Archive for Transport

It’s been a while

I really don’t have time for blogging any more, what with the reality of work, kids and a new partner but I’m sat here on a train in Euston station waiting for one of Richard Branson’s minions to find a driver who can get us home and some things have been annoying me recently. So, time to unload.

Image result for flipping tables


There is a shortage of about 40,000 nurses in England according to the Royal College of Nursing. The British government’s response is to launch recruitment campaigns in countries where they spend lots of money training nurses who would love to come and work in England for the paltry amount we pay. But that’s really not the right answer, is it?

A nurse in England can expect to earn about £23k a year on average. They make life or death decisions every day. They might start the day watching a baby die and end it disposing of a bowl full of shit. Be under no illusions, it’s a tough job and they do it for little financial reward.

So, a few years back the British government decided that nurses in England must have a degree. Merely learning how to care for patients, dispense medication, perform medical procedures and save lives isn’t good enough, they must also be able to write thousands of words on a variety of subjects that nobody will ever read again after it’s been marked. And the British government abolished the bursary for nursing degrees in 2016 so to pursue their £23k a year career nurses in England are expected to pay between £18,500 and £37,000 in tuition fees (depending on whether they stop at two years or complete the optional third and fourth years) plus tens of thousands in living costs whilst they study. For a job that has an average wage so low that most nurses won’t ever reach the threshold for loan repayments. Is it any wonder NHS England can’t recruit enough nurses?


Where do you start with something so utterly and fundamentally flawed as HS2? It was supposed to cost £56bn when it was first announced – a figure that was already ruinously expensive – and just a few days ago the chairman of HS2 told the British government that estimated costs have now risen to £86bn. This time last year they had already burnt through £4bn without laying a single mile of track, who knows what it is by now. This is money that could be spent on electrifying and increasing capacity on existing lines, investing in electric vehicle infrastructure (including busses) and increasing capacity on motorways. The M6 toll road could have been nationalised twice over with the money HS2 had spent not building HS2 up to last year.

Of course, a big chunk of the cost of HS2 isn’t actually related to building HS2 at all but comes from Barnett Consequentials. Which leads me nicely on to …

The Barnett Formula

How is the Barnett Formula still a thing? It genuinely astounds me that any politician or civil servant can justify the continued existence of a funding formula that is in no way based on need, is predicated entirely on the redistribution of English taxes and enshrines the principle that any money spent in England must also result in money being spent in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

For those who don’t know what the Barnett Formula is, it was a formula created in 1978 by Labour MP Joel Barnett to calculate how much the British Treasury should spend in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It was a temporary measure whilst civil servants came up with a more appropriate way of working out who should get what share of taxes after the Scottish devolution settlement that was expected the following year. It allocates whatever is spent per head in England plus a percentage extra for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland multiplied by the nominal population of the country in question. It is inherently unfair and unjust, a view shared by its creator now Lord Barnett who has called for its abolition many times.

Whilst the whole basis for the Barnett Formula is wrong, it is the Barnett Consequentials that really hurt. Barnett Consequentials are one-off increases in funding to the other member states of the UK given to them whenever the British government spends money on capital projects in England. The £30bn increase in the estimated cost of HS2 will result in as much as £5bn extra in Scotland’s block grant from the British government. They don’t need it, it’s just money they will get because the British government are spending money on a capital project in England. The same happened with the British Olympics in London – the British government spent money on capital projects so their Olympic games could take place and Scotland, Wales and NI all got extra money. It pushes up the cost of any capital project in England, eating into the already inadequate budget the British allocate to England.


Finally, Brexit. It’s been three years since we told the British government to get us out of the EU. It was the biggest turnout in British electoral history and against all the odds the Leave vote was secured. There was state interference in the referendum, the state broadcaster beamed 24 hour propaganda into every home, nearly £10m of our taxes were spent posting a booklet full of what have been shown to be outrageous lies through every letterbox in the UK, every government website carried adverts promoting a Remain vote, taxpayer-funded universities and quangos campaigned against a Leave vote, EU-funded organisations promoted their paymaster and the Remain campaign outspent the Leave campaign by many millions of pounds. Yet despite the referendum being very much rigged in favour of Remain, 17.4m people voted to Leave. And we still haven’t.

The sheer hypocrisy of the so-called People’s Vote campaign is beyond parody. Not satisfied with the result of the people’s vote to leave the EU they now insist we have another people’s vote to give us an opportunity to vote the right way and if we’re all still awful racists and vote to leave again they’ll definitely respect the decision. Just like they said they would before and after the referendum three years ago. It is, they say, undemocratic to respect the result of the referendum because we didn’t know what we were voting for. Only Remainers knew what they were voting for – things like the EU army that Nick Clegg described as “a dangerous fantasy” or removing the veto on tax policy and handing over control of tax raising powers to the EU which they said would never happen.

The insistence by EU nationalist politicians and campaigners that we must accept a deal from the EU before we can leave is nonsense. There was no mention of having a deal on the ballot paper, it was a vote for what is now being referred to as “no deal Brexit” (in reality, a whole raft of bilateral deals rather than no deal at all). Nothing the EU will offer us will be to our benefit. EU negotiators openly gloat about how they are out to punish us for leaving and send a message to other EU member states about what happens to anyone who tries to leave. It is a national insult and my hope is that one of the first things Boris Johnson does is cancels all negotiations with the EU, only agreeing to reopen channels a fortnight before 31st October to consider the EU’s final offer and pass any necessary legislation but with the default position being that we leave on WTO terms.

Turning over a new Leaf

So, one of the things that happened during my lengthy blogging hiatus is that I bought one of these. The car, not the child.

Nissan Leaf

It’s a Nissan Leaf or as it is regularly referred to, a milk float. But don’t worry, I haven’t started wearing sandals and socks or turned into a vegan. I bought it mainly because I wanted a new car and this was a cheap way of doing it (next to zero running costs) and because it satisfied my inner geek. The fact that sucking dead dinosaurs out of the ground and setting fire to them to get around town is a bit Victorian and not very sustainable was a minor consideration too.

My plan was to eventually run the car for free using free public charging points and almost a year after buying it I’m on target to get my first month of free driving. I’ve been hampered somewhat for the last year due to my long-standing knee problems significantly limiting the distance I could walk. But in January I got a brand new knee cobbled together from some off-cuts of titanium, cobalt-chromium and plastic that they had kicking about in the hospital and I’m now able to walk further than I could at the start of this year so I can now plug in to one of the chargers at my local Asda for a few hours and walk to the office. Thanks to my electricity provider (OVO) I can charge for free at 6,000 or so chargers including that one.

Now, the chances are you’ve scoffed either out loud or in your head at the idea of ditching the Postman Pat van and driving a glorified milk float. They only last for 30 miles, they take 18 hours to charge, they’re slow, the batteries set on fire and there’s hardly anywhere to charge them up when you need to. That’s what everyone knows about electric cars and it’s why Amazon hired lawyers to sit in the car with Jeremy Clarkson when he reviewed a Tesla after he was sued by Tesla following his last review of one of their cars (yes, I know they were taking the piss but he really did get sued by Tesla for misleading viewers).

My Leaf is the middle of the range model with the smallest battery and slowest charger. Most of my driving is local so I don’t need to be able to drive 130 miles or so without stopping and I don’t need to be able to charge in 4 hours at home, I can do it in half an hour at the motorway services a couple of miles away for a fiver if I’m that desperate.

With the exception of mid-Wales which is as much a charging desert as it is for petrol stations, there are rapid chargers pretty much everywhere you need to go. These will charge the car to about 80% in about half an hour and because Ecotricity’s owner, David Vince, is more interested in supporting animal rights terrorists PETA, trying to turn the country vegan and playing at owning a football club they haven’t bothered fixing the unreliable GPRS modules in their chargers so they often lose connectivity and default to free charging. But even when they’re not free it’ll only cost £5-6 for a charge which is still cheaper than petrol or diesel. Fully charging at home (or Asda) takes about 8 hours from empty although I rarely let it get that low.

I have driven 115 miles from Telford to London for free, charging at Nissan garages. Last week I drove from Telford to Birmingham and back for free, charging at the Nissan garage in Stourbridge on the way home so I would still have half a battery when I got home and wouldn’t need to use my home charger. The other weekend I drove from Telford to IKEA in Wednesbury, paid about £3.80 to charge and they refunded me £6 for charging so I actually made a profit! For a tight-arse like me there is immense enjoyment from getting someone else to pay for your “fuel”.

Real world range varies (like in a petrol of diesel car) depending on the temperature and the weather conditions. If it’s cold range declines, just like a petrol or diesel car. Same goes for if it’s raining or snowing or if you’re driving into the wind or if you’re driving up and down hills or if you drive it like it’s stolen. All the things that affect range in a petrol or diesel car affect range in an electric car but with a smaller maximum range in an electric car the effect is more obvious. During the winter, driving in the cold and bad weather my ranged probably dropped to about 65-70 miles but in the summer on a motorway journey in a heat wave I was getting closer to 100 miles. My morning commute is 6 miles and just 3 miles home.

I’m not sure where the idea that electric cars are slow came from but anyone who’s tried to sit on the back of a milk float without holding on will know that electric motors give you near instant acceleration and constant torque. My Leaf will beat most family cars and boy racers off the line at the traffic lights. It is slower than a petrol or diesel car when you get to about 50mph and only has a top speed of about 100mph but it is by no means slow. The batteries are all in the floor pan as well so it has a low centre of gravity and corners well. You can’t legally drive above 70mph in this country anyway and as I said, I mainly drive around town so low end acceleration is all I need to satisfy the speed demon in me.

Finally, the suggestion that a lithium ion battery is somehow more likely to set on fire than a tank of petrol is laughable. Of course there is potential for batteries to set on fire but which would you feel more comfortable holding over a flame? A car battery or a jerry can of petrol?

Electric cars aren’t for everyone (not at the current level of technology at least) but it works for me and more than 150k other people who own and drive electric vehicles in the UK. There are a lot of misconceptions about them and a lot of people have an irrational attachment to the 600 mile range of their dirty diesel despite never having driven for 10 hours straight in their life and will probably never do so. Driving an electric car has made driving fun again and to be honest the biggest inconvenience about driving an electric car is lazy and/or selfish people parking their petrol and diesel cars in electric vehicle charging bays!

JLR job losses are not caused by Brexit

Jaguar Land Rover has announced it is cutting 1,000 temporary jobs at JLR plants in Halewood and Solihull.

Jaguar iPace

Remainers are, of course, blaming the job losses on Brexit but the blame is being put (partially) on the uncertainty around Brexit not the fact we are leaving the EU. In fact, every time you see a headline in a newspaper or on the BBC website saying Company X is cutting jobs/losing money/issuing a warning because of Brexit you will find that they cite the uncertainty around Brexit. It is the weakness of Theresa May and her largely talentless cabinet full of Remainers in dealing with the EU that is causing businesses angst.

The UK is the world’s 5th largest economy and was the fastest growing developed economy in the world last year. We do just 4½% of our trade with the EU and that figure is declining. Over 80% of our trade is domestic and will be largely unaffected by the outcome of Brexit negotiations. The fact that we are leaving the EU is really of little concern to the majority of businesses in the UK, it is the risk that is associated with not knowing what our relationship with the EU is going to be when we finally do leave that is a problem.

Our trade deficit with the EU in 2016 was an eye-watering £60bn. That’s the difference between what we export to the EU and what they export to us. Of that £60bn extra that we spend buying stuff from the EU, about £26bn is what we buy from Germany. The EU’s largest economy and most powerful member state has the most to lose from a drop in UK/EU trade. We hold all the cards but Theresa may is a rubbish poker player so she has dithered and grovelled and bent over backwards to accommodate every unreasonable demand that the EU has made. It’s embarrassing.

The British government should dispense with the ridiculous notion of a “transition period” during which we will blindly follow every rule the EU makes without a veto and without any input. We have a leaving date of 29th March 2019 and that is the date at which EU rule in the UK should end. The default position should be to assume that we will leave the EU with no special deal and will trade with the EU under WTO terms as most of the world does. If the EU comes back to the negotiating table with a sensible offer that is mutually beneficial in time then that is a bonus but it should be assumed that pigs will not be seen flying over Brussels any time soon.

This will allow businesses to plan for Brexit with some certainty and work out what risk that poses to their business. Some of those companies will decide that it’s not going to work for them and will either shift operations abroad or restructure to allow them to continue to be suffocated by the Brussels red tape factory and that’s fine. Every major change in industry regulation or taxation sees companies reevaluate their business and adjust their plans to make the best of it and sometimes that means cutting their losses. Brexit will be no different in that respect.

After that lengthy digression, let’s quickly come back to JLR and what they have actually said. Well, strangely they haven’t blamed Brexit. JLR have blamed “continuing headwinds” in the car industry for the job losses and the BBC have turned to a Professor of Industry in Birmingham to turn those two words into something that can be blamed on those bastard Tories. But he’s a professor of industry so he probably knows what he’s talking about so let’s see what he says:

With the big turn against diesel engines, Jaguar Land Rover is particularly exposed as more than 90% of its UK sales are diesels.

So that’s him pointing the finger at the war on diesel engines for a starter. It was widely publicised during the EU referendum campaign that JLR were being forced to cease production of the iconic Land Rover Defender because of EU regulations and of course the current all out assault on diesel engines has come from the EU.

JLR has just revealed its full-electric i-Pace model and have indicated offering all-electric or hybrid variants of all their models by around 2021, but they have been far too slow compared with Tesla and BMW.

Now it’s JLR’s late entry into the electric car market letting their competitors in the emerging high end electric car market steal a march. It pains me to big up either BMW or hybrids but the BMW i8 a not just a thing of beauty, it is an engineering masterpiece and despite being unable to fulfil customer orders for years and some pretty shocking build quality stories, Teslas have the cult status of the equally shoddy iPhone. The iPace has some impressive statistics but JLR are on the back foot.

It’s hard to say how long this production uncertainty will continue around Brexit negotiations, because it’s still unclear what the trading relationship will be between the UK and EU with regards to tariffs.

And there is the line that provides the anti-Brexit headlines. It doesn’t matter that he says quite clearly it is uncertainty about Brexit or that he goes further and specifically mentions not knowing what tariffs will be in place. The word Brexit is in there, it is all Brexit’s fault.

When we finally leave the EU – and I mean actually leave, not doing the Brexit hokey cokey with one leg in and one leg out – then I may accept some events being attributed to Brexit but misquoting someone entirely unrelated to JLR giving an opinion based on two words at least a year before we actually leave just doesn’t cut if for me.

Idiot trade unionists strike over dangerous driver

Members of the Aslef trade union went on strike this week in solidarity with a London Underground driver who was transferred from the trains to station duties.

Tube Red Light

The driver in question failed to stop for three red signals, two of which were within a 4 week period. He had been driving a train for just 11 weeks before he was transferred off the trains.

London Underground could, quite justifiably, have sacked this dangerous incompetent but they kept him in their employ in a job in which he wasn’t risking the lives of thousands of people (some of those trains carry in excess of 1,200 passengers each at peak times). After driving through the first red light he was made to carry out 3 days of training with another driver in the cab. After the second he was made to undertake another 5 days of training and take another 5 days out of the cab. It was only on the third occasion that London Underground said that it would be unsafe for him to continue driving.

But all those chances weren’t good enough for the militant trade unionists in Aslef who think that it’s unreasonable to have threatened the driver (allegedly) with disciplinary procedures if he didn’t agree to the transfer. They would prefer that he was allowed to continue driving despite clearly being dangerous. If ever there was an argument for needing to curtail the activities of trades unions, surely this exemplifies it?

HS2 is going to be a hugely expensive white elephant

Gordon the High-Speed EngineI was driving home from a friend’s house on Monday evening and listening to a BBC “local” radio show being broadcast on BBC Radio Shropshire discussing, amongst other things, HS2.  The presenter was clearly quite taken with the idea of high speed rail and even suggested to one listener that the jobs that will be created building HS2 must be a good thing because those people will be paying taxes.

I felt compelled at this point to call in to the show and give my thoughts on HS2 and the suggestion that the taxpayer paying 100% of someone’s wages is a good thing because you can take back 20% of it in taxes.  To my surprise they called me back an hour later to get me on the show.

Here is Telford and indeed the rest of Shropshire we’ll get bugger all benefit from HS2.  Getting from Birmingham to London or to one of the major northern cities isn’t too bad – it’s the journey from Telford to Birmingham that’s the problem with overcrowded, slow trains and the later legs of train journeys if you’re not actually stopping at one of the major locations.  I had to go from Telford to Southend once on the train.  I left early in the morning and it was dark when I arrived.  Including the London Underground, it took five trains to get there.  HS2 would shorten the tolerable section of the journey but do nothing to improve the rest of it.

Having said that, I did go to Leeds on the train last year and the journey back was awful – the train was late and overcrowded all the way to Birmingham for the return leg of the journey.  So on the basis of that one train journey there’s scope for HS2 to improve a trip to Leeds but I’m pretty sure the train we took ended up with two lots of passengers because of a cancelled service.

The problem is, though, that no matter what benefits HS2 might deliver (either real or imagined) will be dwarfed by the £33bn cost and made largely irrelevant by the 20 year build time.  The service will be run by a private company, it’ll probably be financed with a PFI scheme and it’ll almost certainly go over budget.  The £33bn cost will need to recovered by subsidies and ticket sales so it’s not going to be cheap to use and even if you don’t use it, your taxes are going to be used to subsidise it anyway.

HS2 is going to be a hugely expensive white elephant.

Oxfordshire speed camera propaganda

The BBC News website has a non-story about speeding statistics at the site of two switched-off speed cameras in Oxfordshire.

Oxfordshire County Council couldn’t afford to keep the speed cameras going after the British government withdrew central funding for speed cameras in England so they turned them off but Thames Valley Safer Road Partnership – one of the many speed camera quangos producing misleading advertising and lobbying national and local government for more business – continued to monitor two sites for 10 weeks and came up with the startling revelation that people were speeding past the speed cameras that had been turned off.

I’ve said this plenty of times before – speeding isn’t dangerous, driving too fast is.  You can break the speed limit and still be safe but you can drive below the speed limit and not be safe.  This is where speed cameras fail in their supposed objective of making the roads safer – they don’t catch dangerous drivers, they don’t catch drunk drivers, they don’t catch people that brake sharply at speed cameras and then race off at breakneck speeds as soon as they’re past the lines painted on the road.

Thames Valley Safer Road Partnership’s shocking statistics – endorsed by Brake, the government-funded fake charity – show an 88% increase in speeding on Watlington Road, Cowley.  That’s an increase from 7 people caught speeding when the speed cameras were on to 62 people not getting caught speeding when the speed cameras are off.  62 people in 10 weeks – that’s less than 1 speeding motorist per day!

But of course the road conditions play a big part in whether it’s safe to exceed the speed limit or not so what’s Warlington Road like?  Is it a winding country lane?  A narrow street through a busy housing estate?  Erm, no.  It’s a wide open road, most of which is through open countryside and the rest is past some industrial units.  Part of the road is dual carriageway and there are traffic lights dotted at short intervals where the road makes its way past the industrial units.

The other speed camera site is the A44 in Woodstock where the number of people breaking the 30mph speed limit went from 90 to 110.  Again, this is over a 10 week period so that’s 2 more speeding motorists per week now the speed cameras are off compared to when they were on.  And again, this is a wide open road and it’s actually a bypass for Woodstock and the only hazard nearby is the entrance to Blenheim Palace which has filter lanes to control the traffic and presumably slows the traffic down when the road is busy by virtue of being a tourist attraction and attracting lots of traffic.

One statistic is conspicuously absent from propaganda from Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership – the effect on the accident rate from the speed cameras being switched off.  There is no mention whatsoever of the accident rate and that speaks volumes.  If there was one extra accident at either of those sites it would have been used as “evidence” that turning off speed cameras is going to kill and maim hundreds of babies and pensioners.  But there is no mention at all and that means there has been no increase in accidents, no increase in casualties, no increase in deaths and no justification for turning the speed cameras back on.

The statistics from Swindon have shown that speed cameras on average have no tangible effect on road safety.  Inspector Paul Winks from Thames Valley Police said “The consequence is more death and more death is unacceptable”.  This is naked propaganda – there is no evidence at all to back up such a ridiculous statement.  Thames Valley Police wants more speed cameras because they get a cut of the income generated from the fines and because it means they don’t have to put police on the roads catching dangerous drivers.

The whole legal basis for speed cameras is that they should be a deterrent to inappropriate speeding in danger spots.  They are supposed to be brightly coloured and highly visible so that it discourages people from breaking the speed limit, not hidden round corners or behind bushes and road signs to catch people speeding.  All speed camera sites in England need to be reviewed by a commission, headed by a judge, to rule on their legality because a great number of them certainly aren’t being used for road safety, they’re being used as roadside tax collectors.  An unattended camera on the side of the road is no substitute for a trained police officer.

Shropshire Council traffic officers lying to councillors

The Department for Transport issues guidelines on village speed limits for local authorities in England.  It defines a village as a settlement with a minimum of 20 properties with a frontage on a 600m length of road.  If it doesn’t meet those criteria it isn’t a village.  Their guidelines also say that speed checks should be done and the speed limit should be set at or above the mean average speed.

The guidelines are, unusually for a British government department, quite sensible.  They are the product of the distilled wisdom of experts from the DfT, motorist groups and the police.  There’s no point classifying a settlement with 20 houses spread out over a 2 mile radius as a village because it clearly isn’t.  And there is no point putting in a speed limit that tens of thousands of drivers think is too slow because it will be ignored and the police won’t be able to enforce it.

But this doesn’t seem to have occurred to the highways people at Shropshire Council who have gold plated the DfT’s guidelines and define a village as 20 houses in a settlement, regardless of whether they front onto the road or not and have a policy of applying a speed limit at or below the mean average speed.  They also ignore completely the guidance put in on behalf of the police that says if the speed limit is being dropped below the mean average speed that engineering solutions must be put in place to force drivers to reduce their speed because the police won’t be able to police it.

Now all this is well and good as long as the council are honest about it but they aren’t.  When objections are made to these spurious speed limit reductions, they are considered by the parish council for the “village” in question.  A traffic officer for the council submits a report to councillors countering the objections but the traffic officers in Shropshire Council are lying to the councillors in their reports to cover up the fact that the “village” they are talking about isn’t actually a village – a pretty fundamental consideration when they are debating a proposal under the Village Speed Limit initiative.

Rather than repeat myself, here is the complaint I have sent tonight to one of the traffic officers who has been lying to councillors:

Dear Hugh,

I am writing to you as the responsible officer on a number of reports that have been given to councils in Shropshire considering objections to proposals to reduce speed limits in villages in the county.

In these reports you incorrectly assert that Shropshire Council’s definition of a village is the same as the Department for Transport’s definition of a village and in doing so you are misleading the councillors considering the objections and influencing their decision by providing a false statement.

The wording used is:

The Shropshire Council Village Speed Limits Policy and the Department for Transport Circular both share this same village definition of the number of houses on one or both sides of the road.
This is not correct.  The DfT defines a village as a 600m stretch of road with 20 or more properties with a frontage on the road whereas Shropshire Council’s policy requires only 20 properties in the settlement.  In the cases of Brockton, Leighton, Farley and Wall Under Haywood, for example, there are less than 20 properties with a frontage on the roads in question.  There are 20 or more properties in the settlement with frontages on other roads that may or may not feed into the road which is being considered for a reduced speed limit but this does not comply with the DfT’s definition of a village.

Whether or not a settlement qualifies as a village is pretty fundamental when considering a speed limit reduction under the Village Speed Limit initiative.  None of these settlements meet the DfT criteria of a village and should not be considered under the Village Speed Limit initiative.  Because of your false statement, the objections relating to the proposals have not been considered fairly.

Please advise what procedures are in place for the reconsideration of objections made to the proposed speed limit reductions in light of the false information given to the councils involved and what steps will be taken to ensure that councillors are not lied to in this respect in future.



CEP: Glasgow Mean Time

The clocks went back an hour this morning to mark the return to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

Every year since 1916 – excluding the second world war years – the clocks have changed twice a year, bringing lighter mornings during the winter at a cost darker evenings.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has been campaigning for years to do away with the GMT timezone in an effort to cut the number of accidents and deaths during the half year GMT is in force.

RoSPA estimates that the number of deaths on the roads could be reduced by 80% if the clocks were put forward one hour throughout the year as it would result in more daylight during the working day.

There have been attempts to change the law covering timezones but these have failed because it would mean parts of Scotland being in darkness until past 10am during winter.  A bill to introduce the Single Double Summer Time (SDST) timezone recommended by RoSPA to cut annual road deaths by 80% was talked out by an MP elected in Scotland who considered the increased danger for a million people in northern Scotland far more important than increasing the safety of 50m in England.  The bill included an explicit opt-out for Scotland which would allow it to retain the current GMT/BST arrangement so there was no need for Scottish MPs to interfere.

Control of timezones should be devolved in all four home nations because what is best for Scotland and Northern Ireland isn’t what is best for England and Wales.  An English government could (and I imagine would at a very early juncture) adopt the SDST timezone recommended by RoSPA and start saving English lives and money (RoSPA estimates £138.36m per year) whilst Scotland would be free to keep GMT/BST and even rename the timezones to Glasgow Mean Time and Bannockburn Summer Time.

RoSPA’s prediciton of an 80% reduction in road deaths by adopting the SDST timezone is a UK-wide prediction.  Bearing in mind that it would make deaths more likely in Scotland, this means that road deaths in England would be reduced by more than 80%.  But, of course, the first step to saving hundreds of English lives a year from unnecessary deaths on the roads (not to mention over a hundred millions pounds of cost savings)  is to establish an English Parliament and get England governed by politicians who will put the interests of 50m English people before the interests of a million Scots.

Slide to the left …

Nope, nothing to do with the Cha Cha Slide.  Samoa is changing which side of the road it drives on from the right to the left.

The reason given by the Samoan government is that they’ll be able to import cheap cars from Japan which produces cheaper right hand drive cars for its domestic market and Samoan ex-pats in Australia and New Zealand will be able to send their used right hand drive cars home.

The Samoan government reckons it’s going to save money, protesters say it’s going to cost money and result in accidents and deaths.  I’d probably agree with the protesters but it’s good to see another country driving on the right side of the road (by which I mean the left).

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Asda starts fuel price war

Asda have dropped the price of their petrol and diesel to below a pound a litre, saying “There is no justification for any major retailer selling fuel above £1 per litre”.

Good for Asda, there is indeed no excuse for selling fuel about £1 per litre.  Oil prices have risen slightly in the last month but in the last week or so they have actually dropped.  The price of a barrel of oil is less than half what it was last year when the price of fuel went through the roof.

Asda has made a welcome gesture in reducing the price of its fuel to 99.9p/litre but it needs to go down more.  Much more.  In reality, there is no reason for the price of a litre of fuel to be more than about 70p/litre.  The fuel companies will still make eye-watering profits and the Treasury will still rake in billions of pounds of fuel tax.  More importantly, it will help bring the recession to an end by putting more money in our pockets which we can spend reinvigorating the economy.

Still, every little helps.  Or is that the other one …

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Bloggers4UKIP: European Empire releases road pricing sales video

74% of residents in Edinburgh voted against a road pricing scheme. 79% of residents in Manchester voted against a road pricing scheme. 1.8m people signed a petition on the Prime Minister’s website calling on the British government to abandon plans for road pricing.

The European Empire’s response? Ignore the referenda and press on with promoting road pricing using its Galileo satellite navigation white elephant project, setting up a road pricing quango and releasing a Galileo road pricing sales video.

Keep an eye on the flags of countries involved in their crackpot scheme at around 4:35.

Hat-tip: Drivers’ Alliance

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East Coast Railway to be nationalised

The British government has announced that it is nationalising the East Coast railway franchise after National Express made a half year loss of £20m.

Lord Adonis, the unelected Transport Minister for England, said that they wouldn’t renegotiate the London to Edinburgh franchise contract as National Express had asked because “I’m simply not prepared to bail out companies that are unable to meet their commitments”.  Unless they’re banks, of course.  Or car manufacturers.  Sorry, that wasn’t the unelected Transport Minister for England, that was the unelected Business and Enterprise Minister for England, Peter Mandelson.

Lord Adonis added:

It is simply unacceptable to reap the benefits of contracts when times are good, only to walk away from them when times become more challenging

Quite.  Much better for a company struggling to cope with £1.2bn of debt to carry on losing £40m a year on a contract and pay the British government £1.4bn for the privelege.  That way National Express could be nationalised as well and we’d be another step closer to the socialist republic that’s being built.

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Telford’s Burning

I went for my daily walk from the office to the shopping centre in town today and as I was walking over a bridge over the railway I smelled smoke, looked over the side and saw that there was a fire under the bridge somewhere near the tracks.

The two people in front of me didn’t seem interested so I phoned the fire brigade.  They asked me where I was so I explained that I was on a bridge over the railway.  They asked what part of the town I was in and I told them I didn’t know because I was walking so they asked again which part of town I was in.  Funnily enough, I still didn’t know.

So I gave directions from the nearest point they would be able to get a fire engine to and went on my way, calling in at the train station on the way to let them know about the fire.  Quarter of an hour later, the fire brigade rang to ask where the fire was because they couldn’t find it.  The fire station is literally no more than 3 or 4 minutes from where the fire was but it took them a quarter of an hour to get there.  I gave the same directions to the fireman on the phone who said “ah, I think we’re at the wrong bridge”.

The thing is, there isn’t another footbridge over the railway for miles so I have no idea where they went!

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Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics

The British government is seriously considering dropping the national speed limit from 60mph to 50mph.

There will be an option for local authorities to increase the speed limit on major roads back to 60mph if they can give a good enough reason to do so.  Although, as the highways departments of most local authorities seem to be filled with car-hating nazi’s, it isn’t likely to happen very often.

The state propaganda machine kicked into action as soon as the story got out, quoting statistics about deaths on country roads and blaming “speeding” motorists (which includes anyone driving anywhere near the speed limit on a country road) for the deaths.

The BBC are, of course, dutifully mis-representing the facts, telling us that the British government is planning to reduce the speed limit on rural roads.  This isn’t the case – the plan is to reduce the national speed limit on all single carriageway roads with average speed cameras to enforce the speed limit.

Jim Fitzpatrick, the British minister for Transport in England, said:

There will be some in the driving lobby who think this is a further attack and a restriction on people’s freedom. But when you compare that to the fact we are killing 3,000 people a year on our roads, it would be irresponsible not to do something about it.

And how many of those 3,000 were killed by speeding motorists?  And of those speeding motorists, how many were drink driving, using their mobile phone, playing with their car stereo, doing their make-up in the rear view mirror?  I’d be surprised if more than a quarter of those were killed because of someone speeding and no other reason but you won’t get statistics like that out of the British government because that doesn’t fit in with the evil motorists ethos.

He went on to say:

If you look at the figures on rural roads, there are disproportionately more people dying there than on any other roads. The nature of some rural roads, with dips and bends and difficult conditions, means that the 60mph limit is not enough.

So why can’t local authorities use the powers they already have to reduce the speed limit on dangerous rural roads?  The national speed limit applies to roads that don’t have a specific speed limit so if there is a dangerous road, the relevant local authority just needs to put a speed limit on it.

Fitzpatrick finishes by saying that:

I’m sure that the vast majority of motorists would support the proposals.

Well, there’s one easy way of finding out isn’t there?  Put it to a referendum, I’m sure we’d all love to tell you what we think.

One thing I’ve not been able to determine – and the British government certainly wouldn’t say in a press release – is whether this is another England-only policy being imposed on us by the British government.  Transport is devolved, after all, and most single carriageway roads aren’t trunk roads.

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Leading by example

I don’t know if any of you have ever been to Telford but it has approximately 300 traffic islands per head of population.  Yet despite this dubious accolade, virtually nobody in the town knows how to drive round one.

I admit that some of the concepts of negotiating a traffic island are a bit tricky, such as using the right hand lane when turning right instead of driving all the way round the outside of the island, cutting people up.

There’s many a time that I’ve been cut up by some dickhead who can’t drive round an island and ranted to my unfortunate passenger that the police should do something about.  The policeman driving the car that followed me tonight wouldn’t have done anything about it though – he also seemed to have the same problem turning right at islands despite the fact that he was almost doing a full circuit of the island, which should have been a big clue as to which lane to be in.

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Croesco i England

It’s my birthday on Saturday and I’m off work tomorrow so, as tradition dictates, I popped to a nearby Chavda to buy some cakes and biscuits.

As I was driving back through some roadworks I noticed the roadsigns were all written in bloody Welsh with English translations underneath.  Welsh.  In Telford, which is about 40 miles as the crow flies from the nearest point of the Welsh border.

I phoned the council and they said that as long as it’d got English on there and it was legible it’s fine.  I pointed out that if you’re reading a road sign and the first line is foreign it means you’ve got to scan the sign for the English which takes longer and hence makes the signs less safe.  The disinterest went off the disinterest-o-meter.

If I’m down that way again before they finish I’ll find out who it is and ring them up and explain the different between Shropshire and Wales.

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Power to the people

On the outskirts of Telford is an industrial estate, Hortonwood and next to it a small village, Horton.  Access to the village is via a narrow road, Horton Lane.

Horton Lane is relatively unknown but it’s a useful time saver if you’re trying to get out of the back end of the industrial estate at rush hour which, in the time-honoured tradition of Telford planners, has woefully inadequate access roads that can’t cope with rush hour.  It can take upwards of half an hour to get off the industrial estate at peak times.

The council have, in the past, tried to discourage motorists from using Horton Lane by narrowing the entrance and putting up signs but it is, of course, still used and being on the outskirts of the town it’s also used by the local chav population to race their stupid cars.  Nothing unusual there, a large proportion of Telford is used for racing cars but a handful of residents in Horton don’t like their quiet village being used by motorists so they’ve complained to the council.

Last year the council proposed to close off one end of Horton Lane, nearest the industrial estate to stop the lane being used as a rat run and forcing residents and visitors to Horton to take a detour of several miles.  The majority of residents didn’t like the idea of having to drive miles out of their way to get out of their village or the increased amount of time it would take a fire engine or an ambulance to make its way into the village in an emergency so they formed a campaign group to stop the road closure and presented a petition to the council showing that 270 residents wanted the road open and only 68 wanted it closed.

Earlier this year they received a letter from the council saying that they had decided not to close the road after all because of their petition but they have now received a letter from the council saying that from xx January it’s going to be closed as an experiment for 18 months.  The reason?  The council have had more complaints from residents since the petition.

I don’t live in Horton, I don’t work on Hortonwood and I don’t use Horton Lane but this has pissed me off because it’s just the sort of stupid thinking that makes people think “why bother?”.  They’ve had a petition showing that almost 5 times as many people want the road open as want it closed but because they’ve had complaints from the vocal minority they’re going to close it.  The only feedback the council are going to get about the road is negative because nobody is going to write to them saying “I wish to not complain about Horton Lane being used as a rat run, I’m quite happy about it” are they?

Another genius scheme by the highways people at Telford council is a pair of bus stops opposite each other on a main road with a central refuge in the middle so you can’t pass a bus without breaking the law.  The reason the council gives for doing it?  It slows traffic.  But it doesn’t and they know it doesn’t.  If there is only one bus at the stop, cars just go the wrong side of the central refuge to go past it.

Then there’s the “improvements” to the dual carriageway that runs through the town that’s no longer a dual carriageway in places thanks to the council tinkering with the road layout to make it “safer”.  The number of casualties has increased since they made their “improvements” but rather than put the road back to how it was before they are going to tinker some more and put up more signs.

Oh and we mustn’t forget the busy traffic island that they decided to make safer by erecting a plastic fence on one of the approaches to block the drivers view of the island until the last minute to slow them down.

And there’s the couple of miles of wide, open road with no junctions, no houses and no accidents that they decided to drop from a 60mph speed limit to a 40mph speed limit for no apparent reason whatsoever other than their obsession with slowing drivers down unnecessarily.
The entire department is staffed by idiots who either don’t drive in Telford or spend most of their waking hours on another planet.  If I was a resident of Horton I’d wait until the council put up the bollards, drive down to them in the middle of the night, hook them up to a 4×4 and tear the buggers out of the road.

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The General Secretary of OPEC, the group with de-facto control of the world’s oil supply, has said that No Mandate Brown is “confused” about oil prices.

Abdalla Salem El-Badri wasn’t best pleased with El Gordo’s pronouncement that volatile oil prices were to blame for global economic problems and that OPEC should do more to stabilise prices.  El-Badri said that El Gordo should look at cutting taxes on fuel if he wanted to help and pointed out that the UK has done well out of high oil prices because of the high taxes.

But El Gordo isn’t confused about oil prices – he understands exactly what is happening to oil prices and more importantly, what low oil prices will do to tax revenues.  When El Gordo talks about stabilising prices, what he means is that the oil price should be kept artificially high and that OPEC nations should take the rough with the smooth, losing money when the oil gets expensive and raking it in when it’s cheap.  He didn’t care about people and businesses being unable to afford fuel when the price shot through the £1 barrier and kept on rising, all he’s interested in is keeping the price of oil high so the Treasury can carry on fleecing motorists to pay for their scorched earth budgets without having to increase fuel duty which isn’t a very popular tax.

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According to South Worcestershire Police accidents were up 1,000% the other day thanks to the icy road conditions.

I’d be surprised if it was only 1,000% here in Telford because the roads on Wednesday were lethal.  The council sent the gritters out the night before but they’ve started using this new type of grit which is based on molasses (sugar) which is, of course, cheaper that salt-based grit.  They were warned by a motorists group a couple of weeks ago in the local paper that this new grit was dangerous but it’s cheaper so they carried on regardless.

The roads were largely clear of ice and frost but they were still slippery.  Dangerously so, in fact, judging by the mangled cars that still litter the grass roads around Telford.  The council blamed the diabolical road conditions on a surprise frost in the early hours of the morning (there was no frost on the roads but never mind) but some of it may have been down to what my dad saw the other night – a gritter followed by a road sweeper.  I kid you not – grit on, sweep off.

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Telford wants to be a speed camera pioneer

Telford & Wrekin Council are on the offensive promoting their plans to put average speed cameras on the A442 dual carriageway through the town and surprise, surprise, the BBC have stepped in to do their propaganda work for them.

The A442 dual carriageway – more commonly known as the Eastern Primary locally – is one of the safest roads of its type in the country.  The number of accidents and casualties was very low for a busy 70mph dual carriageway with lots of junctions running through the middle of a town.  But the “experts” at the council weren’t content with having one of the safest roads in the country, they had to mess with it.

A couple of years ago they decided to change the layout of the road, making some of the dual carriageway a single carriageway creating filter lanes.  They also dropped the speed limit from 70mph to 60mph.  A year or so later and the number of accidents is down but the number of casualties is up which means that the accidents that are still happening are involving more people and/or vehicles and the road is more dangerous than before they buggered about with it.

The sensible thing to do would be to put the road back the way it was and make it safer again but local authorities aren’t sensible so what they’re actually planning to do is put up more signs and install average speed roadside tax collectors “safety” cameras.  Signs such as this one on the side of the road in question, telling you may accidents there have been on the road:

Yes, that’s a Ford Ka embedded in the road sign.

The BBC failed to mention the fact that the council had made the road more dangerous in their piece which devoted about three quarters of its 1 minute 44 clip to promoting the speed cameras and included footage of another stretch of the A442 that isn’t in Telford and is about 5 or 6 miles from where the speed cameras are planned.  Peter Roberts, the anti-road pricing campaigner and head of the Drivers Alliance, got a few seconds to put across the sole voice of reason just before they switched to a picture of a roadside memorial to someone killed in an accident.

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