Last week I was sent to Helsinki at the last minute, which is becoming something of a regular occurrence after a trip to Chester a couple of weeks ago.

Helsinki was fantastic- I would definitely like to visit Finland properly at some point. I’m not really a natural city dweller. I like being close enough to visit now and then, but far enough away to escape the mad crowds. Helsinki could be an exception though: it has all the good points of a city but it was a really relaxing place to be in. As a bonus, I could use my second favourite method of commuting to get to the IBM office…



That’s the number 4 tram about to pick me up outside the apartments I stayed at. Nice.

If only getting to and from Finland was as easy! Like my recent experience with Virgin trains, a late Air France flight from Southampton meant I missed my connection in Paris. Unlike the train companies, Air France didn’t charge me extra for the pleasure of spending three hours in Charles de Gaulle. Sadly my complaint and request to use their lounge and internet connection didn’t get very far. After three complaints all I got was a free sandwich. ‘Wow.’

Even though the flight back was late as well, I do like flying from Southampton. Much nicer than the chaos at Heathrow or Gatwick. Mind you, Fly Maybe were causing a few queues because some computer was broken and they were having to hand write boarding cards! Luckily the Air France computer was working and I’d checked in on line.

P.S. For anyone else on the trip, the rumoured contribution of the company to Finland’s GDP appears to have been wildly exaggerated, although 4% is still pretty impressive if you ask me.

Update: 4am start tomorrow to head back to Helsinki!! The price of a direct flight from Heathrow. (13 Oct 2008)


e-Ink e-Tickets

While struggling to get back from Chester on the train recently, I started thinking about how e-Paper and RFID might help. Sky has some interviews covering this year’s Hursley 50th celebration which explain both nicely (between about 0:45 to 03:45).

Instead of having a printed timetable of my journey that the train company should have already known was unrealistic, and a ticket not valid for the alternative route via London, a combination of an Oyster-like ticket and e-Ink could have got me home only 15 minutes late with no extra cost. Instead I had to pay extra to arrived an hour and a half late.

An e-Ink display would enhance the current Oyster to visually show what ticket I’m travelling on, along with a mini timetable of my route. When I get to the departure station, the ticket could be automatically updated if there are problems on the rail network, with a new timetable, and with a route upgrade if required. Things might also go wrong during the journey, but the same thing could happen when the guard checks tickets; machine scans ticket and checks it’s valid, while also checking for any known incidents on the route the ticket is displaying.

Unfortunately rail ticketing seems to be getting worse not better at the moment–searching National Rail for timetables has resulted in a few warnings that multiple tickets are required for some journeys recently–so I won’t be holding my breath.

Update: It looks like my e-ink e-ticket might finally be on the way! (16 September 2011)