The Anonymous Widower

Lots Of Process And No Substance!

The title of this post has just been used by Gus O’Donnell on BBC1 to describe how the Brexit negotiations will progress.

I think that the election has guaranteed we’ll get a Hard Brexit under World Trade Organisation rules.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Dressing To Win!

I am not being sexist in this post, as I think it applies just as much to men as women.

My late wife, C was always immaculately dressed for her appearances as a barrister in Court. I know too, from a lunch I had with a retired judge, who she regularly appeared in front of, that she would dress appropriately for the case and those in Court.

The judge also said, she made sure she was the centre of attention and as the judge said, she dressed to win.

C was considered by her peers to be a very competent lawyer, but several times she expressed doubts about her skills to me, so I do wonder, if she used clothes to give herself confidence.

I think that both Theresa May and Hillary Clinton don’t dress to win and both of them have lost!

How many times in their campaigns were they seen in plain bog-standard clothes, that made them look ordinary?

I can hear the words of C, in my ears, as she criticises their dress sense.

Incidentally, she always made sure, I was well-turned out!

 

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

I Said It Was A Strange Election!

In A Strange Election, I said it was just that. But then, a political journalist friend said to me, that the posters told a different tale South of London, as they did in the capital, before the Brexit Referendum.

Theresa May made the same mistake as Harold Wilson in 1970 and Ted Heath in 1974, when they both called an early election and ended up covered in egg.

She fought a terrible election and certainly made major mistakes.

  • In a short campaign, you must get your manifesto right and this allowed the sound-bite of Dementia Tax to take hold.
  • The manifesto had little for the average Tory voter.
  • She ignored Newton’s Third Law!
  • Her circle of advisers was too small and close!
  • She ignored the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
  • She came over as cold, with all the charisma of a dead fish.
  • There was no infrastructure policy except vague statements in the manifesto.
  • There wasn’t much to attract those who voted Brexit, except a stop to immigration.
  • Where was the pit-bull to take Corbyn’s fantasy tax and spend policies apart?
  • Only Boris Johnson delivered any passion!

But most importantly, where do the Tories stand on Brexit?

The Tories are pfaffing about, like a Personnel Manager, who has just been sent by the Chairman to close a factory they know nothing about, in a strange area of the country.

The Tories were all planning to Remain in the EU, even if they were against it and the surprise result in the Brexit Referendum left the Party up the creek without a paddle.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

A Strange Election

In 2015, when you walked through the local area, you saw lots of posters, saying Vote for Me! etc.

Today, I walked to Haggerston station and I saw just three posters; one Liberal, one Green and one for an Independent.

Now that the forecast doesn’t agree with opinion polls in The Times and The Standard, I am led to the conclusion, that much of the data is all over the place.

I have a feeling as with 2015 and the Bexit vote, the pollsters will have to look hard at their methods.

June 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

The Sun Does It Again!

You can always rely on The Sun to be funny on Election Day.

They sum him up like this.

  • Terrorists’ Friend
  • Useless On Brexit
  • Destroyer Of Jobs
  • Enemy Of Business
  • Massive Tax Hikes
  • Puppet Of Unions
  • Nuclear Surrender
  • Ruinous Spending
  • Open Immigration
  • Marxist Extremist

The front page is very much in the tradition of the notorious It’s The Sun Wot Won It front page of 1992.

Incidentally, if Jeremy Corbyn were to become Prime Minister, he would be only the second one, who’d divorced. The first was the Duke of Grafton in 1769. But the Duke was only divorced once.

June 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Launch Of Crossrail Trains Pushed Back By TfL

The title of this post is the title of this article in Rail Technology Magazine.

The story I heard from staff, was that more miles need to be accumulated on the trains and that squares with what is said in the article.

But I do wonder if Sadiq Khan has pushed the launch back until after the election, so that politicians he doesn’t agree with can use the trains as a photo opportunity.

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Kissing The Innovators Goodbye!

