Thursday, January 29, 2009

Should the UK follow Zimbabwe?

BBC NEWS | World | Africa | Zimbabwe abandons its currency

Should the UK retain the Sterling? The exchange rate variations we see those days are hurting the British economy badly, whereas it's un-deniable that the Euro-Zone is much better off thanks to the single currency and the financial rules that it brought...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday -my letter to the MP's against Heathrow Expansion

Carbon Dioxide SourcesI've bought in Greenpeace's airplot, genius idea, and still thanks to them, I've sent the following letter to the 57 MP's who have opposed Heathrow Expansion and will vote on this issue on Wednesday.

But as Gordon Brown, our un-elected Prime Minister, doesn't give a toss about democracy, this vote will be non-binding. It's important though to signal to the Labour party that this is a subject on which they will lose seats at the next general election: click here to act now.

Dear Sir,

As you will know, there is a debate and vote next Wednesday on the government’s plans to expand Heathrow with a third runway and a sixth terminal. You have already spoken out against Heathrow expansion, and now I urge you to vote with your conscience on Wednesday. I believe this goes beyond constituency matters and your vote will reflect how seriously our politicians are about tackling climate change.

The government has tried to dress this up as a ‘green’ runway, but nothing can change the fact that with a third runway, Heathrow would become the single biggest source of carbon emissions in the UK.

At the same time, the aviation industry doesn't pay any duty on kerosene -a flagrant injustice compared to the car owners who are taxed by every possible mean. House holders also receive no substantial grants or encouragements to "super-insulate" their homes.
Similarly, little is done to renew our coal power plants -the biggest source of greenhouse gasses by far- and invest in cleaner technologies.

The third runway decision severely threatens the government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. It will worsen the already high pollution levels around the airport, and will provide little or no substantial economic benefit to Britain. With the challenges of climate change becoming more pressing, the government’s support for Heathrow expansion leaves its green credentials in tatters.

Opposition to the new runway grows rapidly. A recent poll of 6 Labour constituencies in west London showed that four would lose their seats and two would have their majority halved over the Heathrow issue. If the results were extrapolated across the entire area affected by expansion, Labour would lose many more seats.

Given the urgency of reducing our emissions and the challenge of realising it, I will be watching closely how you vote next Wednesday. The government’s response to tackling climate change is an important issue for me and one that will influence how I vote in the next election. I hope that your vote will be one for strong leadership on the green agenda, and against the third runway.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Essential reading: 2M Group on Heathrow Expansion

Stop Heathrow Expansion
The 2M Group
has an excellent summary on the economics of Heathrow. No need to add much:

Current airport

• Fewer than 26% of users of Heathrow are travelling on Business(1).

35% of people travelling to Heathrow are interchange passengers – they
never leave the airport. Therefore they contribute little to the UK
economy outside of the aviation industry.

• 100,000 flights
a year, nearly a fifth of all flights, are to destinations in the UK or
near-Europe where there is already a viable rail alternative. There are
60 flights per day to Paris – more than any other destination. 36
flights a day go to Manchester, more than to Hong Kong or Chicago.

London’s airports handle 128 million passengers a year – that is more
than use the airports serving Paris and Frankfurt combined.

Ferrovial, the Spanish owners of Heathrow, make a substantial profit
from passengers using the airport. In the year since Ferrovial bought BAA (the operators of Heathrow) – capital investment fell by 15% but revenue grew from £1.077 billion to £1.232 billion.

Heathrow Expansion

• Only 1% of members of the Institute of Directors think airport expansion is a priority(2).

• 78% of London firms are against expansion at Heathrow(3).

• Fewer than a sixth of London firms would even consider leaving London if the airport did not expand(4).

Aviation generally

• £9 billion a year in tax subsidies is given to the aviation industry (It is zero-rated for VAT. It does not pay on fuel).

• Aviation fuel costs 26p a litre whereas petrol for cars is about £1 a litre.

£9 billion would pay for 22 new hospitals(5) – it cost £400 million to
build London’s University College Hospital – or 450,000 nurses (current
nursing positions advertised at £20,000(6).

• 89% of the general public think that businesses that create pollution should be more heavily taxed(7).

• 63% of the general public would be prepared to sacrifice one foreign holiday a year to save the planet(8).

• Only 17% of the general public are opposed to constraining growth in air-travel(9).

Tourists visiting the UK spend at least £15 billion pounds less per
year than UK tourists going on holiday overseas. Expanding aviation
simply means increasing the trade deficit for UK tourism.

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Just a reminder: London has FIVE airports, all competing against Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris

Read this
The Impossible Airport Dream? (Londonist)
and saw that
Frankfurt ready to fill Heathrow's shoes

this morning.

I find disappointing to see many mainstream media and blogs, relaying the main argument for Heathrow expansion: that, without it, Heathrow would be unable to compete against other European airports.

Frankfurt airportThis is an easy argument to peddle, calls into National Pride and prevents the media from focussing on the fact the business case for the airport is tenuous at best.

As I've written many times in (before):

  • the DfT, BAA and BA are in collusion to preserve their own interests and not that of Londoners or the country
  • when they talk about Heathrow not being competitive compared to other European capitals, they conveniently forget that only London has FIVE international airports and that many other capitals have successfully relocated their airport"
  • Otherwise, it's good to see the Climate Sufragettes in action -watch this space.

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    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    Hoon's farce as Heathrow expansion is announced

    Geoff Hoon gave in the lobbies arguments and gave the Government's Go-ahead for new Heathrow runway.

    His arguments are farcical for a lack of better words to describe their implausibility and the inadequacy of measures aimed at alleviating the impact of a third runway:
    • The languge about the "the possibility of new high-speed rail links from the airport" means it's unlikely to happen. Same goes for the idea of "set[tting] up a company to look into creating a high speed rail line between London and Scotland - adding there was a "strong case" for a new high speed rail hub at Heathrow": it's just there to appease opponents.
    • The 125,000 flights cap probably won't meet EU emissions regulations (thanks god to the European Union for making rules to protect citizens from their own government), even with his fictional "green planes"
    • More passengers means more car traffic. The government's answer is to use hard shoulders. Brilliant, except anyone who's travelled on the M4 at peak hours knows that any little incident already causes a major congestion.
    The only good news for Richmond residents was the concession to keep the "mixed mode" use of runways (plane noise only half of the day), however nothing on night fligts. But those living further West will be exposes to more takeoff noise thanks to the end of the Cranford agreement.

    BAA and the DfT conveniently forget to state that there are FOUR other airports around London when making the case to expand Heathrow. An estuary airport would have been cheaper that T5 + T6 + a 4rd runway.

    Finally, the economic case for LHR is based on un-proven assumptions.

    Most major European countries have in the last 20 years:
    • relocated their main airport
    • invested in high-speed rail
    • created multimodal nodes (air+rail)

    During this time, British ones sat on their bottoms... (read also What if those who govern us had a long term view about strategic infrastructures?)

    Here's the Decision text in full.

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    Monday, January 12, 2009

    The parking rip-off continues in Richmond

    CO2 emissions consultationIt seems the bright sparks in our council are doing all they can to extract more money from motorists and kill local business:
    • after charging for parking on week-ends (it used to be free, remember?)
    • employing aggressive or scary parking attendants to enforce unclear rules
    • charging for CO2 emissions when cars are not polluting (parking by CO2 emissions, just as a memo to the council, CO2 is NOT a pollutant)
    • introducing spy cars, often parked illegally to fine you when unloading
    ... and now, Richmond Council proposes extending emission based charging. Of course, there are no details as to how this will be implemented, for instance for old cars, bought way before all that CO2 emission nonsense (read Focussing on CO2: good for bears, bad for humans?). More annoyingly, all cars will need to be registered first, at a cost of £2.50.

    I predict this will put off many casual shoppers, who will go to Kingston insead -that's much revenue lost of local shops.

    Being greener is a laudable goal, but I am annoyed at getting the tax stick every time. Here's what I suggest:
    • introduce a proper, safe and segregated from cars, cycling network, without interruptions, for instance on Lower and Upper Richmond roads
    • introduced safe (monitored and patrolled), sheltered bicycle parkings at all stations and public buildings (such as Richmond library or Sheen Lane Center which was revamped without such a parking lately
    • remove many cul de sacs that force motorists to take detours and emit more CO2
    • introduce shared spaces for car-pedestrian-cycle spaces in central Richmond, around the Green
    • introduce a cyle-hire scheme, like the VĂ©lib
    • give council tax cuts for those insulating their houses or installing green roofs -the current national guidelines are far too low
    Is that enough?

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    Friday, January 09, 2009

    Good running book: Injury-Free Running

    Injury-Free Running (Runner's World Best)Found this great book after an ITB problem prevented me from running properly the Richmond half-marathon a few years back:
    Injury-Free Running (Runner's World Best)

    As far as the IllioTibial Band is concerned, thou shalt:
    • not run on banked surfaces (like sideways on hills) and only on the middle of the roads (not always practical, I know)
    • stretch the ITB, harmstring and calves (the book has all kind of stretching exercices with photos)
    • invest in good shoes and make sure you do a proper fitting session -Up And Running in East Sheen has a video camera linked to a computer to do a gait analysis ;  the Sweatshop in Teddington is also very good.


    Thursday, January 08, 2009

    What if those who govern us had a long term view about strategic infrastructures?

    I posted the following comments on this blog post of this morning:
    The Toleration Of Public Transport on Jonathan

    These are the consequences of the refusal to invest in a proper public transportation system for 30 years: high prices and bad service.

    They've tried to privatise and introduce competition, but the idea just doesn't work with infrastructure: you just can't make a profit, provide universal access, good interconnections and good service with redundant infrastructure.

    If the government had taken a long term approach, the results could be:
    - that the Eurostar platforms don't stand un-used for a year after they've innaugurated High Speed 1 and St Pancras International, when on the other hand trains are waiting for a platform on approach to Waterloo station
    - that the Waterloo and City line would not be an isolated branch but would serve as a junction tunnel between the overground in Waterloo to the overground in Moorgate (strange that no one ever thought that trains could come from Reading / Portsmouth all the way to Stevenage / Cambridge)
    - an airport in the estuary with 5 runways instead of 5 airports in dense conurbations, each with 1 or 2 runways
    - a high-speed line to the Midlands and Scotland, with an interchange with the Eurostar
    - Water pipes that are buried so that they don't freeze when the temperature drops

    And so on... it's a long story of incompetence and short-sighted decisions.

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    Wednesday, January 07, 2009

    The end of the hospital phone ripp-off!

    It seems that at last, Mobile phones are finally passed fit for use in hospitals - Times Online

    I've always thought that this mobile phone ban wasn't justified other than for the benefit of the bedside phones operators who charge an extortionate amount for calls while doctors and nurses used their owns. As such, I've always ignored that ban -especially for announcing births.

    Seems common sense prevailed, shame it took over 5 years...


    Monday, January 05, 2009