The Anonymous Widower

The Purfleet Ro-Ro Terminal

This article on the BBC is entitled Essex Lorry Deaths: 39 Found Dead Were Chinese Nationals.

The tragedy has got me wondering, where did the lorry enter the UK.

So I drew this Google Map of Purfleet.

Note.

  1. The c2c rail line between Fenchurch Street and Southend via Grays, that runs West-East across the top of the map.
  2. The Channel Tunnel Rail Link runs diagonally across the corner of the map.
  3. The approach roads to the Dartford Crossing running North-South at the East of the map.

The Purfleet Ro-Ro Terminal lies to the South-west of these railways and road, with piers for the ships strewtching out into the River Thames.

If you enlarge the map by clickjing on it, you’ll see rows of trailers parked ready to cross the Channel or having just arrived.

You canm also see it from Eurostar and other high speed trains or when going South on the Dartford Bridge.

Immigration

Illegal or legal, there is always a lot of strong views about immgration.

  • In Did The Tailor Of Bexley Come From Koningsberg?, I discuss how my paternal great-great-great-grandfather came to the UK from Konigsberg in Germany, which is now Kaliningrad in Russia!!
  • On my mother’s side my family were French Huguenot and probably came over some decades earlier.

So I tend to have a variety of views about immigration depending on the point being discussed.

  • For instance, is it right to deny those who were persecuted like my ancestors for religious reasons, the right to come to the UK. I’d be a hypocrite.
  • On the other hand, those who want t come for criminal reasons should be turned away.

The Chinese, a number of whom perished in the Purfleet trgedy are a difficult group to think about. China is a place, where I would not want to live and if I had the money to get out, I would want to leave, as many have over the years. Twenty years ago, I met a Chinese lady of my age, who’d escaped by swimming into Hog Kong.

Darwin talked of natural selection and in some way immigration is natural selection at work.

The intelligent, ambitious and resourceful ones, are the immigrants who tend to get to their preferred destination. The ones who lack these character traits either stay put or don’t make it.

I often think of my Jewish great-great-grandfather, who at eighteen had just qualified as a tailor after serving his apprenticeship. The law in the City was that if you were a Jewish male of eighteen and not one of the privileged families you had to leave.

So he jumped on a ship and ended up Bexley. No doubt, being a tailor, he was able to find a small space for his tools.

I certainly, think I inherited some of his good genes along with those for coeliac disease.

But was my ancestor any different to the skilled Iraqis, Brazilians or Ethiopians today?

 

 

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Thalys-Eurostar Merger Planned Under Green Speed Initiative

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Railway Gazette.

This is the first paragraph.

SNCF, SNCB and the Patina Rail investment vehicle announced on September 27 their intention to combine the Eurostar and Thalys high speed rail operations, reporting that outline proposals were being presented to their respective boards.

Eurostar runs or has ambition to run these services.

  • London and Paris Nord via Calais and Lille
  • London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • London and Bordeaux via Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Tours
  • London and Amsterdam via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • London and Frankfurt via Calais, Lille, Brussels, Liege, Aachen and Cologne.
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Thalys runs these services.

  • Paris Nord and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • Paris Nord and Cologne via Brussels, Liege and Aachen.
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam via Brussels, Antwerp, Ritterdam and Schipol Airport
  • In Winter services run to skiing resorts.
  • In Summer services run to the sun.

Eurostar and Thalys seem to have a good fit of routes.

  • Both have two Northern terminals; Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Both serve Schipol Airport
  • Both serve Brussels Midi, which is in the city centre.
  • Both serve Paris Nord, which is a large well-connected station just to the North of the city centre.
  • Both serve Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, which is in Disneyland Paris, has a connect to Charles de Gaulle airport and is a major hub for French TGV services.
  • Both have winter and summer holiday services.

You could almost consider the combined networks to be the following.

  • A high-frequency Paris and Brussels service.
  • Northern branches to Amsterdam and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • A branch to London via Lille, Calais and the Channel Tunnel.
  • A Southern branch to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy for Disneyland Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport and onward travel to much of France.

It’s all very simple really and as they say Simple is Efficient.

A few thoughts.

London And Amsterdam Services

As an example, suppose you are going from London to Amsterdam at the present time..

  • There are three direct services taking around four hours.
  • There are four services with a change at Brusseks Midi to Thalys taking ten minutes short of five hours.

You could  catch a direct train, but sometimes, you might have to change at Brussels Midi.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that has been done in London.

