VW up! 5-door
26 January 2012
Volkswagen has unveiled a more practical, five-door version of its up! city car
BMW M diesels
26 January 2012
BMW officially reveals diesel-powered M models, including an M550d capable of 44.8mpg
Blue badge fraud crackdown for new year
25 January 2012
Tough new measures to crack down on drivers who abuse the disabled parking system - including a new Blue Badge design which is harder to forge - will come into force on 1 January, Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced.
Previously, Blue Badges were made from card and handwritten but from the New Year disabled drivers will be able to apply for an electronically printed badge, much like a driving licence. The new badge will have security features such as a unique hologram, digital photo and serial number allowing parking attendants to check for genuine badges more easily through the windscreen. Blue Badge fraud is estimated to cost the UK £46 million a year and it is generally accepted that reform is urgently needed. The new badge is part of a wider crackdown on misuse of the scheme to ensure disabled parking spaces can only be used by those most in need.
Other measures include:
•shared administration between authorities resulting in faster renewals, less abuse and operational efficiency savings of up to £20 million a year;
•better customer service for badge holders, including being able to apply for and renew badges online using Directgov, as well as access to a new national helpline number. From April 2012 customers will also be able to report lost and stolen badges online;
•wider use of independent mobility assessments to determine eligibility. To support this local authorities will now have control of National Health Service spend on Blue Badge assessments; and
•extending the scheme to more disabled children under three years of age and severely disabled Armed Forces personnel and veterans; and removing residency requirements for disabled service personnel and their families who are posted overseas on UK bases.
Transport Minister, Norman Baker, said:
"Motorists who pretend to be disabled to get some free parking are frankly disgraceful. They prevent real Blue Badge holders from using parking bays designed for those genuinely in need and they cheat the vast majority of road users who play fair when they park their cars. Our new Blue Badge will be as secure as a banknote and anyone thinking of faking it can forget it. We are also tightening up on enforcement and eligibility so there will be no way to scam the system."
Blue Badges provide a vital lifeline to more than 2.5 million disabled people every year by prioritising key parking spaces close to important services. However, increasing levels of badge fraud have meant those spaces are often full. Earlier this year, the Government announced the most comprehensive changes to the Blue Badge Scheme for 40 years. The launch of the new badge is the last stage in a raft of measures which have begun to come into force since April.
Helen Dolphin, director of policy and campaigns at Disabled Motoring UK, said: "After years of campaigning for improvements to the Blue Badge Scheme, I’m delighted that changes that make the scheme fit for the 21st century have been introduced. The new badge design will stop badges being so easily forged and new guidance to local authorities will make the issuing of badges fairer. The Blue Badge is a fantastic scheme and all these changes will help ensure the scheme will only benefit those it was intended for."
Congestion levels expected to soar by 33%
20 January 2012
Inrix, a provider of real-time traffic information and connected driving services, has released its summer traffic predictions in its Traffic Congestion Report.
Londoners will face increased traffic congestion of 33% and core routes will slow to just 12mph in late July and early August. The first three days of the event pose the greatest risk of traffic troubles. The Olympic opening ceremony on Friday, July 27, clashes with one of the busiest holiday getaway weekends of the summer when traffic levels are already around 30% above average. This event is followed in quick succession by the Men’s Road Cycling Race, which will close thousands of roads throughout southwest London and Surrey. A trial event for the race in August 2011 resulted in traffic chaos, when journeys of just a few miles took several hours and some drivers were forced to abandon their cars, says Inrix.
Inrix lead scientist and traffic analyst Greg Hallsworth explained why the weekend of July 27, 28 and 29 will be so challenging. “Traditionally this is one of the busiest holiday getaway weekends of the year, combine this with the Olympic opening ceremony and the Men’s road cycling race and we could have the perfect traffic storm,” he said. “Nearly 100,000 ticket-holders are expected at the opening ceremony, with tens of thousands of visitors anticipated at the live sites at Hyde Park and Victoria Park. Couple this with the thousands of roads closed for the Men’s Road Cycling event and the result is huge stress on the UK’s road networks.”
