Colombian Army, National Police Neutralize Leaders of Major Criminal Organizations

first_imgBut Megateo met his demise when Troops and police officers converged on the kingpin’s hideout in the mountains of Catatumbo, where he and his men tried to fire a homemade rocket as an assault team descended in a helicopter. However, the weapon backfired and Megateo was killed instantly, while 10 of his men died in an ensuing gunfight with Soldiers and police. He had been in several paramilitary groups, eventually becoming second-in-command of a drug-trafficking group led by Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero, who worked with Gonzalo Rodríguez Gacha and the Castaño brothers to secure drug routes and carry out extortion rackets in the southeastern departments of Vichada, Casanare, and Meta. Eventually, Pijarvey supplanted Guerrero — who went by the alias “Cuchillo” — after the latter drowned in a stream trying to escape during a gunfight between his drug-trafficking group and Armed Forces Commandos in an area between Meta and Guaviare in December 2010. Pijarvey inherited Cuchillo’s criminal structure, which he renamed Bloque Libertadores del Vichada, and its illegal businesses, according to the National Police. But less than five years later, Troops caught up to Pijarvey, who had evaded capture during a National Police operation in late 2014. Pijarvey was killed by a DIASE sniper during a gunfight with Troops who had converged on his hideout on September 27, after receiving information of his whereabouts 12 days earlier. Pijarvey’s death, meanwhile, caused his narco-trafficking group to dissolve. Megateo, 39, led the only remaining faction of the EPL, a guerrilla group that demobilized in the early 1990s and controlled vast coca fields in the department of Norte de Santander, according to Army intelligence. Authorities had offered a reward of 2 billion pesos (US$646,120) for information regarding the whereabouts of Megateo, who had committed crimes in the area for nearly 20 years and had escaped from at least 14 operations by security forces over that time. Operation takes out drug kingpin Pijarvey “Pijarvey was like a trademark, a myth, or a legend,” said Sergeant Willy Casallas of DIASE, one of the lead investigators who tracked down Pijarvey. “He was known ever since he was a part of the Autodefensas del Llano [a paramilitary group that operated in Colombia’s eastern plains in the early 2000s]. He was a part of the old guard, and with his death his group crumbled.” “Everything revolved around Megateo,” said Brigadier General Jorge Humberto Jerez Cuellar, the Commander of the Army’s Second Division. “Now his group is scrambling to reorganize and find a new area of operations since the area they were in is no longer safe.” The group charged drug traffickers 400,000 pesos (about US$138) for safely transporting each kilogram of cocaine across the Venezuelan border and 300,000 pesos (US$103) for processing every kilogram of coca paste. Colombia’s National Army and National Police recently conducted two separate operations that resulted in the deaths of two leaders of major criminal organizations in the country’s northern and eastern departments. “He was in charge of 150 men…He had consolidated control of the department of Vichada and of the border with Venezuela. And for a while now, he was planning to expand to Villavicencio.” Like Megateo, Pijarvey had been a criminal fixture for years. By Dialogo November 30, 2015 [untranslatable] guerrillas The return toward drug trafficking again is critical In the northeastern region of Catatumbo, a raid by the Army’s Second Division on October 1 culminated in the death of Víctor Ramón Navarro, who went by the alias “Megateo” and had headed the Popular Liberation Army (EPL, for its Spanish acronym). Four days earlier, the National Police’s Anti-extortion and Anti-kidnapping Directorate (DIASE) killed Martín Farfán Díaz, who went by the alias “Pijarvey” and had been the leader of a drug-trafficking group in the eastern plains of central and southern Colombia. Megateo, who threatened and paid off local residents to cultivate illegal coca crops and act as lookouts, was known for his lavish tastes – he drank only expensive whiskies – and his abusive ways with women. He pursued mostly underage women, some of whom were marked with tattoos of his face. last_img read more

Cops Save Kayaker Stranded Off Fire Island

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Suffolk County police officers rescued a kayaker who lost his gear, became stranded and was clinging to a pylon after being swept up in a strong current at the Old Inlet breach on Fire Island.Timothy Miller was kayaking in Bellport Bay his kayak capsized, he lost his paddle and swam to a small island and then tried to swim to shore but the current was too strong, police said.Miller called 911 with his cell phone at 8:08 p.m. and held onto a pylon until Marine Bureau and Aviation Section officers responded with two police boats and a Suffolk County helicopter that guided the vessels through the shallow water.The 39-year-old Patchogue man was cold and exhausted when he was pulled from the water at 8:32 p.m. and later taken to a local hospital.last_img read more

How to give money for Christmas

first_imgSometimes the best gift doesn’t need to be wrappedby: Liz MoyerThe red sweater might be a good fit for your nephew. The flat-screen television would probably look great in your daughter’s living room.But here is something to keep in mind as you draw up your holiday list: Sometimes money is the most appropriate present.Done right, it can also be thoughtful. Financial gifts can launch a child on a lifetime of good habits, help a student graduate without heavy debt, ease the strain of an unexpected medical bill or bolster a loved one’s retirement account.“A sensible gift can teach children about the power of savings and self-discipline as well as philanthropy, with returns that can long outlast toy or gadget fads,” says Timothy Speiss, a partner in charge of the wealth-advisory group at EisnerAmper, an accounting firm based in New York.Giving also can be nearly as good as receiving, thanks to the tax benefits associated with some financial gifts. The givers can often reduce their tax bills by, for example, shifting income-producing investments to family members who pay taxes at lower rates or taking deductions on charitable gifts.Here is a guide to financial gifts that can provide lasting value to the recipients — and, in some cases, pay off for you as well: continue reading » 10SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Retirement remains a top concern for Americans

first_imgStrong retirement planning can make a person’s twilight years the best part of his or her life, but many Americans have not adequately prepared for retirement. The potential financial ramifications of this problem are becoming more pronounced as baby boomers rapidly enter retirement age.According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by 2029, all baby boomers will be over the age of 65, and the number of people above retirement age will dwarf the number of people below age 18 by 2056. These individuals are realizing the impending reality of retirement, and many are unsure of their own preparedness. Credit unions can appeal to these individuals with programs that help them effectively save for retirement before it is too late.Baby boomers feel the pressureThe baby boomer generation is hitting retirement age during the next few years, but a remarkably small number of this cohort feel confident about their savings. A new survey, from the Insured Retirement Institute, discovered that just 60 percent of baby boomers have savings for retirement. More alarmingly, that number represents a decline from previous surveys. As of last year, 8 in 10 boomers said they had saved for retirement. continue reading » 4SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblrlast_img read more

Frontier marks north-west debut with Manchester buy

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

Wimbledon’s return

first_imgTo access this article REGISTER NOWWould you like print copies, app and digital replica access too? SUBSCRIBE for as little as £5 per week. Would you like to read more?Register for free to finish this article.Sign up now for the following benefits:Four FREE articles of your choice per monthBreaking news, comment and analysis from industry experts as it happensChoose from our portfolio of email newsletterslast_img

Foreign investment rules may be issued before omnibus laws: Senior minister

first_imgCoordinating Economic Minister Airlangga Hartarto has said that foreign investment rules – namely the priority investment list – may be issued by the government before the sweeping omnibus bills on job creation and taxation pass into law.Airlangga said the priority list would allow certain business sectors to get fiscal incentives such as tax holidays and super tax deductions. The government would also prohibit 100 percent foreign ownership in small and medium businesses.“We are still harmonizing [the investment list], and we will provide the priorities to investors so that during the list campaign we do not have to say, ‘These are the sectors that you are not allowed to invest in,’” the minister said at a media briefing in Jakarta on Monday evening. Read also: Government to liberalize investment in omnibus bill on job creationThe government has long floated the idea of changing the current negative investment list (DNI) to a so-called positive investment list. Currently, the DNI regulates which business sectors are open, prohibited or open with certain conditions to foreign investment.In the omnibus bill on job creation, the government will open all business sectors to direct investment except those it explicitly declares prohibited from such activity or those that can only be handled by the government.The prohibited areas are narcotics, gambling, chemical weapons, ozone-depleting substances, coral extraction and fishing for endangered species based on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Topics :center_img Further details on the investment policy will be regulated in a presidential regulation, the bill states.The government expects the bill, if passed into law, to cut regulatory red tape and attract more investment into the country to help boost stagnant economic growth. Indonesia’s economy grew by 5.02 percent last year, down from 5.17 percent in 2018, as investment and exports cooled.Read also: Key points of labor reform in omnibus bill on job creation: What we know so farPresident Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration has also submitted to the House of Representatives the omnibus bill on taxation, which will lower corporate income tax from the current 25 percent to 20 percent by 2023. The bill will also lower tax penalties, ease income tax regulations for expatriates and work toward taxing multinational digital firms that have no physical presence in Indonesia but that benefit from activities in the local market.Airlangga said that labor-intensive industries would receive a tax holiday. “For instance, if a company wanted to build a garment factory with 2,000 workers, they would receive a tax holiday.”The minister added that large investments would also receive similar tax incentives, adding that an investment of US$750 million may allow a company to have a tax holiday for 15 years.last_img read more

