Orange launches first operator-branded 5G smartphone

Orange has launched what it claims is the first operator-brand 5G compatible smartphone, the Orange Neva jet, which will be debuted in Romania.

While 4G and 3G compatible versions of the device will be available in various markets, the 5G version will be sold as and when 5G networks are switched-on. Romania was the first of Orange’s national business to enter the 5G fracas in recent weeks, though the rest will have to wait until 2020.

“As we gear up to launch our 5G networks in 2020, the Orange Neva jet is testimony to our long-held promise to deliver the very best innovation and technology,” said Philippe Lucas, SVP of Customer Equipment and Partnerships at Orange.

“This is the start of that journey as we prepare customers for the arrival of 5G.”

Looking at the device itself, it is a customisation of the ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G variant. Orange is keen to point out this is not simply a re-branding of the ZTE device however, with several distinctions on both the software and hardware elements.

Starting with the software, the smartphone will use Android Pie OS software but also include the Orange Experience with Live Screen, the content aggregation tool, as well as Gestures, a feature which allows specific actions to dictate functionality, such as speed-dialling or launching apps. The app store will also feature specialised applications for the device.

On the hardware side, the design and finish of the phone have been customised for Orange. Components such as the battery, processors and cameras are identical, though let’s not forget that Orange is not a smartphone manufacturer.

Another important point to note about ZTE is that its own branded devices will not be on sale through the Orange distribution channels.

The wider range of Neva devices (start, play, zen and link) will now be available in France, Spain, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Moldova, while the 5G version will be available as soon as the 5G networks are switched-on in the respective markets.

Orange does have history in selling its own branded devices, it has sold 12 million since 2002, though this is an interesting proposition. Priced at €899, it is certainly more friendly to the wallet than other 5G devices. Orange has an incredibly strong brand across its European footprint, so it should surprise few if this device proves to be popular.


£500m investment sees TransPennine Express launch new Nova Fleet trains

Today (Nov 22nd) launched its new Nova fleet trains in a ceremony at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station.

Dignitaries and stakeholders from across the north were present at the event as the Nova trains were unveiled to the public, alongside entrainment from a local brass band and speeches from those involved in the £500m project.

The new 44-train fleet was built by CAF and Hitachi and financed by Beacon Rail Leasing, Eversholt Rail Group and Angel Trains. Each train offer between 286-342 seats and five carriages. Nova 1 serves Liverpool to Newcastle and Edinburgh to Manchester Airport and Newcastle. Nova 2 travels between Manchester and Liverpool to Glasgow and Edinburgh via Preston, and Nova 3 moves between Liverpool, Manchester Airport, Scarborough and Middlesbrough.

Each new train includes high quality seating and interiors with more luggage space, plug and USB charging points, free on-board wi-fi in both standard and first class and the entertainment system Exstream featuring the latest TV shows, news and films.

Leo Goodwin, Managing Director of TransPennine Express, outlined the benefit the new fleet will bring to the north. He said: “Our vision was for Nova to represent the brightest future for rail in the north and we are so pleased to today make this vision a reality for customers, colleagues and businesses who make the TransPennine Express network such a crucial part of our infrastructure here in Liverpool and across the north.

“The name Nova reflects the positive changes that will truly transform rail travel for our customers, with an enhancement to customers experience on board and an increase in capacity of 80% on all routes.  Our vision at TPE is to take the north further and these new trains offer more seats, improved connectivity and a higher standard of comfort.”

Network Rail to improve accessibility at Spalding station

Work to improve Spalding station’s accessibility will begin next month (Dec 3).

Improvements to the station include step free access to platform two, more lighting on the footbridge and additional CCTV across the station.

More tactile paving is being installed at the station in order to aid visually impaired people using Spalding Station.

Neil Grabham, customer services director for East Midlands Railway, said:

“The installation of the lifts and tactile paving will improve the station for all Spalding passengers.”

