torsdag 24 april 2014

Carrot as well as stick

Riga Coal Dock

I watch with some dismay the hostile attitudes that are hardening in the relationship between Russia and the EU and USA. What is being ignored here is that there are genuine issues which ought to be conceded. The borders following the break-up of the Soviet Union do not correspond to linguistic and national borders. Adjustments and exchanges of territory (this goes in both directions), subject to referendum, could reduce dissatisfactions.

There is also a better need for economic development and collaboration. The Russian populations in the Baltic countries seem to have missed out quite badly. The EU could play a role here, in particular in relation to parts of Latvia and the Russian enclave which was formerly East Prussia, with joint infrastructure projects and other investments.

The economic dependencies are closer than is generally appreciated. For example, coal from the eastern Ukraine goes by train to Riga where it is shipped to.... Tilbury.

Carrot as well as stick.

måndag 14 april 2014

Biggest fare dodger in history

"Train bosses have come under fire for not prosecuting a wealthy hedge fund manager who was described as the “biggest fare dodger in railway history”, evading more than £42,000 in train tickets. The City executive is believed to have dodged the fare for the 82-minute commute between the Sussex village of Stonegate and central London for five years.

He exploited a flaw that allowed him to go through barriers at Cannon Street station in London by “tapping out” with an Oyster travelcard. After finally being caught by a ticket inspector, the executive was able to pay £42,550 in dodged fares and £450 in legal costs within three days of being asked to pay up as part of an out-of-court settlement." Daily Telegraph article

One has to admire the guy's ingenuity. One also has to question the competence of the people who set up the system, for not spotting the flaw. Perhaps they should employ him as a consultant to check the security of their systems in future.

söndag 13 april 2014

Forgotten cost of Scottish independence


One of the hidden costs of Scottish independence has never even been mentioned yet - haggis-proof fencing along the border. The vicious little beasts are both excellent climbers and burrowers. They can dig down a metre deep, which means that hundreds of miles of expensive fencing will have to be erected along the border. All vehicles will have to be carefully checked at crossing points to make sure that none of them escape, or are smuggled into England.

onsdag 9 april 2014

Scottish independence peril


Following a "yes" vote, the Loch Ness monster will awake from his slumber, opening a fiery fissure from Fort William to Inverness. A vast subterranean magma chamber will spew forth its contents and create a molten lava field which will eventually bury the whole of Great Britain in a layer six metres thick. Clouds of poison gas will spread all round the globe. A decade of summerless years will cause mass starvation and will be followed by an ice age which will go on for 100,000 years.

måndag 7 april 2014

Crossrail - one railway for the price of two

Expectations of an imminent start on a new north-south rail line across London have been damped, with the former chief executive of Network Rail warning that no work on “Crossrail 2” will happen in the next decade. (FT article)

The route, on a south-west to north-east axis from Chelsea to Hackney, was first proposed as a tube line in 1901 and has popped up regularly ever since. Now Crossrail was also originally intended to relieve the congested Central Line and the northern part of the Circle Line. This could have been satisfied by building another tube line on roughly the present alignment from Paddington to Stratford. In an easterly direction, it might have continued to, perhaps, Woolwich, and at the westerly end, it might have run to Hammersmith, and possibly, eventually, Heathrow.

The London tube uses small 3.5 metre diameter tunnels and electrification by conductor rail. Crossrail, by contrast, is a full-sized railway with overhead electrification, requiring 6 metre tunnels. Thus, almost four times as much material has to be excavated, and costs cannot be less then double the cost of a tube line.

Thus, for the price of Crossrail 1, Londoners could have had both Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 for their money. Thus is the money wasted on over-specified infrastructure. How did this happen?

HS2 threatens wildlife habitats, MPs warn.

The Government should examine the option of the maximum speed being reduced from 225 mph to 185 mph to cut carbon emissions, says the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee. The report calls for full environmental surveys along the length of the route and ringfencing of cash to preserve habitats. Guardian article.

The real Crossrail scandal

Crossrail has been plagued by delays and cost over-runs which have attracted widespread criticism. A simpler scheme, possibly a tube line, c...