware that tickets to jazz events sell quicker when there’s a more mainstream name chucked into the mix. It’s a tactic used by Prohibition Asia, too, although Kenny admits he gets frustrated with certain requests. “The most common ones are Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars,” he groans. It’s a careful balancing act. “We have to compromise,” admits Anwar. “We’ll play Bruno Mars if someone requests it, but we’ll mix it up by playing a funked-up or acid jazz version.”Over at the festival site, The Soul Rebels are taking to the stage. This New Orleans-based brass ensemble are known for their mix of jazz, blues and funk, and they’ve collaborated with everyone from Metallica to Green Day and Snoop Dog. Their set is brilliant, and includes jazzed-up versions of hits such as Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” and The Outhere Brothers’ “Boom Boom Boom”. They’ve played here before and know how to work the audience perfectly, at one point getting them to side-step back and forth in perfect unison. “It always feels like the first show here – the energy’s always amazing,” says snare drummer Lumar Leblanc backstage. “There’s so much appreciation – perhaps because they don’t get as many opportunities to see bands like ours perform live.”Side-stepping neatly back and forth might sound like a strange way to show appreciation, but less so here. Audiences seem more polite and orderly. Maybe it’s the lack of alcohol – Indonesia is a Muslim country, and although alcohol’s available, festival-goers’ beverage of choice seems to be drinks produced by the sponsors. Polystyrene plates of spicy rendang are typically washed down with iced tea from Teh Botol, and milk drinks from Indomilk. Later that evening, I head to one of the largest stages to watch Grammy-nominated jazz singer Gretchen Parlato (daughter of Dave Parlato, Frank Zappa’s bassist). Thousands of people fill the venue, although most are sitting cross-legged on the floor in neat lines. I can’t help but feel it must be slightly unnerving for foreign artists. Barring The Soul Rebels, who’ve played here before, the Indonesian acts seem much better at working the audience. The brilliant Saxx in the City, Indonesia’s top saxophone act, are a case in point. “Indonesian fans are slightly more passive,” admits the band’s Nicky Manuputty. “They’ll sit and listen, but in their hearts they’re going absolutely crazy!”And never more so than on the festival’s final night, when I head to the main stage to see American soft rock band Toto strut their stuff. They might not appeal to the thousands of hardcore jazz fans who’ve come to the festival, but for others, they’re the main event, and as a result, thousands more Indonesians have been introduced to the wonderful world of jazz. And there’s something rather surreal – and quite cool – about being in the front row of a Jakartan jazz festival, watching thousands of Indonesians go absolutely bezerk as Toto belts out “Rosanna” – albeit a jazzed-up version. The entire audience seems to know every song, word for word. This includes the beautiful hijab-wearing woman next to me, who’s happily head-banging away. The late, great Bubi Chen would be proud. Travel essentials Getting thereBritish Airways flies from London Heathrow to Singapore from £447 return. Air Asia flies from Singapore to Jakarta from around £100 return. Staying there Double rooms at the recently opened Alila Jakarta from £185, B&B. More informationindonesia.travel

  • easyJet passengers at Stansted warned of 'severe disruption' if strike goes ahead this summer
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    The Independent

    easyJet passengers at Stansted warned of 'severe disruption' if strike goes ahead this summer

    The union representing easyJet check-in staff at Stansted airport has warned of “severe delays” this summer if workers vote for industrial action next month.If a strike were to go ahead, it could coincide with the main school summer holidays. But the airline says a strike would have “no effect”.Unite represents 38 passenger service agents employed by Stobart Aviation Services Ltd, which has the easyJet contract at the Essex airport.The union’s regional officer, Mark Barter, said: “While workers employed by other companies at Stansted are being paid up to 20 per cent more for doing the same job, our Stobart members work unpaid overtime, experience staffing issues and lack of basics, such as drinking water, during their long shifts.“It is no wonder there is a massive turnover of staff at Stobart Aviation Services, as they feel undervalued and are paid dismally.“If our members working on the easyJet contract vote to strike, this will cause severe disruption for the airline’s passengers trying to check-in for their summer holidays.”The ballot closes on Tuesday 2 July, but Stobart has now agreed to meet the union on Thursday 20 June.A spokesperson for airline said: “easyJet is aware of the proposed ballot on industrial action by Unite for check in staff at London Stansted Airport.“If industrial action is confirmed we will have contingency plans in place so that there would be no impact on our passengers.”At Glasgow airport, members of the Unite union are planning five four-hour strikes up to the end of June: on Friday 21 June, 8.30am-2.30pm; on Monday 24 June, 6-10am; Wednesday 26 June, 10am-2pm; Friday 28 June, 9.30am-1.30pm; Sunday 30 June, 5-9pm.Security offices, firefighters, operations officers and engineering technicians are involved in a dispute over pay and pensions.In addition, staff at Aberdeen airport – which is owned by the same company as Glasgow – are striking on the same issues on 27 and 28 June, both 6-10am.

