Natalie McQueen on Bringing 9 to 5 to the West End in the #MeToo Era and Her Dream Trip to Dollywood

first_imgCaroline Sheen, Natalie McQueenand Amber Davies in 9 to 5 The Musical(Photo: Pamela Raith) View Comments Natalie McQueen in “9 to 5 The Musical”(Photo: Pamela Raith) Scarcely had Natalie McQueen finished closing out the hit London engagement of Kinky Boots before she was crossing the road to co-star with Bonnie Langford and Brian Conley in the West End debut of the musical version of 9 to 5, the iconic 1980 film that became a Broadway musical in 2009. McQueen plays the Dolly Parton role of Doralee Rhodes in the production at the Savoy Theatre for which Parton wrote the music and lyrics. So there was plenty to discuss when phoned for an engaging mid-afternoon chat.Did you have any prior exposure to this stage version of the movie, whether on Broadway or in the 2012 U.K. tour that featured Amy Lennox as Doralee?I wasn’t in New York while it was on, and I had some friends who were on the tour but didn’t manage to see that either. I think it’s quite nice that I could come into it with a complete set of fresh eyes and not have too many ideas of how it may have been done before.What about the movie, with that amazing trio of stars [Parton, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin]?I watched the film a long time ago, but my boyfriend then put it on when I got the offer so I also watched it pretty recently, which is cool. It’s a great movie and those three together are just genius.Is it hard to separate Doralee out from Dolly herself, since the part picks up in so many ways on the performer who originated her?Doralee is a nice part because you can make it your own in some respects but at the same time we all know that it was Dolly who first played that role and that it’s very much based on her. So, yes, I do feel as if I can pull some from Dolly given that the role plays on the way she looks and the way she talks, and what I love is that throughout it all the character is strong and confident and has balls and strength.Do you think some playgoers may be expecting to see Dolly live in the show, given all the publicity surrounding her participation?I don’t think so, but you definitely do see a bit of her and she is involved in the show in some way. You get a little fix of Dolly, but she’s definitely not in the show.What about changes for this production: are there many and will they offer up something new?In our story, the character of Judy [Tomlin’s role in the film] is 21, so younger than she has been before and we discover her in the process of finding herself and finding her way, which is quite nice to see. Doralee is meant to be late 20s/early 30s, which is what I am anyway. Are there any new songs?We’ve got one for this production called “Hey Boss,” which Dolly wrote and, I believe, has recorded. It actually takes away the three dream sequence songs in favor of one here-it-is, punch-people-in-the-face number about how we feel about this boss [Dabney Coleman’s film role, played in the show by Brian Conley].How does the thematic about sexism in the workplace chime with our increasingly enlightened times?You know, I really do think 9 to 5 was massively ahead of its time, what with the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up. It’s still a musical and is fun and hilarious and a spectacle and all of that but it’s quite interesting how and when it was written about these women who stood up for themselves and a state of mind that is only really starting to happen now.Have you ever worked in an office yourself?Definitely not and I cannot imagine what that would be like—though I have friends that do. I would imagine that the lines between people get very blurred because you’re so close to one another.But presumably the scenario in 9 to 5 relates to other workplaces as well?Absolutely. No matter what the industry, everyone has had their experience, though obviously not to the degree that is happening in this show.Once this ends, don’t you owe yourself a vacation to Dollywood, Parton’s Tennessee theme park?That would be great especially because I’ve never spent any time in the South. Maybe Dolly will take me—that would be the way to go [laughs].What do you recall in particular of your time in London in Wicked?I was there for three-and-bit years as first cover Elphaba and went on a lot. I’d love to go back and play that role, I really would. I know a lot of the creative team there, so every time I visit it feels weirdly like going home.How does it feel now to have pretty well colonized [London street] the Strand, between Kinky Boots at the Adelphi followed directly by 9 to 5 across the street at the Savoy?To hop from one show across the road to another one is pretty amazing. And I know every restaurant or coffee bar nearby that you could name.Do you feel a renewed buzz around the West End with all the musicals about to open, between yours and Come From Away and Waitress and, further ahead, Dear Evan Hansen?As far as the performers go, I think everyone’s just going home and passing out and then going back onstage. It was really exciting seeing the pictures of everyone queuing up for the open call of Dear Evan Hansen, and I’ve got friends over at Waitress where it’s all go, which is really great.What can you tell us about Becoming Nancy, the Stiles and Drewe-penned musical, directed by Jerry Mitchell, that has Broadway in its sights?I was part of the very first workshop, which was the first time I worked with Jerry Mitchell [who later directed her in Kinky Boots] and there have been a few workshops since that I haven’t been able to do. But there are still songs from it that I can reel off now, they are so catchy. It will be incredible—I know that for a fact.last_img read more

