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?

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