Sutton Coldfield businessman’s international mission of mercy

Funeral director Edward sends Vietnamese lorry death victims back to their homeland
By Bill McCarthy

‘The hardest part was seeing the 16 coffins lined up at the airport ready to be flown
Those are the words of Edward Cutler, a Sutton Coldfield funeral director who is well
used to dealing with bereavement. He probably thought he had seen it all in his 14 years in the business. But he became a key part  of a huge international story when 39 Vietnamese migrants died in Kent, after they were transported across the Channel sealed in an airtight container on the back of a lorry.

It happened on October 23 last year,  as it was transported from Zeebrugge inBelgium to Purfleet in Essex.
People smugglers subjected the 39 victims to unbearable temperatures for almost 12 hours after loading too many people into one container, starving them of oxygen and exposing them to deadly carbon dioxide fumes. Two men have since been convicted of manslaughter over the tragedy.

The container lorry where the victims died

The migrants, 10 of whom were teenagers, travelled in a refrigerated unit, but the refrigeration was not turned on.
For Edward, known as Ed, a young man well used to death, after starting out in the funeral business at the age of 16 before building a successful business, those coffins lined up at Heathrow Airport before being flown back to Vietnam, had a profound effect.
After the tragedy, he was contacted by the Vietnamese embassy which had heard of his firm’s expertise in repatriation and wanted the victims to be taken back to their homeland.
It all started for Ed back in 2009 when he became possibly the country’s youngest funeral director, starting Cutler Funeral Service, aged 19, and going on to build a successful business that included sites across the Midlands and, most recently, London.
Sitting in his newest business in Royal Town Funerals in Sutton Coldfield, the 30- year-old comes across as an assured and confident businessman and someone dedicated to his trade.
He has an innovative view on the funeral business, with a brightly but tastefully decorated office a world away from some funeral parlours.
He said: “My clients, despite being bereaved, appreciate a more airy, more modern and less gloomy place to arrange funeral for their loved ones.”

After his first business was acquired by a large corporate firm, he went on to open offices in Cannock, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Kings Heath and Barton under Needwood. After a change in personal circumstances, Ed returned to having one local office situated in Pype Hayes.
Ed explained after the initial family business was sold, he could no longer trade as Cutler, so he used his mother’s maiden name of Slater and expanded into the business of international repatriation, opening Slaters International Funeral Directors, in London, near Heathrow Airport.

 Ed explained: “I was at a crossroads,” he said. “Slaters started as a normal funeral home offering repatriation as an ancillary service, but I wanted to do more with repatriation, so we set up a new business called Slaters International, still based at Pype Hayes, but as recommendations escalated, we naturally evolved into a specialist in the field”
“The majority of business repatriation clients were in London which drew us to seeking premises in the south. We started by working from another funeral director’s premises in Pinner which we outgrew within a matter of months, at which point we had no choice but to secure our very own premises in London”, he said.

He selected a site at Isleworth, near Heathrow, a strategically placed site for flying the deceased from the UK to their homeland.
But for him, a was a bit of a risk. He said: “It was quite a big risk as it was very expensive, five times more expensive than a comparable premises in the Midlands. But it went really well and was important to get our own name above the door on our own premises.
The gamble paid off and his reputation grew, and having carried out a previous repatriation to Vietnam, he was contacted by the Vietnamese embassy to undertake the hugely complicated logistical operation of moving the container lorry victims back to their homeland.
Ed said: “We got a call in October last year call from Vietnamese embassy who had heard good things and wanted to work with us to get their people home.
“I was invited to embassy put a plan together, but as the case was being treated as a murder probe, the bodies were not released until the police and coroner had concluded their investigations.
When the call came things moved rapidly. He was called on a Friday to initiate the first stage of the operation, transferring the first 23 victims from Essex, which began on the following Monday.
He explained the timeline: “On the Monday we collected 24 of the deceased from Essex. We carried out cremations for seven and repatriated the remaining deceased persons on Tuesday. 
He added: “Two days later on the Thursday the final group were transferred to be repatriated on Friday together with seven  sets of cremated remains. Altogether 32 coffins were returned together with seven sets of cremated remains.”

Praising his team, including Nikki Taylor, Matthew Stevens and Alan Webb-Moore for the operation, which ran like clockwork, he said: “With our experience, we turned it around, but the logistics and dealing with that volume in the space of one week was a big deal, whilst managing to repatriate an additional nine deceased that week around the globe from the UK. Each repatriation client  was an individual with their own documentation, and which all have had to be dealt with separately.

