A very high-specification Van Hool TX17 Astron has been delivered to Cheslyn Hay operator Parrys International by Moseley (PCV) (01977 609000).The super-high coach has a huge amount of additional equipment, including Funtoro seat-back on-demand multi-channel entertainment systems, a rear kitchen with two fridges, mood lighting, a vacuum cleaner and a hot water boiler. It has 48 Kiel two-tone leather seats.Power is from a 510bhp DAF MX-13 engine, which drives through a six-speed Allison T 525 automatic gearbox. The coach will be used on Parrys’ range of tours, including international work.
Marco Pierre White calls the restaurant ‘afforable glamour’Wheeler’s of St James’s – the oldest fish brand in the world – is being brought to Liverpool by Marco Pierre White.The top-end seafood restaurant will open at Pullman Liverpool in November, on the city’s UNESCO world heritage waterfront, with 120 covers. It’s the second Wheeler’s to open in the UK.Marco Pierre White says: “The Wheeler’s brand carries with it certain standards, and certain connotations. It’s about the highest quality of oysters, the freshest seafood and a memorable experience. This is exactly what I want to bring to Liverpool.“I can see from the success of my Liverpool Steakhouse Bar & Grill that the people of this city have an appetite and a desire for high-quality restaurants, and with the amazing location paired with a menu which I take great pride in, locals and tourists alike will find this to their taste.”Neil Brailsford, General Manager of Pullman Liverpool, says: “We are thrilled that Marco Pierre White, a world-renowned chef, has chosen to bring his first Wheeler’s restaurant outside of London to Pullman Liverpool. “Our hotels are designed to reflect the vibrant local culture and character of the neighbourhood and Wheeler’s, offering the highest-quality seafood on this historic waterfront, is the perfect choice for us.“We look forward to working with Marco and the team.”
The Harrogate Bus Company will begin evening buses on its Harrogate Electrics 2B route serving New Park and The Knox from 28 April. The service will run every hour on Monday-Saturday evenings– with three extra journeys at 2040hrs, 2140hrs and 2240hrs from Harrogate Bus Station.The new timetable offers easy access to Harrogate’s bars, restaurants, theatre, cinema and more.The Harrogate Bus Company’s Service Delivery Manager Andy Turnbull says: “We’re delighted to introduce these additional evening services on our popular Bilton services, which are becoming more and more popular – especially since the introduction of our pioneering electric buses.“With the return of lighter evenings and – we hope – warmer weather, it’s the ideal time to leave the car at home. We are delighted to be not just supporting the town centre offer but also great local family pubs like The Knox here in Bilton too.”
Operator plans to have an all-Euro 6 line-up by 2021 as new coaches are delivered to 48-strong fleetAlfa Coaches has taken delivery of 10 new Tourismos for its touring fleetAlfa Coaches, part of the Alfa Leisureplex Group. has unveiled an update to its livery with the delivery of 10 new Mercedes-Benz Tourismos as part of a fleet replacement programme.Alfa’s traditional buttermilk and blue scheme is replaced on the new coaches with white paintwork. They have red upholstery with colour-coded E-Leather headrests.The new 49-seaters form part of Alfa’s commitment to achieving 100% Euro 6 compliance by 2021. They come with the Active Brake Assist 4 (ABA4) safety programme. ABA4 warns the driver of a potential collision and it includes pedestrian detection in a wide radius ahead of the coach.Says Operations Director Paul Bull: “Since our transition to Mercedes-Benz coaches began in 2011, we have been delighted to offer passengers superior standards of reliability, comfort and quality.“At an operational level, the adoption of OMNIPlus On telematics on our latest vehicles will ensure maximum fuel efficiency and safety for all on board.”The new coaches have the 7.7-litre, 350bhp OM 936 engine coupled to the eight-speed Powershift automated manual gearbox. They have replaced 10 older Tourismos dating from 2011 and 2012.Adds Alfa Leisureplex Group MD Karen Sawbridge: “This order represents a significant investment for us, and it recognises our ongoing commitment to improving the overall holiday experience for our customers. Working with the Mercedes-Benz Coach Sales team at EvoBus (UK), we have been able to tailor our order to suit our business needs.”
Community Transport Glasgow (CTG) has begun the integration of zero-emission vehicles into its fleet with the purchase of five battery-electric Mellor Orion E minibuses.The deal heralds an aspiration by CTG to have an all-electric fleet by the end of 2020. The advent of Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone turned its mind to disposing of its older diesel minibuses and it then sought funding from Scottish Power Energy Networks through the Green Economy Fund to initiate the move to zero-emissionCommunity Transport Glasgow moving towards ZECTG’s first Orion E entered service in December. All will be delivered by the end of this month. Says Manager Graham Dunn: “We decided two years ago that it was time to start integrating electric vehicles.“It is great to see these exciting buses, which operate on the latest technology, as part of our fleet. They will make a massive contribution to improving air quality in the city.”The 5,000kg GVW Orion E’s 96kW motor is fed by two independent strings of batteries that store 92kW/h of energy.A range of 100 miles is achievable even when the standard climate control system is in use, says Mellor. The minibus has a capacity of 16 passengers.Mellor Managing Director John Randerson says the manufacturer is “pleased and proud” to supply the minibuses to CTG.“It is exciting to see the Orion E on the streets of Glasgow providing valuable transport services to communities in and around the city. We are confident that CTG, its drivers and passengers alike will enjoy all the bus has to offer.”The first minibus of its kindThe Orion E was introduced in 2017 and Mellor revealed a revised model in 2019. It claims that the Orion E is the world’s first completely electric low-floor small bus.Besides the community transport sector, Mellor says the Orion E is suited to commercial bus work, welfare use and demand responsive transport.
Although Tuesday’s meeting between EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and political heads of the Alliance clarified the “misunderstandings between what the Europeans want to do and that the Americans think they want to do”, they “still do not see eye to eye on this”, one diplomat said.Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg and one of the most ambitious supporters of a strong European defence policy, told European Voice “there is a certain immaturity in transatlantic relations” over the question.George Robertson, the outgoing secretary-general of NATO, attacked the four countries leading the drive towards an independent military planning structure – France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, warning that Europe needs “more usable soldiers and fewer paper armies”. Although the four countries may drop the Tervuren plan for the moment, they are unlikely to abandon the proposed mutual defence clause, included in the draft constitution drawn up by the Convention on EU’s future. Under this, EU countries would defend each other in the case of an external attack.Jean-Claude Juncker said it would be unthinkable not to have such a clause in the treaty. “If one of the 25 EU states is attacked, do you really believe that the others will lounge around or go home to watch the evolution [of events] on television?” he told this paper.“Do you believe that the ambition of solidarity, which must exist between the member states, will not make the others come to help the state which is under attack?“Does somebody really believe that, if we don’t introduce this clause in the treaty, the clause will not apply? It exists, whether we include it in the treaty or not. “Politically, militarily, strategically, geographically, it [the mutual defence clause] exists. It is obvious,” Juncker said See Comment He dismissed their plans to create a separate European headquarters at Tervuren, near Brussels, and urged Belgium “to invest in usable capabilitie rather than wasting money duplicating expensive assets and headquarters which already exist in NATO”. His words were echoed by NATO’s military commander, General James L. Jones, in a debate hosted by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Brussels last Thursday. He warned that a separate structure would have a “deleterious” effect. Nicholas Burns, the US ambassador to NATO, expressed a similar view, describing the plans as “a big threat”.At meetings of ambassadors this week, Burns sought reassurances from his European counterparts that the plans would not undermine the Alliance.The other proposal that particularly irks the Pentagon is the possible introduction of a voluntary mutual defence clause in the draft European Union constitution. Washington’s impatience over this and the Tervuren issue turned to outright hostility, when UK premier Tony Blair apparently softened his opposition to the creation of a separate EU command headquarters during his meeting with Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac in Berlin last month. However, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted on Monday that the UK government was against an EU military headquarters independent of NATO.
Reflecting on offers that can’t be refused.Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, has just been teaching Felipe González (pictured), a former prime minister of Spain, the meaning of the phrase ‘an offer you cannot refuse’. González is to chair a group of ‘wise persons’ discussing the future of Europe. He attempted, in his wisdom, to refuse membership of the group to Lech Wales?a, the former Solidarity leader and Polish president. Wales?a was nominated by Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, who wanted to reward the former president for supporting him in last year’s election. González, on the other hand, wanted to limit the group to sensible people – business types, some high-profile academics, a former politician and a senior editor who would put together a workmanlike document. The voluble and excitable Wales?a did not quite fit the bill, so González cast around for other likely Poles, including Pawel Swieboda, a well-regarded former foreign ministry official specialising in the EU. But Tusk refused to contemplate any alternatives – and Sarkozy was having none of it. In radio interviews on his vision of a future Europe, Wales?a is already fluffing his answers, but the Polish media have been acclaiming another triumph for the country’s tough stance. González, they said, had not wanted Wales?a because he would have outshone the Spaniard’s charisma.
But the similarity is only superficial. For a start, the 9/11 conspiracy theorists cannot agree on what theory they are propounding (Were the hijackers real? Were the planes real? Did the authorities deliberately fail to prevent the attack or actually stage it?). The theories mostly involve implausibly intricate scenarios (planting large quantities of high explosive in skyscrapers, for example). The official account of the 9/11 attacks is certainly open to criticism. But nobody suffers from questioning it. The conspiracy theorists’ case is aired on television; their books get published. By contrast, those who have challenged the official version of events in Russia largely stick to the same, straightforward story. Those who have tried to investigate it have fared badly. Yuri Shchekochikin and Sergei Yushchenkov, two members of a commission in the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, died mysteriously. Mikhail Trepashkin, a lawyer, served a four-year jail sentence after a controversial conviction on flimsy evidence. The official version does not account for the puzzling incident of a bomb discovered in a basement in Ryazan, apparently planted by two security service officers. The authorities’ reaction to that has looked like a cover-up – perhaps of a bungled anti-terrorist drill, perhaps of something more sinister.Cynics would argue that juxtaposing the two events sends two messages, aimed at different constituencies. To those who think the conspiracy theories about 9/11 are lunatic paranoia, the comparison suggests that questioning the account of the Russian bombings is similarly crazy. For those who believe that the Russian bombings were indeed suspicious, it suggests that mass murder by governments is the norm: the US government conspired to kill thousands of its own citizens, so why worry about Russia killing hundreds? That could be seen as a subtle form of ‘whataboutism’ (never mind about our shortcomings, what about yours?).Neither the atrocities in the US or Russia will ever be explained to the complete satisfaction of the most suspicious minds. Those criticising the official explanations have their own, sometimes questionable agendas. Their theories certainly deserve the same scrutiny and scepticism that they turn on their opponents. But for all that, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Russia Today is exploiting a non-issue to deflect attention from a more dangerous one.The writer is central and eastern Europe correspondent of The Economist. Mysterious terrorist attacks prompt public panic, allowing a cynical government to trample on the constitution. Would that be Russia after the 1999 apartment block bombings, or the US after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001? Russia Today, a pro-Kremlin television station, has been casting doubt on the idea that the 9/11 attacks were a surprise and promoting the allegation that they were an ‘inside job’. That is striking enough. But it also juxtaposes these pieces with coverage of the 1999 bombings in Moscow and elsewhere. Many challenge the official account of 9/11, using an array of anomalies, loose ends, contradictory testimony, signs of official bungling and so forth. Their main case is inferential: 9/11 ‘allowed’ the Bush administration to go to war in the Middle East.The apartment block bombings in Russia have also attracted speculation from those who believe that they were part of a state-sanctioned plan. This case also rests on holes in the official story plus an inference. The popularity of the newly nominated prime minister, Vladimir Putin, rocketed as the public welcomed his strong response to a terrorist onslaught. That staved off the impending impeachment of Boris Yeltsin, and saved Kremlin cronies from jail. If Putin and his backers were the main beneficiary of these murders, maybe they were involved in perpetrating them?
