The Anonymous Widower

What Can The Banks Do For Us?

After writing the previous post about Mark Carney’s thoughts on the pound and Scottish independence, I got to thinking about the nature of different currencies and how I feel about them.

On my travels to Budapest, Stockholm, Palermo and Bilbao, I’ve used Hungarian forint, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian krone and Swiss francs in addition to euro and pounds. Train journeys across Europe could be a nightmare, as like the trip back from Stockholm, each country could be a different currency and you end up with enough change to tear holes in all your pockets, but impossible to understand.

The personal preference, that I like to use cash makes it worse in a non-euro and non-pound country, like Hungary, where I don’t have any natural feel for notes and coins.

I just think that the banks are making it easy for us to handle all these currencies, but some have made a start.

I have a credit card from Nationwide, that just converts the transaction into pounds on my statement and doesn’t charge me any commission, when I use it abroad.

As a customer I like that and I’ve heard one savings expert recommend this credit card for just this reason.

So shouldn’t all credit cards be like this?

But i used to be a world-class computer programmer.  Probably to say I used to be is totally wrong, as my mind is still reasonably sharp and it certainly knows what computers can do.

So why when I use my credit card in say Ruritania and I pay for a delicious gluten-free meal with my credit card, does the terminal not show me the cost in both Ruritanian wotsits and English pounds?  If I was say a Frenchman and my bank account was in euros, then I would want euros instead of pounds.

All it needs is a bit of clever software.

Come on you bankers!

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Finance, World | | Leave a comment

Carney’s Sense On An Independent Scotland And The Pound

Mark Carney has pronounced on how an independent Scotland would use the pound.  It’s reported here and this is the first few paragraphs.

The Bank of England governor has said an independent Scotland would need to give up some power to make a currency union with the rest of the UK work.

Mark Carney said such a move, proposed by the Scottish government, “requires some ceding of national sovereignty”.

He also said the risks of not having a strong agreement had been demonstrated by problems in the Eurozone.

I think it is more complicated than he says, as would a government of what is left of the UK, want to let Scotland share a currency? There are plenty of politicians, who would want to settle old scores

And would Scotland be allowed to use the pound by the European Union?

I don’t care one way or the other, so long as I don’t have to foot the bill for extra taxes to pay for the mess politicians leave us in! Which of course, they always do!

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Finance, News | , | 1 Comment

Long Live The Settle And Carlisle

Or as I rode the Settle and Carlisle line yesterday from North to South, should I call it, the Carlisle and Settle?

I’ve never ridden it before and I can’t understand why, as it is a spectacular line running through magnificent scenery.

The weather yesterday wasn’t good as the pictures show.  But that didn’t stop the 15:05 from Carlisle being about two-thirds full. Most seemed to be small groups, whohad had a day out and were returning to Leeds. But judging by their clothes, they weren’t going to stray far into the hills.

If this a typical journey on a wet Tuesday afternoon in late January, there can’t be much wrong with the way the line is managed, as a partnership.  Judging by the age of many of the customers, the ridership is probably a tribute to the Senior and other railcards.

Reading various web sites it would seem that Network Rail have got to grips with the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct, the track and other structures, and the Settle Carlisle Railway Development Company seem to have been doing their best in restoring stations and other lineside structures. I also found this article on the Network Rail web site about improving communications and signalling.

It would appear too, that there is a lot of enthusiasm and common sense in securing the future of this line.

So what do I think the future will hold?

The Development Company and others want to see more trains on the line. Currently, there are seven trains in both directions between Leeds and Carlisle, with the first leaving at 05:29 from Leeds and 05:50 from Carlisle. If that isn’t a schedule to get people into the hills for a heavy constitutional, then I don’t know what is? The train I rode was one of Northern Rail’s two coach Class 158s. It would be interesting to see how crowded these trains get in the summer! Obviously new trains are out of the question, but with the Manchester-Liverpool-Blackpool electrification, there might be some more of these Class 158s available. If those backing a direct Manchester to Carlisle service over the line, they’ll certainly be needed. But people have said to me, that there is a shortage of decent diesel multiple units in the UK.

Surely though, greater capacity on the line will help to generate tourism in the area and all the much-needed employment it creates!

As I write this note, it has been announced that the West coast Main Line has been closed due to overhead line problems at Penrith.  So like the problems I encountered last Saturday on Greater Anglia, there I suspect, a lot of frustrated passengers and rauilway managers and staff, wondering what is going to happen!

So perhaps one option might be to electrify Settle to Carlisle and the related Leeds to Morecambe line. This would provide a double-tracked by-pass from Carnforth to Carlisle. This option, which could also be used by freight trains is discussed here. Remember that the West Coast Main Line is mainly double-track, so an electrified Settle to Carlisle line, would give some extra much-needed capacity between the North of England and Scotland. Admittedly, it wouldn’t be a 200 kph like the West Coast Main Line. It certainly, is a line that can take heavy trains, as the media is always showing pictures of trains like steam driven excursions using the route.

As I indicated earlier, there is a shortage of diesel multiple units and this is often the reason that drives services on the UK’s railways. Greater Anglia run a deplorable service from Ipswich to Felixstowe using a single coach Class 153. But it’s not their fault that they can’t get hold of something bigger and better.  Nothing else exists!

I have said before that the High Speed Diesel Trains, that will be surplus to requirements after the introduction could be reused on some of the lines in the UK like Settle to Carlisle and Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh. As Chiltern have shown, if the Mark 3 coaches are refurbished and returned to their original seat layout, they ride like Jaguars and are some of the finest trains in the world.

On Settle to Carlisle line, they would be ideal to allow the reinstatement of direct Glasgow to Leeds and East Midlands services, which currently go via Edinburgh.

I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few years, but without doubt, something will happen to invigorate the Settle to Carlisle line.

The line will outlive us all!

January 29, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments