Transport

Even by the exotic standards of train delay excuses, the reason for my commuter service’s late arrival one day last week was unusual: “Swan on the line.” But it got me thinking, Nassim Nicholas Taleb-style, about the hidden business risks posed by the humble commute to work.

Another week, another regulatory battle for Uber, the Silicon Valley private car hire network with a German name. This time it is in Germany, where a Frankfurt court has banned its Uber Pop “ride-sharing” service that introduces passengers to unlicensed drivers through a smartphone app.

Emma Jacobs

An artist's impression of the revamped bunks with en suite shower Photo: Transport Scotland/PA Wire

The revamp of the Caledonian Sleeper train service between Scotland and London looks like good news for the business travellers who account for half the traffic on that route.

Serco, the outsourcing group that has just snagged the franchise from FirstGroup, said more than £100m would be invested in new rolling stock that would come into service in 2018, with taxpayers footing much of the bill.

It already offers luxury sleeper services in Australia, including double beds at the very top end. The new Caledonian Sleeper carriages will feature berths for one or two travellers with an en suite toilet and shower, a safe, larger “hotel quality” towels and Shetland wool blankets (or duvets for the unpatriotic). Read more

John Gapper

This undated handout photo released by A...This undated handout photo released by Amazon on December 1, 2013 shows an "octocopter" mini-drone that would be used to fly small packages to consumers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed on December 1 that his company was looking to the future with plans to use mini-drones to deliver small packages. AFP PHOTO / AMAZON  --- EDITORS NOTE --- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / AMAZON " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTSAMAZON/AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Amazon

Jeff Bezos’s plan to start delivering packages in the US by drone reminds me of a quote from The Everything Store, the Brad Stone book that recently won the FT and Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award: Read more

Adam Jones

Readers from countries accustomed to wild extremes of weather, please look away.

But for those in the path of the storm that swept through southern Britain into London’s rush hour this morning, we’re keen to know how you managed your teams to cope with the disruption. Read more

John Gapper

Having become used to A grades being handed out liberally in New York schools, I was taken aback to find a report card with an overall grade of D+. That is the current assessment of US infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

The ASCE has a stake in persuading the US public to invest in infrastructure. Still, it is hard to contest the view that one of the weaknesses of the country’s economy is the poor state of its roads, railways, airports and other transport infrastructure. Read more

Eiji Toyoda was the man who taught the world’s production workers Japanese. If you know kaizen means continuous improvement, and use kanban inventory tags to eliminate muda, or waste, then Toyoda, who died recently, was your sensei.

The New York minicab service I used to favour communicated in code. When you rang and gave your address, the radio dispatcher would reply “five minutes” and hang up. This meant a cab would arrive at any time from one to 10 minutes later. “Seven minutes” meant 20, and “10 minutes” meant that anything, or nothing, could happen.

Ravi Mattu

When US businessman Victor Kiam tried a Remington electric razor, he liked it so much he “bought the company”, and spent the rest of his life telling the rest of the world about it. But for some entrepreneurs a bad customer experience can be an equally powerful spur.
This was the case for Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Käärmann, co-founders of London-based money transfer start-up TransferWise, which announced this week that Valar Ventures, the fund launched by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, had made the company his first European investment.

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No corporate activity is as dispiriting, as futile, or, unfortunately, as common as blame-shifting. The tawdry process is familiar to anyone who has worked in business. However, the temptation to lay blame first and ask questions later is greatest at big companies with their web of complex, global suppliers.

Andrew Hill

TNT headquarters, Hoofddorp. Getty Images

Unless you’re an avid reader of Dutch newspapers you may have missed the mini-drama playing out behind the long-running UPS attempt to take over TNT Express, which ended on Monday when Brussels said it would block the deal.

At the height of the discussions with the European Commission last September, Marie-Christine Lombard, TNT Express’s chief executive, resigned abruptly. She went on to join competitor Geodis, a French express and logistics group, in the same role. Read more

Like a man with a broken umbrella trying to hail a cab in a downpour, the maker of the famous black London taxi is clinging to its last shreds of hope. Last week Manganese Bronze announced it was no longer a going concern and intended to appoint administrators.

For BAE Systems and EADS, the European aerospace and defence companies whose courtship was revealed last week, it’s simple. Business logic will help level the political hurdles and bridge the legal pitfalls that lie in the path of their proposed union.

Andrew Hill

Anyone who reads Sir Howard Davies’s acerbic regular diary column in Management Today magazine will know that the former head of the CBI and London School of Economics is extremely well-qualified to lead an independent inquiry into UK airport capacity. He seems to spend much of his time travelling by air between international destinations – dropping in the occasional barb about the airports he passes through.

In July, he pointed out that “you need a sense of humour to fly from Venice airport. Congested? It makes Heathrow Terminal 1 look like a county cricket ground on a wet afternoon”. Last December, he recounted a bad Paris-Munich TGV experience, but added he was “instinctively pro-train, except when it is owned by Richard Branson”.  Read more