Tactile paving has benefits for those who are not visually impaired, by making them aware of dangers such as the edge of a train platform.

Gary Walsh, route director for Network Rail, said:

“Network Rail is committed to improving access at stations and across the railway.”

“The work at Spalding station will meet the needs of passengers and bring wider benefits for those using it.”

“Network Rail is working closely with East Midlands Railway to minimise any disruption whilst the work is carried out.”

There will be no disruption to services going through the station, however the work is expected to use 10 parking spaces in the connecting 48-space car park.

The planned work is expected to be completed by June 2020.

Floods impact Yorkshire Water infrastructure

Last week’s heavy rain and flooding in South Yorkshire and North East Derbyshire has impacted some of Yorkshire Water’s infrastructure.

In its latest update, the water company said it was continuing to manage some ongoing issues in South Yorkshire and had been working directly with customers who have been impacted by flooding.

Last Friday water company representatives supported a multi-agency visit to the area led by South Yorkshire Police.

Following the floods Yorkshire Water undertook increased activity across the region to carry out repairs and make further checks on assets including checking that manhole lids haven’t been dislodged by the flood waters.

Yorkshire Water has emphasised to customers that there is no cause for concern with the quality of drinking water. However, as a goodwill gesture as part of its response to the flooding the water company has also been providing pallets of bottled water for volunteers and displaced customers.

Despite being inundated with flood water, Yorkshire Water’s Greenroyd Pumping Station in Fishlake has continued to operate throughout, as have other pumping stations in the area.

The company also said that reports suggesting that the pumps at its Sandall sewage treatment works were not operating during the heavy rainfall were incorrect and the pumps continued to pump their normal full flows throughout the rainfall.

It was a different story at Yorkshire Water’s Mexborough treatment works which was inundated with flood water during the heavy rain – the sheer amount of flood water also overwhelmed the sewer network in the area. To help alleviate the situation the firm used tankers to reduce levels in the sewers. While levels in the sewers have been reducing Yorkshire Water said it would continue to tanker out of the network until things return to normal.

The water company also had to carry out repairs to one of its nearby sewers, describing the work as challenging due to the local ground conditions. However, Yorkshire Water said it did not believe that this was the main factor in the flooding as the sheer amount of rain overwhelmed the entire network.

At Renishaw, Derbyshire the utility visited customers impacted by flooding. Yorkshire Water said its investigations had found that the flooding was caused by the nearby watercourse being overwhelmed by the amount of water entering it from surrounding land, rather than any issues with the sewer.

Yorkshire Water commented:

“North East Derbyshire District Council, Derbyshire County Council and the EA will be working together to look at any action which can be taken to address this issue in the long term.”

Britain’s motorists not optimistic when it comes to autonomous vehicles

More than half (55 per cent) of motorists think driverless cars will only be in used in 10 or more years’ time, despite tests having already begun on UK roads.

Britain’s motorists are highly sceptical over the future use of driverless cars according to new research by Compare the Market.

In its Road Ahead research series looking at the future of driving, it was found that only 55 per cent of people expect driverless cars to be in use in the next 10 years.

According to a survey of more than 2,000 British motorists, 80 per cent are worried about the safety of driverless cars. This concern follows extensive discussion about the suitability of driverless cars, which can be susceptible to cyber hacking and crashes, on UK roads.

Recently, a government-backed consortium announced that it was beginning its first tests of driverless cars carrying passengers on the UK’s roads for the first time.

Beyond the issue of safety, drivers question the wider benefits of the introduction of driverless cars. Only one third (35 per cent) think driverless cars would result in safer roads, while only a quarter (24 per cent) believe that the technology would result in reduced insurance costs.

The research follows previous analysis by in January 2018 which found that 61 per cent of people would never buy driverless cars while 63 per cent said that they were bad for society.