Going from Amsterdam to London, services are as follows.

  • There seems to be eight daily services, taking ten minutes short of five hours.
  • They also seem to be very heavily booked.

There is no problem with immigration control, as that is done in a forty-five minute stopover in Brussels.

Experienced travellers, and some following a more relaxed schedule, might appreciate the stopover in Brussels, but most travellers would prefer a direct service through Brussels.

I suspect too that Eurostar or the future joint operator would prefer direct services.

  • It would increase capacity between Brussels and Amsterdam via Antwerp, Rotterdam and Schipol Airport.
  • It would increase domestic capacity.
  • The organisation of the trains and onboard staff would surely be easier.

The only problem, is doing the immigration control on the journey to London.

Solutions have been suggested, where Amsterdam and London services are two half trains; one for domestic passengers and one for those going to London, but I’m sure there is a solution out there.

London And Cologne Or Frankfurt Services

The same rules will apply.

Going out will be easy, but coming back will probably need a change of train at Brussels.

Was There A German Solution?

Some years ago, I remember reading that Deurche Bahn were intending to run services from Amsterdam and Cologne to London, where the two trains divided and combined at Brussels.

Using current Thalys and Eurostar times and assuming a fifteen minute stop at Brussels, would probably have meant these times.

  • London to Amsterdam – four hours and thirty minutes.
  • London to Cologne – four hours and twenty minutes.
  • London to Frankfurt- five hours and forty minutes.

Note.

  1. Amsterdam and Cologne services are fairly similar times, which must improve the utilisation of the trains.
  2. Like Amsterdam, the station in Cologne is in the heart of the historic city.
  3. You can get a train to virtually anywhere in Germany from Cologne. But note that Berlin will be a six-hour journey.

As the London to Amsterdam service has been successful, I’m sure London to Cologne would attract passengers.

Were the Germans going to organise Amsterdam and Cologne services, like this?

  • Each service could be a double-train, which could be joined and split quickly, as some operators do.
  • This train would meet all the Channel Tunnel regulations.
  • Going out from London, the double-train would arrive in Brussels and split with one train going to Amsterdam and the other to Cologne.
  • Going into London,, the two trains would join at Brussels and be just another Brussels to London service.

But as with the Amsterdam service, the major problem is immigration control.

There is also the problem of utilising the spare capacity North of Brussels for inbound services to London, which could increase the cash-flow generated by the services.

Or were the Germans thinking in a more innovative manner?

I do wonder if using double trains from Amsterdam and Cologne, with one train for London and the other for Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy could have been in the German’s minds.

With some creative joining amd splitting in a long platform at Brussels Midi, could it be made to work?

If Eurostar and Thalys were two parts of the same operator, I suspect that it is more likely that a service pattern will be found, that delivers the following.

  • More direct services between London and Amsterdam and Cologne.
  • Extra capacity between Amsterdam and Cologne and Paris and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.
  • More efficient utilisation of trains and oboard staff.

It would surely attract more passengers.

Brussels Midi

Brussels Midi station can be considered to be a prototype for the ideal station on both the main network and the London branch.

It will have to do the following.

  • Handle through services between Landon and Amsterdam and London and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Terminate some services between London and Brussels.
  • Allow local passengers to use through services to and from London to access other stations on the route.
  • Handle through services between Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Amsterdam and Paris or Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Cologne or Frankfurt.
  • Allow Passengers to and from London to use the other services.
  • Handle immigration for passengers to and from London.
  • Allow a passenger from London to connect to any onward services at the station.
  • Allow a passenger to London to arrive on any train and after checking through immigration catch the train to London.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

It’s complicated, but I suspect that it’s more of an architectural and train design problem than anything else.

Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

If Brussels Midi can be made to work efficiently, the same thing can be organised at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • It is very close to Disneyland Paris.
  • It has good connection to Charles-de-Gaulle Airport
  • There are ten TGV services to other parts of France.
  • There are two Oiugo low cost high-speed services to other parts of France.
  • There are also some international services.
  • The station has full UK Border Control.

Could the plan be to develop this hub close to the airport, with train services to destinations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Spain, Switzerland, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom?

London To Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy

Eurostar already has direct services between London and Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy.

  • Some services going to destinations further South use this route.
  • London to Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy takes two hours forty-nine minutes.

Will the proposed London and Bordeaux service stop at Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy?

  • This would give Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy, will all its connections and attractions another service.
  • If the service stopped at Lille Europe, this would double the High Speed service between Lille and Bordeaux.

Could it be that the London and Bordeaux service will also improve internal French High Speed services?

If SNCF control Eurostar, Thalys and the French TGVs, this must give scope for the services to compliment each other and run economically.

The UK Immigration Control Problem

I can see UK Immigration Control being centred on the following stations.

  • Brussels Midi
  • Lille Europe
  • Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy
  • Paris Nord

These would work as they do now.

Outbound services are not a problem, as it is all handled in London. I have travelled from London to Amsterdam a couple of times and notice how seats vacated in Brussels are used by other passengers between Brussels and The Netherlands.

I believe that it would be possible to develop an efficient system to handle incoming passengers to the UK.

Consider the following.

  • Passengers to and from the UK could be asked for passport details when checking in on-line.
  • Passengers for the UK would use an automatic passport gate, as is common at airports and on Eurostar.
  • Passengers for the UK would sit in a separate part of the train, isolated from the domestic passengers, except in an emergency.
  • If a train stopped at say Marne-la-Vallée–Chessy and Lille Europe, UK Border Force could check passengers on the train between these two stations.

These and other ideas can surely be developed.into a system that would satisfy the most xenophobic of polticians and their supporters.

Conclusion

This proposed merger could be good for High Speed rail in Europe and the UK.

The French government also hopes it could be good for France.

 

 

 

September 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 6 Comments

High Speed Two And Brexit

This article on the BBC, is entitled HS2: High-Speed Line Cost ‘could Rise By £30bn’.

Brexiteers like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have said in the past, that they are minded to cancel the project.

But surely Boris and Nigel believe that we’ll all be better off under Brexit, so we will have the money for the NHS, kicking the foreigners out of the UK, building a wall to stop the emigrants walking across the Irish Border and High Speed Two.

They can’t have it both ways!

Or is it that both wouldn’t be seen dead on a train?

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Irony Of Brexit

According to Wikipedia, the third of Newton’s Laws of Motion, states this.

When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.

It doesn’t just apply to mechanics, but to life in general.

If a Government introduces a policy that the electorate don’t like, then the electorate reacts.

We have had marches against the Poll Tax, the War in Iraq and Universal Credit in recent decades.

At least in the UK, protests don’t get as violent as they do in some countries like France.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen a number of illegal immigrants arrive in this country in small boats sailing across the English Channel.

People aren’t stupid and these mainly Iranian nationals, are thinking that after the March 2019, it will be more or less impossible to get into the UK.

So their reaction is to cross the Channel now!

The smugglers react in the obvious way, by buying boats capable of making the journey.

In The Times today, there is an news story about an English smuggler buying a boat from a Frenchman called Pierre.

  • All the legal details are carried out.
  • Money changed hands (probably literally!)
  • The Englishman removed the boat.

The Englishman also said he’d come back later for the trailer, but never did. Surprise Surprise! He wouldn’t need it would he!

We have the irony, that the electorate of the UK voted for Brexit partly to keep foreigners and especially those not like them out of the UK.

But because of the laws of action and reaction, they will actually increase the number of immigrants, as we’re seeing in the Channel.

 

December 29, 2018 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

Trump’s Executive Order: Amateur Hour At The White House?

The title of this post is the title of this article on the BBC.

The article compares President Bush’s reaction to Hurricane Katrina, with Trumkopf’s immigration executive order.

It says this.

History will judge the long-term impact of Mr Trump’s Friday afternoon immigration order, but his early praise for its implementation will not easily be forgotten.

I don’t think we’ll even need to wait until the history is long enough to judge.

I suspect the BBC article will be denounced as fake news.

But I do wonder, if his immigration policy will be good for the nice holiday places to visit in the rest of the world.

If say, you were thinking of going to Florida for a holiday, will you now be thinking about Greece or Spain?

 

January 30, 2017 Posted by | News, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Disappointing Cologne

Cologne and its station disappointed me.

I was hungry and the hotel wasn’t exactly brimming with gluten-free food options. Or guests for that matter.

In fact, the whole city centre was dead.

Was everybody tucked up in bed watching the vEurovision Song Contest or because of the attacks in the city centre in the New Year, does everybody not go there any more.

In the end, I got supper in an Argentinian steak house, where the food was a lot better than the service.

In the morning, I didn’t have a ticket, so I arrived at the station a bit early, only to find that the machines didn’t seem to see the ticket I wanted and the ticket office wasn’t open.

It was a repeat of the customer service of the night before.

There are a couple of things to note in the pictures.

  • I had to go through all the rigmarole of getting a number to buy a ticket.
  • I had masses of paper for my ticket compared to what I get in the UK.
  • Comfortable seats were thin on the ground.
  • There was a smoking area on the platform.
  • Lots of trains seemed to be locomotive-hauled.

Eventually, I arrived in Brussels with plenty of time to spare.

But surely the biggest disappointment about Cologne is why the Germans haven’t developed it as a gateway for Cross-Channel passengers.

Consider.

  • Cologne has very good connections to major German cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich, which are much better than those from Brussels or Paris.
  • A lot of visitors to Germany from the UK, may be going to Cologne anyway, so why force them to change trains in Brussels?
  • According to the Demographics of Cologne, the city has around a million inhabitants and is in a region of three million.
  • Cologne is about the same size as Birmingham, Glasgow or Liverpool/Manchester, so it could probably sustain a direct service.
  • If you need to waste an hour or so in Cologne, whilst changing trains, you are by the cathedral and the Rhine.
  • Cologne to London by train must be around four hours, which must be very competitive with flying.
  • A Sleeper train between London and Cologne would probably work. I’d use it!

I think the Germans can’t be bothered, as they’d have more passengers to cater for, who knew about customer service.

I know there’s the problem of Customs and Immigration, but if Deutsche Bahn were serious about running a service, I’m sure the problems are solvable.

I’ve been through small airports where excellent, efficient and probably very thorough systems had been setup to encourage traffic.

The problem could of course be the UK Border Force, who in my experience don’t seem to be the best in the world.

But then, the world needs to develop fast, efficient, automatic border checks, that I’m certain if we got right, would actually discourage illegal immigration.

As it is, we set up such weak checks, that they encourage criminals to encourage and fleece, those that might want to come to countries, where work might be available.

 

May 15, 2016 Posted by | Transport, World | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Should We Increase Rail Freight To Avoid Calais And The Migrants?

The BBC has quoted the French Police Chief at Calais as saying that the number of trucks trying to use the ferries and Eurotunnel has dropped.

Is this because it’s now the Summer holidays and the drivers have flown to their holidays or could it be that at last the needs of freight transport between the UK and Europe are being increasingly fulfilled by the obvious alternative, that hopefully would be totally useless to the migrants? – Direct freight trains between UK and Europe.

I wrote on this in December 2014 calling the post, Would Reorganising Cross-Channel Freight Cut Illegal Migration?

I stand by what I said then.

You have to remember, that a lot of freight flows between the UK and Europe are large and predicable. This is a few freight categories that I know go by rail over the channel.

  1. Car components including complete engines for Ford and BMW.
  2. Complete vehicles. Four years ago, you didn’t see car trains on the Gospel Oak to Barking and North London Lines, but now they are quite common.
  3. Fresh fruit from Spain to the UK.
  4. Steel products for Tata Group between Wales and The Netherlands

Are cargoes like Scottish fish and meat from all parts of the UK something that will be going on that list? These would only need refrigerated containers, that you see all over the railways. With meat too, there are no welfare issues and as a beef farmer once told me, dead carcasses pack three times better in a refrigerated truck, than livestock.

 

I have also found this informative article on the DB Schenker web site. It isn’t dated unfortunately, but it makes a lot of general points. This is the first two paragraphs.

When the Channel Tunnel between Calais in northern France and Folkstone on the southeastern coast of England opened in 1995, many forecasted a bright future for rail freight transport between Great Britain and continental Europe. An enormous amount of effort and money went into the construction of the two-track rail tunnel. The high hopes for the groundbreaking project have not yet been met, however. In fact, only 1.1 million metric tons of freight was transported by rail via the tunnel under the English Channel in 2010, less than before the 50-km tunnel opened.

High prices in particular have prevented rail freight transport from making greater use of the tunnel. Competition between freight forwarders that use the truck shuttle has kept prices in check. Eurotunnel charges a higher, constant price for block trains, however, and as a result, only a few providers can afford the transfer.

The last part in particular blames the high charges and the charging method  of Eurotunnel. Governments should apply pressure here.

The article does talk about problems with the UK loading gauge, which hopefully are being fully addressed now.

At least thought freight trains between the UK and Europe can now get from Barking in East London to virtually anywhere in Europe.

Perhaps, the UK Government should use taxation and tax relief to encourage more freight flows across the Channel to go on freight trains.

The losers would be UK haulage firms and drivers, but they can’t find Cross-Channel trade very profitable and stress-free at the moment.

August 1, 2015 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

The Two Big Election Issues The Politicians Aren’t Addressing

The tragedy unfolding off the Libya coast, where hundreds are dying every day as they try to get to Europe is impossible to solve.

We can’t say it’s an Italian problem and put our heads in the sand, as most politicians seem to be doing. Especially, as it seems most of the migrants want to get to Northern Europe and often the UK, where the jobs are.

Suppose we just said that none of these migrants would be let into the UK, as probably the Ukippers would say. How long would it be before the rest of Europe applied policies to get us to accept our fair share?

If on the other hand, we took a selective number, then this would signal to those organising the trade, that there was a good chance you may get residence in the UK.

I haven’t a clue what you do! And neither have the politicians!

I do have some sympathy though for the migrants as three hundred years ago, my two closest male lines; one Jewish and one Huguenot, were welcomed in this country, after escaping from persecution. One was probably a tailor and the other was an engraver, so all they brought was their brains and skills. I don’t know about the Huguenot, but the Jew was probably single and converted to Christianity within a few years, so he could find a lady and get married. My two close female lines are both internal migrants from Devon and Northants. London has always been a magnet for migrants, so nothing has changed.

There is also the problem of Greece going bust, which could happen before our General Election.

It could be argued that it is nothing to do with us, as we’re outside the Euro zone!

But then we have a strong economy and a country where there are a lot of Greeks.

Certainly, if I was a Greek engineer living in Athens with a cousin in London, my savings would have been long gone.

I do wonder how much of the Greek bailout money ended up safely invested outside of Greece.

So we may not lose money, but we are probably going to suffer some collateral damage. Especially, if the various financial institutions want their money back!

It will not be as serious a problem as the Libyan migrants, but where are the politicians heads on this one?

Deep in the sand!

April 20, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , , | 1 Comment

Would Reorganising Cross-Channel Freight Cut Illegal Migration?

People can argue about the advantages and disadvantages of migration into the UK.

But in my view one of the reasons for the high level of illegal immigration into the UK, is that it is a rich source of income for criminal gangs and probably money lenders in countries like Syria, Ethiopia and Somalia, which transport these migrants to the French ports. Never underestimate the role of money-lenders in these sort of enterprises!

Once in the ports, they probably only have reliable way to get into the UK and that is to sneak or be welcomed aboard a truck. I have only heard very occasionally of an illegal immigrant trying to get into the UK in someone’s car.

So could we reorganise cross-channel freight to cut illegal migration?

It would be a good exercise to analyse truck movements through the Channel Tunnel and see how many could be replaced by a direct rail container transfer. It could be argued that jumping on to a train going at over a hundred kilometres per hour is not easy and this alone would cut the number who try to enter the UK illegally.

Could we also run the truck-shuttles from a dedicated truck terminal at a remote location perhaps fifty kilometres from the tunnel itself? I’ve heard drivers complain of bad facilities and not being able to stop before the tunnel, so this could be a lot better for the drivers. I’m sure the French have a really isolated spot close to the autoroutes. If someone thought about this sort of terminal, it could be made into a very secure and comfortable facility.

Obviously, we’d need a similar facility on the UK side! Manston?

December 21, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , | 1 Comment

The Invisible Immigrants

There is a lot of debate about immigration, but an incident last night got me thinking.

I was waiting to go in to see a performance of the Grand Hotel Budapest last night in the Barbican, when I got chatting to a lady sitting next to me.

She was speaking immaculate English, but I got the impression that she wasn’t from London. So I asked where she was from and was rather surprised she came from Austria.

A few weeks ago, I got talking to a well-dressed black guy on a train, who again spoke perfect English, but was surprised to find that he had been born and brought up in Dusseldorf in Germany. He was a temporary visitor and was going home for the weekend, but you wouldn’t have said immigrant immediately, although you might have thought he was a child of immigrants.

I could quote lots of examples over the years, but these days spotting immigrants is not always easy, as many do not follow the supposed stereotype.

Many immigrants like my American fitness trainer or my Australian physio, would not be picked out as immigrants say on the bus or train.

I do wonder how this all effects our views on immigration.

I also wonder, if Britons don’t go and work in say Germany or Sweden, as much as their natives might come here,  because our language skills are so atrocious.

March 29, 2014 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments