Transport

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Cheap trains save energy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 5:54am in

Who knew? But at least we now have evidence. Apparently German Railways have stated: 52 million of the tickets have been sold, with one in ten buyers ditching at least one of their daily auto [ie car] trips. Additionally: Germany’s three-month experiment with super-cheap public transport reduced carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to powering about 350,000... Read more

British privatised rail…

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 1:42am in

Is actually almost entirely nationalised but just not British. This two minute video certainly imparts the stupidities of ideological Conservatism rather effectively:... Read more

NSW Premier Personally Apologises To John Barilaro For Any Inconvenience Caused By The Train Strikes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/08/2022 - 9:28am in

NSW Premier (for now) Dominick Perrotet has issued a personal apology to the State’s number 1 citizen John Barilaro over any inconvenience that today’s train strikes may have had on him or his family.

”The Transport Union really needs to start thinking about the people of NSW, namely John Barilaro,” said the NSW Premier. ”Poor John, he’s stuck in Sydney instead of New York and now he might have to wait for a train.”

”I’m sure the people of NSW won’t mind us chartering a helicopter for John or better yet a Learjet.”

When asked why the State was still suffering from crippling transport strikes, the Premier said: ”Well our transport Minister is on holiday, poor chap he only gets to take 6 or 7 holidays a year.”

”To the people of NSW, don’t worry, my Government will do all it can to make sure that we put the interests of John Barilaro first.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, John needs me to walk his dog and mow his lawn, must be off.”

Mark Williamson

www.twitter.com/MWChatShow

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In Sydney come and see us live September 29th and 30th tickets here: https://bit.ly/3bkEjtf

Shapps is thoroughly misleading again

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 01/08/2022 - 9:20pm in

And ASLEF is this time taking on the Transport Minister: Quite how or why Shapps thinks working on rest days should be compulsory is surely another archaic rule from even before 1919. Does he really think rest is not required? Rather, he actually needs to modernise his own thinking. Indeed, it is quite remarkable how... Read more

Flagship Levelling Up Project Won’t Materialise for Decades, Report Warns

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/07/2022 - 8:35pm in

Overcrowded, unreliable services look set to plague the north for some time to come, writes David Hencke

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The north of England will have to wait nearly 20 years to see the full benefit of one of the Government’s major ‘levelling up’ projects – the TransPennine electrification of rail services from Manchester to York – a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) revealed on Wednesday.

The report says the window for completing the £11.5 billion scheme is between 2036 and 2041 and that is without any further delays to the project. Voters were promised by David Cameron in 2011 that the line would be electrified by 2019 at a cost then of £289 million.

The report says that although the full route has now been planned, there are many unresolved challenges that have still to be sorted, including decisions on ordering rolling stock for the trains, complicated arrangements for construction works including the diversion of services and record inflation in the construction industry.

In the decade prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, passenger journeys provided by the two main train operators on the route increased from 106 million to 137 million, resulting in overcrowding. Work on the programme first started in 2015 but was paused as part of a cuts package by the-then Transport Secretary Chris Grayling.

Since 2017, the Department for Transport (DfT) has repeatedly altered the scope of the programme to meet differing ministerial priorities and budget constraints, the report says.

As a result, £190 million spent on developing programmes, as well as their design and project management, has been wasted.

“The department has not yet committed to funding the rolling stock needed to achieve the programme’s full benefits,” the report adds. “The upgraded route will require electric trains that are compatible with new digital signalling systems. Until funding is confirmed there is no certainty that rolling stock will be at the required level.”

The report also notes that, “It is not yet clear how the department and Network Rail will manage the cost of inflation. The department and Network Rail have not yet agreed how sharp rises in the cost of energy and materials will be funded. It is also not clear if Network Rail and supply chain contractors will be able to fully address labour shortages, which may also increase costs.”

Furthermore, passengers are not aware that planned upgrades are set to take place. “This creates a risk that passengers will switch to other forms of transport to avoid disruption during upgrade works and will not return in the long-term,” the report says.

The NAO says that Network Rail is developing its communications approach with train operators and plans a large marketing campaign for this autumn. It is also minimising the use of rail replacement bus services throughout the programme due to their unpopularity with passengers.

Ministers are hoping to convince voters of their commitment by completing two small schemes by December 2024 – the last date for the next general election.

This covers building diversionary routes prior to starting construction of the improved line – and the electrification of the line from Manchester Victoria to Stalybridge. Completion of this latter project depends on transferring electric trains from the West Midland Railways to Northern Rail, which has not yet been funded.

“Rail passengers in the north have contended with increasing over-crowding and delays for too long. It is good that plans for the TransPennine Route upgrade are now agreed, but there are still significant risks to the programme’s progress that could cause further disruption,” says Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO.

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Britain For Sale: Who is Profiting From Our Nation’s Infrastructure?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 20/07/2022 - 8:49pm in

Pete Syme investigates the countries and companies that are taking a slice of our national assets

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What do Thames Water, Heathrow Airport and the M6 Toll Road all have in common? It isn’t the set up to a punchline, but the sorry joke of the UK’s privatised infrastructure.

Under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, everything from airports to water companies were sold off to investors in the belief that it would boost efficiency and profits. But this has often come to the benefit of international conglomerates and authoritarian regimes. 

The sovereign wealth funds of Qatar and China own stakes in the likes of Heathrow Airport and Thames Water, as well as prominent icons like Harrods, the Shard, and the ‘Walkie Talkie’ in central London. Some 60% of the National Grid’s gas network is owned by a consortium which includes the Qatar Investment Authority.

The nations involved have gained political authority in the UK as a result, with the likes of Qatar and Saudi Arabia praised highly by domestic leaders.

When John Major introduced the private finance initiative (PFI) in 1992, it aimed to promote public-private partnerships, or PPPs. These contracts involve private companies funding government projects, often vital infrastructure like hospitals or roads, and then drawing profits from its users. The programme was further expanded when New Labour took power, introducing the controversial National Health Service (Private Finance) Act 1997. 

The initiative was discontinued in 2018, but the outsourcing of government work is now widespread – witnessed in particular during the pandemic, with at least £46.7 billion in contracts awarded to private-sector providers.

Perhaps the most controversial PPP in recent years is that of Hinkley Point C, a nuclear power station under construction in Somerset. One-third of the cost is being financed by the state-owned China General Nuclear Power Group. While the Government has spoken about ending its involvement, geopolitical tensions seem to have preventing this from happening so far.

China also has a stake in the Sizewell C nuclear station, but the Government is looking for new investors in order to force China out. The country’s involvement in British infrastructure has come under closer scrutiny after Huawei was banned from installing new 5G equipment in 2020. 

Byline Intelligence Team investigation also unearthed official Department for International Trade documents revealing the Government’s desire to encourage Saudi firms to invest in its flagship ‘levelling up’ agenda. Qatar, meanwhile, has already pledged its support – with the hereditary monarchy committing £10 billion in investment to the UK over the next five years.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss last year launched British International Investment, offering finance to developing countries, telling the Financial Times that Britain now offers “alternatives” to taking on “strings-attached debt from autocratic regimes”. Yet these same regimes are profiting from Britain’s own infrastructure.

The Profit Motive

I recently spoke to campaigners in London’s Docklands, fighting to stop the Silvertown tunnel. While west London has 11 river crossings for motor vehicles, the East End has just three, making the Blackwall tunnel one of the capital’s busiest roads.

Transport for London (TfL) hopes that Silvertown will alleviate this congestion, aiding the city’s climate strategy, but activists say that expanding capacity will only encourage more traffic – a phenomenon known as induced demand. This could introduce more pollution to the local area of Newham, which already has the country’s worst air quality, and is one of London’s most deprived boroughs.

The plan to keep traffic manageable is to introduce a toll at both Silvertown and Blackwall, which is currently free. In 2019, TfL awarded a design, build, finance and maintain contract for the tunnel to the RiverLinx consortium, a Special Purpose Vehicle set up for the project, as is the case in most PPPs. The Silvertown tunnel is expected to cost £2.2 billion in construction and maintenance, and TfL will repay the consortium using revenue from the tolls.

Aside from anything else, this means the infrastructure divide between east and west London will become even more pronounced, leaving London with just one free road crossing east of Tower Bridge. 

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Australian bank Macquarie is the consortium’s “lead equity sponsor and sole financial advisor”. But Macquarie has a history of infamous dealings in British infrastructure. The bank was nicknamed the ‘Vampire Kangaroo’ by British media, with the Sunday Times lambasting its “sprawling interests and ruthless profit taking”. Before Thames Water was sold to a consortium including the sovereign wealth funds of Abu Dhabi and China in 2012, Macquarie came under fire for its management of the country’s largest water services company. A BBC investigation found that Thames Water borrowed £2 billion, used for the benefit of Macquarie but leaving the company with the debt. This March, Macquarie led the purchase of 60% of the National Grid’s gas network. 

Macquarie was also named in the 2017 Paradise Papers. The documents originate from the law firm Appleby, which specialises in setting up companies in offshore tax havens. 

In 2006, its subsidiary Macquarie International Advisory Limited was incorporated in the Isle of Man, where the corporate tax rate is zero. The following year, a select committee investigating the firm’s management of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company said that Macquarie International Advisory was paid the majority of “significant” management charges, to the tune of £3.2 million.

Another entity registered at the bank’s London office is Macquarie Juweel Investor LP, which owns shares in a Cayman Islands company called Juweel Investors Limited. European Union documents show that Juweel is controlled by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, and manages a $900 million stake in American Express Global Business Travel. 

Macquarie declined to provide an on-the-record comment for this article.

The difficulty is that construction can rarely go ahead without the backing of private investors. The infamous Garden Bridge across the Thames and a pedestrian-cycle crossing at Rotherhithe were cancelled after budget difficulties, with private funding being either non-existent or inadequate. 

In Boris Johnson’s resignation speech, he argued that his Government’s “vast programme of investment in infrastructure” was “the biggest in a century”. The UK Infrastructure Bank, set up last June, has a £22 billion capacity to provide state loans for projects as part of the levelling up agenda, but we still see PPPs being used.

The Green Investment Bank set up by David Cameron had a similar philosophy – capable of investing money into eco projects. After five years, however, it was sold off to Macquarie for £2.3 billion, after then-Business Secretary Sajid Javid argued that it needed access to private capital.

Doug Parr of Greenpeace said that “selling a great British success story, which levered private money into eco-projects, to a controversial Australian bank known for asset-stripping, is a disaster”.

Macquarie combined the bank with its UK renewable energy investing business, claiming that the deal would create one of Europe’s largest teams of green energy investment specialists.

Meanwhile, the announced creation of Great British Railways last year was lauded as a sign of re-nationalisation for the country’s chaotic train infrastructure, ending the system of passenger rail franchising. But while the Government will set the timetables and collect fare revenue, private operators will still be contracted to run the trains. Indeed, the Government emphasised that “there will remain a substantial and often greater role for the private sector”. 

The private sector is now firmly embedded in British infrastructure development. And while Chinese involvement has raised concerns at the top level, other controversial firms and nations are welcomed with open arms. Geopolitical relationships, a lack of accountability and an unwillingness to spend public money on infrastructure ultimately mean that Britain is up for sale.

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RMT- further truths

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/07/2022 - 7:10am in

These are all truths that Labour should be telling – but it is – quite bizzarely left to the unions to do the job. I should also add that the RMT is not affiliated to the Labour Party (I’m not surprised): These are not just simple home truths, but actually challenge the disaster that is... Read more

The RMT think that the bankers have it

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/07/2022 - 6:57am in

This wonderful clip from the RMT’s Eddie Dempsey giving evidence to The Transport Select Committee suggests that all is not what it seems at Network Rail, which, of course, we are all told ‘must get more efficient’ … In fact, it is so efficient that it actually spends more on debt repayment than it does... Read more

These are the Most Effective Things You Can Do to Fight Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 06/07/2022 - 12:00am in

Climate researcher Max Callaghan explains how we can each help the effort to halt rising global temperatures

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Limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels requires reaching net zero emissions by the middle of this century. This means that, in less than three decades, we need to reverse more than a century of rising emissions and bring annual emissions down to near zero, while balancing out all remaining unavoidable emissions by actively removing carbon from the atmosphere.

To help speed this process as individuals, we’ve got to do everything we can to cut down our use of fossil fuels. But many people aren’t aware of the most effective ways to do this. Thankfully, the latest report by the UN climate change panel IPCC devotes a chapter to all the ways in which changes in people’s behaviour can accelerate the transition to net zero.

The chapter includes an analysis of 60 individual actions which can help fight climate change, building on research led by Diana Ivanova at the University of Leeds – and to which I contributed. We grouped these actions into three areas: avoiding consumption, shifting consumption and improving consumption (making it more efficient).

What to Avoid

By far the most effective things to avoid involve transport. Living without a car reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an average of two tonnes of CO₂ emissions per person per year, while avoiding a single long distance return flight cuts emissions by an average of 1.9 tonnes. That’s equivalent to driving a typical EU car more than 16,000km from Hamburg, Germany to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and back.

Since the vast majority of the world’s population do not fly at all – and of those who do, only a small percentage fly frequently – fliers can make very substantial reductions to their carbon footprints with each flight they avoid.

What to Shift

But living sustainably is not just about giving things up. Large reductions in emissions can be achieved by shifting to a different way of doing things. Because driving is so polluting, for example, shifting to public transport, walking or cycling can make an enormous change, with added benefits for your personal health and local air pollution levels.

Likewise, because of the high emissions associated with meat and dairy – particularly those produced by farming sheep and cows – shifting towards more sustainable diets can substantially reduce your carbon footprint. A totally vegan diet is the most effective way to do this, but sizeable savings can be made simply by switching from beef and lamb to pork and chicken.

What to Improve

Finally, the things we do already could be made more efficient by improving carbon efficiency at home: for example by using insulation and heat pumps, or producing your own renewable energy by installing solar panels. Switching from a combustion car to an electric one – ideally a battery EV, which generates much larger reductions in emissions than hybrid or fuel cell EVs – will make your car journeys more efficient. Plus, its effect on emissions will increase as time goes by and the amount of electricity generated by renewables grows.

In the race to net zero, every tonne of CO₂ counts. If more of us take even a few of these suggestions into account, we’re collectively more likely to be able to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the Paris climate agreement. Of course, these changes will need to be backed by major political action on sustainability at the same time.

If we’re to use less fossil fuel energy, the use of fossil fuels needs to be either restricted or made more expensive. The social consequences of this need to be carefully managed so that carbon pricing schemes can benefit people on lower incomes: which can happen if revenues are redistributed to take the financial burden off poorer households.

But there’s a whole lot more that governments could do to help people to live more sustainably, such as providing better, safer public transport and ‘active travel’ infrastructure (such as bike lanes and pedestrian zones) so that people have alternatives to driving and flying.

There’s no avoiding the fact that if political solutions are to address climate change with the urgency our global situation requires, these solutions will limit the extent to which we can indulge in carbon-intensive behaviours. More than anything, we must vote into power those prepared to make such tough decisions for the sake of our planet’s future.

Max Callaghan is a PhD student at the University of Leeds and this article was first published by The Conservation

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NSW Declared Most Livable State For Those Named John Barilaro

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 01/07/2022 - 8:00am in

Free Loader magazine has this week declared that the Australian state of NSW is the most livable state in the World for those with the name John Barilaro.

”If you are named John Barilaro then the state of NSW is the place to be,” declared Free Loader journalist Fee Lunch. ”I mean where else can a man prone to temper tantrums and no real qualifications waltz their way to deputy Premier and when that fails get offered a plum job in New York.”

”Sure, the New York thing fell through but you know something else will pop up soon for John. No need for him to ICAC himself.”

When asked why the likes of Barilaro seemingly had things handed to them on a silver platter, Free Loader journalist Fee Lunch said: ”Some are born with luck and others just happen to have a collection of compromising photos that help them get what they want.”

”Not sure which of the above describes John but I do know that he is an avid photographer.”

”Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go and meet with my publishers to try and find space in the magazine for a new column to be penned by John Barilaro.”

”Hopefully this will tide him over till a new position can be made up for him by Perrotet.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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