Watch Andrew Lloyd Webber & Michael Crawford Celebrate Phantom’s London Anniversary

first_imgAndrew Lloyd Webber & Michael Crawford Happy birthday, Phantom! October 9 marks 34 years since The Phantom of the Opera premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London’s West End. To celebrate the milestone, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber caught up with original star Michael Crawford, who earned both an Olivier Award and a Tony Award for his performance as the masked man. The two discussed everything from the state of theater during the COVID-19 pandemic to the first time Lloyd Webber played the overture of the musical for Crawford. Enjoy the Phan-tastic catch-up below! View Commentslast_img read more

Leawood approves plan for ‘all-inclusive’ playground at Leawood City Park

first_imgA rendering of the new playground approved for Leawood City Park. Rendering by Cunningham Recreation.By Jerry LaMartinaLeawood City Park is on its way to a new, “all-inclusive” playground to replace its existing one.The Leawood City Council unanimously approved the Leawood Parks & Recreation Department’s revised final plan for the roughly $450,000 playground at the council’s Monday night meeting. The playground’s installation is scheduled for completion in early December, Parks & Recreation Director Chris Claxton said.All-inclusive playgrounds are based on a concept called “social equity” and are intended to enable children – and adults – to play together regardless of their physical or mental abilities, Claxton said. The new playground will include stations designed to enable adults to better interact with the children while playing together.The 66-acre park, at 106th Street and Lee Boulevard, already meets accessibility requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, as do the city’s five other parks, Claxton said.The Leawood Foundation has raised more than $287,000 for the project and seeks to raise another $160,000 from individuals, trusts and nonprofit foundations, she said. The money raised so far includes $50,000 contributed by the City of Leawood, and the roughly $85,000 value of the playground’s two main structures – one for children ages 2 to 5 and another for ages 5 to 12 – donated by Cunningham Recreation, based in Charlotte, North Carolina.Cunningham Recreation also will demolish the current playground and install the new one, at no charge. The company is required to meet its own deadlines on the project, which Claxton said puts the project “a little bit on the fast track.”Ward 1 Councilman Andrew Osman emphasized the importance of letting the public know that more money was needed for the project.“The importance of this playground is making sure that we don’t separate people – adults and children – into different spaces,” Claxton said.The new playground’s features include:A spongy surface designed to accommodate people who use mobility devices and those who might have trouble walking on uneven surfaces, such as toddlers, the elderly and people with injuries.A freestanding double zip line to accommodate all children.Belt swings, toddler swings, high-back swings for children with muscular problems and a disk swing that enables children to swing together.A “sensory-rich environment,” which includes panels and musical elements.Ramp-accessibility to all platforms.And climbers and slides designed to challenge children regardless of their abilities.Ward 3 Councilwoman Lisa Harrison asked Claxton whether the old playground could be recycled and used elsewhere in the city. Claxton said she was looking into that possibility and the possibility of sending the old equipment outside the United States for reuse.last_img read more