  • British tourist barred from entering US for 10 years over cocaine text
    Style
    The Independent

    British tourist barred from entering US for 10 years over cocaine text

    A British tourist has been barred from entering the US for 10 years after a reference to taking cocaine was found on her mobile phone.Isabella Brazier-Jones travelled to Los Angeles with her friend in March to embark on a two-month trip, but the pair were stopped by Customs officials who suspected they were planning to overstay their visas.Brazier-Jones, 28, and her companion Olivia Cura, 26, were questioned about their plans and finances. Cura was released after an hour or so, while Brazier-Jones’s bag and phone were seized, reports The Sun.Brazier-Jones said she was subjected to a full body search and held in a cell with four other women, an experience she described as “torture”.Meanwhile, officials searched her phone and found a text that suggested she had taken cocaine.The former private chef and aspiring actress admitted to having taken the class A drug in 2017, after which she was deported to the UK and told she was banned from visiting the US for a decade.> NewProfilePic headshot pic.twitter.com/XF7z1sE2Hy> > — Issy Brazier-Jones (@IBrazierJones) > > October 4, 2017While Cura was told she could stay in the States, she opted to fly home with her friend instead.The pair, both from west London, had quit their jobs to embark upon the holiday of a lifetime, which had cost them £3,500 in total for flights, accommodation and car hire.Brazier-Jones had also redecorated her flat and rented it out in preparation.She accused American officials of taking against her as a “posh, white, blonde girl” and said she’d been “terrified”.The story comes after several Conservative leadership candidates admitted to taking drugs.Michael Gove and Boris Johnson have both admitted to taking cocaine in the past, Dominic Raab and Jeremy Hunt said they’d tried cannabis and Rory Stewart claimed he’d smoked opium at an Iranian wedding.

  • Snake stows away in man’s bag on Florida-Hawaii flight
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    The Independent

    Snake stows away in man’s bag on Florida-Hawaii flight

    A man accidentally carried a snake onboard a flight from Florida to Hawaii.The 20-year-old passenger only discovered the reptile had stowed away in his bag when it slithered out of his rucksack once he’d arrived at a holiday rental property in Pukalani, Maui.About 30cm long and 63mm in diameter, the black racer snake was non-venomous, according to the US Department of Agriculture.However, snakes are illegal in Hawaii as they have no natural predators and pose a threat to indigenous species.The Virginia resident said he did not intentionally bring the snake into the island state, reported KGMB-TV.The owner of the rental property where the reptile was discovered quickly alerted police, who worked with the Department of Land and Natural Resources to catch it.“It is fortunate that the owner of the rental was aware of the seriousness of the snake being transported to Hawaii and took appropriate action and reported it,” said Phyllis Shimabukuro-Geiser, chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.The snake will now be transported to Oahu.Knowingly smuggling an illegal pet into Hawaii is a felony carrying a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $200,000 fine.It’s not the first reported case of snakes on a plane.In February, a woman who opened her suitcase after flying home to Scotland from Australia was shocked to discover a snake hiding inside one of her shoes.Moira Boxall realised the spotted python had made the almost 10,000 mile journey from Queensland to Glasgow with her when she found it curled up in a slip-on sandal.

  • Boeing 737 Max: Ethiopian Airlines boss rejects US blame on pilots
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    The Independent

    Boeing 737 Max: Ethiopian Airlines boss rejects US blame on pilots

    The boss of Ethiopian Airlines has rejected American accusations that pilots were partly to blame for the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 Max.Flight ET302 crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa on a journey to Nairobi on 10 March 2019. All 157 people died when the plane plunged into the ground;The anti-stall system known as MCAS has been implicated. In some circumstances it forces the nose of the aircraft down. The system was triggered by a faulty sensor and defeated the pilots’ efforts to override it.It was the second Boeing 737 Max to crash in five months; in October 2018 a Lion Air aircraft was lost in similar circumstances soon after it left Jakarta airport in Indonesia, with 189 deaths.The preliminary report into the Ethiopian Airlines crash said that the pilots followed the correct procedures.But on 16 May Congressman Sam Graves, himself a pilot, told lawmakers that pilot error was a factor in both crashes.“Airlines have to make sure their pilots are sufficiently trained and experienced.“Pilots trained in the United States would have successfully been able to handle this situation.”But Tewolde GebreMariam, chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, told the BBC: “The whole world knows the standards of Ethiopian Airlines and they know what happened.“That’s why we have not seen any significant impact on our business. Our traffic crew by 7 per cent in March [the month of the crash], by another 10 per cent in April, the same in May. Our flights are full.“Why on earth have they grounded 380 aircraft all over the world? The facts speak to themselves.”The planemaker has acknowledged that there were flaws in the anti-stall software. It said: “Boeing engineers and test pilots are working closely with the Federal Aviation Administration and international regulatory authorities to develop, test and certify updates to the 737 Max to help ensure MCAS never contributes to an accident again.”The worldwide grounding that followed the Ethiopian Airlines crash is expected to continue for several months.Airlines including Ryanair, TUI Airways and Norwegian are facing problems covering for the gaps in their fleets caused by the absence of the Boeing 737 Max. Congressman Graves also claimed: “The US aviation system is the world’s safest.”In fact, Ireland and the UK are the domains for the world’s safest airlines, Ryanair and easyJet.

  • Beirut now has a bus tour and even more European tourists
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    The Independent

    Beirut now has a bus tour and even more European tourists

    Beirut has launched a hop-on/hop-off bus tour service as the Lebanese capital experiences huge visitor growth.The number of tourists heading to Beirut has always risen and fallen depending on the political situation in the country.The 1960s was remembered as a golden age for tourism in Lebanon, and Beirut was often called the “Paris of the Middle East”; a playground for the rich and famous. But that was brought to an abrupt halt when civil war broke out in 1975. Then after years of steady recovery, and record numbers in 2010, a war in neighbouring Syria in 2011 hit the industry again.A diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia led to the Kingdom banning its citizens from visiting Lebanon for more than a year from 2017, dealing another blow. But according to recent numbers, tourists are flocking to Beirut again.Nearly two million came in 2018, with Europeans and Americans accounting for more than half of that number.The Lebanese government has spent the past few years trying to diversify the industry to attract tourists from beyond the Gulf, and it appears to be working. It perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise then that the city now has its own hop-on/hop-off bus tour. Three double-decker City Sightseeing buses now prowl the city throughout the day, navigating Beirut’s notoriously traffic-ridden roads.Josh Eyre, visiting from London, is among the handful of tourists on board the bus on Friday. “I’m really enjoying it. It reminds me a bit of Tbilisi. Lots of snazzy new buildings up against lots of different architectural styles, historically. It’s an important cultural crossroads.” The tour takes in several cultural sites, including Lebanon’s national museum and the Mim Museum, home to one of the largest collections of minerals in the world.From the bus, you’ll see Roman ruins, churches and mosques, the city’s famous Pigeon Rocks and three malls. It lasts for two hours, when the traffic allows.“Beirut has 5,000 years of history. It has been rebuilt several times after earthquakes and wars, so there are so many hidden treasures in Beirut and we have to show them to the world,” says Viviane Nasr, who brought the franchise to the city.The buses were shipped from China, and the tours were launched last month, taking a loop around the edge of the city.Nasr hopes Beirut is starting to overcome the image troubles that have plagued it in the past.“Unfortunately, the media is very negative about Beirut. They think maybe Beirut is not safe.“But everyone who is coming here is having a lot of fun. And now they know this is a safe country,” she says.

  • Extinction Rebellion postpones Heathrow flight disruption plans for the summer – but will use drones to close terminals for weeks
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    The Independent

    Extinction Rebellion postpones Heathrow flight disruption plans for the summer – but will use drones to close terminals for weeks

    Environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion has postponed its plan to halt flights at Heathrow for the summer – but has vowed to use drones to close the airport for a minimum of 16 days.The climate-change activists had initially planned to fly a swarm of drones in the Heathrow area on Tuesday 18 June and then from 1 to 10 July, unless the government met its demands.The Gatwick airport executive who handled the pre-Christmas closure caused by an unauthorised drone called on Extinction Rebellion to cancel its protest, and the Metropolitan Police warned that anyone endangering flights would face a life sentence.The organisation called accusations that Extinction Rebellion was willing to endanger life “a depressing and predictable smear”.It now says: “Extinction Rebellion will not be carrying out any actions at Heathrow airport in June or July this year, aimed at causing disruption to holidaymakers and those planning to use the airport in this period.“The Heathrow airport authorities will therefore not have to pause any summer flights.”But it has revealed plans to shut the airport for at least 16 days: “This action involves peacefully and openly flying drones at head height within the 5km exclusion zone around Heathrow as the airport authority will then stop all flights until the drone flying is stopped. There is nothing violent about flying drones when there are no flights in the air as it is perfectly safe. We are there first. The responsibility is with the airport authority to not initiate flights.”The airport is due to release details of its “master plan” for a third runway on 18 June.The group says: “The Heathrow third runway expansion is a grotesque violation of UK parliament’s recent declaration of the climate and environmental emergency. Government inaction compels us to act. This Heathrow action proposal opens up unique and major strategic possibilities. The peaceful use of drones leads to the closure of the airport.“No other tactic can create such decisive economic disruption with the same reliability while being completely safe.”Extinction Rebellion appears confident that it can close the busiest airport in Europe for a minimum of 16 days, disrupting the travel plans of at least 3.5 million passengers. It plans to give two months’ notice of the start date of the action to the airport – allowing Heathrow “to safely plan the closure of the airport for the duration of the action”. The group says the advance warning will give passengers “sufficient time to seek alternative travel arrangements.”A group of 415 protesters will be rostered to fly the drones, with around 30 acting each day.Extinction Rebellion suggests: “Drones can be painted pink, given names and personalised, etc.”The protesters say that on the day they will give at least one hour’s advance notice of the start of drone flights.“Drone use would start early in the morning (3am) before most night flights, which run 4.30-6am, and scheduled flights, which run from 6am-11.30pm. Whatever their prior announcement approach, they won’t initiate flights knowing drones are already in the air. Drone users would fly drones at regular intervals in order for there to be continual drone flights during the whole day to ensure no aircraft flights could take place.”The organisers would set up a hotline to enable drone activity to cease in the event of an emergency. Extinction Rebellion says the protesters would call the police after their drone use was completed for the day and wait to be arrested.The group says: “Those coming from white and middle class backgrounds will likely have different/better experiences of the criminal justice system, as compared to people of colour and of lower socio-economic status.”It adds: “There could also be more disruptive activities to help keep Heathrow closed such as swarming, roadblocks and occupations.”Laurence Taylor, deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police said last week: “We are determined to play our part in keeping the airspace over London’s airports safe for the thousands of planes flying in and out every week. I want to be absolutely clear that anyone caught illegally using a drone can expect to be dealt with in line with the law.“The airport is part of our national infrastructure, and we will not allow the illegal activity of protestors to cause disruption and misery to thousands.”Boris Johnson, whose Uxbridge and South Ruislip constituency is close to Heathrow, pledged in 2015 to prevent the third runway going ahead. He said: “I will lie down with you in front of those bulldozers and stop the building, stop the construction of that third runway.”He is frontrunner to become prime minister. But cancelling the project would go against the government’s preferred option for expansion – and a large parliamentary majority in favour of the third runway.

  • 10 Best Destinations for Budget Travellers
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    Gaurav Areng

    10 Best Destinations for Budget Travellers

    Travel has come a long way from merely being a hobby to a way for life. And, if you come back from a vacation thinking what next? Then, every penny counts in making a smart decision. There are a few international destinations you can fly to without burning a hole in the pocket. Below is a list of 10 places you can consider for your next travel.

  • London to Cardiff train journey time could be cut by 15 minutes if new operator's plan goes through
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    The Independent

    London to Cardiff train journey time could be cut by 15 minutes if new operator's plan goes through

    Faster trains between Cardiff, Bristol Parkway and London could arrive next year – if a new train operator can overcome opposition to its plan.Grand Union has applied to run hourly trains between Cardiff and London, cutting the current journey time of around two hours to one hour 45 minutes.GWR currently has a monopoly on the route, and is planning timetable improvements from December 2019.On its application to the Office of Rail and Road, Grand Union says that the first train of the day would depart from Cardiff Central at 6.35am, arriving at London Paddington at 8.20am. The corresponding existing train on GWR leaves nine minutes earlier and arrives 12 minutes later. Grand Union says passengers will be able to buy tickets on the train, and anyone without a seat will get a 50 per cent refund.Grand Union says the time saving would come about by cutting out stops at Swindon and Reading. But trains would still call at Newport, and at Severn Tunnel Junction.The plan is to use old electric trains displaced from the East Coast main line by new “Intercity Express Trains”.The older trains have a driving van trailer (DVT) which is expected to be used for urgent freight. “This may also include refrigerated space for the rapid movement of NHS biological items,” says Grand Union.But the Department for Transport (DfT) has argued strongly against the plan, saying its is “highly likely that the service will abstract considerable revenue from franchised services” connecting Bristol and Cardiff with London. The DfT also criticised the planned rolling stock, hauled by Class 91 locomotives, because of its “relatively poor acceleration characteristics”.It says: “Any decline in performance on the line as a result of the proposed service could have consequent implications for the revenue and economic stability of franchised services.”There are also concerns that passengers from further west in Wales will add to crowding on local trains if they decide to change trains at Cardiff to save money.Grand Union says: “The Welsh Government supports the proposal and has forwarded a letter of support to a number of institutions.”Transport for Wales has applied to run competing trains on another GWR route, connecting Swansea, Cardiff and Newport with Bristol Temple Meads.A GWR spokesperson said: “Working with our partners we have transformed services on the Great Western network over the last two years with the introduction of brand new Intercity Express trains enabling a 25% increase in seat numbers, with better punctuality and reliability.“Our new timetable in December will improve on that even further, with faster services with more seats providing 30 per cent more high speed services than we do today.“In that context, Grand Union’s current proposals seem disappointing, with the 1980s-era 225s offering no real journey time savings for customers, and significantly fewer seats than GWR’s brand new Intercity Express Trains will already be providing. GWR will have been offering three peak trains an hour from Cardiff to London for over a year. Grand Union’s announcement follows a demand by Virgin Trains to run trains on the West Coast main line between London Euston and Liverpool.Sir Richard Branson’s train operator has been disqualified from continuing its franchise after 2020.The Office of Rail and Road says: “We ensure the passenger and freight train operating companies have fair access to the rail network – and that best use is made of capacity.”