The Inrix Traffic Congestion Report predicts that journeys with an average travel time of one hour will take at least 12 additional minutes throughout Greater London for the duration of the Games. Journeys through routes identified as Games hotspots such as Vauxhall Bridge and the Blackwall Tunnel will take at least 15 minutes longer and people travelling on the Core Games Network should plan for at least 20 minutes more for their journey. Based on its free-flow to congestion model, Inrix predicts that in early August the start time for daily congested periods will move forward by as much as 90 minutes, with morning peak traffic hitting at 5.30am from 7am and evening peak traffic hitting as early as 3.30pm, rather than 5pm.
However, evening traffic congestion may ease by 6pm rather than 7.30pm as people head to meeting places to watch events on TV. Combined with rush hour traffic, Londoners should also anticipate increased traffic around lunchtime as venues clear and refill between sessions - adding an anticipated nine minutes to standard lunchtime travel times.
To help minimise Central London traffic, it is hoped that 80% of visitors to the main Games park will arrive by public transport, using park and ride schemes that have capacity for 18,000 vehicles in Essex and 9,000 in Ebbsfleet. However, with major shopping centre Lakeside, claiming half a million shoppers weekly, next to the Essex site, and both sites adjacent to the M25, one of the UK’s most congested routes, traffic trouble will be near impossible to avert. This congestion risk is compounded by the fact that entrance into the park and ride sites is ticket-only - any people with misplaced tickets will unfortunately add to the resultant tailbacks and could cause a domino effect onto the already congested M25.
Hallsworth added: “UK holiday routes are busier in July and August but in holiday periods, commuting routes are naturally quieter. This will assist the London travel network and planners are also hoping for some additional capacity as commuters change their travel routines. To minimise gridlocks, we advise commuters to build travel schedules around quieter periods where possible. Despite this generally being a quieter time of year, Londoners need to be prepared for a huge volume of traffic in the City that they are unlikely to have experienced previously.”
Nissan and Renault welcome EV grant extension
20 January 2012
Renault and Nissan have welcomed the news that the Government has decided to extend the electric vehicle grant scheme, which offers fleets thousands of pounds off the purchase price of an ultra-low emission vehicle.
The Government has confirmed that the Plug-In Car Grant, which offers electric car buyers up to £5,000 (25% of the vehicle cost), will be funded until 2015. However, Transport Minister Norman Baker and Business Minister Mark Prisk also announced that for the first time buyers will now be able to receive 20%, up to £8,000, off the cost of an electric van.
With its 100% electric Kangoo Van ZE, which was launched one month ago and is set to be joined by three electric cars before the autumn of 2012, Renault says it is in a prime position to make the most of this latest boost for low-emission driving. It says its already keenly priced Kangoo Van ZE, costing from £16,990 excluding VAT and monthly battery hire, would become even more affordable, from just £13,592, putting it within only £1,000 of its diesel counterpart.
The Government announcement also comes at a time when Nissan is conducting real-world tests of a prototype zero-emission all-electric delivery vehicle in London. FedEx Express and Nissan are collaborating over a two month period to evaluate how the NV200 electric vehicle (EV) prototype copes with the rigours of daily duties in the capital.
James Wright, managing director at Nissan Motor (GB), said: "Today's announcement reinforces the Government's commitment to improving air quality in cities and reducing carbon emissions. This grant, coupled with lower running costs and tax benefits, will make switching to an electric van a very attractive option for businesses."
The Nissan Leaf, on sale since March 2011, qualifies for the £5,000 grant for electric cars. The electric version of the NV200 van, which will be produced in Japan, will go on sale later in 2012.
Renault said it will be applying to be part of the Plug-In Van Grant before the scheme's application deadline of January 31, 2012, after which it is believed further details on the scheme's extension to vans are likely to be released by the Department for Transport.
Andy Heiron, head of Electric Vehicle Programme, Renault UK, said, "Having actively lobbied for the inclusion of commercial vehicles in the Plug-In Car Grant scheme over the past year, we're delighted that the Government has acted and made this announcement. This addresses the big question that many customers and industry commentators have been asking us for many months and I think we can expect to see a surge in demand.”