In the vanguard European carmakers will have to phase out their most-polluting vans by 2016 under a draft regulation published by the Commission yesterday (28 October). The Commission wants average fleet emissions down to 175 grams carbon dioxide per kilometre, a target that would be phased in from 2014. Afghanistan strategy EU foreign ministers on Tuesday (26 October) lifted sanctions against Uzbekistan despite concerns over human rights. An arms embargo was agreed in 2005, after Uzbek government soldiers killed hundreds of unarmed protesters in the city of Andijan. ?See Page 9 EU foreign ministers on Monday (26 October) agreed a new strategy to co-ordinate aid in Afghanistan, but described pro-gress on state-building as “too slow and in some parts of the country almost non-existent”. Right to understand People facing criminal charges in another EU member state should have the right to translation and interpretation services, justice ministers agreed last Friday (23 October). The right to legal aid and to have local consular offices informed will be discussed in the coming months. More heat than light An action plan aimed at improving the energy efficiency of European homes and businesses has been postponed indefinitely, following opposition from the Commission’s secretariat-general. The secretariat-general was opposed to proposals drafted by the Commission’s energy department for a binding EU-wide energy efficiency target. Uzbekistan
The Georgian state, previously considered close to failure, became much stronger. The government initiated reforms in almost all areas of life, replacing corrupt police with much more efficient patrol units, liberalising the economy and strengthening the country’s military capacity. The supply of electricity, once intermittent, became constant, and the country’s once neglected economic infrastructure began to be modernised. Tbilisi re-established control over the region of Ajaria, after years of autocratic rule by Aslan Abashidze.However, some deficiencies of the political and economic process in Georgia became visible early on, although Western governments preferred to ignore these early harbingers of future problems. In 2005, US President George W. Bush called Georgia a “beacon of democracy”, but in 2004 dubious changes had already been introduced into the Georgian constitution that strengthened the president’s powers at the expense of those of other branches of power. Parliamentary elections conducted in the spring of 2004 produced a parliament dominated by a single political force, and through it, by the incumbent president. A weakness in strategic thinking was revealed when limited military action to bring secessionist South Ossetia back under Tbilisi’s control failed dramatically. Numerous violations of human rights put in doubt the moral basis of governance. The government prioritised moderni¬sation and state building at the expense of the democratisation process and development of democratic institutions. The situation deteriorated further, as – in parallel to economic growth, a military build-up, rapid economic liberalisation and other reforms – more control was established over electronic media and the government’s disregard for the views of the political opposition and civil society increased. Any who opposed the government’s innovations were labelled as traitors against the national interest. Relations with Russia rapidly worsened and, with that, the risk grew of new tensions in South Ossetia and a second secessionist region, Abkhazia. While low-level corruption was indeed reduced, at the top level it remained less affected, and scandals followed many privatisation tenders.Dissatisfaction in the policies of the government led to the deep crisis of November 2007, when the government used excessive force to disperse peaceful protesters. It became obvious that the early promises of EU and NATO accession, as well as those of restoring the territorial integrity of the country, were little more than populist rhetoric.However, the real disaster was brought about by the war of August 2008. No mistakes by the Georgian leadership could justify Russia’s invasion and bombardment of Georgian cities and civil infrastructure. Nonetheless, it is clear that the government did commit grave mistakes and fell into the Russian trap, sacrificing human lives and territories. What we have today is a weakened state, political volatility and insecurity caused by the Russian military presence in big chunks of Georgian territory; control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia lost for years to come; a political opposition in disarray and a government whose popularity and legitimacy have been dramatically reduced. Tens of thousands of internally displaced people continue to live in misery, as do many ordinary citizens. The prospects for the Georgian economy are unclear, and there is a fundamental degree of unpredictability about both the internal political situation and about security and the risk of another invasion. The emergence of a genuinely pluralistic political system – one based on mutual respect and an essential degree of co-operation between government and opposition, with effective checks and balances and a peaceful rotation of power – remains distant. Six years ago on 2 November, Georgians went to the polls in what would prove to be a vote profoundly marred by fraud. Twenty days later, on 22 November, a dam of public protest broke and supporters of the opposition entered parliament, carrying roses, to prevent a compromised legislature taking office. Since then, the hopes and expectations of the Rose Revolution have blossomed and faded. Six years after the revolution, how justified is the disillusionment?Undoubtedly, there have been both achievements and failures, but it will be some time before they can be judged objectively on the scales of historical analysis. But, first, about the achievements:The new generation of politicians came to the fore, bringing with them core Western values, skills and education received in Western universities, the decisiveness of youth and greater international support. They could tap into a huge reserve of trust, both on the part of Georgia’s population and from democratic states around the world. The Georgian economy, after years of stagnation started to grow rapidly, foreign direct investment and budget revenues rocketed, and low-level corruption was dramatically reduced. Rather a bleak picture, indeed. The only reason for moderate optimism lies with the population of Georgia, strongly pro-Western and pro-democracy, as it has proven on a number of occasions. However, without decisive external support, Georgia’s people will find it difficult to escape despair.George Tarkhan-Mouravi is the co-director of the Tbilisi-based Institute for Policy Studies and chairman of the PASOS network of think-tanks.