Arsenal manager Unai Emery reveals details of key talks with Mesut Ozil

first_imgMesut Ozil could captain Arsenal against Liverpool with Granit Xhaka set to be left in London  (Picture: Getty)‘That conversation this morning was because I wanted to listen about how he was thinking now to help us tomorrow,’ said Emery at his pre-match press conference.‘It was a very good conversation. Tomorrow he is in the group.More: Arsenal FCArsenal flop Denis Suarez delivers verdict on Thomas Partey and Lucas Torreira movesThomas Partey debut? Ian Wright picks his Arsenal starting XI vs Manchester CityArsene Wenger explains why Mikel Arteta is ‘lucky’ to be managing Arsenal‘We need his quality, his skill. We need his consistency. We need his positive mentality. Then we need him to help us on the pitch.‘I want now like in the pre-season, like a month ago, for him to help us on the pitch.’Asked if Ozil would wear the armband in the absence of Granit Xhaka, Emery added: ‘It depends.. He could be yes.’Who will leave Arsenal first?Mesut Ozil0% Unai Emery0%Share your resultsShare your resultsTweet your resultsMORE: Unai Emery reveals Granit Xhaka is ‘devastated’ after clashing with Arsenal fansMORE: Emmanuel Petit calls on Unai Emery to remove Granit Xhaka as Arsenal captain after Crystal Palace outburst Advertisement Arsenal manager Unai Emery reveals details of key talks with Mesut Ozil Metro Sport ReporterTuesday 29 Oct 2019 2:11 pmShare this article via facebookShare this article via twitterShare this article via messengerShare this with Share this article via emailShare this article via flipboardCopy link1.2kShares Comment Advertisement Mesut Ozil is set to make his Arsenal comeback against Liverpool on Wednesday (Picture: Getty)Unai Emery is set to hand Mesut Ozil the chance to salvage his Arsenal career with the former Real Madrid star in line to captain his side against Liverpool at Anfield tomorrow.Ozil has made just two appearances this season and hasn’t featured since the Carabao Cup third round win over Nottingham Forest at the end of September.The 31-year-old hasn’t been included in any of the last six matchday squads and was last week spotted in tense talks with Emery at the club’s training ground ahead of the Europa League match against Vitoria.Ahead of Sunday’s match against Crystal Palace, Emery claimed the decision to freeze Ozil out was part of a coherent club strategy which the likes of technical director Edu and head of football Raul Sanhllehi were both on board with.AdvertisementAdvertisementADVERTISEMENTWith Arsenal’s form having nosedived spectacularly in recent weeks, Emery now looks set to bring Ozil back in from the cold having conceded a team short on creativity is missing the World Cup winner’s influence.last_img read more

RBA Governor sparks fresh predictions that rates will hold ‘until 2020’

first_imgRBA Governor Philip Lowe has given the surest sign yet that rates will remain on hold “for a while”. Picture: Hollie Adams/The AustralianRESERVE Bank Governor Philip Lowe has sparked a frenzy of fresh predictions that rates will hold at 1.5 per cent until 2020 — a boon for home loan borrowers but hell for retirees depending on interest income.Mr Lowe virtually locked in interest rates at 1.5 per cent after telling guests at a Reserve Bank Board Dinner last night that the best thing RBA could do for Aussies “is hold the cash rate steady” while the country progressed towards full employment and inflation improvements.Mr Lowe said he did not expect inflation to rise toward 2.5 per cent “for a while yet” saying it would increase “over the next couple of years” — mostly because of slow wages growth.“The Board’s view is that while this progress is occurring, the best contribution we can make to the welfare of the Australian people is to hold the cash rate steady and for the Reserve Bank to be a source of stability and confidence. So that is where we are at the moment,” he said. Falling house prices in Sydney and Melbourne were part of the reason why RBA could not move on rates, according to AMP Capital. Picture: Janine Eastgate.“A rate hike is now unlikely until 2020: as growth is likely to remain weaker than the RBA expects; wages growth and inflation are likely to remain low for longer; bank lending standards are tightening further, and; house prices in Sydney and Melbourne are falling with more downside ahead,” he said. “In fact, raising rates at time of falling house prices could be dangerous. For investors: bank deposits will continue to offer poor returns; Australian bonds offer better returns relative to global bonds; and remain wary of the Australian dollar.”Mr Lowe said inflation data showed current “CPI and underlying inflation were running marginally below 2 per cent”, which was in line with expectations.Video Player is loading.Play VideoPlayNext playlist itemMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 8:04Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -8:04 Playback Rate1xChaptersChaptersDescriptionsdescriptions off, selectedCaptionscaptions settings, opens captions settings dialogcaptions off, selectedQuality Levels720p720pHD432p432p216p216p180p180pAutoA, selectedAudio Tracken (Main), selectedFullscreenThis is a modal window.Beginning of dialog window. Escape will cancel and close the window.TextColorWhiteBlackRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentBackgroundColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyOpaqueSemi-TransparentTransparentWindowColorBlackWhiteRedGreenBlueYellowMagentaCyanTransparencyTransparentSemi-TransparentOpaqueFont Size50%75%100%125%150%175%200%300%400%Text Edge StyleNoneRaisedDepressedUniformDropshadowFont FamilyProportional Sans-SerifMonospace Sans-SerifProportional SerifMonospace SerifCasualScriptSmall CapsReset restore all settings to the default valuesDoneClose Modal DialogEnd of dialog window.This is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.Close Modal DialogThis is a modal window. This modal can be closed by pressing the Escape key or activating the close button.PlayMuteCurrent Time 0:00/Duration 0:00Loaded: 0%Stream Type LIVESeek to live, currently playing liveLIVERemaining Time -0:00 Playback Rate1xFullscreenMay 1: Real Estate Market Wrap08:04The RBA Governor expected the Aussie economy to “grow a bit faster than 3 per cent” this year and next — “this would be a better outcome than the average of recent years”.There were gradual signs of improvement in the economy, he said, with business conditions at “around their highest level in many years and the long-awaited pick-up in non-mining business investment is taking place”.Infrastructure spending had picked up in states, he said, as well as the number of Aussies with jobs in the past year and consumer spending was “solid, although it is lower than it was before the financial crisis”. Mr Lowe said “the best contribution we can make to the welfare of the Australian people is to hold the cash rate steady”. Picture: Alex Coppel. BARGAINS TO BE HAD IN UNIT MARKET RBA IN UNCHARTED TERRITORY He said that “reflects our view that the progress in moving towards full employment and having inflation return to the middle of the target range is likely to be only gradual”.More from newsParks and wildlife the new lust-haves post coronavirus19 hours agoNoosa’s best beachfront penthouse is about to hit the market19 hours agoThe cash rate target has been at 1.5 per cent since August 2016 — “that is for 21 months — which is the longest period without a change”, he acknowledged.The board, he said was “conscious that our ultimate objective is enhancing the economic prosperity and welfare of the Australian people”.AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver couldn’t see any option but for rates to remain on hold until 2020 — and would not rule out the fact that there could even be a further cut.last_img read more

‘Stupendous deal’ nets £1bn for right to revive West Coast fortunes

first_imgON FEBRUARY 19, Virgin Rail was awarded a 15 year franchise to operate InterCity services on Britain’s West Coast Main Line between London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. Handover of the operation took place at 02.00 on March 9. Announcing the details of the award, Franchising Director John O’Brien hailed the package as a ’fabulous deal for the taxpayer’ which could see trains covering the 646 km from London to Glasgow in under 4h within 10 years.Virgin Rail will pay the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising £1237m in premiums for the right to run the franchise, converting the £92m subsidy paid to BR in 1996-97 into a £220m premium in 2011-12 – by comparison, ICWC took just £219m in ticket revenue during in 1995-96. Virgin will continue to receive subsidies averaging £61m a year until upgrading work is completed in 2002, after which the money flow swings to a £52·7m premium almost overnight. Over the entire franchise, the average premium is £62m.Virgin is also committed to investing ’hundreds of millions of pounds’ into the franchise, on top of £1·5bn which Railtrack is to spend on upgrading the track, signalling and power supplies. Virgin Group Chairman Richard Branson said he was ’very excited to fulfil a dream, with Eurostar (UK), CrossCountry and now West Coast. Over the next 15 years we will be working to create a rail network that Britain can be proud of, and the envy of Europe.’ He recognised the scale of work needed to revitalise ICWC, but ’we wouldn’t want to take on the challenge if we didn’t think it would enhance the Virgin name.’Upgrading essentialThe West Coast Main Line accounts for 12% of the Railtrack network. Following the completion of electrification in 1974, the route attracted substantial business from road and air, earning 50% more revenue than the ’rival’ East Coast route from London to Edinburgh.However, a planned fleet re-equipment in the early 1980s was scuppered by the abandonment of the Advanced Passenger Train, and subsequent attempts also foundered due to recession and the run-up to privatisation. As a result ICWC saw what Virgin Rail director Will Whitehorne described as ’15 years of slow and sad decline’, to the point where barely 76% of trains arrive within 10min of the advertised time, and failures and cancellations are rife. The Franchising Director acknowledged there were problems: ’I know how important this route is, and how much investment it needs … it is the real litmus test of the franchising process.’ Back in 1994 we also identified West Coast modernisation as one of the biggest challenges to Britain’s rail privatisation process (RG 4.94 p217).Last October OPRAF and Railtrack reached agreement to spend an extra £150m on upgrading in addition to the £1·35bn ’core investment plan’ for infrastructure refurbishment, paving the way for the possible operation of 200 km/h tilting trains from 2002. O’Brien said he was ’delighted that this upgrading approach has been vindicated’, noting that Virgin Rail has already started negotiating a supplementary upgrading package with Railtrack to lift maximum speeds to 225 km/h by 2006.Virgin Rail is committed to ordering a fleet of 40 tilting trains capable of 225 km/h, which will enter service at 200 km/h in 2002. With a similar number of diesel trainsets pledged for the CrossCountry franchise it took over on January 5, the company will be spending £800m on new rolling stock. Director Brian Barratt said Virgin Rail would be looking to negotiate ’bulk purchase’ deals for the two fleets, having ’identified a lot of commonality’ between the requirements.Branson said he hoped work would start next year, and that ’by 2003 almost all Virgin trains will be brand new’. With a snipe at East Coast franchisee Great North Eastern Railway, he noted that ’we are buying 80 new trains against their two!’. Unified fleet management will have other benefits; refurbished 200 km/h diesel HSTs replaced by new CrossCountry stock will be available to cover West Coast duties during the infrastructure upgrading, and perhaps for through services onto non-electrified routes.Journey times are forecast to fall dramatically as the new trains come on stream and Railtrack completes the infrastructure works (Table I). This makes Virgin highly dependent on Railtrack delivering to schedule, but Branson says the companies will ’work very closely together … we are looking to work in partnership with Railtrack to build a new network, which is not the way it has happened over the past two or three years.’ But he warned ’we will be sitting on top of them if they get it wrong.’Railtrack Commercial Director Michael Howells was quick to ’endorse all the promises made by Virgin … we are fully confident that the work will go forward as planned.’ He later confirmed that the start of upgrading is not dependent on having the innovative transmission-based signalling ready, although ’we will be looking to the maintenance cost savings from TBS to provide the return further down the road.’ TBS will be compulsory for the planned step up to 225 km/h operation in 2006, but Howells says ’following discussions with our suppliers, there is a high level of confidence that TBS will deliver.’The ambitious programme was also endorsed by the West Coast 250 group which has been campaigning for substantial improvements to the corridor. Carlisle MP Eric Martlew, who jointly chairs the all-party parliamentary West Coast Main Line Group said the campaigners looked forward to working with Virgin and Railtrack ’to ensure that the promised investment is achieved’.Investing in qualityVirgin is to invest another £200m on ’non-rolling stock’ projects including substantial station improvements, although no details were released beyond an initial £2m for passenger information systems. Whitehorne noted that ’lack of information is the biggest single source of customer complaints’ at present. He felt that ’sales to the public is an area where rail has not kept up with its market competitors such as the airlines.’ CrossCountry was opening a new telephone ticket sales office in March, with 100 staff initially and later up to 250. This will be expanded to cover West Coast tickets from October, and Virgin ’will offer the facility to other franchisees as well.’ Virgin Rail has negotiated backing from four investment groups for its spending programme, although a public share offering has not been ruled out. Asked how Virgin will be able to generate enough income to fund the investment and the huge premia payments, O’Brien said that extra revenue would come from higher patronage and increased services; the deal was ’not about taking costs out of the business.’ Branson emphasised that there were ’many areas where using our expertise will make West Coast more efficient and earn more’, highlighting recent changes designed to bring CrossCountry train catering back into profit.Substantial growth in patronage will be needed to generate enough revenue to fund the agreed premia, but Whitehorne is confident that the target is achievable. ’There is a huge market out there if we can tap it; rail currently has around 5% market share in the M6 corridor, with air at 3%, coaches 2% and private cars no less than 90%. A step change in the attractiveness of this line after 2002 means we can take market share and grow the business. We are not talking rocket science; the numbers are easily attainable.’Virgin Rail is committed to increasing the present service levels on most West Coast corridors, with a 15min interval service to Birmingham to be launched ’early in the next century’. Branson felt there were a lot of opportunities for ’point to point services as well as the existing stopping trains’, in effect overlaying a ground-level airline onto the classic railway operating patterns.Whitehorne sees considerable scope for winning business from short-haul domestic air services as pressure on runway slots increases at the busiest airports; ’CrossCountry and West Coast together are ideally placed to offer the first integrated rail/air network in the United Kingdom’. With a few minor infrastructure works, ’we could be running direct services from Manchester Airport to London Heathrow in 2h by 2001.’Virgin Rail has agreed to look at the scope for launching new services off the present electrified network, notably restoring through inter-city services to Shrewsbury and Blackpool, which lost them in the early 1990s. It will also look at electrification of the ’missing link’ between Manchester and Preston, used by CrossCountry, and on the branches from Crewe to Chester and Preston to Blackpool.Innovation is also expected in fare structures; Barratt felt that ’the classic first and standard classes are no longer appropriate to today’s market’. He plans to offer four levels of service on most Virgin trains. At the upper end the ’first class’ coaches with 2+1 seating will offer Business Class for those wanting to work on the train and ’Premium Class’ for passengers who just want to be pampered and enjoy the journey. The 2+2 standard class coaches will provide a Luxury Economy with tables for family groups or seat-back videos, whilst high-density face-to-back airline seating will meet the demand for very cheap leisure fares.Asked about the £19 London – Scotland single fare offered by GNER to compete with budget airlines, Branson was quick to emphasise the trade-off between quality and price. ’There is a balancing act between making quality better and having the most competitive fares; our aim is to run a high-quality operation, but Virgin is not famous for being outpriced. We will be in there fighting.’Wait and seeDespite his ambitious aspirations, Branson was keen to emphasise that Virgin had a long haul ahead. ’Passengers must not expect too much too quickly … they are not going to walk onto a train tomorrow and find everything is different. New trains are 4 1??2 years away, and Railtrack has to spend a fortune on the track.’ Even so, Virgin can be expected to start making much-needed improvements as soon as it takes over the franchise. Brian Barratt said punctuality on CrossCountry improved by 5% within the first month as a result of better communication between the train operating company’s staff on the ground and those of Railtrack. Virgin has pledged to lift West Coast’s dismal performance record and get the on-time punctuality of ’most’ services to 90% within a year. Refurbishment of the existing rolling stock is already getting under way, and the first train was available for service on March 10. Some London – Birmingham and London – Manchester services will be speeded up by 5min from the May 1998 timetable change. Fixed-price taxi links will be introduced to feed in and out of major stations, and a dedicated coach link from Watford Junction to Heathrow airport will be reinstated. oTABLE: Table I. ICWC journey time cuts 1997 2002 2006London – Birmingham 1h 40min 1h 20min n/aLondon – Manchester 2h 30min 2h ’Under 2h’ London – Liverpool 2h 45min 2h 15min n/aLondon – Glasgow 5h to 4h to ’Under 4h’ 5h 30min 4h 20min CAPTION: West Coast is Britain’s busiest inter-city route, earning on its own 10% of all passenger revenue. Virgin also has the CrossCountry franchise, making it the biggest private operator of inter-city serviceslast_img read more