torsdag 31 oktober 2019

Croydon tram accident ‒ no charges

It has been announced that no charges will be brought in respect of the accident in 2016 when a tram was derailed and overturned at Addiscombe, resulting in seven fatalities and 62 injuries. The tram was travelling at 45 mph on a curved section of line where the speed limit was 12 mph and overturned. Since the incident, safety measures have been introduced. The decision not to prosecute for corporate manslaughter is hard to understand, since the curve is situated in a cutting close to a tunnel, and should have been recognised as a potentially hazardous configuration even before the opening of the line in 2000. One also has to question the role of the Health and Safety Executive, successor to the Railways Inspectorate.

onsdag 23 oktober 2019

Dubious tunnel project under the Gulf of Finland

Ideas for grandiose infrastructure projects have a habit of refusing to die. One such is for a 50 kilometre tunnel under the Gulf of Finland between Helsinki in Finland and Tallinn in Estonia, priced at £15 billion, including substantial EU funding. It would give a 20 minute crossing time between the two cities, compared to the present ferry crossing times of two to three hours. Also, in the longer term, the idea is to provide Finland with a direct rail connection to the rest of Europe via the proposed Rail Baltica. For this reason, the EU is insisting that the railway is built to standard gauge (1435 mm) despite the fact that both the Finnish and Estonian railways are built to the wider Russian gauge (1520 mm).

Rail Baltica itself is a €6 billion scheme for a conventional speed standard gauge passenger and freight railway from Warsaw to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, connecting the three capital cities of Vilnius, Riga and Tallinn. The problem with the route is that the three Baltic countries and Finland are sparsely populated, with a total population of about 12 million in the four countries, with the traffic potential limited accordingly. The same applies to the traffic potential on the route between Tallinn (population approximately half a million, and Helsinki (population about 1.5 million). It is difficult to see how so few people can generate enough travel demand to make it worth building a tunnel between the two cities.

The problem for this part of Europe is that its natural trade hinterland is to the east, outside the EU, but the EU Single Market is constructed so as to discourage such trade.

tisdag 22 oktober 2019

British constitutional problems

The British constitution is a finely balanced structure of duties which has come under stress in recent months, especially following the decision of the Supreme Court which declared the Prime Minister’s prorogation of Parliament unlawful.

The UK Supreme Court itself is a constitutional innovation which was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and took over responsibility from the Law Lords in October 2009. The Law Lords, officially known as the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary, formalised ancient practice whereby the House of Lords was the final court of appeal, acting on powers derived from the Sovereign. Thus, before the pre-2009 reform, the ultimate court of appeal was within Parliament itself, which raises the question of whether it had the authority to question this action of the Prime Minister.

This throws up a further issue, which is that of the Sovereign who acts in person in Parliament. One step back from this is the question of where and how the authority of the British monarch is derived; the principle is that authority comes from God, through sacramental procedures which take place at a coronation, which commence with the swearing of a set of oaths and are followed by anointing with holy oil, presentation of the symbols of office: the orb, sceptre and crown, and clothing in the monarchical vestments. The coronation ceremonies take place within the context of a service of Holy Communion, they are analogous to priestly ordination and in their original form were modelled on the service for the consecration of a bishop. Their archetype is the anointing of Saul as King of Israel by Samuel the Judge, and of David’s successor, Solomon, by Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet, a link which since the coronation of King George II in 1727 has been recalled by the singing of the anthem Zadok the Priest from Saul, the opera by Handel.

Zadok the priest And Nathan the prophet
Anointed Solomon king
And all the people rejoiced, and said:
God save the king, long live the king,
God save the king, may the king live forever,
Amen, alleluia, amen.

This raises more questions that I am competent to explore; the oaths set out the duties of the British monarch and summarise the monarch’s relationship to the people, but given the current state of Christian belief in Britain, how much longer can this finely balanced structure stand?

tisdag 10 september 2019

Johnson meets Vradakar and looks frustrated

The two prime ministers are shown standing side by side. Johnson looks frustrated and bewildered. Small wonder. It is difficult to negotiate with people who insist on irrational behaviour. The Single Market trade rules are nothing if not irrational, since their underlying principle is that goods should be KEPT OUT of one’s own country. That is what the EU tariffs and other restrictions are intended to do. They are an application of the long discredited seventeenth century economic theory known as ‛Mercantilism’.

The Irish will be the biggest losers after Brexit because so many of their imports come from the UK. They will either have to bear the additional costs of the EU's tariffs or obtain their supplies from alternative sources in mainland Europe. Since this involves a long voyage round the tip of Cornwall, these goods will carry the burden of higher transport costs; the route is too long for economic RoRo services.

The Republic was effectively obliged to follow the UK into the then EEC when it joined in 1973, due to the volume of trade between the two countries. The logical solution is for the Republic to follow the UK out again. Better still would be for the EU to embark on a programme of radical reform, to achieve free trade with the whole world, unilaterally if necessary. This would give rise to widespread benefits, because the problems that the Irish will face already have an adverse effect on the economies of countries in eastern Europe with borders with non-EU countries, who are cut off from their natural hinterlands; trade cannot even take place between businesses in adjacent towns when one is in, say, Latvia and the other in Belarus, giving rise to a situation where important regional hubs like Daugavpils in Latvia have become ghost towns.

If the Irish really want to restrict the inward flow of goods from the UK, they could always invite the Royal Navy to lay mines at the entrance to the ports of Dublin, Rosslare and Cork.

The Scottish nationalists who want to subject themselves to the same punishment presumably do not understand the implications.

måndag 9 september 2019

The EU social model

Force people to migrate to where the work is, and suck the life out of the peripheral regions. With 30,000 lobbyists in Brussels and an unaccountable and unelected Commission, policymaking was long ago captured by the most powerful producer, banking and landowning interests - the very same who supported the fascist regimes before WW2. It is astonishing how the progressive left has been mesmerised into supporting this.

fredag 6 september 2019

Independent Scotland in the EU? #3

Some things to look forward to.
  • Queues at the EU customs post at Berwick leading to a traffic tailback on the A1 all the way to Alnwick, if not to the suburbs of Newcastle. 
  • Crowds of Scottish shoppers descending on Gateshead Metrocentre and a boom in the north-east. 
  • Trains terminating at Berwick as passengers have to disembark and pass through customs control.
  • Goods imported from England subject to EU tariffs and extra VAT, and a thriving smuggling industry as people tried to import the bargains purchased on their shopping trips.
  • Higher prices for substitute goods imported from mainland Europe due to extra transport costs; it is too far for low cost RoRo movement.
  • Value of savings destroyed as Scotland enters the Euro at at realistic rate.
  • Great idea - independent Scotland in the EU.

torsdag 5 september 2019

An inefficent tax

I received a parcel from the US yesterday. I was asked to pay 110 kr tax (Value Added Tax), plus 75 kr collection fee. By my calculation, that makes it 65% efficient.

Croydon tram accident ‒ no charges

It has been announced that no charges will be brought in respect of the accident in 2016 when a tram was derailed and overturned at Addisco...