I was part of a team that started a high-tech business n the UK in 1977 at the age of thirty.

James Callaghan was Prime Minister and tax rates were higher than they are today.

In 1984, the business was sold for $128,000,000.

So what advice would I give to my thirty-year-old son, daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew, thinking of starting a high-tech business today?

He or she would in one way be very different to me, in that by the age of thirty.

  • I’d probably only been abroad twice and wasn’t very savvy about how to survive in a foreign country.
  • Now the average thirty-year-old has probably done around a hundred foreign trips.

Due to a broader spectrum of nationalities in the UK today, a group thinking of starting a business would be less white middle-class than we were.

So whereas, we had to start the business in the UK, unless perhaps we wanted to relocate to the US, which I wouldn’t have done, even if I’d known how much money we would realise, so many factors, like the Internet, cheap air travel, better language skills, the easier availability of money, good support services and welcoming governments mean you can start a high-tech business virtually anywhere.

These factors also mean Brexit isn’t a disaster for the high-tech start-up.

If you are a UK-focused start-up perhaps dealing with something that is very UK specific, Brexit will only effect you if the economy goes bust.

If you are selling a world-wide product, the Internet means Brexit is irrelevant or will be in a couple of years.

But who wins the General Election is.

A May victory will probably mean things will carry on as before with a probability upwards of sixty-per-cent, as history teaches us, that in times of unexpected crisis that the UK just keeps calm and carries on.

Consider.

  • Corbyn and his cronies are so Consevative in their thinking.
  • Of all our industries, the NHS is probably our most Conservative.
  • A lot of innovation is disruptive, which destroys existing methods, restrictive practices and industries, but improves employment and quality of life.
  • Good ideas, make their inventors lots of money and they usually desire to keep it.

As an example, what would happen if a revolutionary product came along, that saved the NHS billions of pounds a year, but cut staff by 100,000?

It would never be introduced and if it was, the inventors would be driven out of the country by Corbyn’s proposed high taxation.

So after the disastrous Brexit, a Corbyn victory would probably be equally disastrous for innovation and innovators in the UK.

 

 

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

Conservative Manifesto On The Railways

The Conservative Manifesto says this on railways.

We will focus on creating extra capacity on the railways, which will ease overcrowding, bring new lines and stations, and improve existing routes – including for freight. We will increase services on our main lines and commuter routes, and launch new services to places which are poorly served or host major new housing projects.

This would seem a sensible policy and it is probably very little different to what has been done over the last fifteen years.

  • Quite a few new trains have been procured.
  • New rail and tram lines like the London Overground, the Borders Railway, the Manchester Metrolink, the Midland Metro and others have been opened.
  • Around seventy new stations have been opened.
  • Some lines have been electrified.
  • Some lines have been improved and resignalled.
  • Mechanisms have been developed , so that developers can help to provide stations for their new developments.

But there is one big difference.

A lot of quality trains are now being replaced by new or much better trains in the next few years.

Some of these were built this century and will have plenty of takers, whilst others despite being a lot older have already been earmarked for substantial refurbishment.

Remember that, just as our architects and builders are good at taking ruins and creating high quality dwellings, offices or commercial buildings, our engineers, designers and train building and refurbishment companies are good at taking trains of an advanced age and creating high quality trains and locomotives, as comfortable, reliable, safe and passenger, crew and operator-friendly, as new ones straight from the factory.

In What Train Is This?, I show a refurbished Great Western Railway Class 150 train. This picture shows the quality that can be achieved, by refurbishing a thirty-year-old Mark 3-based train.

Who would complain about this superb refurbishment, which I suspect was done by Great Western Railway’s depot at Laira in Plymouth?

This table summarises what has been planned and what trains are worth saving.

  • Forty of the hundred InterCity 125 sets are being converted into quality four and five carriage trains for ScotRail and Great Western Railway – Equivalent to forty four-car diesel trains.
  • Some InterCity 125 sets might end up as high-speed parcel trains. Although if Scotrail and Great Western Railway prove the Pocket Rocket four-car HST to be viable, other companies may copy the concept.
  • Will the 137 Class 150 trains be refurbished to the standard shown in the picture?
  • The 114 Class 156 trains can be refurbished to a high standard for local routes. – Perhaps half will go to new operators.
  • The twelve Class 170 trains were built in 1999 and will go to another oiperator – Probably equivalent to another six four-car diesel trains,
  • The 72 Class 317 trains are in surprisingly good condition for thirty-year-old trains. They are also 100 mph units and Mark 3-based. If Network Rail were good at electrification, they would find a home. They are seventy-two four-car electric trains.
  • The 86 Class 319 trains will find homes, with some converted into Class 319 Flex bi-mode trains. – Probably equivalent to another thirty four-car trains, of which some would be electric and some bi-mode.
  • The Class 90 locomotives will go to freight operators.
  • The 130 Mark 3 carriages will find a use, as they always do. Chiltern probably need some more.
  • The 100 Class 321 trains could be refurbished and go to another operator. They are 100 four-car electric trains .Some could even be converted to bi-modes.
  • The 10 Class 350 trains were built in 2013 and will go to another operator. They are 10 four-car electric trains.
  • The 26 Class 360 trains were built in 2002 and will go to another operator. They are twenty-one four-car and five five-car electric trains.
  • The 30 Class 379 trains were built in 2010 and will go to another operator. They are thirty four-car electric trains.

The totals in four-car trains are roughly  as follows.

  • Diesels and bi-mode – 100 – 50 already allocated
  • Electric – 170

These totals don’t include all the plans.

What will the new owners of these franchises do?

  • East Midlands
  • London Midland
  • Southeastern
  • South West Trains
  • Wales

Only South West Trains has been settled and it looks they’ll be releasing the new Class 707 trains.

Conclusion

It does look that there could be enough diesel trains.

  • There could be quite a number of Sprinters, Class 170, Class 172 and Class 185 trains, which after refurbishment could be providing excellent service for perhaps another twenty years.
  • The pride of lions in the room will be the shortened InterCity 125s, that Scotrail and First Great Western are creating and introducing in the next couple of years.
  • Will they have cubs or be imitated, by creating rakes of four or five Mark 3 coaches, with a Class 43, Class 68 or Class 88 locomotive at each end?
  • TransPennine Express have already ordered Mark 5 coaches and Class 68 locomotives to do the same thing.
  • A hybrid electric/diesel/battery locomotive could be used with the coaches. Hitachi created such a beast from a Class 43 some years ago and the Germans are experimenting.

Terry Miller should be awarded a posthumous knighthood, as his amazing stop-gap design that saved British Rail forty years ago, could be about to play an encore.

If there is a problem, it is that there are a lot of electric trains.

  • The more recent ones like Class 379, Class 350, Class 360 and Class 707 trains will probably find homes in places like Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Scotland.
  • Surely, Class 379 trains would be ideal on shorter distance services to Manchester Airport, as they were designed for Stansted services.
  • If the Class 319 Flex train is a success, expect to see more of these trains converted to 100 mph dual-voltage four-car bi-modes trains.

There is still a lot of electric trains to be allocated.

The Class 319 Flex train may be based on the forty-year-old Mark 3 coach design, but I believe it fits the specification of the train we need to expand our rail services.

  • 100 mph on either 25 KVAC overhead or 750 VDC third-rail electrification.
  • 90 mph on diesel.
  • Four-coaches meeting all regulations laid out to the operator’s required configuration.
  • Can work in eight and twelve car formations.
  • Ability to go on virtually all rail lines in the UK.
  • Proven reliable systems.
  • In service by the end of 2017.
  • Liked by the drivers
  • Fits the niche below the five-car Hitachi Class 800 bi-mode.