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at Compare the Market, said: “While driverless car technology continues to progress quickly, manufacturers have a big job to do convincing the world that they are safe. There have been a number of high-profile incidents showing flaws in their security – such as when academic researchers hacked into a Jeep and remotely controlled its electronic control system – and last year saw the first ever fatal crash involving a driverless car. Driving has never been a completely safe endeavour but handing control over to a machine seems like a step too far for many motorists currently.”

‘Backbone’ of high-speed rail in Britain donated to National Railway Museum

Britain’s most influential modern locomotive, Class 43 High-speed train, also known as the InterCity 125 will join the stationary fleet of over 260 locomotives and rolling stock at the National Railway Museum in York.

The train, no.43002 ‘Sir Kenneth Grange’, has given more than 40 years in service and has now been donated by Angel Trains and Great Western Railway.

First units of this locomotive were introduced in 1976, and quickly became the backbone of high-speed rail route and blazing a trail for British rail travel.

Clad in the original yellow and blue British Rail style, the train got the nickname ‘the Flying Banana’.

The train’s designer was Sir Kenneth Grange, who created the iconic wedge-shaped nose cone and eventually became the engine’s name in 2016.

This high-speed train was built in 1975, the same year as the National Railway Museum first opened, and was the fastest train in Europe, second only to the Japanese Bullet Train internationally.

It holds the world diesel speed record of 148mph, set on Nov 1 1987, but now will be on static display as the centrepiece of the Museum’s Great Hall, supported by a British Rail story exhibition.

Andrew McLean, assistant director and head curator at the National Railway Museum, said:

“This is one of our most significant acquisitions, and I am delighted to be able to display the HST power car, Sir Kenneth Grange here in York. It is fair to say that this train revolutionised rail travel and helped shape British society, bringing people and communities together.

“I would like to thank Angel Trains, Great Western Railway and Rail Operations Group for their generosity and hard work to bring this icon of British engineering into the national collection.”

The iconic High-speed train was so well functioning that 44 years after original roll-out, they can still be found carrying passengers across the UK, but are being replaced with the latest Class 800 Intercity Express Trains manufactured in the UK by Hitachi.

Greater Anglia frontline staff become the first to receive accessibility awareness training

Greater Anglia has become the first operator in the country to implement accessibility courses that meet the rail regulator’s new standards in light of new rules that come in in 2021 requiring all train operators to undertake such training.

The company has commissioned a team of Accessibility and Inclusion trainers who will deliver regular sessions over the next two years to ensure its 2,500 workforce feels empowered to help improve the journeys of people with accessibility needs.

The programme is also disabled-led – as the sessions are all delivered by disabled trainers, after Greater Anglia commissioned consultant, Sarah Rennie, to put together a team.

At the end of the course, participants are invited to make an ‘Inclusion Promise’, naming on thing they plan to do differently to improve accessibility and inclusion for customers.

Rebecca Richardson, Greater Anglia’s Accessibility Manager said: “At Greater Anglia we are really serious about doing better in this area. We want everyone to have a good journey with us, so giving our staff the skills and knowledge to always have accessibility in the forefront of their minds will help us achieve that step-change in customer service that we are seeking to provide.

This training is going to make a real difference for staff as it will give them more confidence when assisting disabled customers.

And it will really help disabled customers with their journey experience as staff are better able to understand what they need to do in order to support somebody through their journey and to provide a good passenger experience

Around 40,000 people a year use Greater Anglia’s Assisted Travel service to get help with making a train journey. Staff are able to meet passengers, help them get on and off trains or help with luggage. A similar number of customers with accessibility needs also use Greater Anglia services without booking.

Rail Industry Ambassadors set to help shape the future of rail

Young Rail Professionals have announced in support of their mission to promote the rail industry as a great place to work, they’re recruiting Rail Industry Ambassadors to visit schools, colleges and universities and career fairs.

In hope of raising awareness of the fantastic career opportunities available within rail.

Attracting young people into the rail industry is reliant on ambassadors, such as YRP’s, to help inspire young people to pursue their career within it.

By volunteering as a YRP Ambassador, they would be playing a part in ensuring the future of rail.

Young Rail Professionals began back in 2019 to promote the railway industry and works to bring together people from all aspects of the industry, whether they are in engineering, asset management, train operations, strategic planning, maintenance, franchising, regulation, marketing or human relations.

Young Rail Professional Ambassadors would be able to volunteer as much or as little as they pleased.

Car free zone being considered in some parts of the Lake District

The National Trust is looking at banning car use in some parts of the Lake District, particularly around Scafell Pike.

With popular areas of the park suffering from congestion, the charity is in talks with the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Highways about the possibility of creating a car-free zone near Scafell, the tallest peak in England.

Traffic congestion is a problem in popular areas of the park, which attract tens of millions of visitors every year, with figures from 2015 suggesting that about 82% use a car to get to their destination. In particular, the village of Seathwaite, at the foot of Scafell Pike, can at times turn into a parking lot, as people leave their car there to go and stand atop the Lake District’s highest mountain.

This, acknowledges the National Trust on its website, ‘causes access problems for people who live [in the village], including farmers and potentially emergency vehicles.’

The charity has long encouraged visitors to be sensible about parking: ‘If you turn up and find that you can’t easily park at Seathwaite without being confident a fire engine or tractor and trailer could easily pass, please find an alternative place to park,’ it recommends on its website.

Other suggestions include looking for alternative places where visitors can leave their car, such as the Trust’s own car parks at Seatoller and Borrowdale, where money raised through fees goes towards protecting the local landscape, or taking public transport from Keswick.

However, the issue may need a more drastic solution and the charity has been working ‘behind the scenes’ with the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Highways to try and find one. One of the possibilities under consideration is a car ban in Seathwaite and, potentially, in other busy areas within the park.

‘We need to address traffic issues in the national park,’ the National Trust general manager for the North Lakes, Thomas Burditt, told The Times. ‘Car-free zones are an option we are considering. We are in discussions with residents, the Highways Agency and the parish council.’

The proposal has been welcomed by local people (who would still be able to continue using their car under the plans) but ramblers told the Times the introduction of car-free zones would be ‘a big blow’.

Other ideas that have been mooted include encouraging people to access the park via electric bikes, boats and buses.

The National Trust will present possible options to solve to the congestion problem at a conference tomorrow and looks set to open a consultation on it after Christmas.

Great Western Railway makes Jack’s railway dreams come true

Jack Thompson wished to be a ‘Station Master’ for the day and train operator Great Western Railway (GWR) made it a reality.

GWR were approached by children’s charity Make-A-Wish UK, who told them about 12-year-old Jack who was born with a brain tumour and is registered blind, and his ambition to work on the railways.

He spent the day working hard and spreading happiness through London Paddington station, checking tickets and riding in the driver’s cab of an Intercity Express Train.

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Jack also made a station announcement, dispatched a train from the station and travelled on the 1200 London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads service.

Jack said:

“I’ve had the most amazing day. I loved my ride on the train and being shown inside the driver’s cab. I can’t believe how fast it felt being on an Intercity Express Train. That was great fun.”

“I love trains and often ask my mum and dad to take me to the station so I can listen to the trains coming in and out. I also like playing Train Sim World on my PlayStation and driving the Great Western Express to Reading.”

Jack was born with an optic nerve tumour and endured seven rounds of chemotherapy to reduce it and enable him to grow to the average height of a 12-year-old.

He can see shapes and colours in the distance and read signs close up but his vision won’t improve due to nerve damage in his eyes.

GWR Customer Ambassador Jennie Williams took Jack on a tour of the station and said

“it was an absolute pleasure to welcome Jack and wonderful to see his enthusiasm for trains. He’s such a brave lad and has already proved himself to be a real fighter. It was lovely to be able to make it a special day for him.”

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