The Anonymous Widower

I’m thinking of going to the States around the 19th to 21st of August to see the most amazing solar eclipse of the Century. It goes through major cities like St. Louis, Kansas City and Charlestown. The latter looks the best and I can manage it without driving. Anybody fancy tagging along?

June 22, 2017 Posted by | World | | Leave a comment

Fruit And Veg Farmers Facing Migrant Labour Shortages

This the tutle of an article on the BBC.

It makes some ontrtesting points blaming the weak pound and Brexit.

Perhaps twenty years aho, I read an article in a msgazine about a team of engineers and scientists working on developing an automatic apple-picking machine.

The article finishes by saying in a couple of decades, we’d only be eating fruit that could be harvested by machine.

We don’t seem to be there yet!

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Business, Food | Leave a comment

Alliance Delayed In Opening London Blackpool Service

Accordinh to this article in Global Rail News, Allisnce will have to delay opening its six times a day, three-hour aervice.

A three hour service will mean that a train leaving Blackpool at 6 will be back in the town at 12 and then again at 18:00. So one train will give three return trips a day, if you add in some minutes for turning the train.

So six trains per day will need just two trains.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Travel | 2 Comments

A Week North Of Seville

This holiday is proving to be a disaster. Only one reason; the heat. It is 30 now and it’s seven on the morning. Yesterday, it was 44 in the day. We’re only about twenty miles from the fires in Portugal and the fire fighting helocopters are going overhead. I think prudence says make a run for it! I’ll see after today! Everything else like food, room, people and puppies is fine. Yes puppies! Three Portuguese water dogs.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | World | 1 Comment

Bimodal Flirting

This sounds like something that goes on in bars, which are friendly to both LGBT and straight people.

But it isn’t.

The innovative Swiss train manufacturer has just unveiled their first bimodal Flirt train in the Aosta area of Italy, where it will enter service.

One of the other places where bomodal flirting will happen is East Anglia, as the trains will serve routes between and from Cambridge, Colchester, Ipswich and Nowich.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gas Should Be Banned In All Buildings With Multiple Occupation

I am now remembering more and more of the conversations I had in the 1960s, with fellow engineers, whilst I was working at ICI Plastics Division at Welwyn Garden City.

I arrived just after the explosion in Polythene Plant No 6 at Wilton had killed two plant operators. That and the dark shadow  of the Flixborough disaster changed the way the company looked at process design. My role was to do the dynamic calculations to make sure that the mathematics of the plant were safe and correct. In the design of one new plant, we looked at all possible combinations of vessels to make sure we were designing the best plant.

If this work led me to any personal conclusions, it was how dangerous gases like hydrogen and methane can be. I remember that it was found by investigators that the Six Plant explosion was caused by perhaps a couple of kilograms of ethylene gas that ignited and did a large amount of damage.

The Section I worked in, had actually installed an IBM 1800 process control computer on this plant and I heard rumours it went up in the air and when it came down, it continued to work.

Since then, I have only lived in one flat that relied on gas for cooking and that was a flat that was converted when we lived there from town gas to natural gas.

We nearly had a serious fire there, when one of the children got the matches from the gas stove and set fire to a duvet. Luckily, I smelt burning and put out the fire.

Our first real place to live was in Cromwell Tower in the Barbican. This is my thoughts as I expressed them in an e-mail to the BBC. They intended to put me on air, but the previous more important interview overran.

My late wife and myself brought our three children up in a high-rise 1960s block in the Barbican.

For safety there were escape passages everywhere, as I suspect there were in Grenfell Tower.

These passages would be ideal places for gas to seep and propagate the fire.

In my view, no tower block is safe with a gas supply, as a leak compromises safety.

According to The Times, the new gas supply was an unprotected  steel pipe up the stairwell installed by National Grid! Talking to an engineer with lots of experience of pipework on oil rigs, could it just have buckled and fractured in the heat? If so, that is criminal!

Sprinklers wouldn’t have contained the resulting gas fire and the intense heat got the cladding to burn.

Note that. I joined ICI in the 1960s and worked on process design, just after a series of serious gas-related explosions in UK chemical plants. All those stories about Flixborough and other disasters told over pints of beer have come back to me.

I’ve never trusted gas in a house, and my next dwelling will probably be an all-electric flat.

Gas should never be allowed in any multiple-occupation dwelling.

This will never be made law, as so many people swear by their gas cookers and the Big Six Gas companies would lobby against it.

 

June 16, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On The Tragedy At Grenfell Tower

As a family, C, myself and our three boys used to live in a tower block. Admittedly, Cromwell Tower was an upmarket tower in the Barbican. I wrote about the tower in Cromwell Tower.

Cromwell Tower was designed around a concrete core in a brutalist style in the 1960s, just like Grenfell Tower.

Cromwell Tower had a network of passages that allowed escape to the floors underneath. I suspect that Grenfell Tower had similar passages.

But there were differences.

  • Cromwell Tower had a higher standard of interior finish.
  • Every flat in Cromwell Tower has a wide airy balcony.
  • Cromwell Tower has no gas.
  • Cromwell Tower was designed for high net worth tenants, whereas Grenfell Tower was a Council block.

As both blocks were designed around the same time, I suspect that they were designed to the same set of regulations.

So why did Grenfell Tower catch fire?

These are possible reasons.

Gas

I don’t like gas, as one thing I remember from working at ICI in the 1960s, is that how powerful a gas explosion can be.

Naked gas flames also are a major cause of asthma, as they create oxides of nitrogen.

But if wee had had gas in Cromwell Tower and there had been a leak, the escape passages would have been an ideal way for the gas to spread through the tower.

For these and other reasons, I believe strongly, that all multiple occupancy housing should not be connected to a gas supply.

I’ve also heard that view from a Chief Fire Officer in Suffolk.

The Design And Execution Of The Upgrade

Was it done to high enough standards.

The Cladding

\Suspicion is falling on the cladding of the building.

Smoking

How friendly was the building to smokers?

Have we really learned the lessons of the past?

The Summerland Disaster

In 1971, over fifty people were killed in a fire on the Isle of Man in the Summerland Disaster. This is Wikipedia’s summary.

The Summerland disaster occurred when a fire spread through the Summerland leisure centre in Douglas on the Isle of Man on the night of 2 August 1973. Between fifty and fifty-three people were killed and eighty seriously injured

I know it wasn’t a tower block, but I think that there are common issues.

Under Background this is said.

Summerland was opened on 25 May 1971. It was a climate-controlled building covering 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) on Douglas’s waterfront, consisting of 50,000 sq ft (4,600 m2) of floor area at a cost of £2 million. The building’s hull and the interior were designed by two different architects—they did not match their planning to each other and thereby created a venue with significant fire risks that were only to become apparent later.

So did the architects of the upgrade do a proper job? Did they have any co-operation with the original architects.

The same Background section also says this.

Summerland was designed to accommodate up to 10,000 tourists and comprised a dance area, five floors of holiday games, restaurants and public bars. It was a 1960s concrete design incorporating advanced controlled internal climate, built with novel construction techniques using new plastic materials. The street frontage and part of the roof was clad in Oroglas, a transparent acrylic glass sheeting.

Note the use of Oroglas cladding, which is still made today.

At the time of the Summerland disaster, I was working at ICI Plastics, who made a similar acrylic sheet called Perspex. As I look around my kitchen, I see various applications of this or similar plastics.

In several places in one ICI chemical works, Perspex windows were used, as there was the occasional small explosion and you didn’t want to shower people in glass fragments.  But they were clearly marked Perspex Window – Fire Hazard.

So the problems of acrylic were clearly known at the time and yet, acrylic sheet was used to clad the building. One ICI Perspex expert told me, that Perspex shouldn’t be used to clad buildings.

So was the cladding itself a fire risk at Grenfell Tower because an inappropriate material was used, just as at Summerland?

Under Fire, this is said.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. on 2 August 1973, and was caused by three boys who were smoking in a small, disused kiosk adjacent to the centre’s miniature golf course.

So was smoking, one of the causes of the fire, just as it was in the Summerland disaster?

We don’t seem to have learned much from the Summerland disaster.

Conclusion

I’m led back to gas being the cause of the original fire, as there is nothing energetic enough to cause such a fierce fire.

It is also stated in various media articles, that there were problems with the gas.

 

 

 

 

June 15, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Chiltern Railways Must Be Chuffed

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled One Million Passengers Use New Rail Link Between Bicester And Oxford In First Six Months.

Chiltern Railways spokesman, says they are delighted.

The article also discloses that the proportion of visitors to Bicester Village, travelling by train has gone up from three to ten per cent.

I haven’t been to Bicester Village since C died, but it was always a difficult place to park, so if nothing else the economics of Bicester Village, must be improved, if visitors come by train. That must mean the ratio of shops to parking can go up.

There must be a lot of data about rail-connected shopping centres, as the UK has several.

  • Eastfield at Stratford.
  • Grand Central in Birmingham
  • Meadowhall
  • Metro Centre at Gateshead
  • Oxford Street
  • Westfield at Shepherds Bush

It will be interesting to see what happens after the following.

  • Oxford Street gets two double-ended Crossrail stations at Tottenham Court Road and Bond Street.
  • The Trafford Centre is connected to the Manchester Metrolink.
  • Merry Hill is connected to the Midland Metro.

I don’t think that the rail and tram companies would be making these investments, if they felt they would be losing money.

There must be a very strong link to the bottom line of Shopping Centres.

Consider.

  • Provision of car parking spaces must be expensive.
  • Provision of car parking uses up space that could be used for retail outlets or leisure facilities.
  • Lots of car parking produces traffic jams.
  • Car parking regularly gets full.
  • Cars get broken into and damaged.
  • Increasing capacity on a rail or tram link is not the Shopping Centre’s capital investment.

But most importantly, does a rail/tram link attract people like me, who can’t or don’t drive.

I also think, that Shopping Centres benefit from passing trade from the rail or tram link.

If I’m passing Eastfield or Westfield in London or Meadowhall in Sheffield and need lunch or a gluten-free sandwich from Marks and Spencer, I will often break my journey and have a quick shop.

In many cases, this is easier on a train or tram, than in a car, as the driver parks the former for you and you’re often immediately in the Shopping Centre.

I’m particularly looking forward to the opening of the Western entrance to Tottenham Court Road station when Crossrail opens next year. This entrance will be next door to the flagship Marks and Spencer store at the Pantheon.

 

 

June 15, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Life Is Depressing – Isn’t It?

I was joking today with a friend and musing how depressing life is!

  • Brexit
  • A General Election With Two Grade-C Party Leaders with Grade-Z policies.
  • Too hot, no rain.
  • A Nose full of glue
  • No Girl-Friend
  • No Football
  • Donald Trump as US President
  • DUP
  • RMT
  • Tragedies

And to cap it all England are losing at cricket!

I was cheered much cheered up, by a delightful French assistant in Marks and Spencer.

A good reason to abandon Brexit!

June 14, 2017 Posted by | World | | 2 Comments

An Architecture Firm Wants To Turn The London Underground’s Entire Circle Line Into A Three-Lane Travelator

The title of this post is the headline on an article in the Independent.

It is rather an old chestnut and I think it’s been suggested before and even tried out in at Montparnasse station in Paris in 2002.

One of the railway web sites pointed out that the Circle Line in London is also used by District, Hammersmith and City and Metropolitan Line trains, so it would be rather difficult to design.

But I do think we could do with a few more travelators, escalators and lifts in London.

And in some stations Crossrail and other projects will bring these sorts of improvements sooner rather than later.

The Massive Liverpool Street/Moorgate station for Crossrail

Crossrail will combine the two Underground stations of Liverpool Street and Moorgate.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the two stations.

Note how Crossrail, which is shown in a purpley blue, lies between the two stations, with the Northern Line at the West and the Central Line at the East.

This image shows a visualisation of the station.

Note how escalators lead down at both ends and you can effectively walk between the two stations with assistance from escalators at both ends..

Passengers arriving on Crossrail will be able to get out of the Eastern end of the platforms and access the following lines.

  • Central Line
  • Circle Line
  • Hammersmith and City Line
  • Liverpool Street National Rail services.
  • Metropolitan Line

At the Western end of the platforms, there is access to the following lines.

  • Circle Line
  • Hammersmith and City Line
  • Metropolitan Line
  • Moorgate National Rail services.
  • Northern Line

Both entrances will be very much within walking distance to a lot of the Northern parts of the City of London.

And all routes inside the complex will be step-free with lots of escalators and lifts.

Regularly, I travel on trains into and out of Liverpool Street station and I often get to and from the station  by walking between the two stations, as I get a bus to and from Moorgate,

When it is raining heavily as it used to in the past, I will be able to use the Crossrail platforms and two long escalators.

When Crossrail is open through this massive station, thousands or even millions  of passengers will change their journeys because of the numerous new routes that will be available.

Paddington

Paddington station will be very much improved interchange.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the station.

This image shows a visualisation of the station.

In the building of the Crossrail station, a tunnel with full step-free access is being dug under the concourse of the main line station to connect the Bakerloo Line to the Crossrail station. This article in Rail Technology Magazine which is entitled Contract awarded for £40m Bakerloo Line link, gives a lot more details on the tunnel and its building.

I do think that, the techniques used in the building of this tunnel will find applications in other places.

Tottenham Court Road

Tottenham Court Road station will become a double-ended station.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the station.

This image shows a visualisation of the station.

Note Centre Point at the Eastern end of the complex.

The Eastern end of the platforms will have access to the Central and Northern Lines and numerous entrances in front of Centre Point. Much of this work is now substantially complete.

The Western end of the platforms will have access to  a new entrance on Oxford Street, just North of Soho Square.

As Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road will have a lot more pedestrian access, travelling to the area will be transformed.

Bond Street

Bond Street station will become an enormous double-ended station.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the station and the nearby Oxford Circus station.

This image shows a visualisation of the station.

Note the football pitches, which give an idea of size.

Bond Street station will have an interchange at the Western end with the Central and Jubilee Lines, but it will mainly be a station with entrances all over the place.

I have a feeling that Bond Street will the station of choice for most shoppers going to and from the area in the future.

If you’re using Crossrail, just make sure that you get in the right end of the two hundred metre long trains.

Oxford Circus Station

No work is planned here at present, although I think the station will suffer collateral benefits from the following projects.

  • The new Eastern entrance to Bond Street station, which will be ideal for John Lewis.
  • The pedestrianisation in the area.
  • Works to improve the Bakerloo Line, prior to its extension to Lewisham.

Oxford Street station needs more passenger capacity and is scheduled to be rebuilt in the next ten years or so.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see that if a block anywhere close to Oxford Circus gets redeveloped, Transport for London will be investigating how to get much-needed lifts to the Bakerloo and Victoria Lines.

I have a feeling that we could see something special at Oxford Circus station.

I wouldn’t discount a travelator connection between Oxford Circus station and the Eastern entrance to Bond Street station.

Bank Station

After Crossrail, the biggest station project in London is Bank station.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the station.

This visualisation, shows what the new Bank station will look like.

Bank Tube Station Layout

The development is comprehensive.

  • Two new entrances at Walbrook and Cannon Street.
  • Full step-free access with lots of new lifts and escalators.
  • Two travelators running North-South through the station.
  • A new tunnel for the the Northern Line, with wider platforms.
  • Escalator connection between Central and Northern Lines.
  • Better connection to the Waterloo and City Line and the Docklands Light Railway.

Completion dates look like 2017 for the Walbrook entrance and 2021 for the completed Bank station.

In some ways Bank station can be considered a Crossrail station, that isn’t on Crossrail.

But it is on the route of one of Crossrail’s little helpers; the Central Line.

Travellers will do one of the following.

  • From the Eastern branch of Crossrail,, they will walk across the platform at Stratford station and get the Central Line for a few stops to Bank.
  • From the Western branch of Crossrail, they will change at Tottenham Court Road station and get the Central Line for a few stops to Bank.
  • From any of the three Crossrail branches, they could use the Central or Northern Lines from Liverpool Street/Moorgate for one stop.

I would walk!

I think that this development will have one of the largest effects of any non-Crossrail  transport-related project in London.

I also think that the expansion of Bank station sets a very good precedent.

Both the new Walbrook and Cannon Street entrances are being incorporated into new commercial developments in the area. I know land in the City of London is probably some of the most expensive in the World, but how many improved stations could incorporate housing, retail or commercial development, or perhaps even a hospital.

Victoria

Victoria station is undergoing a major upgrade.

The map from carto.metro.free.fr shows the lines at the station.

Progress has been made with a new entrance on Victoria Street and better connections between the three Underground Lines.

In some ways the biggest triumph at Victoria has been the ability to keep the station working fully, whilst the work is continuing.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment