The Anonymous Widower

Will Business Trust Ultra-Marxist Labour?

This is a paragraph from an article in today’s copy of the Times, which is entitled Labour’s Big Call Has BT Hanging By A Wire.

Only two weeks ago Mr Jansen, 52, had dismissed the threat of Labour nationalisation, saying that BT was “not on the list” and taking comfort from comments from John McDonnell over the summer and made personally. Labour’s shadow chancellor had said in an interview in July that there were “no tricks up my sleeve” and that the “limit of our ambition” was taking the power networks, Royal Mail, rail and water companies into state ownership.

It appears John MacDonnell has either changed his mind, or was doing something rather devious.

Will business at any level from the smallest corner shop to the largest FTSE 500 company ever trust what this ultra-Marxist Labour party says?

November 16, 2019 Posted by | Business, Computing, Finance, World | , , , , , | 6 Comments

How To Return A Wallet Or Purse

There’s an interesting little tale in The Times today, which is entitled Penny Trail Leads To Missing Wallet.

A guy fpund a wallet. In it were some valuable cards, so the finder sent a penny to the account on the debit card he found.

He did this four times in total and used the reference field to say he’d got the wallet and give his mobile number.

The owner got in contact and all was sorted out.

October 16, 2019 Posted by | Finance, News | | Leave a comment

Does This Bank Launder Money?

I always associate Tide with a brand of washing powder.

So does the bank of the same name launder money?

October 14, 2019 Posted by | Finance, World | , | Leave a comment

BHP Investor Revolt Over Links To Fossil Fuel Lobby

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on The Times.

This is the introductory paragraph.

BHP is facing a shareholder revolt after influential investors urged the giant miner to suspend membership of contentious trade groups that lobby for the fossil fuels industry.

So who are these revolting investors?

Greenpeace with a couple of shares and a lot of placards!

No!

They are Standard Life Aberdeen and Aviva, who are two of the biggest financial beasts in the City of London, with support from the Church of England.

It’ll be an interesting Annual General Meeting next week!

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Business, Finance | , , , | Leave a comment

Does Anybody Know Of An On-Line Bank Account, Where You Can Annotate The Statement?

I have looked at several on-line bank accounts and none offers me a feature I want.

I check my statement every morning, as this is one of the best ways to guard against fraud.

  • If there is an unexpected transaction, you spot it early.
  • If banks used AI to classify your access, then it might be possible for them to flag-up possible illegal access.

So what feature is missing?

Imagine if against each line in the statement, there was the ability to add extra data.

Two fields come to mind.

  • A comment.
  • A costcode, such as Gas, Electricity, StatePension etc.

You could also add fields of your own, like say CustomerNumber, SupplierNumber or InvoiceNumber.

The bank statement would show the extra data, when you displayed or printed the statement.

I would use it every day!

But it would also allow you to total values against against any cosde field between two dates.

If you used standard costcodes and other fields, the bank could even calculate your accounts.

I first talked about such a system with an accountant in the 1970s, where you would have entered the cost code on a cheque or bank deposit.

Banks! bGrrrr! \They haven’t changed their mindset since the 1870s! Or should that be the 1570s?

September 5, 2019 Posted by | Computing, Finance | | 1 Comment

Is This A Massive Endorsement For The City Of London?

This Google Map is dominated by the new Goldman Sachs building in the City of London.

Make what you want of the building and its significance for the City.

But is it an endorsement of a strong future or a monument to a glorious past?

Location, Location, Location

One property developer once said, these were the three most important things about a property.

This Google Map shows the location with respect to Farringdon station.

The station, which is at the top of map, will be the best connected in Central London as it will be the crossing of Crossrail and Thameslin. That probably won’t be important to some of the employees of Goldman Sachs, but the building apparently has favoured bicycle spaces over car parking.

Note just to the South of Farringdon station, two of the large buildings of Smithfield Market. These two are very much under-used and plans exist to convert part of them into the new Museum of London.

But a lot of the area between Goldman Sachs and Farringdon is under-developed and will the Goldman Sachs decision, lead to more development of offices, hotels and residences in this part of London at the West of the actual City?

Terminal Six At Heathrow And Terminal Three At Gatwick

I often joke, that this area, will become extra terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick Airports, with an easy link to the trains to Scotland and the Continent just a short taxi ride, bicycle ride or one stop on the Underground up the road at Kings Cross and St. Pancras.

A Walk From Smithfield To The Goldman Sachs Building

These are some pictures I took on the way.

The New Museum Of London Site

Holborn Viaduct

The Goldman Sachs Building

I’m sure that if I can walk to and from Farringdon station at seventy-two, then a lor of people working in the building will use the railway to get to and from work.

Conclusion

Have Goldman Sachs decided to build their new offices at the Crossroads of the World?

 

September 3, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport, World | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpler LNER Train Fares Will Make A Single Half The Price Of A Return

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in The Times.

This is a paragraph from the article, that explains what is being done.

As part of a trial London North Eastern Railway (LNER) will abolish the £1 price difference for return tickets on some routes and require passengers to buy two singles. It is designed to remove an anomaly whereby singles on some long-distance routes are overpriced in the expectation that most people will buy a return.

I’m all for it, as I often go on a wander around the UK and I’m not sure of the route, that I will take.

A couple of times, I’ve gone up to Scotland on a Sleeper, visited a few places and friends and then turned up in Edinburgh station needing to get home. I don’t generally use an Advance ticket, as I don’t want to be tied to a particular date.

I can think of lots of scenarios, where this new ticketing will be very convenient.

Yesterday, I went to the football in Ipswich.

As I do normally, I bought a zone 6 to Ipswich return to take advantage of my Freedom Pass. Sometimes, a friend brings me back to London, so to be able to buy a single ticket to Ipswich would be very useful.

 

Conclusion

This move by LNER is a good start, but we need a Universal cCntactless Ticketing scheme based on bank cards and mobile devices for the whole of the UK.

As an example, on the short London and Ipswich route, I should be able to use a contactless bank card linked to my Freedom Pass and Senior Railcard, which would automatically charge me for the cheapest fare.

If everybody could get best value Universal Contactless Ticketing with their American Express, Mastercard, Visa or mobile phone, think what the effects would be.

Many Would Not Buy Traditional Tickets

Obviously, if you wanted to buy tickets for a particular train or wanted best value, you could still buy an Advance ticket over the Internet and use it in one of the following ways.

  • As a traditional paper ticket.
  • As a download on your phone, mobile device.

It might also be associated with your bank card.

The Tyranny Of Ticketing Would Be Abolished

Suppose a close relative lived about a hundred miles from where you lived.

Taking a train to visit say your mother, might involve a lot of planning to get a keenly-priced ticket.

If you can just turn up and touch in and out and know the price of the tickets, you will probably be more likely to do the journey by train.

 

Coming back, you would not be limited to a particular train, which could mean cutting a visit short.

More People Would Travel By Train

Contactless travel has certainly boosted the use of public transport in London and it would certainly do the same for the rest of the UK.

More Passengers With Limited Mobility Would Travel

Pensioners are always quick to see a bargain and my generation of pensions are much more tech-savvy than those, who are perhaps ten years older.

Universal Contactless Ticketing will appeal to this large group of travellers.

There Would Be More Train Services And Trains

More passenger would mean that train operating companies would need to run more services and acquire more trains.

Some train operating companies are already obtaining extra trains to increase capacity and frequency.

Many Stations Will Need Updating

Quite a few stations are struggling with current passenger numbers and they are not ready for the increase in passenger numbers, that will surely happen with Universal Contactless Ticketing.

Universal Contactless Ticketing Will Promote Competition Between Train Companies

Suppose you are going from London to Birmingham for a meeting or a leisure activity.

You know because of advertising or past experience, that Chiltern is more comfortable and cheaper, than the faster Virgin.

You might travel up using Chiltern, as you can lay out your paper and give it a good read, but travel back by Virgin, as your want to get home for supper.

Universal Contactless Ticketing will enable the choice of return journey to be made at the last minute.

You might argue that companies like Greater Anglia have no competition.

But in the leisure market, the competition is twofold.

  • The private car.
  • Passengers can spend a day in the countryside or at the coast in places served by other train companies.

If Greater Anglia embraced Universal Contactless Ticketing, travellers would be more likely to use their train services.

Will Train Operating Companies Offer More Special Deals?

In the next couple of years, Greater Anglia have said they will bring in the following new services, amongst others.

  • A third hourly service between London and Norwich via Ipswich.
  • Four direct trains per day between London and Lowestoft.
  • A direct hourly service between Norwich and Stansted.

With Universal Contactless Ticketing, it would be easy to ofer promotional fares or offers to promote these new routes.

Will Fare Prices Go Up Or Down?

London has been able to bring in various cost-saving measures, like the closure of Ticket Offices.

The Mayor has decided to spend all saving and more on a fare freeze. As his decision, was more about politics and winning an election, make of that what you will.

Whether we like it or not, and some politicians on the Left don’t, Universal Contactless Ticketing will happen sooner rather than later.

September 1, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Rock Rail Wins Again!

This article on the Railway Gazette, is entitled Abellio Orders East Midlands Inter-City Fleet.

The order can be summarised as follows.

  • The trains will be Hitachi AT-300 trains
  • There will be thirty-three bi-mode trains of five cars.
  • The trains will be 125 mph capable.
  • Unlike the similar Class 802 trains, the trains will have 24 metre long cars, instead of 26 metres.
  • They will have a slightly modified nose profile.
  • The new trains will have an extra diesel engine.
  • The new trains will cost a total of £400 million.

A few of my thoughts.

I shall constantly refer to an earlier post called Vere Promises East Midlands Bi-Modes In 2022.

Cost Of The Trains

In the earlier post, I calculated that the five five-car AT-300 all-electric trains, ordered by First Group for London and Edinburgh services cost four million pounds per car.

Thirty-three trains at this four million pounds per car, works out at £660 million, which is sixty-five percent higher than the price Abellio is quoted as paying.

Abellio are actually paying just £2.42 million per car or forty percent less First Group.

So are Abellio buying a cut price special?

As Abellio East Midlands Railway will be competing up against LNER’s Azumas on some journeys, I can’t see that running a second class train would be a sound commercial decision.

I am left to the conclusion, that Abellio have got a very good deal from Hitachi.

What Diesel Power Is Used?

In a five-car Class 802 train, there are three MTU 12V 1600 R80L diesel engines, each of 700 kW , which gives a total power of 2,100 kW.

If the Abellio train needs this power, with four diesel engines, each must have 525 kW.

Not sure yet, but this could save a couple of tonnes in weight.

I doubt that Hitachi are dissatisfied with the performance of the MTU diesel engines in the current Class 800, 801 and 802 trains, as there are no media reports of any ongoing problems. So I feel that they could go with the same supplier for the trains for Abellio East Midlands Railway.

If you type “Class 800 regenerative braking” into Google, you will find this document on the Hitachi Rail web site, which is entitled Development of Class 800/801 High-speed Rolling Stock for UK Intercity Express Programme.

The only mention of the R-word is in this paragraph.

An RGS-compliant integrated on-train data recorder (OTDR) and juridical recording unit (JRU), and an EN-compliant energy
meter to record energy consumption and regeneration are fitted to the train.

If you search for brake in the document, you find this paragraph.

In addition to the GU, other components installed under the floor of drive cars include the traction converter, fuel tank, fire protection system, and brake system.

Note that GU stands for generator unit.

The document provides this schematic of the traction system.

Note BC which is described as battery charger.

Braking energy doesn’t appear to be re-used to power the train, but to provide hotel power for the train.

I talk about this in more detail in Do Class 800/801/802 Trains Use Batteries For Regenerative Braking?.

In my view, it is an outdated design compared to some of those seen in the latest road vehicles and trains from other manufacturers.

This is a sentence from the Railway Gazette article.

According to Hitachi, the EMR units will be an ‘evolution’ of the AT300 design supplied to other UK operators, with 24 m long vehicles rather than 26 m, and a slightly modified nose profile.

So does that evolution include regenerative braking to batteries on the train.

This could have advantages.

  • improved acceleration and smoother braking
  • Less electricity and diesel consumption.
  • No running of diesel engines in stations.

I’m only speculating, but could the batteries or supercapacitors be under the car without a diesel engine? A balanced design might make this the middle car of the train

There must also be the possibility, that instead of using MTU diesel engines, the trains use MTU Hybrid PowerPacks.

Why shouldn’t Hitachi get their respected supplier to do as much of the hard work as possible?

Train Length

A five-car Class 222 train, which work the Midland Main Line now, consists of two 23.85 metre and three 22.82 metre cars. So it is 116.16 metres long.

The article says the cars in the new trains will be 24 metres long,,so a new train will be 1220 metres long or 3.84 metres longer.

This will probably mean that there will be no need for costly and disruptive platform lengthening at a couple of stations.

Capacity

Abellio have stated that passengers like having a table and that they will be offering a catering service

So will we see most seats having a table?

Chiltern have proved it’s a philosophy that works for all stakeholders!

This means that capacity comparisons with the current trains will be difficult, as you’re comparing apples with oranges.

Hopefully, we’ll get more details soon!

Splitting And Joining

I would assume the new trains will have the ability to split and join an route like the other Hitachi trains.

This could be very useful in organising trains in the limited number of paths South of Kettering.

A ten-car train might leave St. Pancras as two five-car units running as a pair. It could split at East Midlands Parkway station and one train could go to Nottingham and the other to Derby. Coming South the two trains would join at East Midlands Parkway.

A Nose Job

I’m intrigued by the phrase “slightly different nose profile” in the extract I quoted earlier.

Have Hitachi’s champion origamists found a way of designing a train which can split and join with both an aerodynamic nose and a corridor connection?

After their experience with the Class 385 train and its curved windows, I suspect Hitachi have learned a lot. Could for instance one end of the five-car train have a Class 800-style nose and the other an improved Class 385-style front end?

Trains would mate blunt-to-blunt, so the Southern train would always point towards London and the Northern train would always point towards Sheffield.

I used to have a friend, who learned origami skills at Hiroshima in the 1950s, whilst doing National Service in the Army.

I don’t think my proposal is impossible, but I’l admit it’s unusual!

  • The blunt end might have a pair of doors, each with a flat window, thus giving the driver an uninterrupted view, when driving from that end.
  • When the trains connected the doors would open and swing forward. The gang way would unfold probably from under the cab The driver’s desk would probably fold away, as the two cabs wouldn’t be needed in a ten-car train.
  • Connect and disconnect would be totally automatic.

Effectively, two five-car trains would convert into a ten-car train.

The Number Of Trains

In my earlier post, I estimated that Abellio East Midlands Railway would buy 140 bi-mode carriages.

This works out as 35 trains, as against the thirty-three actually ordered.

This is close enough to say, that these new trains are only for main line services and will not be used on the electric services to Corby, which I estimate will be another seven 240 metre-long electric trains

A Complete Fleet Renewal

This is a paragraph from the Railway Gazette article.

Abellio UK Managing Director Dominic Booth said the new trains would ‘form the centrepiece of our ambitious plans for a complete replacement of all the trains on the East Midlands Railway’, representing ‘a more than £600m investment to really improve the region’s railway’.

When Abellio say renewal, they mean renewal.

So will Bombardier or another manufacturer receive a consolation prize of the seven high-capacity 240 metre long electric trains for the St. Pancras and Corby service?

A version of the Abellio part-owned, West Midlands Trains‘s, Class 730 train, would surely do just fine.

The Role Of Rock Rail

The trains will be leased from Rock Rail.

The Rock Rail web site gives this insight.

Rock Rail’s game changing approach to rolling stock funding has:

  • Enabled long term institutional investors to invest directly into a new sector.
  • Driven better value for government, operators and passengers.
  • Extended the market for infrastructure finance.

Rock Rail works closely with the franchise train operators and manufactures to ensure a collaborative approach to design, manufacture and acceptance of the new state of the art trains on time and to budget as well as to manage the long-term residual value and releasing risks.

It’s obviously an approach that has worked, as they have been behind three rolling stock deals at they have funded trains for Moorgate services, Greater Anglia and South Western Railway in recent months.

The Abellio East Midlands Railway makes that a fourth major fleet.

Take a few minutes to explore their web site.

Rock Rail say their backers are institutional investors. So who are these faceless institutions with deep pockets.

I have seen Standard Life Aberdeen mentioned in connection with Rock Rail. This Scottish company has £670 billion of funds under management and it is the second largest such company in Europe.

Companies like these need secure long term investments, that last thirty to forty years, so that pension and insurance funds can be invested safely to perhaps see us through retirement. I know that some of my pension is invested in a product from Standard Life Aberdeen, so perhaps I might ultimately own a couple of threads in a seat cover on a train!

As the Government now insists everybody has a pension, there is more money looking for a safe mattress!

Rock Rail allows this money to be used to purchase new trains.

Rock Rail seem to be bringing together train operators, train manufacturers and money to give train operators, their staff and passengers what they want. I seem to remember that Abellio did a lot of research in East Anglia about the train service that is needed.

Conclusion

Abellio have made a very conservative decision to buy trains from Htachi, but after my experiences of riding in Class 800, 801 and 802 trains in the last few months, it is a decision, that will satisfy everyone’s needs.

Unless of course, Hitachi make a horrendous mess of the new trains!

But the four fleets, they have introduced into the UK, have only suffered initial teething troubles and don’t seem to have any long term problems.

There are some small design faults, which hopefully will be sorted in the new trains.

  • Step-free access between train and platform.
  • The carriage of bicycles and other large luggage.

The second will be more difficult to solve as passengers seem to bring more and more with them every year.

July 31, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Big Companies And Contactless Ticketing

I use contactless ticketing a lot and have never had a problem that has cost me any money or even inconvenience.

I also check my credit card statement regularly to make sure everything is as it should be.

But what annoys me is that you use your card in some multiple outlets and the information on your statement, isn’t that precise.

I know Leon; the natural fast-food chain aren’t that big, but every transaction from them is precise and identifiable.

Some big companies could follow Leon’s example.

July 15, 2019 Posted by | Finance | , | 3 Comments

Network Rail Bids For Part Of British Steel

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on the BBC.

This is the first paragraph.

Network Rail is looking to buy part of British Steel, as bidders have until the end of Sunday to put in offers for all or part of the troubled firm.

Many would say, why does the nationalised industry Network Rail, which let’s face it, has had its troubles in recent years, want to get involved with a bankrupt company?

You have to remember, how big companies work.

  • They need to manage their cash flow.
  • They need quality supplies, that will do what it says on the specification.
  • They want supplies to be delivered as and where they need it.

But above all they need to be properly financed.

Making And Delivering Rails

This paragraph in the BBC article says a lot.

Network Rail owns and operates the UK’s railway network, including 20,000 miles of track, and buys 100,000 tonnes of rails from British Steel each year.

Suppose, you want to lay new rails urgently between Inverness and the Far North of Scotland. Getting it there will be a logistics problem, which will be made worse, if the source is halfway around the world.

And suppose, when it arrives in the UK, it fails the quality test! You can’t just give it back to the postman.

So for a reliable railway, Network Rail also needs a reliable supplier making rails, close enough for product to be delivered by special train.

From what I have read in the railway press, British Steel are good at the following.

  • Manufacturing quality rail.
  • Developing special products for rail companies.
  • Delivering it on special trains.

To illustrate this, read British Steel Secures Major Contract From Deutsche Bahn.

I also think, that in addition to the Germans, British Steel sell rail to the Belgians, French and the Dutch, to name but three.

So certainly, British Steel seem to be on the ball with making and delivering rails.

But they appear to be seriously underfunded.

Acquiring British Steel

If I was a financier, thinking about taking over British Steel, one of the most important things would be to secure the sales and the resulting cash flow for the company.

I would be on the train to all of the major rail infrastructure companies, that could be reached by British Steel’s special trains from Scunthorpe.

Network Rail have already put a marker down, that they would buy British Steel’s Rail Products Division, but are other rail infrastructure companies also looking at securing quality product, by either buying the division themselves or pledging support alongside Network Rail.

Network Rail are also aware that their predecessor Railtrack, was brought down by the Hatfield Rail Crash, so they are probably and rightly so, paranoid about safety.

The very fact that Network Rail have put in a bid, suggests to me that they know their power in the negotiations to follow, as any purchaser, who doesn’t have the major customers onside, is probably doomed to fail.

On the other hand, if British Steel was bought by someone, that would increase the risk of dodgy product, Network Rail would go elsewhere.

But would they be able to get the same quality and service?

Conclusion

I am sure, that Network Rail, Deutsche Bahn and all the other rail infrastructure companies will play a large park in the fate of British Steel.

 

July 1, 2019 Posted by | Finance, Transport | , , | Leave a comment