Gophers looking to end road woes

first_imgBuske and the rest of the team will renew a heated rivalry with the Buckeyes at 5:35 p.m. tonight at Bill Davis Stadium.Last season, Buske shutdown Ohio State in the regular season when he pitched 6.2 innings and only allowed three earned runs.“This is probably my favorite rivalry in the Big Ten,” Buske said. “I’m sure they’re going to want to get after me.”Perhaps, but the Buckeyes got the last laugh as they bounced Minnesota from the Big Ten tournament last year in the championship game.The two teams own the most conference wins since 2000. The Gophers have 156 wins, while Ohio State has 146.Including postseason tournament games, Minnesota and the Buckeyes have faced each other more than any two teams in the entire nation, with 34 games since 2002. They have played each other every year in the conference tournament since 2001.“It should be fun to get outside and play in the Big Ten,” Buske said. “I’m curious to see how we perform.”Buske remains curious because it’s another opportunity for the younger players to adapt to the elements of the outdoors after enjoying the controlled environment of the Metrodome for the last 11 games.“You’ve got young players that haven’t played out there,” Anderson said. “That’s the biggest challenge of going on the road, especially when you come from a controlled environment and artificial turf – where things are pretty consistent in terms of how the game is played – to going outdoors and adjusting to the elements. That will be the biggest adjustment we’ll go through.” Gophers looking to end road woesApril 4, 2008Jump to CommentsShare on FacebookShare on TwitterShare via EmailPrintConsistency has been the theme for the Minnesota baseball team so far this season and, while the team has become more consistent, the results haven’t shown up in the win-loss column, yet.The Gophers (12-11 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) wrapped up a stretch of 14 games in 18 days last Sunday, and should feel rested after not playing any games in the past five days. Minnesota came out of the stretch with an 8-6 record and armed with an emerging offense, after it initially struggled to find hits.But just as the Gophers jump one hurdle, they find themselves with another challenge – their first Big Ten road trip.Minnesota has gone 1-5 away from the Metrodome this season, but believe they can find success against Ohio State (13-8 overall, 2-2 Big Ten) in a four-game set this weekend.“We’ve kind of struggled on the road. I think our team has grown a lot over the long stretch we’ve had,” junior center fielder Matt Nohelty said. “We’re a little more consistent, both offensively and defensively. Hopefully we can get three out of four and maybe even a sweep.”Despite the lack of success on the road, Gophers head coach John Anderson doesn’t believe the change in scenery makes much difference.“The game’s not any different on the road or at home,” Anderson said. “It’s the same game and you shouldn’t let the environment or where you’re playing dictate the game.”The offense struggled in the first two road trips of the season; as the lineup managed 21 runs in six games, 11 of those came in Minnesota’s lone road victory March 16 against Pacific.Since that win, the Gophers finished the month with a team batting average of .314 and a stronger starting staff.Junior starter Tom Buske led the staff with a 3-1 record and 1.73 ERA.last_img read more

Food as a brand in the service of tourism

first_imgThe HGK organized an expert meeting “Food as a brand” and presented a pilot project Gourmet Croatia of the Cluster of Competitiveness of the Food Processing Sector (HKK PPS) which aims to improve the competitiveness of the food processing sector through the development of the national brand through tourism.Croatia has top quality, and we will be recognizable in the world only when we brand ourselves, said the Vice President of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for International Affairs and the EU Želimir Kramarić at the professional meeting “Food as a brand” and added cocoa is the same with our food industry, which through a common brand can become globally competitive.President of the Cluster Zvonimir Novak He pointed out that when we talk about the national branding of the food processing sector, we must have a comprehensive approach because in this way we will improve competitiveness, attract investment, but also encourage the development of tourism. “The tourism sector has done the most for the branding of Croatia so far, but it is about the whole chain that ranges from agriculture through processing and tourism to marketing.”, Novak points out.President of the Cluster of Creative and Cultural Industries Ivana Nikolic Popovic warns that Croatia without an identity has entered the European market of 500 million people and that we need to change that. “The Croatian Chamber of Commerce carried out the procedure for the protection of Slavonian kulen in 20 days, and I am very grateful to them for that”, He said Tomislav Galović, director of the company Kulin Galović and added that he believes that branding is the only added value for all manufacturers. Businessmen think similarly, so the secretary of Vinistra Krešo Juričić says that the IQ mark enables the consumer to recognize those Istrian wines whose quality is higher than the quality prescribed by the law for quality wines with geographical origin. + „Quality signs as a good example in practice          “Consumers trust quality signs, as they trust our brands, and are willing to spend more money on such products. Currently, as much as 60 percent, of the 221 domestic products bearing the HGK quality marks, are from the food sector”, Said the director of the Sector for Agriculture, Food Industry and Forestry Božica Marković and pointed out that the main goal for all should be higher added value of products with quality labels, regardless of whether it is achieved on the domestic market or in exports.Juraj Orenda from the Ministry of Agriculture says that the brand can not be imposed. “We must first find a market and see what we can offer. It depends on the market, not the institution”, Points out Orenda. “We are a small but diverse country. We can certainly brand our rich cuisine, especially if we manage to make tourism partially move from the sea to the continent.”He says Zaklina Marta Bogdanic from AgrokorDirector of Stella Croatica Andrija Polić concluded that our producers are too small and that we must jointly, under the national brand, enter the foreign market, and the director of Jadranka Hotel Goran Filipović believes that we must offer guests agricultural products that have grown near the location where we sell them. “Let’s start exporting to Croatia because tourism is the strongest export for our products”, Said Filipović and added that Lošinjska Jadranka supplies its hotels with food from about 60 Croatian family farms, so recently they were in Baranja in the family farm Orlov put and in Požega’s Golden Valley.Director of the Research and Development Sector of Podravka Jasmina Ranilović says that Vegeta is certainly one of our strongest brands of international recognition and added that the power to understand the wishes and habits of consumers is crucial.Goran Buturac from the Institute of Economics said that our production and exports are insufficient. “We need twice as many entrepreneurs and products to create an economy that will be powered by the food processing industry”, Points out Buturac and adds that the food processing industry currently accounts for about 24% of total industrial activity in Croatia and employs 20% of employees in the country.last_img read more

