Oct 28 2007

Hard Shoulder = Occasional 4th Lane!

Category: In The Media,PersonalChrisM @ 9:18 am

I am skipping ahead a little here, as I still need to write the posts on Amsterdam before moving on to Britain, but want to post a link to this article over at the BBC news site.
I had noticed safe refuge areas when I was travelling to Swansea (actually it was probably going to Birmingham airport) earlier this month, and did wonder what had sparked their need. By the looks of it, during times of peak traffic, the hard shoulder will be used as an extra (normally 4th) lane for those motorists who needs to take the exit at the next junction. From a purely selfish point of view, this seems like a good idea. Less traffic, people getting to work/home quicker. However, I have had several incidents in the past where I would not have been able to make it to such safe refuges with my car. Whether a complete tyre blow out, or engines cutting out, there are a few reasons why your car may not be able to make it to the next fenced off area. Although the article does explain that cameras will be monitored to ensure that any blockages by broken down vehicles will trigger the hard shoulder to be revert to its original intended use, I can’t help wonder how many accidents may occur before this change is implemented.
To my non-UK readers, if you get a moment, do let me know if your country has similar schemes already in place, and what you think of them.

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Oct 26 2007

Lovely Screen, Shame About The Contents

Category: Amsterdam,PersonalChrisM @ 3:49 am

This is the second and last post regarding my journey through Kaliningrad ‘International’ Airport. I made notes up until this point during the holiday, for some reason things get a little hazy during my time in Amsterdam….

The big screen I mentioned in a previous post was now visible to us. Wow, it was high quality, had flight numbers, destinations, and even the weather at each destination! Unfortunately it lacked any sort of column for flight times or estimates of delays involved. (Can you tell where this story is heading yet, dear reader?). I was not too worried, as there were only six or seven departure exits from the area, and you could even find a seat in the smoking section that gave a view of all but one of these 🙂 When it got to 10 minutes past the approximate boarding time for my next flight, I was a little concerned, but had seen no one leave for any flights at all. There were a few announcements, in Russian, but these seemed to be more procedural statements (don’t leave luggage unattended etc.) than flight info, so I asked the Germans if they had flown through here before (only to discover two spoke English), and if so did they know what happened when flights were delayed? A friendly shrug informed me they were currently as clueless as me.
I then decided to tour the perimeter of the area, determined to find someone who spoke English, or at least would be prepared to listen to my attempts at enquiries in Russian. (Don’t laugh too hard, several times officials (not just in Kaliningrad) who realised my Russian skills were not sufficient to conclude any conversation quickly had walked off, with no clue as to my next suitable avenue of enquiry.) I quickly found a friendly lady who pointed me in the direction of a young girl who worked there and spoke better English than my Russian. I was informed that there was nothing to worry about, that a flight from Moscow had been delayed by two hours, and that three passengers hoping to get to Amsterdam were on that same flight. And no, neither announcements nor TV screens had yet revealed this info. (Again, I mainly wanted to know so that my next time in the airport would not involve so much mystery). There were a couple of things I had not fully understood, and when Ira called me up, to check I was about to get on the plane, and hadn’t fallen asleep somewhere silly, I was about to ask her to double check them with someone at the airport, if I handed my mobile over. However, Irina had been told by the airport a few moments earlier that my flight to Amsterdam WAS on time, and that all passengers were boarding this very second. Obviously this left Irina concerned that I had mightily goofed, and was about to miss a flight involving the Netherlands once again. Eventually the lady who I had previously spoken to proved to be correct, and the person who had spoken to Ira was full of crap. I had already called Alex and Chris, to confirm that they had left Cheltenham and were on their way to Birmingham airport (more on that later). Unfortunately I found I was not able to make calls to Kazakhstan at all, though calls to Britain had obviously worked. Two hours after our planned departure, our plane left Kaliningrad, and I was most glad of the 1.5 hours of sleep I grabbed on the flight.
Schiphol, Amsterdam itself and UK trip info to follow in other posts soon.

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