  • Why waiting to book your flights could save you money
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    The Independent

    Why waiting to book your flights could save you money

    Two weeks ago I wrote about how difficult it is, in the world of fluid pricing, to predict the best time to buy a plane ticket.I wrote that the standard model for air fares involves pricing starting relatively low and gradually increasing towards the departure date.But a respected former colleague of mine contacted me to provide an example of the worst time to book a plane ticket. He is heading for Preveza in northwest Greece later this month, and in January booked a return flight from Gatwick. “I have always made my bookings for summer holidays several months in advance,” he writes. He is fully aware that this strategy buys the confidence that a seat is secured, but involves the risk of paying more than necessary. Airlines sometimes take advantage of this, selling early on at a high price to people who need to lock in to specific dates. The fare he paid to easyJet was over £700 per person return.Last week, however, a friend decided to join the party and made bookings for the same flights. Their fare was less than £220.He is understandably furious. He has paid more than the cost of a flight from London to Sydney and back for a three-hour round trip to Greece.Until a few years ago, easyJet maintained a “price promise” which allowed passengers to recover the difference (in the shape of a credit for future travel) when fares fell between the time of booking and departure. In my limited experience, it worked well – even though it did not apply to “seat sales”, when the airline deepened its discount.The airline dropped the option for everyone else, presumably because extracting profit is more important to it than the risk of impairing customer relations.The price promise still prevails for members of its invitation-only Flight Club and paid-for easyJet Plus scheme. The latter, costing £215 for a year, would certainly have been a worthwhile investment – and if you are facing high fares that you suspect will fall, you might want to sign up.Even if the fare doesn’t fall, easyJet Plus brings added benefits: dedicated desks and fast-track security at some airports, free allocated seating, an extra carry-on bag. In addition, there is another perk that used to be given for free to everyone: the right to take an earlier return flight on the same day if space is available.But infrequent easyJet passengers will regard paying an additional £215 as an expensive form of insurance against steep price drops.So what is the best alternative strategy for the many people who find themselves in the same position: wanting certainty that the flights are booked, but being understandably concerned that they will pay too much?It involves easing that red line on needing certainty. If the fare looks uncomfortably high, be prepared to tolerate some risk that you may have a longer journey to reach your final destination. Then just wait, with the help of an easy-to-set-up Skyscanner price alert, until the fare falls to a more acceptable level.Airline vs passenger is a game of cat and mouse. Just don’t blink.And if it doesn’t work out? With a month to go, opt for plan B. As a last resort you know you will be able to travel to Athens, Corfu or Thessaloniki at more agreeable fare. Flights are much more plentiful and therefore not subject to wild swings in price, and competition keeps a lid on extremely high fares.Travel terrestrially from wherever you touch down. Buses, trains and ferries in Greece are all part of the adventure. And as you gaze out across the scenery of northern Greece, be comforted that you are conserving cash for the important business of indulgent travel.

  • 8 of the best Cornwall spa hotels
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    The Independent