PM Harris Represents CARICOM In High-Level Meeting On The Coronavirus Global…

first_img Prime Minister Harris was supported at the meeting by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws. St. Lucia records more cases of COVID Oct 16, 2020 Oct 15, 2020 CMO says Saint Lucia at critical stage of COVID-19 outbreak Six Eastern Caribbean countries deemed safe for travel – CDC The objectives of the meeting were: You may be interested in… Prime Minister Harris told 128 participating countries and organisations that CARICOM wishes to be an active participant in the global response at the political, technical and economic levels, and welcomes its inclusion in the launch of the Council for the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A).  Share this:PrintTwitterFacebookLinkedInLike this:Like Loading… Oct 16, 2020 To align on the plan for the ACT-Accelerator as a key global solution to rapidly end the COVID-19 crisis and restore health systems and global growth;To concur on the economic rationale for fully financing the ACT-Accelerator including through the use of stimulus funding;To mobilise political leadership and international support to fully operationalise the shared commitment to global equitable allocation. Oct 15, 2020 Prime Minister Dr. the Hon Timothy Harris, as the CARICOM lead head on matters of Health, HIV and Human Resource Development, represented the CARICOM Community. (St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service Press Release) A high-level meeting on upscaling the global response to the coronavirus pandemic took place this morning, September 10, 2020. The virtual global meeting was co-hosted by the President of the European Commission, Dr. Ursula von der Leyen and the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus. More deaths from COVID-19 recorded in CARICOM countries,… The ACT-Accelerator is the proven exit strategy for the world. Four tools have been identified for successfully controlling COVID-19. These are vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics and strengthening of health systems. PM Harris speaks at Clinton Global Initiative eventBASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, SEPTEMBER (PRESS SEC) – Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris was a featured participant in a small group discussion organised by the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) as part of the three-day CGI 2016 Annual Meeting in New York City.  The small group discussion titled Combating Teen…September 22, 2016In “CARICOM”PM Harris Leads Delegation to CARICOM Intersessional Meeting(St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service) Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Timothy Harris leads a delegation to the 31st Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which will convene tomorrow, Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 in Bridgetown, Barbados. The St. Kitts-Nevis delegation comprises the…February 17, 2020In “31Intersessional”PAHO/WHO confirms St. Kitts and Nevis has eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV[su_pullquote align=”right”]“I feel a sense of personal pride and satisfaction that St. Kitts and Nevis is a leader in this aspect.” – PM of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. the Hon Timothy Harris[/su_pullquote] BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, (Press Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister) –In August of this year,…October 11, 2017In “CARICOM”Share this on WhatsApplast_img read more

Pentair Haffman upgrades portable O2 detector

first_imgSubscribe Get instant access to must-read content today!To access hundreds of features, subscribe today! At a time when the world is forced to go digital more than ever before just to stay connected, discover the in-depth content our subscribers receive every month by subscribing to gasworld.Don’t just stay connected, stay at the forefront – join gasworld and become a subscriber to access all of our must-read content online from just $270.last_img

IRM Systems: Operators Must Have Emergency Pipeline Repair System

first_imgIn the wake of four major pipeline accidents in June, emergency preparedness is taking center stage. IRM Systems notes that these incidents are a dramatic reminder of the random threats that can affect pipelines, and the urgency for having an Emergency Pipeline Repair System (EPRS) in place.A surface repair system used for heavily damaged pipelines in shallow water.“Operators must have an EPRS that offers the shortest possible time between the incident and re-commissioning. They must also achieve the highest possible level of post-repair integrity, at the lowest possible cost,” said Rutger Schouten, General Manager of IRM Systems.Since 2011, IRM Systems has provided customised EPRS programs to pipeline operators, helping them to make certain that in the event of an incident, they are prepared and that appropriate contingencies are in place.Advances in emergency preparedness reduce recovery time by monthsIRM Systems has announced two important advances in EPRS practice that will save clients time and significantly reduce the financial impact. First, by using a structured, process approach to emergency repair planning during an unplanned repair, the timeline from incident to re-commissioning can be dramatically compressed, minimizing downtime. The process is driven by the operator, can be applied to any pipeline and, in and of itself, costs nothing.To illustrate, IRM Systems developed an EPRS for a client responsible for a remote deepwater pipeline in Asia Pacific. In the event of an unplanned repair, the client was faced with the prospect of an unacceptable repair delay that would have a considerable negative impact upon business.“They wanted to source a safer, faster option that would provide the highest level of post-repair pipeline integrity,” said Schouten.“We developed a modular solution that used vessels of opportunity to reduce the planned recovery time for a major repair by more than 250 days, representing a dramatic reduction in downtime and lost production.”Based on a thorough understanding of the risks and repair scenarios for an asset, combinations of repair methods are selected. Procedures along the critical path – from isolation of the damaged section to re-commissioning – are optimized, and smarter contracting strategies for equipment and services are determined. Finally, roles of personnel and departments are aligned around the repair plan, so that each party works together during an emergency.“EPRS is about implementing a sustainable capability which, hopefully, will never be called upon,” said Schouten.Procurement strategy key to delivering the best value for moneyA central element of any EPRS is sourcing long lead-time items and putting service agreements in place so that providers are ready to respond immediately in an emergency. The second advance in EPRS strategy is a procurement approach that tailors the relationship between technologies, contracting methods, and supplier reimbursement, to the realities of the local repair market. This reduces costs associated with an EPRS, increasing its attractiveness as an investment that will consistently deliver value throughout the pipeline’s life.IRM Systems applied this approach on behalf of a pipeline operator seeking to build EPRS- and contingency-thinking into operations for a new subsea trunk-line in Russia. By considering EPRS at the design stage, the operator wanted to optimize risk management throughout the pipeline’s lifecycle, while at the same time minimizing the associated costs.IRM Systems facilitated this preparation by providing the decision-makers the analysis they needed to balance the cost of an EPRS, against reductions in long-term risk and pipeline operational cost. These risks include reputational effects, damage to share price, and higher insurance premiums. By integrating contingency planning and emergency preparedness into the operator’s ongoing inspection, repair and maintenance program, the way is paved for greater freedom of choice in procurement. Because IRM Systems operates independently, it is not tied to a specific brand of equipment, vessel or technology thus helping operators use these methods to identify the best solutions in the market at the right price, and tailored to specific asset requirements.Looking ahead, IRM Systems is confident that methods such as those announced will increase the number of operators taking advantage of the cost and time savings achievable through smarter EPRS.Press Release, July 02, 2014last_img read more

Delta’s woes persist through weekend, with more flights canceled

first_img Recommended Published: April 9, 2017 7:38 AM EDT Airline bookings start to tumble again as coronavirus cases spike (CNN) Delta Air Lines, still working to get back to normal days after thunderstorms blew through the eastern US on Wednesday, had to scrub about 275 more flights on Saturday.The No. 2 US airline, which already canceled around 3,000 flights in the wake of the powerful mid-week storms, said in a statement on Saturday that it’s possible even more flights will be called off, stranding and frustrating passengers during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.Delta Chief Operating Officer Gil West called the storms that pounded Atlanta “unprecedented” and acknowledged the recovery effort could have been better.“The specific track and intensity of weather like this is often difficult to forecast,” West said in remarks on Thursday. “We are grateful for your patience and want you to know that we, as always, learn from these experiences. While we can’t control the weather, we understand the resulting recovery has not been ideal and we apologize for that.”The severe weather battered the mid-Atlantic region, the Northeast and Georgia, causing tornado-like conditions around Delta’s hub, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, through which 60% of its 1,250-aircraft fleet passes each day.Delta has one of the most enviable track records in the airline industry. The carrier had 161 days in 2016 without a cancellation on its mainline operations. That included both cancellations related to factors it could control, like maintenance, and those it couldn’t, like weather.But the airline has faced high-profile disruptions recently. The airline suffered roughly the same number of cancellations as this week’s issues when an IT outage in August forced a halt to its operations, leaving the airline catching up for days.“Customers should check and the Fly Delta Mobile App for updates on flight status. A travel waiver has been extended through the weekend to help customers rebook without change fees if travel plans are flexible,” Delta said in its Saturday statement.Operational recovery continues after week of storms:— Delta (@Delta) April 8, 2017Several factors aggravated the air-travel headaches.Spring-breakers packing planes compounded an already difficult situation, making it hard for delayed travelers to find available seats and causing a pileup in airports and telephone queues. Pilots and cabin crews who fly under tightly regulated work schedules found themselves unable to operate flights in many cases, even when planes were back in position.The baggage claim area at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport was backed up Saturday with bags from stranded or rerouted passengers.“It’s due to a mix of people who got rerouted or chose to reroute themselves” after the storms, Delta spokesman Michael Thomas told CNN. “Some elected not to travel … and their bags were still in the system.”The rate of canceled flights has “slowed considerably today,” Thomas said Saturday, adding that he expects things Sunday to return to “close to normal.”Suzanne Goldklang, a reporter at CNN affiliate WNEP in Pennsylvania, saw her Thursday evening departure fromSavannah, Georgia, canceled and was rebooked on a flight leaving four-and-a-half hours earlier. After she raced to the airport to catch her new flight, that one was canceled, too. Rebooked again, her 1:30 p.m. departure on Friday was also canceled for lack of a flight attendant.“There’s a ground hold at (New York’s) LaGuardia so they may pull us off this plane,” Goldklang told CNN from aboard a flight, her fourth attempt to get out of Savannah Friday evening. Goldklang’s flight finally left Savannah for New York, 61 minutes late.Crystal and Wayne Curry described what can only be called a travel nightmare. The couple were due to fly from Boston back to their home in Mobile, Alabama, on Wednesday morning with Delta, but that flight was canceled. Delta rescheduled them on a flight for Saturday, but then that flight was canceled.They were again rescheduled for a Monday flight, but Wayne Curry’s diabetes medicine was due to run out before then. So the Currys decided to rent a car and drive to New York to fly home on another airline Saturday.In all, they said they spent more than $3,000 on rental cars, hotels, and new tickets because of the cancellations, as well as countless hours on hold with Delta’s help line.And despite all that maneuvering, they still missed the 80th birthday of Wayne’s mother.“I’ll hear about that for the rest of her life,” he said. What airlines are doing to protect you against COVID-19 Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know. Delta’s woes persist through weekend, with more flights canceled Author: CNN SHARElast_img read more

Internet will drive next generation of PIS

first_imgINTRO: On-board passenger information systems are becoming an essential rather than an optional extra, but design needs to be driven by customer expectations, rather than an operator’s wish list. Advanced technology is helping to lower running costs and drive up revenues, making the equipment self-financingINTER-CITY passengers could be benefiting from a wide range of on-board information and entertainment systems within five years, thanks to the rapid emergence of internet and mobile phone technologies. Real-time news and advertising, videos on demand, and even on-train internet surfing will be possible as component prices fall and bandwidth limitations disappear.This is the vision of Marshall Moreyne, founder and President of Montreal-based passenger information specialist Telecite Inc, acquired last October by Alstom through a strategic development agreement. Founded in 1986, the company has developed its current PIS range for the urban market, but Alstom’s global reach and resources will allow expansion into inter-city operations.Telecite’s information systems are designed to be self-financing, with commercial advertising contributing to the cost of installing the hardware and supplying news, travel information and emergency messages. ’Only 20 years ago, information systems were seen as an optional extra’, suggests Moreyne. ’Following the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, and similar legislation elsewhere, they are becoming a necessity. But some operators still need convincing that adding PIS can be cost-effective.’Most on-train information systems are what Moreyne describes as ’entry level’, with only a few basic functions. To demonstrate ’high end’ technology, in 1993 Telecite negotiated a 20-year concession to install and operate its Visual Communications Network on the Montreal metro. The company has fitted LED displays in 846 cars, and provides a mix of route information, news and advertising. In return, operator STCUM now has the ability to reach its riders with real-time travel information and emergency announcements when required.Following the success of the Montreal pilot, Telecite won contracts for other demonstration schemes, including New York, Hong Kong and Paris RER Line C. These led to orders for installing PIS in over 100 NYCT subway stations and on 212 R143 cars, and 175 platform displays for Amtrak’s New York Penn station. VCN equipment will also be fitted on stations and vehicles for the JFKairport rail link.In Hong Kong Telecite is supplying a complete package and over 3000 display screens to MTR Corp, equipping 762 refurbished EMU cars and the new stock to serve the Tseung Kwan O extension. Paris is currently tendering for between 2000 and 4000 displays to equip all stations on RER Lines C and D. VCN in operationThe Montreal network provides two displays in each car positioned longitudinally across diagonally-opposite windows. Because of the comparatively early installation, each display uses 32 x 160 dot displays with 5 mm three-colour LEDs (red/green/amber). These offer a continuous rolling programme of news bulletins, next station announcements and advertisements.The standard package of information is prepared by a dedicated Telecite team, and downloaded by wireless to the trains over a wide-area network. It will typically be updated four times a day to keep the news elements current. Within the package is a master schedule, setting times of day and locations for information to be broadcast. For example, a specific advert or message relating to some event at one station could be configured to appear only on trains arriving at that location, or on all trains currently operating within a given section of route.The whole package is downloaded to a 4MB on-board controller, which then sends the current requirements to a 2MB memory chip in each display unit. Location data can be collected from the signalling, odometers, lineside beacons or GPS. As well as programme messages, VCN allows for ’transient messages’ to be generated in an emergency. With pre-formatted options available for 99% of likely events, boxes for the operator to complete, and a menu of click-on zones for dispatch, it takes around 7 sec to compile a message and 10 sec to send it anywhere on the network. Digitised voice announcements can also be sent the same way. The mix of news, information and advertising varies from city to city, and Telecite has been conducting market surveys to assess whether passengers absorb the material and what they like to see. In Table I, (a) compares the mix of customer preferences for three cities, while (b) shows the level of customer recall for different forms of content.Technology-driven futureOne factor influencing the scope of information systems is the choice of display technology. LEDs provide an economical approach for essentially text messages with limited animated graphics. LCD screens offer higher quality resolution, but at present they only have a five-year life, making the cost eight times higher than LEDs.Both approaches are set to see major improvements in the next few years. The advent of blue LEDs – hitherto very expensive but now being demanded by the medical industry – will permit full colour LED displays. And the adoption of a 15 inch LCD as the standard screen for laptop computers will drive economies of scale, making them more accessible for the rail market.Ultra-slim LEDs and a purpose-designed power module have allowed the development of 256-colour display screens no more than 29mm thick. These can be wall-mounted within a vehicle, rather than set into the interior panelling which was essential for earlier four-colour units up to 125mm thick. Telecite has recently launched its VCN2000 system, which offers bi-directional interactive services using LCD or plasma displays. This is driven via the internet, using a TCPIP open architecture. As well as moving on-train advertising to a seamless multimedia display, VCN2000 will have higher bandwidths to allow inter-city users to download videos on demand, for example. Passengers could also surf the internet with real-time connectivity. These options are most likely to be available via seat-back or pop-up personal displays, but Moreyne sees the potential for a few wall-mounted screens in metro trains for passengers to access real-time information. One proposal recently submitted to an Asian metro operator combines on-train LED displays for text messaging with touch screen LCD screens allowing passengers to request information on specific topics.TABLE: Table I: Survey of information usea) Preference for type of contentCity Montreal Paris Hong KongInternational news 1 3 3Local news 3 1 3Weather 3 1 2Sports 3 3 1Advertising 2 1 2Particularities Lottery Books Stock Marketb) Message recall (40% adverts, 60% information)City Montreal Paris Hong KongWeather – – 68News – 67 52Adverts – 48 51Next stop – 53 41Finance – – 27Sports – 18 14Other – 50 -TABLE: Table II. Montreal metro passenger surveyPrincipal on-train activityWatch information panels 40%Read 38%Watch people 26%Ride with others / talk 16%Read static adverts 14%Close eyes 8%Don’t know 4%Frequency of watching info panels 1998 1999Always 24% 33%Most times 31% 29%Time to time 29% 31%Rarely 16% 7%CAPTION: Above: Telecite LED-based platform display screens at New York’s Pennsylvania station Top right: Telecite President Marshall Moreyne demonstrates an NYCT LED module to Chris Jackson in MontrealBelow right: LCD-based information displays are being fitted to the refurbished MTR fleet in Hong KongCAPTION: Lottery advertising has proved one of the most widely-read messages on the Montreal metro information systemReader Enquiry Numbers:Télécité 111TNCi UK 112last_img read more