“Was it harrowing, yes it was. The most difficult part was when we conveyed the first 16 victims to the airport and saw coffins. When you see 16 coffins lined up ready to be loaded onto the aircraft, you pause you realise the enormity of what you are actually doing.”
Altogether 39 individual bundles of documents were prepared and sent along with the remains to Vietnam.
 “We were prepared  to turn it round in less than seven days. We had a coffin supplier on hand, ready to provide 39 bespoke coffins, and four  members of staff to deal with the whole process, as it was extremely important the procedure was kept under wraps.

“We were successful in keeping all of the arrangements private, limiting the press coverage to after the arrival of the initial 16 Coffins.
“Me and my team flew out to Vietnam about this time last year to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. We criss-crossed the whole country with our translator Van Soderlund a Vietnamese woman who had her son repatriated by us a couple of years earlier, and her husband Thomas Soderlund, meeting all of the 39 families. It was a moving experience.” he said.

There they attended funerals, memorial services and socialised with families while at the same time taking in the breathtaking sights of Vietnam.
Ed, who lives locally and grew up in the Sutton area, now runs his operation from his new business, Royal Town Funerals in Four Oaks, Sutton Coldfield, with the repatriation business growing year on year. 
“We still have our purpose built premises near Heathrow, but I work personally from here Four Oaks, with a team of operatives on the road taking care of the physical repatriation work. Here, I conduct all funerals myself.”
Asked who are his main customers for repatriation.  “Most often repatriations are to
Nigeria,” he said.

Having a drink during their epic criss-crossing of Vietnam, taking in some of the sights and landmarks

“It is a big country with a population of nearly 200 million people, but second is the Philippines, Jamaica and Commonwealth for obvious reasons, but Africa is our busiest destination.
He said people from Hong Kong, Eritrea, Greece, Italy, Romania, Iraq and Vietnam were among current clients.
“We generally average around 26 clients for repatriation at any one point in time. This became important when the coronavirus pandemic struck. At the time of the first lockdown in March, we had 45 repatriation cases to deal with but no outgoing flights from the UK. Luckily at our funeral home in London , we had the mortuary space to cope.”
Like most funeral directors, he has seen noticed an increase in funerals as a result of the the Covid 19 pandemic. But like many other businesses, margins have been hit by lockdown restrictions on
“We have been affected he said. With numbers cut for attending funerals, people are
opting for simpler, lower cost funerals,” he said.

A veteran in his industry at 30, it seems unlikely that a mere pandemic is likely to cause this businessman problems for too long as he plans for a bigger more successful future.

© Bill McCarthy

Less is more for County of Good Taste

Rutland has so much to offer

By Bill McCarthy

They say, whoever they are, that good things come in small packages. They also say less is more. In England’s smallest county, it prefers to go a bit more upmarket with its Latin motto, Multum in Parvo, or ‘ much in little’ in English.

Small it may be, but it is favoured by the likes of TV presenter Julia Bradbury, known for her work on BBC’s Countryfile and who has travelled across the UK and many parts of the world, who believes the county offers something for everyone.

It is known as The County of Good Taste due to the plethora or fantastic local producers and providers and, for lovers of the great outdoors, Rutland Water, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe which serves the area as a reservoir.

 Rutland Water also offers leisure pursuits including watersports, cycling, fishing and bird watching, while Rutland’s many attractive villages are home to picture postcard cottages, traditional country pubs and a host of different kinds of accommodation, from camping to swish hotels.

Whatever you put on your waistline, you can soon walk it off, cycle it off, run it off, as there is a lot of countryside to go through where social distancing is effortless.

Bordered as it is by the four counties of Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, it does offer a unique spread of places to visit, including quaint market towns, including the county town of Oakham, plus excellent cuisine with an abundance of locally produced food and drink.

Whatever you put on your waistline, you can soon walk it off, cycle it off, run it off, as there is a lot of countryside to go through where social distancing is effortless.

If you enjoy the great outdoors, head for the spectacular inland lake, a dominant feature in the tiny county.

If you feel the need for something more relaxing or cultural, you can visit quaint country pubs where you can spend time sampling the famous Rutland Ale while the county also boats its own Rutland gin. Alternatively, try tasting specialist local delicacies include the award-winning Hambleton bakery a regional baker specialist in arstisan breads and pastries.

The Grainstore Brewery has a large variety of beers, ales and ciders, brewed right in the heart of Oakham, while Multum Gin Parvo produce a range of gin flavours inspired by Rutland, including ‘Strawberry & Rutland Lavender’ and ‘Earl Grey & Rutland Honey’. 

