How can the London Underground not make profit?

Today I read on BBC news that there will be a strike ballot for the London Underground workers going on strike. TFL are planning to close all ticket offices in a bid to save money. Currently they are racking up a deficit of £75 million per year.

What staggers me is that the London Underground cannot make a profit at the moment. Every time I’ve been to London in the last few years the underground seems overcrowded.

Recently I went on a little romantic getaway with my wife and this was in the middle of November. Even then the tube was packed on a Sunday morning or a Thursday post lunchtime afternoon (but well before rush hour time). I thought the tube was a bit pricey really. We spent. £7.30 * 2 each of the four days we were in London, that makes £58.40. We needed travelcards as some of the days we would make multiple journeys, but we didn’t actually end up using that so perhaps a return would have been cheaper. I don’t think there would have been a cheaper way of travelling on the underground as I don’t think there is a multi day pass system without Oyster but maybe TFL are considering a new pricing scheme as I read somewhere Oyster’s days are numbered as well.

According to the London Underground fares page a 1 to 3 zone travelcard is £8.80 or indeed £7.30 off peak, which we paid. I think this is quite a bit of money for the underground, especially if you are travelling with a few people. Taxis would be cheaper and more convenient if your journey is very short I guess.

What I found more irritating than the price was how busy the underground now is. I remember travelling through London 10 years ago, it didn’t seem as busy to me. Perhaps I am glamourising the past.

Sure I use some of the most busy underground lines I guess; Piccadilly, Victoria etc. Mostly the lines which TFL are planning on keeping open for 24 hours at the weekend. I’m not so sure I would want to head down a poorly staffed tube station at 4 in the morning on a Saturday though.

I am surprised that behind the news articles there often never a debate about why a private organisation such as London underground can’t manage to balance the books and we are simply faced with the prospect of running the same service with less staff. This in turn probably means minimal room for upgrades/expansions etc. Thus more overcrowding surely.

I could only find an old article here discussing this matter. The article indicates that the London Underground does not make profit and some figures.

I am seriously considering next time we’re going to London on a romantic break to only use taxis. Sure it costs a bit more, but with tube fares not doubt increases again at some stage I think the benefit of the tube really starts to fade in comparison to a private, comfortable taxi.

Regardless off my thoughts on the underground we had a fab time in London and sometimes waiting for the next tube to come because the first one arriving was just too packed to get on didn’t ruin things for us. It just makes me think about how to do things better next time and feel a bit more relaxed during our getaway breaks to the capital.

Petition to save Disneyland Paris

Recently I read about a petition that had been set up in Britain to “Save” Disneyland Paris. Apparently some recent visitors felt that the theme park is going downhill somewhat and therefore setup this petition. I read some comments on the news article as well and I am in two minds about this petition.

I’ve been to Disneyland Paris quite a few times. In 1993, 1994, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 and the last time I have been was in 2009. I thoroughly enjoyed my stays as you can see from my return so often. I think one of the big highlights was 2002. It was fantastic going to the newly opened Studios park with quite a few new rides to explore. The highlights were the Rock ‘N Rollercoaster and Cinemagique. Interestingly the Rock ‘N Rollercoaster is actually the same roller coaster track as a ride they have at Six Flags Holland (now known as Walibi world again I believe) in The Netherlands. However what I always thought Disney does so well is the theming of the rides and certainly with regards to a Rollercoaster I thought they pushed the boat out here. Theming the ride around the Aerosmith songs worked well and the timing went together really well with the thrill.

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disneyland Paris Sleeping Beauty Castle

Cinemagique is a true magical cinema experience and one can’t really talk too much about this before giving away the secrets which make it so unique. Other great experiences in the Studios park more recently have been the Finding Nemo roller coaster, the huge Tower of Terror ride (perhaps THE BEST RIDE of the two parks I would say), the Stitch encounter ride I thought made up for the somewhat disappointing aspects of the original park. The tram ride was a bit boring and simply fails to capture the true behind the scenes of movies experience you get at Universal Studios in Los Angeles. A much longer tram ride and driving through Hill Valley is of course something that cannot be captured at a  make shift fake backlot.

The original Disneyland Paris park always has been very special to me. The Buzz Lightyear ride was terrific and is only about 6 years old I believe. The fantastic theming of the Big Thunder Mountain is something you don’t see elsewhere I think and the updated Space Mountain 2 ride was pretty cool as well.

Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror

Hollywood Hotel Tower of Terror

However sure I can be critical here. It was plain to see that Disneyland Paris was struggling, even in the 90s. The first time I went I noticed you saw cleaning staff everywhere. You would in fact never see anything on the ground as cleaning staff were pretty much following all the visitors around tidying things up after them. There certainly seemed a reduction in staff in the subsequent times I went. Sometimes you would see a ride closed. For example there is a windmill type of ride in Fantasyland which I don’t think I’ve ever seen working. But this does not say much of course. There could be many reasons why that ride hasn’t operated certain times.

The subsequent times I went back after the studios park had been opened the opening hours seem to have shortened. (Usually I’ve been in the summer months). I believe it went down from 8pm down to even 6pm at some stage. This can be somewhat annoying I think because there is almost nothing better than running through a theme park in the evening when it is getting dark and getting on the rides very quickly.

The View down Main Street USA in Disneyland Paris

The View down Main Street USA in Disneyland Paris

The lack of ride additions and ride updates has perhaps been a bit disappointing as well (perhaps one of the reasons I have not been back since 2009). It’s disappointing to see Star Tours 2 has opened in several Disney locations so far but still is not present in Paris. I am pretty sure we are going to see the new Star Wars movie reboot before we get the ride available in Paris. This actually seems a little bit crazy, but it does show where Disney’s priorities lie I guess. I hope that if the new Star Wars movies are a massive success some of the profit that is raised could perhaps flow into the parks and at least give Disneyland Paris the much needed Star Tours 2 before a Star Tours 3 is released elsewhere.

Some of the comments on the article I read were a bit daft. People complaining about the Paris weather and that the park is not in the right location. Well whenever I have been it has been pretty good. I remember in 2007, I went at Christmas time and it was very cold. But I cannot get into the Christmas spirit when the weather is warm anyway I would have thought. Having said that I can appreciate cold weather and a theme park doesn’t really mix. Inevitably the main reason why some theme parks elsewhere in Europe close during the winter months. On another occasion I visited the Paris theme park I remember it being very rainy for one day. Apart from that I have always experienced very good weather. I can’t see the weather in the UK being any better on average but perhaps I am wrong.

Fantillusion Parade

Fantillusion Parade, last went out in 2012 from what I’ve heard. It was stunning and a shame if it does not come back.

Some people have suggested the park should have been located in Spain. Sure it would have overcome the weather problem but I am not so sure this would have increased visitor numbers. It is in fact very easy for us brits to jump on the Eurostar and get to the Disneyland Paris train station in one go (though I believe the direct trains have been somewhat reduced in recent years, quite a shame). Still connections and travelling distances are much better for the Germans, the Dutch, British, Danish and further north even I would say and really that is the rich area of Europe you are targeting.

A video was posted in the news article I read where you could see a panel missing on Space Mountain’s exterior. I think it’s a bit crazy to assume rides are falling apart just because of one panel missing, which most likely has been replaced by now anyway. However perhaps there is more evidence of so called “crumbling rides”. I can’t see this happening on a large scale when they are still opening small new rides.

Worryingly I did read some of the parades are now cancelled and the Fantillusion parade is no more along with reduced fireworks shows. That is quite a shame really. Also I read in another article that hotel New York is in need for refurbishment. It is surprising they let a 4 star hotel slip like that. Perhaps the original park also needs so more rides. I think it probably needs another extreme roller coaster or two and perhaps another for kids and more rides could really be themes around the successful Pixar franchises. The Honey I shrunk the audience 3D movie was always a complete embarrassment I thought after EO got a bit old. With so many successful 3D Pixar movies it was a surprise no spin offs of those made its way into that theatre.

I hope Disney can invest more in the Paris parks. I am aware they only own a minority share now in the park but I cannot see how Disneyland Paris can raise enough capital to do anything that would cost more than half a billion Euros or more which is the kind of money required I think to really captivate visitors and make sure they come back. In actual fact I believe they had a dream at Disneyland Paris to open a water park in 2012 which of course hasn’t happened.

I’d like to see a young generation be able to experience Disneyland Paris the same way I did; with excitement wonder and of course fun rather than they see headlines suggesting the place is falling apart.

Synthesizer Dreams….. 3 years on….

I uploaded a video of me playing the Goliath music plugin on my then very new iMac back in April 2010.

