January 2004

January 30, 2004

Waterloo Station 29 January 2004

Patrick Crozier | Rail Miscellany


I've figured out how to use PhotoStitch and I don't care who knows it. Click to enlarge. If you have a wheel mouse try placing the pointer in the bottom scroll bar and playing with the wheel.

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January 29, 2004

Fourteen of the worst

Brian Micklethwait | Road Miscellany

Michael Blowhard links to this Worst Cars Ever rogues gallery from Forbes.com.

As I clicked my way through these, I patriotically hoped that something ghastly from Blighty might have made the short list. The Morris Marina perhaps? Or the Austin Allegro – known to us in Britain as "el Aggro"? One of those Jags, in the days when we owned Jaguar and Jaguars used to fall to bits. But no. Nothing. No British cock-ups at all. We couldn't even make bad cars, it seems. I guess you need a fully functioning motor industry to make mistakes serious enough to be noticed?

But this little nostalgia exercise does remind us of how crappy cars could be compared to how they mostly are now, or so I presume. There must have been about six months in about 1987 when cars were good and the roads were not jammed, and when driving was enjoyable. Since then, cars didn't break down, they just got stuck in jams, and no doubt their reliability caused five percent more people to buy them, and that jammed everything up.

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January 27, 2004

The hockey-stick model of state intervention

Patrick Crozier | General Points (not just transport)

I am not sure if this is an idea you’ll find in an economics textbook (in part because I never read economics textbooks) but I first heard it from Brian and it is very useful in explaining some of the more peculiar effects of state intervention.

What the hockey-stick model says is that often when the state intervenes whether by nationalisation, subsidy, taxation or regulation it will, every now and then, for a short time, improve matters. Then things start to deteriorate and eventually they end up even worse than they were in the first place. And the hockey stick? Imagine an (ice) hockey stick standing on a level surface. The blade represents the short up swing of state intervention and the handle the long subsequent down swing. I suppose to get the model just right you have to imagine the handle burying itself into the ground.

State failure explained (from Crashing the Net)
It is a model I rather like because it explains all sorts of things that seem contrary to libertarian thought: like why when the Tube was nationalised things got better. This in turn helps to explain why many people remain attached to state solutions: they’ve seen it “work”, at least in the short-term, themselves. When the state starts to fail they comfort themselves that the state can succeed. “All that we need to make the NHS/the Tube/council houses to work is the right people/regulations/more money etc”

So, why is there this upward blip from time to time? Because sometimes the state gets it right. And because, when it wants to it can put enormous resources into play. The classic example is the London Passenger Transport Board (what the Tube plus buses and trams were called after nationalisation). Here the state took a number of highly efficient, well-run but poor private sector organisations and gave them heaps of cash. It was almost inevitable that the results would be good.

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January 25, 2004

So, how are things going in Japan?

Patrick Crozier | Railways - Japan


A Japanese train
so often I wonder to myself how railways are doing in Japan and turn to one of the Japanese online English-language newspapers. This time it was Mainichi. Here are some of the top stories:

Price wars intensify with Shinagawa Shinkansen stops - the Shinkansen comes under attack from the budget airlines

More technical problems hit trouble-plagued Chuo Line

Trouble with railway switch disrupts bullet train service - which sounds dreadful until you consider that in the UK we get something like 80 infrastructure failures every day. They're not all reported.

Pervert professor pinched for snapping station toilet pics

Lion poop and predatory perverts have 2003's railways training for torrid times - favourite quote: "Many people who commit suicide by jumping in front of oncoming trains have chosen JR. I know I shouldn't say this, but sometimes I feel like asking them to jump in front of Hankyu or Kintetsu trains,"

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January 24, 2004

Transport to the Rugby World Cup

Michael Jennings | Rail Miscellany

I spent the first half of November in Australia. This happened to coincide with the middle of the rugby World Cup. A couple of days ago I was looking through my photographs of the trip, and I found this photo, which I took at Central Station in Sydney while passing through one afternoon.

Looking at the photo the other day I found it slightly amusing, and I sent it to Patrick. He e-mailed back, suggesting that I post a blog posting on the photo. And at this point I have to admit something, which is that all is not as it seems From the photo, it appears that although lots of nice signs were printed for the occasion of the World Cup, they were not used very effectively. Right?

Er, no, actually. I will get back to the sign at the end of the post, but the key point is this. Although Sydney's railways are not especially reliable on normal occasions for things such as commuting to work (I speak from experience) there is one thing that the railway authorities know how to do, which is to get vast numbers of people to and from major sporting events at the former Olympic site, which is where the major matches of the rugby World Cup were held.

Most of the main venues for the 2000 Olympics were held at Homebush Bay, on the western reaches of Sydney Harbour.

Continue reading "Transport to the Rugby World Cup"

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January 22, 2004

Attacked in the street? Don't call a cop. Call a cab.

Andy Wood | General Points (not just transport) | Road Miscellany

Theodore Dalrymple writes in the Spectator that taxi drivers in his home city have eagerly embraced satellite navigation technology:

When a customer calls for a taxi, his location is entered into a computer, and the satellite system automatically allocates the nearest free taxi to the customer. This not only maximises efficiency, saving the customer time and the taxi-driver fuel, but it also improves human relations among the taxi-drivers themselves...

Continue reading "Attacked in the street? Don't call a cop. Call a cab."

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Why I have nothing to say about Alistair Darling’s announcement

Patrick Crozier | Rail Review

On Monday, Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Transport, made a statement to parliament in which he announced a review of the structure of the industry. This is probably significant. This is probably just the sort of thing that Transport Blog ought to be commenting on. And yet after spending several hours mulling it over I find that I have almost nothing to say about it. I mean I really can’t. The whole thing is so self-contradictory, so self-congratulatory, so muddled, so clueless, so insipid I just can’t be bothered.

Maybe that was the idea.

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January 16, 2004

In Brief

Patrick Crozier | Blogging

As you can see, Transport Blog has undergone quite a change. The biggest change is the addition of the In Brief column. The purpose of this section is to be a place where we can post up stuff which we could comment on in a full blog posting but don't have the time to do so right now and maybe even never.

I/we hope you like it.

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January 15, 2004

Driving a car does not make you a libertarian. Taking the train does not make you a socialist

Patrick Crozier | Best of Transport Blog | Transport General

Taking issue with Andy Duncan is one thing but taking issue with Brian Micklethwait (about a posting on this very blog, no less) is quite another. Brian is an über-libertarian with a fine pedigree from whom I have learnt an enormous amount. So criticising something he has written is not something to be entered in to lightly. But I feel I am going to have to because in his posting on Robert Clayton Dean's posting on the Detroit Motor Show he (seems to) make the argument that driving a car is a libertarian thing to do.

This is an idea I violently disagree with. It gets right up my nose. It does so because a) I think it is wrong and b) because by implying that taking the train is a socialist thing to do it alienates a whole bunch of people ie people who take the train who I would rather not alienate. It comes close to saying that being a libertarian means you have to be a flash Harry alpha-male don't-give-a-stuff-about-anyone-else arsehole.

But this is not what being a libertarian means. Being a libertarian means believing in freedom. Control over your body and property (so long as it doesn't impinge on anyone else). The non-initiation of force etc.

Acting in a libertarian way could mean buying a car or building a road. But equally it could mean (and has meant) taking the train or building a railway. It has nothing to do with whether the activity is collective or not.

And did you think driving a car was not a collective activity? Wrong. Dead wrong. Where do you drive? On a road, I'd say, with other people. You are just as much a member of the herd sitting in a traffic jam as taking the train, the only difference being that you are encased in a metal box. [Not even that come to think of it]

I suppose there is an argument that the fact that people can successfully buy and drive cars demonstrates that people are, in fact, capable of taking responsibility for all sorts of other things: finding employment, getting educated, buying food, owning guns, living their own lives etc. And this goes a long way to explaining why socialists spend so much time arguing that cars in terms of accidents, pollution, urban development don't work.

But, if responsibility is the issue, I reckon you could make just the same argument based on the fact that people successfully take the train. There are all sorts of decisions you have to make when you take the train: you have to get to the station, buy the right ticket, get on the right platform, read the timetable, sit in the right seat, get off at the right place. By and large, people get these right. Of course, you don't get to choose the design of the train but, then again, drivers don't generally-speaking get to choose the design of the road. And anyway, if I were making the case that individuals are best suited to getting themselves educated or buying food or owning guns the best way of doing it would be to find some examples of people successfully educating, feeding or arming themselves.

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Trains are for cattle

Brian Micklethwait | Transport General

Samizdata regular R. C. Dean, commenting approvingly on the Detroit Auto Show, expresses a characteristic libertarian view with great clarity, I think.

The internal combustion automobile is one of the biggest engines of personal liberty ever created, right up there with the firearm. With it, the individual is free to leave the jurisdiction, free to travel on his own schedule, and free to haul an enormous amount of stuff around with him if he desires. "Mass" transit trains its users to be livestock, and so it is no wonder that our putative betters are constantly trying force us into its cattle cars. The old saw about totalitarian governments making the trains run on time cuts deeper than many think. By contrast, the automobile makes you captain of your own ship.


Enough with the mixed metaphors. The American insistence on bigger and more powerful automobiles, and continued avoidance of mass transit except as an utter last resort, should give lovers of liberty cause for cheer.

Okay, back to the trains.

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January 13, 2004

Long name for a railway station (and for a website)

Brian Micklethwait | Rail Miscellany

Bitter Girl links to www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch.com


First I've heard about the hyphen. Pity about that.

But if you go to this site you don't find any hyphen, and you do actually learn a bit about the place.

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January 10, 2004

A minister talks sense

Patrick Crozier | British Rail Privatisation

Just when you had abandoned all hope of anything sensible happening on the railways up pops Kim Howells:

I'm very much in favour of reintegrating the rail system - the relationship between the train operators and the tracks that they run along.

The way the industry is organised is the most fragmented imaginable and the chains of command are very, very long. I've yet to see the logic of the decision at privatisation to break the link between track and trains. It's an impediment to better reliability and punctuality.

I'm looking at how it might be possible for us to organise this industry in a better way than it is at the moment. More news on that subsequently.

Well, blow me. "I've yet to see the logic of the decision at privatisation to break the link between track and trains." Admire those words. Honour that phrase. Marvel at its wisdom. Take a moment out of your day to be shocked and awed. Sense. Sense. Sense. At last, after 10 years, a minister speaks sense.

I have been banging on about this for 2½ years and although I do not claim the ear of Mr Howells or any other minister it is nice to see that at least someone agrees with me.

Howells also seems to get (though the reporter does not) that privatisation ≠ fragmentation.

OK, it’s not a policy, far less a Bill or an Act or that super-duper railway that we all know is just dying to burst out and amaze us. It may not even be the beginning of the policy, but it may at least be the end of the wrong policy.

Good on you, Mr Howells. 200,000 registered train spotters are right behind you.

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January 09, 2004


Brian Micklethwait | London Underground

I don't know if weird stuff like this is allowed here, or even if it works. Let's see shall we?

Click to see the full horror but don't say I didn't warn you - Ed

Well according to "preview" in Movable Type, it does work. I don't know what it means though.

From www.b3ta.com

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January 08, 2004

Slow posting

Patrick Crozier | Blogging

As many of you will have noticed posting has been a bit slow over the Christmas period. This was partly because it was Christmas and partly because I had the cold from Hell. I am afraid that now that I am a bit better things are not going to change much. That is because I am working on a modification that (hopefully) will make Transport Blog much better. In the meantime, posting (at least from me - and, no, that isn't a hint in the direction of other TBers) will remain on the slow side.

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January 06, 2004

Don't give this man a job

Patrick Crozier | Other


Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know he's got the brain the size of a planet, is a walking encyclopedia, understands and can speak geek, has been all round the world twice, is jolly good company and is London's resident whalemeat expert. And we all know that he thinks and others think that it's really about time he got a job but he's wrong.

Sure, we can all see the superficial attractions of knowing all about telecoms, computers, TV, digital technology, movies and being paid hansomely for that knowledge. But it's a mug's game. Michael, your place is here: with Transport Blog. Really, what is all this covorting about the world, earning gazillions, being at the forefront of new technology, when...when...you could be writing about electric multiple units?

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January 02, 2004

Carblogging and bridge spotting

Brian Micklethwait | Road Miscellany | Transport Miscellany

This (linked to by Instapundit) looks like an interesting specialist blog for Transport Blog readers of the more automobile-crazy variety to keep up with.

Welcome to CarBlog. I doubt that it's the first weblog devoted to cars and the automobile industry, but with the 2004 North American International Auto Show, a.k.a. the Detroit Auto Show, starting in less than two weeks, I decided that a blog devoted to cars is a great idea, particularly during car show season.

With press conferences every hour or so and dozens of model introductions at the major auto shows, a blog is an ideal way to keep up with the flow of information. I'll be blogging from the Michelin Media Center at the NAIAS, trying to update the blog as often as possible.

I'll be posting a more extensive preview later, but at this point a number of significant vehicles will be introduced at the 2004 NAIAS, including the world introduction of a new Ferrari, the introduction of the next generation Corvette and the next Mustang. It promises to be an exciting show. This is a great time to be a car enthusiast.

Let's hope there are lots of photographs. If there are, then quite aside from the "transport" aspect, I'll be keeping an eye on this for aesthetic reasons.

And although it's a change of subject somewhat, my Culture Blog also has some pictures of – and from – the new Hungerford footbridge and its approaches, linking the South Bank of London to Charing Cross railway station. These pictures vary between utra-artistic and, er, informative.

And there's more bridgery in among this.

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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