Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Childcare costs

Read this yesterday and it's certainly corroborated by personal experience:
BBC NEWS | UK | Charity says childcare costs soar.

I was listening yesterday to the Children's Minister yesterday and she said that most families can get some help.

I thought, oh really, some good news this morning?

And then she went on saying that funding is available to families earning less than £40k per couple.

Indeed she's quoted here:
Beverley Hughes, the children's minister at Westminster, said: "I recognise that childcare costs are a serious matter for some families in some areas.

Do they really believe their spin or is that sheer hypocrisy?

The AVERAGE national salary was little under £30k in 2005-2006, meaning it's way above in outer London, where the cost of childcare is higher.

BOTTOM LINE: this is a serious handicap for women who want to pursue a career and a strong contributor to gender inequality.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Monday Mayhem at North Sheen level crossing

The infamous North Sheen level crossing came once again to public attention on Monday morning. It was shut for most of the morning after someone drove into it (I don't have more details but it's what the PC guarding it told me). This meant major mayhem on the roads all around Richmond and Sheen....

All interested parties in starting a campaign group for its removal contact me via the blog.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's about time indeed

In the Times this morning:
It’s time to make way for £50bn high-speed network, says rail chief - Times Online

It's about time indeed -20 years after the French- to rejuvenate the British Rail Network, take market share on air travel.

If the goverment is really serious about cutting CO2 emissions and provide a sustainable future for our children, it should invest in fast and affordable public transport infrastructures. Then the commuters will switch from planes and car, but they won't if there are no alternatives even if taxes keep rising.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Is Heatrow in the wrong place?

This article points out the dangers of an airport in densely populated area:
BBC NEWS | UK | Will a third runway add to the risk?

What the article conveniently forgets, is that as I've been saying before, Heathrow in badly situated.

The dominants winds in Europe tend to be Westerly, and with LHR directly on the West boundaries of London, flight paths are directly over the city -probably a unique sad fact in Europe?

This means that over 2 millions of poor souls live (and try to sleep) under the flight path. Very scenic, but isn't that an un-necessary risk? We're told that given the improvement on reliability, 2 engines are enough for long flights over large bodies of water. Preliminary reports after yesterday's accident point to a failure from both engines about 90 seconds before crash-landing, I guess around above Richmond. For myself, I prefer 4 engines 4 long haul as in the Virgin ad...

Bottom line: if the Government wasn't in bed with BAA (and BA), it would develop the other 3 airports which are using flight path over less densely populated areas -namely Stanstead, Luton and Gatwick.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Glad I managed to land... (and Heathrow expansion lies)

Major panic at Heathrow after a BA 777 crash landed short of the South runway:
Heathrow drama after aircraft crash lands - Times Online

My flight managed to land just 10 mn after, and was not diverted....

We don't know why but it puts into equation the risk element of having a shorter third runway within a densely populated area.

By the way, I've tried to fill in the Government consultation on Heathrow expansion from the airport on the way out, but the "free access" kept cutting off half way -infuriating.
The consultation document is biased for many reasons:

1. The economic impact is not proven
2. It does not present other alternatives such as developping a high-speed train network to relieve the airport from domestic flights
3. It does not say why, out the 5 London airports, Heathrow has to get a 3rd runway. After all, Gatwick could too, Stanstead and Luton could get a second one -but it might be a bit tight to expand City aiport....
4. The pollution takes into account a large zone around Heathrow (otherwise they would not meet EC criteria) and does not take into account the fact that air travel pollution is not well measured.
5. We can't trust the government as it's in bed with BAA and BA, after all they kept the expansion plans quiet until T5 was built despite T5 planning permission was granted on the condition to keep aircrafts movements to 480,000 (the expansion would bring this number to over 700,000!!!).

Do also read those 20 airport questions for Ruth Kelly from the 2Mgroup.


Check the Richmond Borough guidelines on how to fill in the consultation document (here), Sign the petition to oppose Heathrow expansion (tips on how to do this here), participate to the mass rally on Feb 25th...


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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Better State Secondary Education in SW14 Petition

Another petition, this time for a new secondary school in Richmond. Quite strange indeed that the area is well deserved with primary school but not with secondary education:

Better State Secondary Education in SW14 Petition : [ powered by ]

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Save Barn Elms Playing Fields - Say No To Sale

In its great wisdom, Richmond council is planning to sell up to 5.5 acres of the Barn Elm playing fields and has put a tender out to private health groups.

Read more on BBC - Action Network - Save Barn Elms Playing Fields - Say No To Sale:
"The council will decide on preferred bidders on January 14 2008. We believe the cost for the regeneration of the fields and facilities should be provided from our substantial tax reserves and that there are alternative funding sources as well. There should be an increase to the sport and leisure opportunities and the grounds and facilities should be better maintained and managed. There should be equipment on site so that children can play constructively. There should be facilities for all age groups to encourage coummunity participation and a more healthy life style. These fields are important to the schools and the community at large, they should not be sold to a private health club developer! Please contact us if you wish to sign our petition."

Selling assets is both unwise (why not leasing them out rather than selling them right out?) and does little to promote sports.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Pan-European Maglev....

In this post, the Greenmonk Associates rejoin my conclusions about increasing the share of rail vs. air transport:
Tax and Travel in EU: On Carbon Added Tax (CAT) and Maglev

I just have to comments:

1. Maglev is a power hog, much more than steel-on-steel. But since the UK is going back into nuclear, it’s less of an issue?

2. The main point though is on reducing friction, not from a technology standpoint but more on individual journeys: reduce the number of interconnections (for instance by removing intermodal discontinuities) and adoption climbs rapidly.
In this respect, pan-european TGV like France is spearheading works but only if there’s sufficient parking at stations and easy connection with local public transports. The smartest at this are the Dutch who have two bikes: one at each station of their daily commute, plus bike-sheds with repair facilities.

In a nutshell, make it easy by investing into infrastructure and the air CO2 emissions (although is CO2 the real issue?) will diminish: see my previous posts on More on Heathrow and No will for carbon friendly transportation strategy.

Much more efficient in the long term than simply taxing cars. But isn’t short termism the root cause of anthropogenic climate change?"

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