    8 of the best Cornwall spa hotels

    There are some activities that are simply obligatory when you visit Cornwall. Lounging around on the beach. Rockpooling. Dipping at least one toe into the Atlantic. Eating a pasty. Driving around for hours trying to find the last car-parking space in St Ives. Getting lost on a back lane because you ignored all the warnings about not relying on the satnav, and then finding you have to reverse for a mile when you meet an oncoming tractor, which then knocks off your wing-mirror as it trundles past by way of thanks. Ah, Cornwall.But there’s one way of winding down from the holiday stress, and that’s to book a hotel with a decent spa. There are some absolute beauties to choose from, with treatments ranging from hot stone massages to full-body mud masques. Some benefit from sweeping beach views, while others are hidden away in the deepest Cornish countryside, but all offer an experience you’ll want to return to again and again. Best for luxury: Scarlet Hotel Neighbourhood: Mawgan Porth, near Newquay​If it’s no-holds-barred pampering you’re looking for, it’s hard to top this north-coast wonder, located on an unparalleled cliff top above the beach at Mawgan Porth. Everything about the place feels like a shamelessly decadent spoil – from the lantern-lit, tented treatment rooms, to the infinity pool that seems to reach right out into the blue Atlantic. The design is studious minimalism: sharp lines, soft lighting and plate glass, with cocoon-shaped relaxation pods and swoopy steam-bent chairs to chill in. There’s a hammam for steam baths and rhassoul for mud treatments, and outside, cedar-clad hot tubs where you can soothe your bones with a glass of fizz overlooking the sea, as well as a bracingly cold “wild pool” for masochists. Factor in sleek bedrooms and an excellent sea-view restaurant, and overall, the Scarlet really is a bit of a stunner.Day spa from £175 per person, two-night spa breaks from £417.50 per person scarlethotel.co.uk Best for families: Bedruthan Hotel and Spa Neighbourhood: Bedruthan Steps, near NewquaySister hotel to the Scarlet, the Bedruthan’s focus is on families, so while you check in for treatment at the spa, you can relax in the knowledge that the kids are off for an afternoon of surf lessons, coasteering, screen-printing workshops and other engaging activities. The vibe is more easy-going here: staff are chatty and relaxed, treatment rooms are painted in playful mauves and purples, and there’s an outdoor sensory garden with wooden walkways lined with succulents and sea grasses leading to outdoor showers, cedar hot tubs, a Scandi-style sauna and a fire pit. Bedrooms are fun too, splashed with kitsch dots and swirly Seventies prints. Eating-wise, there’s a smart restaurant and a more chilled cafe to choose from – plus the rock stacks known as the Bedruthan Steps are but a stone’s throw away.Day spa from £140 per person (£55 Monday to Thursday), one-night spa breaks from £156bedruthan.com Best for surfers: Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa Neighbourhood: Fistral Beach, near NewquayOverlooking Cornwall’s premier surfing beach, this boutique-on-a-budget hotel tilts towards a younger clientele. The spa can’t boast the bells and whistles of fancier places such as the Scarlet or the St Moritz, and the design is definitely a lot less ritzy, but it’s still a pleasant place to unwind. The Vitality Suite includes a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and a serviceable (if unstarry) indoor pool. The main attraction, however, is the price: half-day packages start at just £65, while full-days start at £95, including a two-course lunch. Bedrooms are plain, with cream-and-taupe colour palettes and simple wooden furniture – skip the economy ones and splash out on a sea view or above. Surf lessons are easily sourced at nearby Fistral or any of the other Newquay beaches.Day spa from £95 per person, standard rooms from £12 fistralbeachhotel.co.uk Best for urban refugees: St Moritz Hotel Neighbourhood: Trebetherick, near WadebridgeThe location of this strikingly white, Art Deco-inspired hotel, between Rock and Polzeath, has made it a favourite hangout for celebs; this stretch of north Cornwall’s coast has been dubbed Cornwall’s Saint-Tropez thanks to its popularity with Prince Harry, Gordon Ramsay and David Cameron. With its white curves and rendered facade, the building is either exciting or an eyesore, depending on your architectural point of view, but it’s hard not to be seduced by the Cowshed Spa – the only one in the UK not installed in a Soho House hotel. The pamper factor’s cranked up to 11 here: botanical-based products inspired by English gardens, his-and-hers massage tables and a range of six bespoke scents tailored specially for your treatment, although the barrel-vaulted pool is the highlight. The style is “rustic-luxe”, which basically means a blend of bleached wood, stone, ceramic, concrete and chrome, plus bits of modern furniture. If you’re staying, there are four room categories (from Cosy to Suite) plus swish self-catering apartments and villas in the grounds. Full day spa from £290, rooms from £160 stmoritzhotel.co.uk Best for traditionalists: The Nare Hotel Neighbourhood: Carne Beach, Roseland The Nare is stubbornly old fashioned, and proud of it. It’s the classic Cornish country house hotel: gilded paintings on the walls, rugs and tartan carpets on the floors, leather armchairs in the guests’ lounge and afternoon tea served on the lawn. It feels like the hotel hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years, and there’s no indication that it intends to do so in the next 50 either. The spa opts for time-honoured treatments rather than the latest fads: no-nonsense massages, pedicures, manicures and facials, administered in treatment rooms best described as homely rather than trendy. There’s also a choice of outdoor and indoor pools. Unsurprisingly, the rooms feel very traditional with antique wardrobes, brocaded curtains, Laura Ashley-style sofas and bath goodies from Crabtree & Evelyn. Of course, there’s a silver-service restaurant, porters to carry your baggage and a brace of heritage yachts for sea jaunts. Jolly old holidays, what? Day spa from £125, rooms from £389 narehotel.co.uk Best for locals: St Michaels Resort Neighbourhood: FalmouthThis long-standing Falmouth hotel seems to have expanded again every time you look: each season seems to bring new wings, a rejigged restaurant or newly refurbished rooms. The new St Michaels Spa is one such recent add-on, and claims to have the largest hydrothermal pool in the southwest. The space is well designed, combining distressed wood, copper and sea-blue tiles into a soothing, vaguely nautical whole. There’s a smorgasbord of massages, scrubs, wraps and rhassoul-mud treatments, as well as an outdoor barrel sauna and hot tub, and a well-equipped sports gym (there seemed to be more locals than tourists making use of the facilities here the last time I visited). Rooms display a similar beachy, New England feel, and the popular beach of Gyllyngvase is right across the road.Day spa from £89 per person, rooms from £12 stmichaelsresort.com Best for a grown-up getaway: Merchant’s Manor Neighbourhood: FalmouthThis Falmouth landmark bills itself as a “grown-up getaway”, and it’s certainly a stylish, adult affair. Since taking over the hotel in 2012, the owners have renovated nearly the entire building, sprucing up the rooms and modernising the decor to create an ambience somewhere between gentleman’s residence, country house and trendy hotel-by-the-sea. With its elegant palette of smoke-blues, creams and greys and thoughtful design details – oldschool taps, vintage tiles, reimagined linen cupboards – the Linen Rooms Spa is a seductive space, offering an impressive and bewildering array of treatments. The range of rooms is similarly varied, but all have touches of imagination and wit – a bespoke illustration here, a cheeky print or retro chair there. They’ve also recently added timber-clad “suite retreats” for maximum privacy. Two-hour spa session from £130, spa breaks from £160 per perso merchantsmanor.com Best for budget: Polurrian on the Lizard Neighbourhood: near Mullion, The Lizard For many years this was a rather trad, dull coastal hotel suffused with Edwardian-era fustiness, but the owners have made a concerted effort to modernise things, clearing out the clutter, brightening up the rooms and generally making things more fit for the 21st century. It’s still short on frills, but it’s good value and very popular with families, and sits on a fine stretch of the Lizard coastline. The basic spa doubles as a local’s health club: facilities include a 30m indoor pool, hot tub, gym and tennis court, and with taster massages starting at just £29 and spa days from £55, it’s very reasonably priced.Spa days from £55 per person, rooms from £11 polurrianhotel.com

  • Extinction Rebellion: police warn Heathrow protesters of ‘life sentences’
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    The Independent

    Extinction Rebellion: police warn Heathrow protesters of ‘life sentences’

    Scotland Yard has warned Extinction Rebellion protesters planning to shut down Heathrow that they could face life sentences.The climate-change campaign group called on supporters to shut down operations at Europe’s busiest airport for 11 days this summer – starting next Tuesday, 18 June 2019.Extinction Rebellion proposed the launch of a swarm of drones during the night, when flights are not usually operating, to prevent the airport opening in the morning.The group successfully closed down key road junctions in London, as well as Waterloo Bridge, for days on end in April. The Metropolitan Police was criticised for allowing the shutdown to continue for so long. But the Met, which protects Heathrow, is warning that the proposed drone attack at the airport would not be tolerated.“Anyone caught illegally using a drone can expect to be dealt with in line with the law,” said deputy assistant commissioner Laurence Taylor. “If flown into the path of an aircraft, a drone has the potential to cause great harm to those on board. Affecting the safety of aircraft passengers is very different to blocking roads around London, and should this happen, the consequences will reflect the severity of the offence.“We would urge anybody intending to join this event with a view to committing criminal activity, whether considered peaceful or not, to strongly reconsider.“Endangering the safety of an aircraft can result in a life sentence."The officer said that police and equipment will quickly detect and disrupt unauthorised drones.Extinction Rebellion has told The Independent it will release a statement about the Heathrow protest on Sunday.The group staged a short protest on the fringes of Heathrow in April, without disrupting flights.Earlier this week, Gatwick airport’s chief operating officer urged Extinction Rebellion to call off the drone protest at Heathrow.Chris Woodroofe said that the pressure on air-traffic controllers to divert planes would create risk.The Met’s statement coincided with an Extinction Rebellion exercise to “swarm” trunk roads in southeast London. It was described as: “The first in a series of disruptive actions by Extinction Rebellion Lewisham.”Many schools had appealed for the group to call off its plan to cause traffic chaos because of the number of GCSE and A-level exams taking place.

  • Father’s Day 2019: The best things to do with your dad
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    The Independent

    Father’s Day 2019: The best things to do with your dad

    With Father’s Day fast approaching on Sunday 16 June, we’ve selected some of the best experiences to make your dad’s day extra special. Become master of the barbecue Alfresco cooks will love the classes on offer at London Barbecue School, which specialises in the art of smoking and slow roasting. The five-hour Low and Slow class is the school’s signature course, teaching budding chefs how to set up a barbecue, select and prepare meat and fuel, and add flavour with marinades, rubs and smoke. Predictably, classes are fully booked this weekend, but a voucher for a future session will spark a fire in the heart of any cook. Drool over classic carsPetrolheads assemble! Hever Castle in Kent is hosting a supercar weekend on 15 and 16 June for dads who like things fast and furious. Saturday 15 June sees a selection of Alfa Romeos on display, while Ferraris take centre stage on Sunday 16 June. In addition, two rare Lancias, a Lancia Fulvia 1600 and Lancia Integrale will also be on display, as well as bikes and a car driven by the world famous F1 champion Sir John Surtees. Kids will also have the chance to take part in a free craft workshop to make dad a decoration to hang from his rear view mirror. Start your engines… Bond over the beautiful gameIf your dad’s not already on board with the FIFA Women’s World Cup, now’s the perfect opportunity to convert him. Sunday sees defending champions and world number one the USA competing against Chile (kick off at 5pm, BBC2), while Sweden go head-to-head against Thailand (BBC red button and online). The recent England v Scotland game broke UK TV viewing figures for women’s football and, well – if it’s good enough for Gary Lineker… Get some artistic inspirationToday sees the opening of the first major UK exhibition of Keith Haring at Tate Liverpool, with more than 85 artworks on display, while York Art Gallery’s exhibition Ruskin, Turner and the Storm Cloud: Watercolours and Drawings explores our relationship with the environment and mental health. With only a few weeks remaining, this show includes a dozen works by Turner and more than 40 by Ruskin, plus art from Constable, John Inchbold and Hubert Herkomer. Further north, Dundee’s new V&A gallery cuts an impressive figure on the waterside – plus, most of its exhibitions are free to enter. Tickle your funny boneIf the steady stream of news is getting you down, suspend reality for a while and catch some comedy. With many performers showcasing Edinburgh Festival previews, now is a great time to catch some of the UK’s best comedians. On Sunday 16 June, The Wardrobe in Leeds hosts Jamali Maddix and Ed Night, while Bristol Hippodrome presents Funny Bones, a night of comedy with The Mash Report’s Nish Kuma, Laura Lexx, Jake Lambert and friends. Best of all, the event will be raising funds for Bristol city hospitals. Find a comedy night near you here. Get out in the gardenIf nothing else, the UK’s relentless wet weather does mean we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to English country gardens. Green-fingered dads will love the opportunity to get some gardening inspo in some of our most impressive green spaces. Great Dixter House and Gardens in East Sussex is the famous garden of Christopher Lloyd and contains plenty of interesting plants and colour schemes, while Stourhead in Wiltshire boasts a remarkable sunken garden. Throughout June, this watery landscape is also celebrating Floralia: an ancient Roman festival in honour of Flora, goddess of flowers and spring, with rhododendrons and azaleas in full and magnificent bloom. Pet some fur babiesLet dad channel his inner Chris Packham at the Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park near Bath this Father’s Day, when dads pay just £1 entry when accompanying a full paying child – this also includes grandfathers and great grandfathers. The park is home to more than 150 animals, including reindeer, alpacas, pygmy goats and reptiles. Visitors of all ages can join in the regular animal handling sessions that take place throughout the day at weekends, before taking a steady stroll along the pretty riverside trail. Ignite a love of literatureIf your dad loves nothing better than getting lost in the pages of a good book, consider taking him to a literary festival. With over 350 taking place throughout the UK each year, there’s bound to be something happening near you. This weekend alone sees events taking place at the Balham Literary Festival, Belfast Book Festival, Greenwich Book Festival, Montgomeryshire Literature Festival (Monty Lit Festival) and Winchester Writer’s Festival. Take a boozy tourA brewery tour is a great idea if your dad likes a tipple. From cider to ale, wine to whisky, there’s guaranteed to be a tour – and tasting opportunities – to satisfy all palates. We like Oxfordshire’s Wychwood and Brakspear brewery tour and, further north, Scotland’s Malt Whisky Trail: a partnership of nine whisky destinations in Speyside, home to the largest concentration of Scotch malt whisky distilleries in the world. Uncover the pastWe’re fortunate in the UK to have incredible historical sites to explore and conserve. English Heritage is responsible for over 400 of these around England, while Historic Environment Scotland and Cadw are the major bodies protecting our heritage in Scotland and Wales respectively. The National Trust also cares for many of the UK’s historic homes and gardens and is the largest membership organisation in the UK. Some of the most popular sites include Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, Dover Castle and Leeds Castle in Kent.