Goliath is pretty awesome, made by EastWest and contains a whole range of sounds. I had bought the “Complete Composers’ Collection” which includes Goliath, Pianos, Symphonic Orchestra, Choirs and some other software plugins.

 

The instrument I had used on the track was called “Colossus Pad” and came from a standalone plugin I believe East West had created before called Colossus and now bundled in Goliath. Very full dreamy type of Synth pad sound. Very nice and very easy to create something that sounds pretty good I think.

In the 90s when I was a teenager I used to buy keyboards and synths and eventually bought some synth racks as well once I had settled on my trusty old Yamaha S80 for playing keys. It’s a great Synth with well weighted keys and I have made good use of it since 1999. However in more recent years synth sounds have moved onto computers of course and the East West Complete Composers’ Collections was really something quite special I thought. Quite pricey but then you do get a LOT of instruments for your buck. East West have also released the collection on a stand alone hard drive, meaning you don’t have to install the whole thing.

For me having all these sounds available is great. It inspires me a lot and I’ve never been the type of musician to mess about and create my own synth sounds, though I know there are a lot of possibilitieis in that area. The most I have ever played around with I guess are pan/attack/release etc. I just prefer getting a great sound and tinkering around to see what I can do with it.

I noticed recently that Synthesizer Dreams (the improv piece I am about to post below) has gained quite a few views so I thought it was interesting to listen back and see what I created there. Some of the YouTube comments are interesting and someone mentioned they have heard the theme before. Well sure it is entirely possible I subconsciously played an existing piece of music (or part of) but this was not really my intention here.

I’ve recently not played my synthesizer that much as I bought an acoustic piano back in July but I should definitely get back to playing Goliath and the other plugins I have and perhaps experiment what you can do with all those things. I don’t think I have even installed Storm Drum 2, which was bundled in the collection and think I will like that as I do really like modern film music. You can probably recreate that edgy Dark Knight soundtrack with it I would imagine.

Regardless here is Synthesizer Dreams 1 once again:

 

 

Back to WordPress….

I decided to change my site back to a WordPress blog as I found a static HTML site just doesn’t work well at all.

The previous site I had implemented was a Theme I bought from Theme forest. Although it looked nice it simply lacked two main things:

  • The option to update /post something quick (instead I was relying on a built in Twitter scroller which with the updates Twitter recently implemented completely stopped working)
  • And perhaps more importantly the ability for Google to crawl it easy and increase search engine ranking. Instead it was a JavaScript sliding still site with all the content on one page actually. Quite a no-no when it comes to doing well with Google.

In actual fact SEO was so very poor that my site seemed to drop from a decent Page Rank 3 down to 1 now! I’m hoping that I can get the site back to PR3 at least but that will take time and a whole lot of blog posts.

However the latter I am willing to put some time into. Looking back at some recent YouTube vids I had posted several years ago with some of my music I realised some have achieved quite a few views. Interestingly I had not looked at those in a long time. I will post them on the site here as well again to keep everything together.

WordPress is just so damn good at SEO, well any blog tool probably would be, it’s silly to have a static site that just reduces your search engine ranking, thus the amount of visitors. So I am going to think about things a bit more logically when it comes to my own site.

So out with the old, static and in with something more dynamic, fun and just a place to jot down my thoughts about things. Recently I have been taking a bit of a break from Facebook as I feel writing just about personal stuff gets a bit forgetful really. Also I’ve noticed that thoughts about politics, being critical about things, such as movies, talking about important things that are happening in the world etc don’t seem to fit the Facebook conventions, at least not with the friends I seem to have gathered on there. It seems more of a place where people bicker about small things and this in turn seems to sometimes irritate and frustrate. Not something I need more of in my life really.

I read an interesting blog post recently on comparing Facebook / Twitter and it seems Twitter is perhaps better for people getting informed about things and Facebook is better at more personal stuff. The latter is something I just want to take a break from as writing about things / music / seo / coding is what I really like doing and posting about what I’ve had for dinner is perhaps something that is only important at home rather than on the internet.

In conclusion: here is the new andrewnicholson.co.uk where I shall post on my music,  posts some videos, my thoughts on organic SEO techniques (as I am trying to improve my own site’s rankings), perhaps the odd movie review and just random thoughts about things really…

So hope you will check back, read and engage. :-)