April 2003

April 30, 2003


Patrick Crozier | Road Miscellany

Tired of standing by the side of the road in the cold and wet waiting for a free cab to show up? Well, if Zingo gets its way that could be a thing of the past. If you ring them they will automatically put you in direct contact with the nearest available cab. It's all done with mobile phones it seems.

This sounds like a good thing but it does occur to me that if we didn't have all sorts of regulation on who can and who can't operate a cab all sorts of things might become possible. For instance, as you drive home you might be able to make a bob or two by picking people up along the way.

By the way, there is plenty of interesting stuff on their website on the history and regulation of cabs in the capital. It goes back a surprisingly long way.

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Statistical Traffic Wreck

Patrick Crozier | Road Safety

Iain Murray on Tech Central Station. What'll kill you on the road... and what won't.

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April 29, 2003

How car cloners are beating congestion charge

Patrick Crozier | London Congestion Charging

From the Times. The tale of Marcos Losekann, the criminals, the bureaucrats, the police and the Congestion Charge. I wonder what would have happened if he hadn't been a journalist. As much a story of our time as a story about transport.

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April 28, 2003

In defence of Jarvis

Patrick Crozier | Potters Bar Crash

In the Telegraph today there's a report on the latest contract awarded to Jarvis, the maintainer of the points at Potters Bar, and the usual reaction from the usual suspects.

Now, personally, I have no particular candle to hold for Jarvis. In my libertarian nirvana most railways would do all their maintenance in-house and schools would certainly be in no need of consultants whizzing about the place advising on "best practice".

But even so, bearing in mind some of the flak that's been flying around I do feel moved to defend it. Here's Louise Christian:

We are desperate to persuade the Government to hold a public inquiry into the Potters Bar rail crash because we believe the police inquiry isn't going to come up with any answers.

I see she hasn't changed her position since last August and guess what? Neither have I. Public enquiries don't work. To the example I gave of the Cullen/Uff enquiry you can now add Hidden (after Clapham) and Macpherson (Stephen Lawrence). And I'm not setting too many hopes on Saville (Londonderry shootings) getting very far to making the world a better place.

Mick Rix, of ASLEF, says:

Everyone one involved in the railway industry will find it extraordinary that a company with such a lamentable record...
Lamentable? Now, I'm writing this off the top of my head but with the exception of Potters Bar I cannot remember Jarvis being accused of anything. Certainly nothing major. And what of Potters Bar? Right now, no one knows what happened. A couple of months ago Roger Ford, Modern Railways's top journo and no friend of privatisation, opined that we would probably never know what happened.

In other words Mr Rix has just dumped the presumption of innocence. Charming.

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April 27, 2003

Scottish Airlines

David Farrer | Airlines UK

The low-cost airlines have changed flying forever. In the US, Southwest and now JetBlue are consistently making profits while traditional carriers like United and American are in or close to Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Here in Europe the same changes are taking place. What about my part of the world, Scotland?

EasyJet’s first two routes were from Luton to Glasgow and Edinburgh. They now also serve Aberdeen and Inverness. Ryanair effectively saved Prestwick from oblivion when the Ayrshire airport lost the transatlantic monopoly and the Irish carrier now operates 21 daily flights to 9 destinations. Scots have always wanted to see a locally based airline: there have been several that have failed in the past. Now we have two new ones.

The long-established Globespan plc travel agency has recently started a low-cost airline flying from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Prestwick. At the same time, Glasgow based Iraqi entrepreneur Dhia al-Ani launched Air Scotland operating from Glasgow and Edinburgh. I feared that two new airlines might be one too many. On Friday night I heard that two Air Scotland flights had been cancelled and that refuellers at Glasgow had refused to fill-up the planes. No more Air Scotland perhaps? Maybe not. The aircraft are owned by Electra Airlines of Greece and were rented to Air Scotland. The Greek company allegedly owes BAA a large sum in unpaid landing fees. Air Scotland has now concluded a new deal with Air Holland to provide aircraft from now on. It remains to be seen if Scotland can support the two newcomers.

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Railways against racism

Patrick Crozier | General Points (not just transport) | Rail Miscellany | Railways - USA

OK, not right now, but in the 1890s some American private railroads did try to fight the Jim Crow laws which were attempting to segregate their passengers. In this article from The Limey, this is the real corker:

With the cooperation of a railroad company that also disagreed with the segregation law, a situation was set up where Homer Plessy, a man who described himself as "seven-eighths Caucasian and one-eighth African" (Brands 222), sat in the "white" car. He was duly asked to move to the "black" car. He refused, and was arrested.
Capitalism - it's not just for stuff.

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Railway subsidy

Patrick Crozier | British Rail Privatisation

It's gone up according to the Times:

New research shows that during 1989-90, BR was receiving a subsidy of £867m a year at today’s prices. The highest subsidy given to BR was £1.9 billion in 1982.

By contrast, the railways will receive £3.84 billion this year.

Splitting the wheel from the rail does not work.

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Russia strips 'untouchable' drivers of their sirens

Patrick Crozier | Road Miscellany

From the Telegraph. In Russia, up to now, it has been possible to avoid all those inconvenient traffic laws simply by putting some flashing lights on your motor and paying the appropriate bribe.

Which makes me wonder. Is it better that all are treated equally badly by the state or that at least some should be able to buy their way out? Discuss.

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April 26, 2003

London is going bust, and Livingstone is triumphant

Patrick Crozier | London Congestion Charging

Writing in the Telegraph, Tom Utley softens us up...

When I attacked Ken Livingstone's congestion charge at its inception in February, I wrote that I might look very stupid by the end of the month. I was right about that, anyway. I did look pretty foolish, since many of my prophecies of chaos and misery turned out to be plain wrong.
...before going for the kill:
But it has to be said that Mr Livingstone has pulled off something of a public-relations triumph. Through gritted teeth, I give him the credit he deserves. But that is where my mea culpas and congratulations end. There is already strong evidence that the main thrust of my objection to the charge - that it would suck the life-blood out of London - was all too justified.
His complaint is that not only are fewer cars entering Central London, but so are fewer people. And lest we forget, that is why we have cities: because people can meet one another.

At this stage it is important to draw the distinction between a true free market ie what I am in favour of, and what we actually have. Because, I believe, if we had a true free market we would see more people in Cental London not fewer.

Why is this? Because in a free market there would be a free market in the alternatives to the car: buses, jitneys and railways. Entrepreneurs would be piling into the market, introducing new services that took advantage of the new situation. But, in London at least, they can't (because it is illegal), so they don't.

Hell, in a true free market we might even get some entrepreneurs building some new roads.

But I think there is also another problem which I have alluded to before: the problem with public transport is the public. Too many of them are anti-social bordering on the criminal. It is hardly surprising that the Utleys of this world do not want to expose themselves to buses and trains when that also entails exposing themselves to litter, graffiti, vandalism, all sorts of other anti-social behaviour and crime. It was one of the things that really struck me about Japan is that people seem to know how to behave. As a consequence much of the stress of travel on public transport simply disappears and it becomes a far more attractive option.

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April 25, 2003

German railways

Patrick Crozier | European Union | Fragmentation | Railways - Germany

The big hole in Carlo Pfund's analysis of railway "reform" in Europe (reviewed last month) was Germany. So it is all to the good that an article by one Heike Link is published in the latest edition of the ever-wonderful Japan Railway and Transport Review. Although I hope to write on it at greater length some day when I get round to it, my initial impression is that although the Germans talked a lot about separation, in practice the network remained firmly unified.

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April 23, 2003

"Integrated" Transport ?

Patrick Crozier | Transport General

In a letter to the Times, the correspondent quotes the Commission on Integrated Transport's definition of "integrated":

New train and bus hubs would mesh, timetables would be co-ordinated...
And then states that:
Such co-ordinated systems are commonplace on the Continent.
Ah yes, the Continent, that mythical place where everything is perfect.

Well, I just wonder about all this. Exactly what is the difference between integrated transport and having a few bus stops outside the train station (as most British stations do)? And if there is a difference in just how many other places is this actually, genuinely practised? And with what result I might add?

It would also be interesting to know what level of co-ordination existed between bus and train in the days when the privately-owned London Underground also ran most of the capital's buses. Similarly, one wonders what level of co-ordination exists between the rail and bus arms of privately-owned Japanese transport companies, such as Keio or those discussed in Takahiko Saito's paper, where the buses often act as feeders for the railways. High, I should think.

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April 21, 2003

The coach market

Patrick Crozier | Road Miscellany | Transport Miscellany

From the Telegraph. It seems the long-distance coach market is doing just fine. The last time I took a coach was almost 20 years ago and it was miserable, and then I saw "Trainspotting" and that put me off the idea for life. But according to this article the market is bearing up pretty well, the standard of service is high and improving and they are doing a booming business in East European au-pairs.

How odd.

UPDATE I've just remembered that one of National Express's strengths is that not only can you book your ticket online but you can also print it out. Rather useful if you are in a hurry.

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Channel Railway Tunnel "A Practical Possibility"

Patrick Crozier | Channel Tunnel

From the Times from 1960. It wasn't then and it isn't now. Practical, I mean.

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April 20, 2003

Channel rail link cost leaps to £9 billion

Patrick Crozier | Channel Tunnel Rail Link | Public Private Partnerships

From the Times. And a prize to anyone who can work out what the Hell this is all about.

The 68-mile route from the Channel tunnel to London’s St Pancras station is heading for financial crisis because profits from Eurostar, which were intended to fund the scheme, have not materialised.
But what's that got to do with anything? Is this all to do with one of the government's Wizard financial Wheezes?
Proposed domestic services on the high-speed line may be scrapped to reduce the spiralling cost to the taxpayer, which is now estimated at up to £360 for every household in Britain.
WHAT!? They've managed to invent a London commuter service that needs heavy subsidy? You know what, that really takes some doing.
London and Continental Railways (LCR) is on schedule and within its construction budget of £5.2 billion, but projected costs to the taxpayer are rising rapidly
This is a Wizard Wheeze isn't it?

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April 17, 2003

Transport adviser faces axe for taking ministers to task

Patrick Crozier | General Points (not just transport) | Transport General

From the Times.

The Government is attempting to silence its most senior transport adviser after learning that he was about to publish a report criticising ministers for abandoning key commitments.
Oh yeah.
In a written statement ... when attention was focused on the fall of Baghdad...
Now, that wouldn't be "burying bad news" would it?
...Mr Darling said the review of the commission [for Integrated Transport - that's the thing Begg heads up] would "consider the extent to which these bodies remain necessary to the delivery of government policy."
I suppose Darling does have a point. If you don't have a transport policy then there's not much point in trying to deliver it.

The purpose of the CIT was:

to "provide independent advice to government on the implementation of integrated transport policy..."
Ah, yes, that word "independent" implying being above the fray and having licence to say whatever you like because no one can take the money away. The word that launched a thousand quangos (that's quasi-non-governmental organsiation in case you wanted to know) - quangos that made hay while the sun shined and could be as independent as they liked so long as they said things that the government agreed with.x

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April 16, 2003

Minister's Statement "Inaccurate and Mischievous"

Patrick Crozier | Road Safety

According to a press release from the Association of British Drivers (no direct link as yet, someone please remind me). They were reacting to the government's claim that: "...one third of accidents are caused by speed".

It seems that when you look at the statistics upon which the claim is based a rather different situation emerges:

There was more than one factor in most accidents. Factors were classed as definite, probable or possible. Excessive speed amounted to 7.3% of the total factors recorded, it was a definite factor in only about 4% of accidents, but was a possible factor - although not necessarily the primary factor (cause) - in up to 15%.
I suppose you could argue that speed is a factor in all accidents. After all if everyone was moving around at 0mph ie not moving there would be no accidents. Indeed, you could argue that the real killer is insufficient braking. Even so, it is pretty damning of the current anti-car fetish.

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April 13, 2003

Some thoughts on Airbus, aircraft safety, and on the retirement of Concorde

Michael Jennings | Air - Concorde | Air Safety | Best of Transport Blog

Patrick gave his thoughts on the retirement of Concorde. I have some too, but first some background. (This post is actually mostly about the Concorde, but I am going to do a digression on aircraft safety before I get to my point).

The Airbus consortium was founded in the early 1970s, as an attempt to compete with the American companies (Boeing, Douglas, and to some extent Lockheed) which then dominated the commercial aircraft industry. Like the Franco-British Concorde consortium, Airbus was a multinational European consortium, which got launched with government money, although Airbus had the participation of Germany as well as Britain and France. The first Airbus Aircraft, the A300, made its first flight in late 1972, but for a few years Airbus had few customers except Air France, who were compelled to by Airbus aircraft by the French government.

However, as it turned out, the A300 was actually an excellent aircraft, and in one one respect was a long way ahead of the curve. It was the first wide bodied aircraft with only two engines. In terms of fuel economy, this arrangement is superior to using three or four engines, and the aviation world eventually woke up to this, to the extent that most new widebody jets sold now have two engines.

Continue reading "Some thoughts on Airbus, aircraft safety, and on the retirement of Concorde"

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April 11, 2003

The Madness of Red Ken

Patrick Crozier | London Congestion Charging

By Toby Baxendale for the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Baxendale is in a good position to judge the effectiveness of the Congestion Charge because he runs two businesses inside the boundary. He is also someone who appears to be worth listening to because, well, he is writing for the Ludwig von Mises Institute and he says things like:

...refund our taxes, denationalize the roads. Return them to the private sector and let us pay by usage.
But even so he doesn't like it:
My meat businesses survived the BSE crisis in '96 and the foot and mouth crisis of 2001. You really do not expect a fellow human being to wantonly attack your livelihood with such punishing vigour and regularity. Only a politician could do it. I sincerely hope one of Ken's buses which have the freedom of the city runs him over and that the electors of London demand a cancellation of this wicked scheme.
It's not quite done and dusted just yet.

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April 10, 2003

So long, Concorde

Patrick Crozier | Air - Concorde

I have to admit to a certain sadness (quite a lot in fact) at the news that Concorde (at least the British one) is to stop flying.

One can certainly argue that the Shinkansen of the Atlantic was a collosal waste of money; a folly symbolic of a time when people actually believed that the state could and should direct industry.

And I won't miss having to punctuate phone calls with the words: "Sorry, Concorde's about to go overhead and I won't be able hear a word you say for the next 15 seconds."

There is also an irony in the Anglo-French Concorde (that's concorde with an 'e' - the French spelling) coming to an end at precisely the moment that a rather wider Anglo-French concord is falling apart.

And there is also a sense of mystery at why it has to come to an end now. Rising costs and falling passenger numbers they said but why are costs rising and why is mothballing (Magrethea style) or selling the planes not a possibility? And why is it the case that even now, 30 years on from its first flight, something similar cannot be built commercially?

Nevertheless, it is sad. I am of an age where I have never not been aware of Concorde and never not felt that with its dynamic shape and delta wing that it was ever anything else than the Queen of the Skies. She will be missed.

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Creeps and Weirdos

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys | Rail Crime

My mention of the Creeps and Weirdos advertisement was picked up by Samizdata over the weekend and provoked quite a debate. It occurs to me that actually, this is not so much a debate about public transport per se as about the public itself. From my limited experience of Japan, for instance, I would say that anti-social behaviour is much less common and that is one of the reasons why travelling on its trains and buses is much more pleasant (and common) than it is here.

Perhaps the future of public transport, far from lying in bright, spanking new projects, lies in fostering plain old-fashioned good manners.

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Brief Thoughts on the Paris Metro (especially the new line 14)

Michael Jennings | Best of Transport Blog | Railways - Other

I have just been in Paris for a few days. I hadn't been there since 1994, which was my motivation to hop on the Eurostar and have a look round. Of course there are lots of transport related things I can talk about, not least the Eurostar itself, which I may get to in another post. One thing that is interesting though is to look at the differences between the Paris Metro and the London underground. In particular, the lines in Paris are much simpler, with the vast majority of them containing no branches, and simply going from one point to another. (See this map. Note that the thicker lines denoted with letters A, B, C, D are the RER - essentially an express metro service connecting to regional railways - which are I am not discussing right now). The two lines that do contain branches just contain simple forks towards the ends of the lines.

By comparison, the London Underground is much more complex. (The current version of Harry Beck's iconic map is here). A large portion of it - the District, Metropolitan, Circle, and Hammersmith and City lines, as well as part of the Jubilee line - consists of interconnected lines with various branches and routes, and there are issues with interoperability of equipment and signalling. (The Northern line, with its bifurcations and branches, is similar). The District line contains a hodge-podge of different services with different starts and destinations.

There are of course historical and political reasons for this. The London Underground was designed for suburban services, as well as for carrying people around central London. The Paris Metro was orginally designed only for carrying people around the actual political city of Paris (shown in white on the map linked to above), which is quite small. RATP, the operator of the Metro, was for a long time only allowed to build services inside Paris itself, and it built the Metro in such a way that there is nowhere inside Paris itself that isn't close to a Metro station. The strategy of building single lines without branches that traverse gentle curves solved this problem quite effectively. (The restriction was eventually abolished, and Metro lines were extended a little way into the suburbs, but suburban travel is generally done on a separate set of suburban railways, now named the Transilien). This means that transport is great inside Paris but less good once you are technically in the suburbs. (This practice of treating Paris with great respect but giving significantly lesser treatment to the suburbs stretches way beyond transport).

Continue reading "Brief Thoughts on the Paris Metro (especially the new line 14)"

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April 08, 2003

What's cruel about that?

Brian Micklethwait | Air Miscellany

The ever reliable (although links to him aren't) Dave Barry links to this story about a complicated air passenger:

An Indian Airlines passenger had slipped a snake into his luggage and then calmly brought him out to feed it milk before a petrified crew, Indian parliament was told Monday.

He had ordered milk from an unsuspecting air hostess who could not believe her eyes, Minister of State for Aviation Shripand Yesso Naik told the lower house.

The passenger who was travelling aboard a flight between Goa and Chennai on February 10, had to be offloaded midway at the Kochi airport. He was charged by the police for cruelty to animals.

I don't see what was cruel to the snake about this. Why couldn't they be honest and charge him with scaring the living Vishnu out of everyone?

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April 05, 2003

Truth in advertising

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys
Apparently, GM ran this ad before they were forced to withdraw it - spoilsports. Wouldn't happen on CrozierBus.
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Beyond Brilliance

Patrick Crozier | Links

Introducing a new website: Beyond Brilliance, Beyond Stupidity which is all about "...developments in transportation, urban planning, design, the environment, the internet and many other vaguely related areas." Sounds interesting. I look forward to reading it. Who knows one day I may even blogroll it.

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April 03, 2003

Transport at the Sydney Olympics

Michael Jennings | Planning

As I mentioned last week, the city of Sydney in Australia has a rail system that only covers part of the city, is prone to bureacratic stuff ups, and is perceived as unreliable by many of its passengers.

It is quite interesting to look, then, at what happened when Sydney hosted the Olympic games in September 2000.

Rail travel was integral to the plan for the games. Like London, Sydney has an underwhelming road system (although it has improved siginicantly in recent years), and rail travel was thus very important. In order to avoid huge traffic problems, travel using private car by spectators to the main olympic venues (built on a brownfield site near the harbour a few kilometres inland from the centre of the city) was essentially forbidden. There was no parking for spectators at the venues, and large punitive fines were implemented to prevent non-residents from parking in the street anywhere nearby. The cost of a ticket to any of the sporting events included travel to the venues by public transport from anywhere in Sydney. The entire city's train system was run at essentially the peak hour timetable for 20 hours a day instead of for 4 hours a day.

Continue reading "Transport at the Sydney Olympics"

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April 01, 2003

It's time to put these grey freeloaders off the bus

Patrick Crozier | Buses and Jitneys

From the Times. Hat tip Frank Sensenbrenner.

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Hard Cell by Iain Murray

Patrick Crozier | Road Safety

From Tech Central Station. Thanks to, err, Iain Murray for the hat tip. It seems that in strictly economic terms the costs and benefits of a ban on mobile phone use while driving are about the same.

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Oil industry suppressed plans for 200-mpg car

Patrick Crozier | Road Miscellany

From the Times. Apparently they did this way back in the 1930s. Interesting story. However, there's a sting in the tail: “You can get fantastic mileage if you’re prepared to de-rate the vehicle to a point where, for example, it might take you ten minutes to accelerate from 0 to 30 miles an hour.”

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This is a list of date-based archives from the In Brief section:

November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004