Outdoor sports are extremely well catered for with plenty of walking and cycling routes available, plus fishing, golfing and the huge choice of watersports that take place on Rutland Water.

There are two nature reserves around the reservoir, with many hides providing a great opportunity to spot a rare bird to two – or you can visit one of the many stunning gardens open to the public. Treat yourself to a trip to the beautiful Barnsdale Gardens – explore the gardens, take a gardening course and buy stunning plants to take home with you for a lovely reminder of happy memories in Rutland.

For those feeling like a hike, the 23-mile circuit is enough for anyone, but can be split up into a number smaller walks over a longer period of time. There are pay car parks at several points around the lake. Each one has a cafe and toilets and at least one had a children’s playground. Cycle and boat hire are available as an alternative Shanks’ Pony, but take binoculars to see some of the spectacular wildlife inhabitants.

If you prefer to stay indoors there are plenty of places for you to explore including theatres, art galleries and shopping in the two market towns that offer a huge variety of boutiques, farm shops and family run stores .

There is no end of accommodation across the county, catering for tourist from all parts of the world, but if your carbon footprint is important to you or the environment his high on your priorities, handily placed on the edge of Rutland Water itself in Whitwell Village is a novel state-of-the-art B&B accommodation.

The impressive Passivhuas in Whitwell has a modern luxury bathroom and stylish self contained double bedroom

A detached super insulated house designed to the carbon neutral Passivhaus Standard, it offers a self-contained, wheelchair friendly double bedroom with shower room and entrance separate from that of the main house. Parking is provided as is tea and tea and coffee. The hosts offer continental breakfast croissants, butter, jams and that hambleton’s bread, toaster plus fridge in the room downstairs.

The whole property, constructed in 2014, is a certified Passivhaus that it is super insulated and air tight with mechanical ventilation heat recovery.

While it may seem in the middle of nowhere, that is not the case, with Rutland Water literally over the road and with the county town of Oakham just over four miles away with short drive or take the public bus, which stops almost directly outside the property. The hosts are also happy to give an introduction to designing and constructing to the Passivhaus Standard.

For nature lovers, just across the road, the giant reservoir has other attractions. It is a 1,555 hectare area of lake and shore is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Special Protection Area under the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds and Nature Conservation Review site.

If the physical activities around the lake leave you needing to relax, a cruise aboard the Rutland Belle allows you to enjoy the sights of Rutland Water whilst having a relaxing drink and listening to commentary highlighting points of interest.
The Rutland Belle can carry up to 110 passengers, with 60 places in the under-cover saloons and is open from April to October. Drinks are available on board.

Alternatively, if you fancy a carefree day out with the kids where super-soaking immersive experience is promised, try Aqua Park Rutland – the UK’s biggest inflatable watersports challenge operating at Rutland Water.

So much, packed into so little, the tiny county deserves it Latin motto.

For information on the Passivhaus visit

For more information on where to go and what to see visit

Best feet forward for Suttonians

Sutton Coldfield 10,000 step challenge

PEOPLE in Sutton Coldfield are being challenged to kick start the New Year by taking steps to support Cancer Research UK.  

The charity is urging people to sign up now to Walk All Over Cancer and get sponsored to take 10,000 steps every day for a month.

By raising vital funds, people across the region could help to get life-saving research back on track after the impact of COVID-19 – while burning off any excess Christmas calories. As well as helping towards a healthy body weight, taking part could take a little weight off the mind too. Regular walking is a great stress-reliever and can help with mental wellbeing by improving mood and sleep.

Paula Young, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the West Midlands, said: “Fundraising has fallen and right now, future research is at risk – that’s why we’re urging as many people as possible to make ‘Walk All Over Cancer’ their New Year’s resolution.

“We all hope that 2021 has a more positive outlook. So why not give yourself a boost by committing to get more active and having an achievable goal to aim for – all in aid of a good cause. 

“There’s plenty of time for supporters to start building up to the challenge in March and planning new ways to fit in some extra steps.

“Sticking to a resolution can be hard, especially through the cold, dark winter months, but registering now and making a public pledge to take part in the Spring, could help people steel their resolve. Plus, there’s the ultimate motivation of knowing every step you take will be helping to save lives.”

Based on the average person’s strides, 10,000 steps is equal to about five miles, so by the end of March participants will have clocked up more than 150 miles.

That’s quite a challenge for some, but adopting small changes that you can stick to can really add up – whether it’s doing conference calls on the go, exploring local beauty spots or treating the dog to a month of extra-long walks. 

Keeping check on the number of steps taken each day is a great way to create a sense of achievement and it’s easy to do with smartphone apps, pedometers and wearable activity trackers available to help. Walk All Over Cancer is now integrated with FitBit, so that participants can automatically publish their step count on their fundraising page throughout the month.

Paula added: “With around 32,100 people diagnosed with cancer every year in the West Midlands region, we’re working every day to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease.

“The truth is COVID-19 has slowed us down, but we will never stop striving to create better treatments for tomorrow. Every step our scientists take towards beating cancer relies on our supporters. That’s why we need everyone to step up to Walk All Over Cancer.” 

Before the outbreak, Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £10 million in the West Midlands last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

To sign up and receive a free fundraising pack, with tips and ideas to help with the challenge, visit

About Cancer Research UK

  • Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
  • Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
  • Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.
  • Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
  • Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Top honour for Sutton firm

Funeral directors win industry award

An independent Sutton Coldfield funeral business, founded by two lifelong friends, has been named one of the UK’s best.

The firm has achieved the ‘Recommended’ accolade following an assessment visit by the Good Funeral Guide, an independent funeral consumer advocacy organisation.

Lilies Funeral Directors started serving their local community in September 2015 and opened their funeral home in March 2016 on Chester Road, then a second on Kingstanding Road in 2018.

Sutton-born owners Lee Solomon and Nathan Scully, both aged 31, were born on the same street, went to the same playgroups and their mothers were best friends. They went to different schools but remained friends. Straight out of education, Nathan went into the funeral industry and worked his way from the bottom to become a funeral director within one of the country’s largest funeral services. Lee went to university and has a background in marketing and business development.

When the pair were 21, they had the dream of opening a funeral home together and turning a life long friendship into a deep and caring business partnership. Five years later their dream came true with Lilies. 

In its review of Lilies Funeral Directors the Good Funeral Guide says: “Their reviews and testimonies on Google are all five-star reviews, with clients constantly referencing how the pair had gone the extra mile, how nothing is too much trouble, and their compassion and professionalism.”

The Good Funeral Guide assesses select funeral homes according to strict criteria which focus on thequality of the experience they offer to bereaved people.
Lilies Funeral Directors has been inspected to ensure that clients are treated with courtesy, listened to with empathy, offered a full range of choice, charged fairly and empowered to play whatever part they want in creating a send-off for the person they have lost which accords with their values and wishes.
The accreditation process also involved spending time behind the scenes in order to ascertain that those who have died are cared for with the utmost tenderness and respect.
Fran Hall, CEO of the Good Funeral Guide said: “Choosing a funeral director can be very difficult because often they all look much the same. But they’re not. Some, a precious few, are truly outstanding, and Lilies Funeral Directors is one of them.
“The team at Lilies Funeral Directors are unsung heroes doing a magnificent job, and the people of Sutton Coldfield and Birmingham deserve to know this.

“Bereaved people need to do their very best for their loved one who has died. They deserve the very best funeral director.”
Director Lee Solomon was delighted with the recognition and said: “We are extremely proud to receive this accolade. Knowing our hard work and commitment to our families has been recognised and applauded by an organisation who strive to make the funeral industry better, leaves me very emotional.”

For information contact Lee Solomon at, call 0121 321 3446 or visit the website at

Find the full review here:

  • The Good Funeral Guide is wholly independent of the funeral industry. It offers information and guidance to the bereaved and supports, empowers and represents the interests of dying and bereaved people living in the UK. It is a not-for-profit social enterprise company — Community Interest Company number 7818343.

Christmas magic star for Martha

Brave Sutton schoolgirl, aged four, receives award as she starts tough new cancer treatment

A four-year-old from Sutton Coldfield who is facing chemotherapy over Christmas has received a CRUK for Children & Young People Star Award in recognition of her courage.

Martha Givans was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia just before she started school in July. Now she’s on the toughest phase of her treatment yet but her family are determined to make this Christmas extra special.

For the bravery she’s showed throughout her treatment so far, she has received a Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People Star Award, in partnership with TK Maxx.

Every child nominated receives the accolade, which is backed by a host of famous faces including celebrity chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, Nanny McPhee actress Dame Emma Thompson, This Morning’s Dr Ranj and children’s TV favourite Mister Maker.

To see Martha’ s video visit  

There is no judging panel because the charity believes every child diagnosed with cancer deserves special recognition. The awards are open to all under-18s who have been diagnosed with the disease in the last five years.

As well as a star shaped trophy, Martha also received a £50 TK Maxx gift card, t-shirt and a certificate signed by the celebrities. 

Martha, a pupil at Holy Cross School, received the award just as she was about to start her most intense round of treatment to date. The treatment involves three different chemotherapy drugs with side effects including sickness and extreme tiredness.

Mum Natalie Givans, who nominated Martha for the award said: “I can’t put into words how amazing she is. Some days she has to have 15 different tablets a day but she never moans and she’s always smiling. She has twin cousins aged two and she just mothers them, she’s so loving and caring.”

Martha was diagnosed at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in July after her mum took her for a blood test on the advice of her GP.

“My mum kept saying she’s really pale,” said Natalie. “She didn’t have any other symptoms but eventually I called the GP. I didn’t want to go into hospital because of COVID but the doctor advised me to take her to the Children’s Hospital for a blood test. We got there at 9am and I got a call while I was shopping three hours later telling me to bring her back.

“I was in a complete panic. I knew it must be cancer but they couldn’t tell me until we had the results of more tests.”

Results of initial tests were inconclusive so Martha and Natalie had to stay in hospital for another three days before finding out what was wrong.

“I refused to Google anything,” said Natalie. “After three days I was told it was leukaemia. It all felt like a dream but I was just thankful she had the most treatable type.”

Although prognosis was good, Martha still needed immediate chemotherapy and her treatment won’t finish until 2022.

“Everything seemed to happen at once,” said Natalie. “She was really poorly with the first lot of chemo because she had to have a high dose of steroids for six weeks. That meant that was wanted a proper dinner every two hours.

“What was worse was that she didn’t want to play and she didn’t smile for weeks. It was like the lights were on but there was no one home. It was horrendous.”

Natalie was told that Martha would lose her hair but, so far, it’s only got thinner on top.

“She’s been lots better since she came off the steroids but she’s just started her intense phase of treatment so we have to see what the next few weeks bring,” added Natalie, a part-time accountancy lecturer at Sutton Coldfield College.

“She’s due to be in hospital Christmas week so we haven’t been able to plan anything but we’re hoping we can be at home on Christmas day and make it special.

“Getting the award was a lovely surprise. She knows she’s special now because she has a certificate and star to prove it.”

Around 160 children are diagnosed with cancer in the West Midlands region every year.* 

Paula Young, spokesperson for Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People in Staffordshire, said: “Martha is a real star and it’s great to see her smile is back. It’s been an absolute privilege to be able to celebrate her courage with a Star Award.

“Cancer can have a devastating impact on children and young people and many of those who survive may experience serious long-term side effects from their treatment.

“We’re encouraging people to nominate inspirational youngsters for this year’s Star Awards, so we can recognise more children like Martha.”

More children and young people are surviving cancer than ever before, thanks in large part to the work of Cancer Research UK. 

But, the disease still claims the lives of around 510 under 25s in the UK every year.**

Cancer in children and young people is different to cancer in adults – from the types of cancer, to the impact of treatment. That’s why Cancer Research UK for Children & Young People is supporting dedicated research to improve survival and reduce long-term side effects for youngsters like Martha.

For example, Birmingham is home to Cancer Research UK’s Children’s Cancer Trials Team, the only one of its kind in the UK. The team coordinates groundbreaking clinical trials in many centres across the UK, including Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham. These trials make innovative new treatments available to young cancer patients.

The Star Awards are run in partnership with TK Maxx, the biggest corporate supporter of Cancer Research UK’s work into children’s and young people’s cancers. Since 2004, the retailer has raised over £40m for the charity. Over £37m of this total has supported research to help ensure more children and young people survive cancer with a good quality of life.

To nominate a Star visit

Opinion – Sutton Park lockdown lunacy

This was the scene at the Bracebridge in Sutton Park today. Scores of people queuing at the takeaway, lemming-like, or standing at tables near the pub.

There’s little or no social distancing in a 60 year queue, little evidence of face coverings and everyone appearing to treat it just like another normal Sunday.

This, less than 24 hours after after the latest restrictions were announced, as the virus is rampaging through the south of England and probably on its way to the Midlands before long.

The death toll is now approaching 70,000, more depending on which figures you look at, with hospital intensive care units near capacity and people just don’t seem to care.

It does not bode well for Christmas, whatever the law says, if people are just prepared to flout the rules, and yes, put others in danger.

Time to think of others.

Bill McCarthy

Making ‘ghost markings’ vanish

Drivers in Sutton can be forgiven being afraid of ‘ghosts’, particularly on traffic islands, where confusion often reigns and danger can lurk.

When white road markings are removed, for example when road layouts change, the original lines can sometimes still appear as faint or ‘ghost’ markings, particularly in bright sunshine.

This can make the road ahead unclear for drivers. But, as this new footage shows, huge progress is being made in a trial on the M5 in the South West to eradicate the problem.

Last year Highways England launched a £685,000 international research project to find a solution to issues around the removal of white lines and of ‘ghost markings’.

The competition set out to identify the most effective road markings that will also reduce damage to the surface when the lines are removed.

Seven new products are being tested to check their skid resistance and performance in the dry and wet as well as five systems for removing white lines to see if they are more effective.

Head of Lean and continuous improvement Martin Bolt, who has been overseeing the competition for Highways England, said:

The trial will continue until April but the results so far have been very promising and the safety benefits are already clear. We are very optimistic that we have identified some effective solutions to a worldwide problem.

We know that people find the ghost lines confusing but these new methods could make this issue disappear, creating safer journeys for drivers. They will also prevent damage to the road surface saving time and money.

We have certainly gaining a greater insight into the materials and processes we, and the road industry, could be using in future schemes.

One approach used in the trial has been to apply a black baseline first before adding the white line. This also fills in some of the voids in the road preventing the marking penetrating too deeply into the surface.

Another advantage is that it provides greater contrast between the marking and the road itself which will be increasingly important as autonomous vehicles are introduced.

Products from around the world were submitted for the competition. At a testing centre in the Spanish capital Madrid, the markings were then subjected to some two million ‘wheel overs’ to find the top products for skid resistance and performance.

The best seven were then also put to the test on the northbound carriageway of the M5, between junctions 20 (Clevedon, Nailsea) and 18 (Avonmouth).

Once testing is complete, the most successful products will be highlighted in research shared around the world and setting new high standards for the road industry.

The competition, launched in conjunction with Roadcare and Kier, was funded through Highways England’s Designated Fund for Innovation.

Keith Dawson, managing director of Roadcare, said:

It is refreshing to see such collaboration across a wide range of countries, All competitors should be congratulated for the attitude they have shown throughout this competition in sharing knowledge and best practice, from which we have gained an enormous amount of data based on facts not opinions.

Tom Tideswell, head of innovations at Kier Highways, said:

Ghost markings are confusing to road users which can lead to poor lane discipline through no fault of their own and, in worst case scenarios, cause incidents to occur.

During the trials, the five innovative road markings removal systems demonstrated their capabilities and have since provided very positive results which could lead to eradicating this issue and create safer journeys for road users.

They will also reduce the scarring/pothole creation by being less intrusive to the carriageway which in turn improves journey reliability by reducing the amount of closures required to carry out repairs in addition to saving money.

Island memory of a golden era

MacfivenewsTravel December 15, 20203 Minutes

The stunning view over Freshwater Bay on the western side of the Isle of Wight.
Pictures courtesy of Visit Isle of Wight

Bill McCarthy enjoys the delights of the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is host of to one of the largest collections of fossils in Europe and I’m not talking about the ageing relics who flocked there for what was, arguably, the biggest music festival ever in 1970, writes Bill McCarthy

It seems a little incongruous that an island of such relative tranquility could have hosted that Isle of Wight Festival, one of the most famous music events of all time – but a bronze statue of the legendary Jimi Hendrix, who died just weeks after performing there, is a permanent reminder at Freshwater Bay, Dimbola Lodge museum.

After Bob Dylan headlined the 1969 event, the 1970 event is said to have surpassed the numbers attending the legendary Woodstock festival in America, with an estimated 600,000 fans watch over fifty performers were Jimi Hendrix,  The Doors, The Who, Ten Years After, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Joni Mitchell, The Moody Blues, Melanie, Donovan, Free, Leonard Cohen, Jethro Tull and Rory Gallagher’s Taste.

The unexpectedly high attendance levels led, in 1971, to Parliament adding a section to the Isle of Wight County Council Act 1971 preventing overnight open-air gatherings of more than 5,000 people on the island without a special licence from the council.

The Hendrix statue at Dimbola Lodge

A form of that festival continues to this day as do other musical gatherings such as the International Jazz Festival and Bestival. But music fans and other visitors can also take advantage of some of the most stunning coastal vistas and inland green beauty that make up the biggest island of England.

Especially in this time of Covid infections, where the island remains a relatively untouched haven, currently in the lowest lockdown tier.

The Island supports the nationwide ‘Good to Go’ initiative by Visit England, a national criteria set to equip you, our valued visitor, with everything you need to know before, during and after you travel to the Isle of Wight. 

It would have seemed a long way off back in those days, but travel to the island has now become greener.

Having introduced its new environmentally-friendly ferry Victoria of Wight in 2018, Wightlink has introduced a hybrid energy ship that runs partly on electricity. Victoria of Wight offers greener crossings every hour, using at least 17 per cent less fuel than its sister ships. The Isle of Wight is also the seventh area in the UK to be awarded a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, in June 2019. 

The Isle of Wight is ideal for an eco-friendly escape, and with Wightlink visitors can choose to travel by foot, bicycle, or car. For those on foot, Wightlink’s FastCat service takes just 22 minutes and customers can bring their bicycles on board at no extra cost.

For those wanting to bring their eco-friendly electric vehicles to the Island, there are 17 charging stations spread across the Isle of Wight, as well as Wightlink’s own EV charging points at Portsmouth car ferry terminal, Lymington, Fishbourne and Ryde Pier, all part of Wightlink’s Green Agenda.

The island was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and to Queen Victoria, who built her own residence at Osborne House at East Cowes. It is home to a myriad of wildlife and is one of the richest locations of dinosaur fossils in Europe.

Clockwise from top, funfair at The Needles or seeing them on a boat trip, the garlic farm and the alpaca farm

With its miles of coast it’s no surprise that it is popular with families looking for seaside locations, but it also features picturesque walks and cycleways that offer the tranquility that is often missing in the island’s towns. Initiatives offer a range of fresh air challenges for parents and children to tackle.

Families can set out on foot to find miles of virgin sand, rocky ledges, monster vegetation covering huge expanses of rock pools, flora and fauna rarely found on mainland Britain and even those dinosaur bones and fossils that have been hidden for millions of years. The island is situated between three and five miles from the mainland and is serviced by a number of ferries from various ports.

We travelled from picturesque Lymington to Yarmouth on the western side of the island with Wightlink.

Previously we have travelled from Porstsmouth to Fishbourne, but as we were staying in the quiet, but pretty, Totland Bay, we landed just a couple of miles from our accommodation, the Sentry Mead hotel.

An imposing Victorian house that has been a hotel since the 1930s, the building has 16 individual rooms, the best of which give spectacular views across the Solent.

On top of that the staff are naturally friendly and the hotel offers excellent food in a cosy and relaxed atmosphere. A nice touch is the complimentary coffee that is available from late afternoon onwards.

From the seaside atmosphere of Ryde to miles of mostly unpopulated downland, the island is surprisingly diverse. Try an offbeat trip to the island’s garlic farm. Here you can try all types of garlic and they even offer a garlic beer.

The Isle of Wight Steam Railway takes visitors back to the golden age of steam. Be prepared for queues though, this is a very busy attraction.

For those who love spectacular scenery the imposing Needles rocks are worth seeing, but be prepared for a walk. When the kids have tired with that the Needles theme park virtually next door offers plenty of rides for them to let off steam. The alpaca farm is also worth a visit

So much to do and see. The relics who attended that momentous festival in 1970 probably didn’t know what they were missing.­

* Bill travelled to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink. For hotel information, visit

Cleaning up with cleaner bin lorries

Sutton residents promised more efficient service with first of new fleet

Residents in Sutton Coldfield have been promised an improved bin collection service as the first of 76 new environmentally-friendly waste and recycling vehicles have started to roll out on the streets.

The vehicles have been supplied to the city council by West Midlands-based Dennis Eagle and represent an £11 million investment into Birmingham’s waste collection service.

Their arrival in the city heralds the start of the rolling replacement of a fleet that was last upgraded in 2014 and will see the remainder of the service’s vehicles refreshed by 2024.

All the new vehicles will be compliant with the city’s Clean Air Zone, which is set to be introduced from June 2021.

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks at Birmingham City Council, said: “Our hardworking crews do a great job as part of our effort to keep the streets of Birmingham clean.

“But they need the best tools possible in order to do this – the refresh of our fleet is long-awaited and will help improve the reliability of the collection rounds, reducing our dependency on hire vehicles to shore up the service.

“Just as importantly, these are vehicles made right here in the Midlands. They are cleaner and greener and will improve our wider environmental ambitions related to air quality and carbon emissions.”

Dennis Eagle’s Sales & Marketing Manager Lee Rowland said: “It’s great to be supporting an operator right on our own doorstep, in a place where many of our own staff live.

“This is a very significant order for Birmingham City Council as these vehicles will be much cleaner and more efficient than their existing fleet. They will play a key role following the introduction of a Clean Air Zone next June which will benefit everyone who visits or lives in Birmingham.”

Plug-in BMW has X-tra pace

BMW X5 Hybrid

By Bill McCarthy

WHEN it comes to combining luxurious comfort with electric performance, BMW has few peers.

But now the firm has taken that electric performance further, literally, with a big push in diverging from the combustion engine alone technology.

Take that technology and add it to one of its most enduring models, the X5, and this plug-in version and you have a vehicle that has literally electric performance together a massive economy and ultra-low CO2 emissions.

In this case the vehicle has a claimed theoreticl economy of a 180-230-odd mpg combined with just 31g/km of CO2, producing big savings on the day to day running of the vehicle, particularly for business users.

BMW claims it can travel up to 54 miles purely on electricity which means on the company car tax scale – for PHEVs now calculated on electric range as well as overall emissions – that its benefit-in-kind rating is just eight per cent.

Of course the mpg is theoretical unless you are driving less than the electric range miles and are charging the car every day and with very little use of the three-litre V6 twin turbo-charged petrol engine. It would seem obvious, however, that drivers would wish to make use of all that pace and power at some point.

The X5 is now in its fourth incarnation and this model has produced a combined system power output of 394bhp, 286bhp augmented by the 112bhp from the battery power.

It feels jet propelled and can hit 60mph in around five-and-a-half seconds and on to a top speed of 146mph. Even in electric only it can hit an impressive 85mph.

The X5 has always been an attractive motor, but in the M Sport mode it really does look the business

The engine is combined with the 82kW lithium-ion extended storage battery to provide the power needed to shift a 2.5 tonne vehicle so quickly and so economically.

It also combines the BMW EfficientDynamics drive family and the super-slick, eight-speed automatic transmission with the latest generation and the intelligent all-wheel on-demand xDrive system. 

There are various drive modes, which are selected by buttons near the gear shift, with electric, hybrid, sport and auto adaptive available. Obviously for maximum economy choose electric and for serious fun, choose sport and let rip by using the steering wheel paddles, but for most, the auto mode will select drive mode for the appropriate conditions.

In addition, the vehicle’s smart route navigation can keep electric power in reserve for urban driving later in the journey.

A separate Battery Hold mode and regenerative braking, allows the battery to be fully charged while driving. On top of this, a 69-litre fuel tank also ensures fewer expensive visits to the filling stations.

The X5 has always been an attractive motor, but in the M Sport mode it really does look the business with its slim headlamps, huge, diamond cut alloys and the familiar kidney grille, air scoops and side air vents finished in gloss black.

The interior is pure class, a riot of leather and high end soft touch finish. It is a big car with plenty of head and legroom at the front, although the rear is more limited. It offers a raft of hi-tech, high end bells and whistles that you would expect from a £66,000-odd motor, including head-up display and electrically heated and powered front seats.

The M Sport model also includes a sports steering wheel, specific pedals, driver’s footrest and piping on the seats, plus exclusive interior trim in aluminium. Also included on this model adaptive air suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels.

Central is the 12.3-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash with controls sat nav, infotainment and connectivity and climate control controlled by the now familiar iDrive rotary dial on the central console. Connectivity includes Apple CarPlay, digital radio, enhanced Bluetooth with wireless charging and gesture control.

On the road, the  two-axle air suspension and electronically controlled dampers makes for a smooth and controlled ride with sharp, agile handling and a comfortable ride for all passengers, although it became unsettled over larger potholes and bumps.

It remains a practical vehicle and when all seats are used, the storage volume is 500 litres. Fold the  rear backrests and a cavernous 1,720 litres is available. A two-section tailgate for ease of loading with optional remote opening and closing.

Safety kit is comprehensive, with full complement of airbags, traction and stability control plus, plus lane change warning, crossing traffic warning, rear-end collision warning and speed limit information.

Another key feature for electric cars is when the vehicle is running at low speeds on electric power, a speaker system emits a distinctive sound generated to alert pedestrians.

At more than £66,000, it’s not cheap, but considering it has a three litre petrol engine on board, running costs are good.

And for that 54 miles range on electricity, it may give serious tax benefits but it was a figure I only got near to with very careful driving.


BMW X5 xDrive 45e

Price: £66,665

Mechanical: 394bhp, 2,998, 6cyl petrol engine and electric motor driving four wheels via 8-speed automatic gearbox

Max speed: 146mph

0-62mph: 5.6 seconds

Combined mpg: 180

Insurance group: 49

CO2 emissions: 31-41g/km

Warranty: 3yrs/unlimited miles