Friday, November 30, 2007

What is the problem with level crossings?

The Richmond and Twickenham Times seem to think it's bad driving: Natalie Fay reports a case where a driver sped to cross, hit a barrier.

Although I don't think driving standards are improving, the root of the proble is also to be sought in the frustration caused by gridlock. The Local and Central Governments want us to believe that congestion is just caused by the increase in the number of cars. They seem to forget that they haven't invested much in the road network in the past years, hence the RAD calling to Build More Roads.

It's quite strange that two simlilar situation produce different reactions from the same civil servants: one one hand roads, on the other air travel. The response to the latter issue is unabated airport expansion. They just forget that we need to get to the airport in the first place...

Another issue is more local: the concils, under residents pressure, are turning more streets into cul de sacs and making junctions more awkward in the name of safety. In Richmond for instance they've narrowed the A205/Clifford avenue at Chalkers corner and put bollards onto Church road at the Kew road traffic lights. As a result, in both cases what was two lanes is now 1.5 and traffic builds up because less cars can go through at one green light. If only they had built decent, segregated cycle lanes, with their own lights. But no, they spent money just doing it slightly worse -just like they will do in George Street.

Anyway, back to the level crossings: the problem isn't drivers. The problem IS their very existence: rail level crossings in urban areas are a dangerous anachronism.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Common green sense?

More cars, maybe need more roads?
Drivers Voice: Call to Build More Roads

Common sense? What's the economic impact of the UK being gridlocked? When I travel, in the US, in Europe (not to mention construction crazy countries like Dubai, etc...), I see road building everywhere. Maybe not always new roads, but improvement to try keep help people going by their business. Like mini-tunnels under roundabouts, removing level-crossings, etc...

The prevailing logic in the UK seems reversed: too many cars, let's prevent them from moving and people will switch. To what? The trotsky-greenies forget one thing: often there's no alternative, as the public transportation system is bursting to the seams, and getting even more expensive (in the news today: Passengers are to be hit by above-inflation rate fare increases.)

If they're right though, why don't they apply the same principle to Heathrow and stop people from binge-flying???

Oh, and finally -I was attending a presentation on green IT today. I am now officially carbon fatigued. The UK is at the top of the league for carbon awareness but far down when it comes to recycling and real emissions. Carbon emissions are important, but so are NOX, particles and more generally speaking sustainability.

It doesn't look like it's going that way: being cynical, I think companies are going to change only if they're forced to (by energy prices, customer sentiments for B2C and regulation).

We'll be cosmetically green, but not much more sustainable.

Put differently, everything will be recycled, yet everything will be the same.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Londonist: What Next For Waterloo?

The short sighted running of the Capital's transport network can't be better epithomised by the fact plans are not finalised for the Waterlooo Eurostar terminal:
Londonist: What Next For Waterloo?

In the meantime, the station lies empty, with the decomissioning estimated at £100,000. Trains won't alight on the former EuroStation before December 2008 (that's in 13 months!) and "Options for the medium to long-term use of all five platforms are being assessed as part of a wider strategy for the upgrade of the station" according to Junior transport minister Tom Harris.

I'm sure the commuters will appreciate, especially since platform shortages are one of the main causes for delays on the Waterloo-bound lines...

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Monday, November 26, 2007

BA can spam you but you can't spam BA!

BA sent me their thoughts about Heathrow expansion, so I thought I'd do the same. Here's their answer.... I've asked their press team if they had comments...

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----- Forwarded Message ----
From: British Airways Executive Club <>
Sent: Monday, November 26, 2007 4:14:32 PM
Subject: RE: Re: A message from Willie Walsh, our CEO

Thank you for emailing British Airways.  While we endeavour to offer as full a service as possible, we
do not currently respond to emails sent to this email address, which is used for automated
outbound mailings only.

Please use the following methods of contacting us if you have a query regarding your Executive Club
membership or a future journey with British Airways: (Executive
Club members can use: and then
select 'Your questions'.)

If you wish to unsubscribe from receiving email communications from British Airways, please click
here: All requests will be actioned within 10 days.

You can also unsubscribe via your online profile.
Simply log into your account: Go to 'Amend
Details', within your 'Manage my account' section, and refer to the 'Marketing Consent' options (near
the bottom of your personal details form).

--------------- Original Message ---------------

I am living under the flight path and am dismayed by this lobbying, especially since you reduced your footprint in Gatwick.

Home Login Contact Us
British Airways  Executive Club.
Be part of the decision.
Dear Mr Windsor,

You may have heard about the public consultation the Government has just launched on its plans to expand Heathrow airport.

As a regular flyer from Heathrow, you will know how prone it is to delays. Whilst Terminal 5 will deliver a seamless and relaxed customer experience, we are still restricted by the limited take off and landing slots available at Heathrow.

The proposals are to change the method of runway operation to create more take-off and landing slots, and to build a short third runway as a permanent solution to Heathrow's congestion.

The benefits of these proposals are:
  • Reduced delays for departures and arrivals;
  • The opportunity to add up to 75 new destinations, giving you more choice when flying
    from Heathrow;
  • Less queuing for take-off and landing, reducing aircraft carbon dioxide emissions by 330,000 tonnes a year.
I support the Government's proposals very strongly.

I believe these plans - which must pass strict environmental tests - represent our best hope for making your experience as our customer easier, calmer and more reliable.

I would be very grateful if you felt able to support our position. Doing so will take less than a minute of your time.

To register your support please click on the "find out more" button above, sign in to your Executive Club account and click on the "Register your support" button.

It is very important to us that the Government hear from our most frequent customers, as you are the people who know Heathrow best.

With best wishes,

Willie Walsh
Chief Executive, British Airways
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

When plan B is not an option either

Richmond residents are quite well placed when in comes to transport networks: we've got easy access to the M3 (via the A316), M4 (via Kew Bridge, a bit better now they've removed the bus lane) and the A3 (via Roehampton lane because someone in the Royal Parks decided to close Robin Hood gate for good although it was only going to be temporary).

And we've got the tube (District line to Edgware road, takes a while but still gets you there), Silverlink trains, usually to places one doesn't want to go) and South West trains -when it works.
Two weeks ago, they shut down the service because of some engineering works and this week end, there's no trains and no tubes. Our friends visiting us from South London are coming on the bus, it will be a late and short dinner...

Engineering work starting on 24/11/07 at Barnes.
Track improvements and maintenance are taking place from 00:01 on 24/11/07 to 23:59 on 24/11/07 at Barnes.
Whilst work is taking place, buses will replace trains
between Clapham Junction and Twickenham via Richmond
between Clapham Junction and Kew Bridge
Show Further Information

Message Received: 15:07:37 17/11/2007

DISTRICT LINE: Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 November suspended between West Kensington and Acton Town/Richmond. Replacement buses operate for local journeys only.

Two rail Replacement bus services operate:

Service A: between Hammersmith and Acton Town, calling at Ravenscourt Park, Stamford Brook, Turnham Green, Chiswick Park and Gunnersbury.

Service E: a late night coach service between Heathrow and Paddington station.

Journey times may be increased by up to 60 minutes.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

More on Heathrow

My comments and some other good ones here:
BBC NEWS | Have Your Say | Heathrow airport expansion. Your views?

The one from Richard Collard in particular reminded me of some Government lies:

The go-ahead for T5 was given on the basis of a cap on the # of aircraft movements. That # is close to being breached even BEFORE T5 becomes operational......far less a 3rd runway and a 6th Terminal!!!!

And another one from Andrew Jones on indirect costs is worth reading too:

"A report .. by the respected INFRAS Institute in Zurich and IWW at the University of Karlssruhe put the UK's external costs of aviation at around £14 billion per annum in the year 2000. .... Brendon Sewill.. calculates that, this year, the cost is likely to be around £16 billion.
And still they want more..."

The INFRAS site is here and there's a report posted there. The findings are quite interesting, in particular if you look at the climate change impact: air travel has a larger impact than road, in spite of a much smaller ammount of passengers carried. The report begs the question on why the UK government is not investing in canals (minimal impact, etc...) rather than just Heathrow.

My comments are not online yet but they were along the lines already discussed in this blog:

1. Why are successive Governments so closely aligned with BAA?

2. London has no less than 5 airport, Heathrow is the one located in the most densely populated area and with flights path directly over a capital. Why is it the one targeted for expansion?

3. Why is the Government not investing in alternative transportation schemes, such as rail for under 150 miles? It strikes me that there's no high-speed links to Scotland and the Midlands (how many flights does this represent?) while the Eurostar took 70% share from airlines on the London-Paris passenger traffic (something to thank the French for?). And by the way, why is Eurostar not continuing after StPancras onto Heathrow?

Finally, there will be a public meeting at the Richmond Adult Community College on Friday 18th January. Be there! The online form is here.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is sustainability sacrificed on the Heathrow altar?

Read this today:
Stansted runway plan scrapped in favour of Heathrow growth - Times Online

Doesn't this prove two things?
- That the government is in bed with BAA
- That the government has no commitment to sustainability

If there was somthing like a sensible to drive the transport policy, plans would have been made a long time ago to build high-speed rail links to the Midlands and to Scotland, with connections in Stanstead or Luton or even Heathrow. The Germans and French have done it a long time ago, after all it does not make any sense that a lot of Heathrow slots are used for those destinations.
As a proofpoint, in 15 years, the Eurostar has gained about 70% market share between London and Paris against the airlines.

Secondly, why direct all investment to Heathrow which is one of the only airports in Europe whose flight paths are directly above a city? No less than 2 millions people are affected -it is time to recognise the indirect costs as Sandy suggests in her comment (on the Times article)?

Just as a reminder, the Government is trying to bury a study on noise itself has commissionned.

Do act now: inform yourself and sign the petition now...

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

25 million exposed to risk of ID fraud - Times Online

Absolutely amazing story.

The Tory MPs had a field day grilling government on why they did not comply with data privacy laws (although they starved the transportation and anything public from funds for 30 years). Politics aside, this shows the risk associated with collecting personal information: you're never sure which moron will cock up. As far as I am concerned, I think details including bank account numbers should be as guarded as nuclear codes: double key system, third party code encryption, etc...

25 million exposed to risk of ID fraud - Times Online

Laura is going to call me Jason Bourne again but anyway this is another good reason to have several bank accounts and password systems....

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Disjointed (and not accessible)

Posted some thoughts as comments on this Going Underground post:

Wouldn't it great if the London transport network was more joined-up?

Why are the two Edgware road stations not joined as one?
Same question for the different Hammersmith station: why doesn't the Hammersmith & City line not going a bit further underground to join the District/Circle lines stations?)
In Putney, why did they put tube and rail stations 150 m apart despite those two lines intersecting?

What would it take to make this world-class (and maybe Olympic-class)?

There would be immense benefits in commute time, as long changeovers can add 10-15 mn to a journey and are a major put off for people.

Rethinking those stations would help commuters, much more than charging people for entering in the city by car -which no one in their right mind would do if they truly had the choice.

Oh, and another thing would be to make the tube and trains more accessible. There are very few lifts in the tube, and I've been campaigning for quite a while to install a new footbridge in North Sheen. Of course it would be better to find ways to make the station accessible to wheelchairs (and buggies), especially since Richmond isn't either....

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mayor's evening flop

Tried to go and see the fireworks tonight:
Lord Mayor's Show: The Lord Mayor’s Fireworks

Arrived at North Sheen Station to see the trains were not running today. Why would they after all? Took the car till Vauxhall and finally arrived on the embankment, along with quite a crowd. The show lasted a mere 10 minutes. TEN MINUTES!!! Thankfully, the kids liked Wagamama...

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Could this have been avoided?

The whole neighboorhood has been talking about this tragic event, a there has been a fatality at North Sheen crossing:
Man's death sparks new safety fears - Richmond Guardian
It happenned right before children that were going to school...

I feel really sad and concerned about this, not so because I have been campaigning for a footbridge at this station -little can prevent a suicide- but more because I feel strongly there should not be a crossing at all at this place. I am not the only one to have thought about this:
New Crossrail plan proposed
Of course, it would be great to have an underground station as we could dream of a parking on top to encourage commuters to leave their cars and take the train. Just a dream?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Keep taxing us, but the problem won't go away

These days, it seems that to many problems the solution is "more taxes" when it's up to the governement or a local authority to deal with it.

Take London traffic: it's bad. So what did Ken do? Tax people so that City boys can whizz around. But the only problem is that it's only buying time. It's just not working, check this article for instance: London has slowest traffic in Europe at just 12mph - Times Online
As the article puts it, positive incentives work, like for instance in Hamburg:
“Hamburg, in comparison, has a very good public transport system. They have free park-and-ride buses, and trains are coordinated; and if you’re on a bus, and you know you have a long walk from the bus stop to your house, you can ask the bus driver to call you a taxi".

People are not mad: if they have an alternative, they'd rather save money and time. Not sit in a car. London public transport is just not functioning, even the big money says so. For instance, I've blogged several times about The Drain which have been shut 6 months last summer to overhaul it. Well, tonight at 17:35 only one platform was operational at Bank, because of signalling problems....
Plus, it's the "most expensive in the world" (Guardian). As a passing comment, Ken's announcement to freeze fares before coming up for re-election is a really bad taste since the 1 zone ticket went from £1 to £4 in just a few years... At best it's spin, I'd say it's a con. Maybe we should look at our neighbours: in Paris, employers by law must refund 50% of employees travelcards. A simple measure that would make a lot of difference for many commuters and probably do more to move people onto busses, trams, tubes and trains....

Another one is waste management. The UK has a poor record on recycling and may even be fined by the EU (a positive catalyst for change I'd say). What's the response? Smart bins to tax people. You can guess where this will end: in the streets where fly tippers will dump their rubbish to avoid paying. Here again, there are little positive incentives, for instance in Richmond you can't recycle plastic (only bottles will be recycled from the 5th) and there's no collection for garden refuse.

My point? Politicians must try harder and be more creating when dealing with problems: the stick is not the only solution to all problems and in many cases taxes have perverse effects.

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