But above all there are numerous Class 319 trains available for conversion and they are affordable.

If the concept takes off in a big way, then the engineers would just move on to the Class 321 trains.

But there will still be a lot of quality electric trains left over.

They will have to be scrapped or exported, unless Network Rail can get its electrification work into line.

Perhaps we will see limited electrification between existing electrification and major cities and junctions, with services run by bi-mode, battery or diesel trains to jump the missing electrification.

Areas where this approach might work could include.

  • South Yorkshire between Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster, Sheffield and Rotherham.
  • North Yorkshire between Leeds, Skipton, Harrogate, Ripon and York.
  • East Yorkshire between Doncaster, Hull, York and Scarborough.
  • Blackpool, Preston, Blackburn, Clitheroe, Burnley, Colne and Hebden Bridge.
  • Southport, Preston, Kirkby, Wigan and Manchester.
  • Crewe, Chester, Wrexham, Shotton and the Wirral.
  • Darlington, Middlesbrough and Teesside.
  • Birmingham, Snow Hill and Camp Hill Lines
  • Edinburgh to Dundee and the branches to Leven and St. Andrews.

Engineering is the Science of the Possible, whereas Politics is Dreaming of the Impossible.

 

 

 

 

May 18, 2017 Posted by | Travel, World | , | Leave a comment

A Policy For Brexiteers

As to why people voted to Leave, I have found this academic document from NatCen, which is entitled Understanding the Leave vote.

The summary of their findings are as follows.

  • Identity politics played a role
  • Voters not persuaded by arguments about economic risks
  • ‘New voters’ leant towards Leave
  • The vote split across traditional party lines
  • Turnout favoured Leave
  • Leave brought together a broad coalition of voters

I think it is important that to do well in the General Election, parties must surely key in to the Brexiteers!

Wikipedia gives the Results of the United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016 and from that I have extracted all areas that voted over seventy percent for Brexit.

  • Ashfield – 70.5%
  • Barnsley East – 70.7%
  • Bolsover – 70.8%
  • Boston And Skegness – 74.9%
  • Castle Point – 72.7%
  • Clacton – 70.0%
  • Doncaster North – 72.0%
  • Dudley North – 71.4%
  • Dudley South – 70.2%
  • Great Grimsby – 71.4%
  • Great Yarmouth – 71.5%
  • Kingston-upon-Hull East – 72.6%
  • Mansfield – 70.9%
  • South Basildon And East Thurrock – 73.0%
  • South Holland And The Deepings – 71.1%
  • Stoke-on-Trent North – 72.1%
  • Stoke-on-Trent South – 70.7%
  • Walsall North – 74.2%

By comparison, these cities voted for over sixty percent for Brexit.

  • Kingston-upon-Hull – 67.6%
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 69.4%
  • Sunderland – 61.3%
  • Wakefield – 66.4%
  • Wolverhampton – 62.6%

It is an interesting set of statistics, with most of the areas not having the best of economic prospects

So far none of the leaks and policies from the various parties seem to be aimed at the areas of the UK, where there was a strong Leave vote.

Those that voted to Leave probably did so for a variety of reasons, but if you look at many with a high proportion of Brexiteers, they are areas with not the best economic circumstances.

I haven’t gone through all the constituencies, but I will, but several feature in A Look At New Station Projects, where I looled at all proposed projects.

In January 2017, I wrote Government Focuses On New Stations And Trains and I just wonder, if we will see a substantial New Stations Fund from the Conservatives, so that some of these places get better connections to where there is work, housing, education, leisure or opportunities.

It seems £10million, buys a reasonable station, so £100million a year would over the life of a parliament create up to fifty stations, especially if they built them like Ilkeston station in under a year.

I will now look at the individual constituencies.

Ashfield

Ashfield is based on the towns of Sutton-in-Ashfield and Kirkby-in-Ashfield, both have which have stations on the Robin Hood Line.

Plans exist to develop this line along existing freight routes in good condition with perhaps two or three simple stations. Add in some better trains and make the frequency two trains per hour (tph) seven days a week and it could have a large positive effect.

Barnsley East

Barnsley East is centred on the town of Wombwell.

Wombwell station is on these two lines.

Both lines go through Barnsley.

Both lines are in good condition, but the trains are dreadful. Northern will be replacing these with better rolling stock, with the eventual aim of having new Class 195 trains in service by 2020.

If you wanted to give the area a quick fix, you could send in the Class 319 Flex trains at the end of this year.

Bolsover

Bolsover is centred on the town of Bolsover.

There are vague plans to link Bolsover to the rail network using the partly mothballed Doe Lea Line, but nothing concrete. Wikipedia says this.

The Doe Lea line south from Seymour Junction to Bolsover has been mothballed as it runs through the new Markham Vale Enterprise Zone at M1 Junction 29A. It is hoped that someone will invest in this infrastructure to create road-rail interchange facilities.

I can find no reference to any progress.

Note that Bolsover’s MP is left-wing Labour veteran; Dennis Skinner.

Boston And Skegness

Boston And Skegness is a rural constituency in South incolnshire.

The Poacher Line links Skegness and Boston to Nottingham via Sleaford and Grantham.

There is an approximately hourly service along the line, using Class 156 trains and Class 158 trains, but the line probably needs two tph, with good connections to the Peterborough to Lincoln Line at Sleaford.

Castle Point

Castle Point is in South |East Essex.

The railways in this area are generally good, but c2c has expansion and fleet renewal plans.

Clacton

Clacton is in North East Essex.

The railways in this area are gebnerally good, but Greater Anglia have expansion and fleet renewal plans.

Doncaster North

Doncaster North is in South Yorkshire.

The railways in this area suffer because of bad rolling stock and not being electrified.

Note that Doncaster North’s MP is Ed Milliband.

New diesel or bi-mode trains between Doncaster and Sheffield via Rotherham would make a great difference.

If you wanted to give Doncaster North a quick fix, you could send in the Class 319 Flex trains at the end of this year.

Dudley North And Dudley South

Dudley North and Dudley South are the two constituencies for Dudley.

The Wednesbury – Merry Hill Extension of the Midland Metro, is planned to connect Dudley to Birmingham, Wolverhampton and the Merry Hill area.

Great Grimsby

Great Grimsby is centred on Grimsby.

Grimbsy Town station doesn’t receive the best of services. Changes are happening according to Wikipedia.

Great North Eastern Railway had put forward proposals in 2014 to create a rail link between Cleethorpes and London Kings Cross, calling at Grimsby Town, Habrough, Scunthorpe and Doncaster, arriving at a new modern Kings Cross station. This service would have been introduced by December 2017 if Alliance Rail’s plans had been accepted by the Office of Rail Regulation and would create the first direct link to London since 1986. In May 2016, it was announced by the ORR that GNER had been refused permission to operate these services.

In October 2017, services between Cleethorpes and Barton-on-Humber will be transferred to East Midlands Trains – the only remaining Northern operated service left at Grimsby thereafter will be the Saturdays-only one between Sheffield and Cleethorpes via Brigg.

Like most of Lincolnshire, improvement is needed.

Great Yarmouth

Great Yarmouth is at the Eastern side of Norfolk.

The railways in this area are gebnerally good, but trains are infrequent.

Greater Anglia have expansion and fleet renewal plans, with some new infrastructure from Network Rail.

If you wanted to give Great Yarmouth a quick fix, you could send in the Class 319 Flex trains at the end of this year.

Kingston-upon-Hull East

Kingston-upon-Hull East is the Eastern side of Kingston-upon-Hull.

For one of the major cities in the UK, Hull has once of the worst train services.

New trains and the development of the existing lines with perhaps electrification to the East Coast Main Line could give the area improvement.

Mansfield

Mansfield is in North Nottinghamshire.

Mansfield station is on the Robin Hood Line.

Plans exist to develop this line along existing freight routes in good condition with perhaps two or three simple stations. Add in some better trains and make the frequency two trains per hour (tph) seven days a week and it could have a large positive effect.

South Basildon And East Thurrock

South Basildon And East Thurrock is in South Essex.

The railways in this area are generally good, but c2c has expansion and fleet renewal plans.

South Holland And The Deepings

South Holland And The Deepings is another Lincolnshire constituency.

The Peterborough to Lincoln Line and the Poacher Line cross at Sleaford station, but passenger trains are elderly and infrequent.

Stoke-on-Trent South

Stoke-on-Trent South is one of the constituencies in the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

Reading the Wikipedia entry for Stoke-on-Trent station, you get the impression, that train companies have dealt Stoke a bad hand in recent times.

I have no doubt that if Stoke were in France or Germany, there would be a tram or light rail system i the city.

Walsall North

Walsall North is a constituency in the North of the West Midlands.

Walsall station is on the Chase Line between Birmingham and Rugeley.

The line is being fully-electrified, but Network Rail are badly suffering from the E-word.

If you wanted to give Walsall a quick fix, you could send in the Class 319 Flex trains at the end of this year.

Summing Up The Brexit Areas

I think that the rail industry and the politicians who control them have let down some of these constituencies.

The electrification of the Chase Line is a classic Network Rail failure, possibly cheered on by a nimby MP, actually objecting to a faster rail service.

Other areas like South Yorkshire, North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, need plans to widen the benefits of good public transport. Interestingly, all of these areas have good freight lines, often going through the sites of closed and much-needed stations.

I will ignore Essex in this analysis, as the county is getting improvement and the good people of the County, are just following their usual independent line.

If I can be criticised, it is that I have drawn my cut-off limits too high.

Go further down the list and you can add more constituencies to the South Yorks, North Notts, Lincoln area, which all scored nearly 70%.

  • Bassetlaw
  • Cleethorpes
  • Don Valley
  • Rotherham
  • Scunthorpe
  • Wentworth and Dearne

A lot more Essex and East London constituencies creep in as do a few in the West Midlands.

Conclusion

It is surprising how many of these depressed Brexit areas have a poor train service and probably bad bus services too. If you haven’t got a car, then you just vegetate and fade away.

Perhaps, improvement of our secondary rail routes, with more trains and stations, should be given a high priority.

May 16, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | 7 Comments

You Need Timing!

As the song says, and any good sportsman will tell you, timing is all important!

When we created Artemis, what helped us to be successful was a growth in large projects around the UK and the alternative methods of large mainframe computers, needed more space and a lot more money to do the same job.

We did to the Project Management industry, what Issigonis did to the UK car market with the Mini, Apple did to the music industry and Dyson did for vacuum cleaners, by launching the right product at the right time.

Because of the UK Electoral System, Theresa May was able to start the 2017 General Election campaign at a time convenient to the Conservative Party and its resources.

I think she chose well, when she announced the election on April 18th, as the organisation was already in place for the Local Elections on May 4th. Building a team is surely one of the major costs of fighting an election, so the costs of fighting the General Election can be shared.

This double election will also save costs for other parties, but are their finances in a robust enough state to fight two elections close together? Especially, when they were only planning for one election!

Theresa May’s manifesto could have been planned to be a very easy-to-write document, as she must have been working out policies with her cabinet since she became Prime Minister last Summer, many of which would have been implemented with or without the General Election.

But then she had the luck, that someone by accident or design, leaked the Manifesto, written by the Corbynistas.

This has enabled the Conservatives to wait to disclose their Manifesto last, just releasing the odd morsel here and there.

Policies like housing have been outlined, but they are by no means complete.

The big surprises if there are any, will be disclosed when the manifesto is finally launched!

How many times have your football team lost or won by a late goal?

 

May 16, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment