March 2007

30 March 2007
BMW drivers are people too
Patrick Crozier

But sometimes you wonder.  The good news is that the indicator problem looks like being sorted out.


(Hat-tip: Carpundit)


29 March 2007
I've been slow to comment on Transport 2000's* overcrowding survey but I will now even if all I've got to say is:
  • I do not believe that the worst overcrowding is away from London
  • If the 10th worst service (as they claim) really is only 45% over capacity then to all intents and purposes we've got overcrowding licked.
At this point I usually say something about fare control but you've heard it all before, so I won't bother.

*Yes, I know. There was a time when the 2000 bit sounded terribly futuristic. No, really.

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28 March 2007
How to go down the up escalator
Brian Micklethwait

Said Transport For London:

“This is a dangerous, stupid and irresponsible act that could have resulted in serious injury or death to not only the individual concerned, but other passengers.”

Quite so.  But: wow.

Although, I wouldn’t be “wow”-ing if I had been trundling up the up escalator, and that had come hurtling down straight into me.  Which wouldn’t have happened, because:

The film’s producer said other people were not in danger as friends of the stuntman, a Norwegian national, had warned passengers away.

Oh a Norwegian?  Why didn’t you say?  I love Norwegians.  Even when they ski.

My kind of train
Patrick Crozier


A missile train open day in St Petersburg.  From English Russia.

Satnav makes a splash
Brian Micklethwait

I have a vague notion that I first encountered this story on Channel 5’s Gadget Show, but I could be imagining that.  Anyway, what happened was that a Woman Driver’s satnav system told her to drive her Mercedes into a river, so she did.  I navigated – ha! - my way to this story, via engadget, which is always on the look out for new uses that people find for gadgets.

25 March 2007
French road safety video?
Patrick Crozier

ferrari in paris
Uploaded by buzzmanisindahouse

Via Theo Spark

24 March 2007
"Rail firms 'overcharge passengers'". So, some group sets out with the deliberate intention of catching out the train operators by asking for ticket-price quotes for journeys where a gazillion routes and fare combinations apply and - what do you know? - they succeed - although not to quite the same extent as they did last time this was tried.

Strange that in the days when Britain's rail network was much closer to a free market, the fare system was much simpler. Could it be that state-imposed fare control and franchising just might have added to the confusion?

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23 March 2007
Comfy bus watch - Google are ferrying a quarter of their staff to work on buses equipped with leather seats and wifi  …link
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22 March 2007
Save the planet: buy Hummers, scrap Priuses
Patrick Crozier

Samizdata’s Robert Clayton Dean points to the article here which points out that:

  1. Priuses aren’t as economical as you might think, and
  2. when you add in the energy involved in making them in the first place, each one - over the course of a lifetime - will use up more energy than a Humvee.

So if you accept the alleged energy = pollution = global warming = bad, equation then you really ought to swap.  But, what happens if you subscribe to the energy = pollution = global warming = good, equation?  Does that mean you have to trade-in the Humvee?

Tell us, Arnie, tell us.

21 March 2007
Lobbyists lobby politician shock
Brian Micklethwait

It’s fun to watch the rotting hulk of a bad government you never liked much finally sink beneath the waves, even if the next hulk that will heave into view will be just as unlikable.  So, I now regularly visit Guido and Iain Dale.  And Iain Dale is just now making much of a lobbying scandal that is now bubbling up from the stinking brine around Britain’s junior Transport Minister, a man called Ladyman.  I didn’t even know that Ladyman was any kind of transport minister, until this story erupted.  I knew of him, because he has a funny name, like some TV political sitcom writer invented but then discarded for being too obviously silly, but I didn’t know what he did.

Anyway, the story is that some lobbyists have been lobbying (three separate links there).  Something to do with planning permission for container ports.  Original Sunday Paper story last weekend here.

Meanwhile, it probably counts for rather more that Guido, who is now a political force in his own right, has placed his bet on Durkin being right about what causes Global Warming, with, as is his way, a piece of graphic trickery.

A (fake) Russian truck driver writes
Patrick Crozier


This photo of a Russian highway - almost makes you proud to be British doesn’t it? - inspired this comment over on English Russia:

I drive truck in Russia, and very true that roads in bad bad condition. Something must be done! Just last week, Igor truck hit pothole in this very road, and make me spill bottle of premium Soviet Vodka. Sure only 2 or 3 sips left in gallon container, but it principle of matter that anger Igor. If roads good, Igor not spill Vodka when driving at double speed limit, and if Igor not spill Vodka, probably not lose control of severely overloaded nuclear waste transport truck and crash into full Elementary school, and if truck not crash into school and spill contents, children not grow third eye on back. It make Igor mad, and children too, because now they glow green. To fix roads would solve many problem, prevent many vodka spills.

Na zdorovje!

I think he may be taking the mick.

20 March 2007
Make friends with other commuters on the Underground via the internet
Brian Micklethwait


The increasing success of social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook show they have an important place in the hearts of Britain’s residents. But this week Between the Lines was introduced to a site which may be one of the weirdest ever developed. aims to match up people who travel alone on London’s Underground and overground train systems, allowing long commutes to be more enjoyable than the time usually spent with someone else’s armpit stuck in your face.

Profiles can be personalised to include pictures of the commuter and information about their lifestyle, job, relationships, and journey habits.

Users can even search for someone leaving their station, for example High Barnet, and travelling to the same destination, let’s say East Finchley, at the same time as their commute.

But what if you get attached to someone nasty or mad, asks the next paragraph?  Well, that’s true.  Better to not make friends at all, with anybody.

Personally I think that OnTheSameTrack is a recipe for Underground hell, not so much for the people who do this, but for those who have to endure their armpits and their stupid babbling.

18 March 2007
Luxury A380
Brian Micklethwait

I featured a small Airbus A380 on my blog after I’d been in France and snapped it in a shop window, and Alan Little commented, promising a picture of a bigger A380 made of granite.  Here is that picture.

A380 googling revealed that there is another obvious-when-you-think-about-it way to think of the biggest passenger aircraft ever built.  Instead of bragging about how many human sardines you can cram into it, why not convert one into the world’s most luxuriously huge flying home?  (That’s not a carbon footprint.  This is a carbon footprint.)

Trouble is, because the A380 is selling so slowly, airports are reluctant to lengthen their runways.  Or maybe it’s the other way round.

It sounds like the owner of the A380 may be able to sympathize with Larry Ellison, the owner of the Rising Sun megayacht, it’s a shame to have the most fabulous creation in the world and have nowhere to park it.

Problems problems.

Strange transport at my place
Brian Micklethwait

Quite aside from my obsessive fascination with bridges, I regular feature transport matters at my personal blog, often in the form of the peculiar vehicles and transport methods I sometimes observe when wandering around London taking photos.  My two most recent recent transport-related postings have been one about people wearing bouncy boots, and one about a freight tricycle.  Tricycles to transport tourists around central London are a regular sight, but rarer are trikes used to deliver stuff, in this case, I think, meals.  Trikes?  Bouncy boots?  Does this all reflect the impact of the Congestion Charge?

And did I ever mention an earlier posting I did about a car covered in grass?  If I (or somebody else) did, please pardon the repetition.

Mobile phones on the London Underground
Brian Micklethwait

Says diamond geezer:

You know how wonderful it is that mobile phones don’t work on the Underground? The fact that you can hide away on a train where the office can’t ring you? The fact that you don’t have to listen to everyone else in your carriage droning on and on to their mates while you’re fifty feet under? Well, that peace and quiet is about to end.

A new system is now about to be tried out on the Waterloo and City line, and could be all over the Tube in 2009.

And then there’ll be no escape. Make the most of being incommunicado while the silence lasts.

I find people talking on the Tube infuriating, except when I feel the need to do it myself.  For starters they shout, to make themselves heard above the din of the regular din, imagining that their extra din won’t matter, what with all the din already.  But it does matter.  Screening out regular Tube din is easy, but screening out their particular and irregular din is not.

17 March 2007
How they do it in Hanoi
Patrick Crozier

Without an awful lot of signals apparently.

Café Hayek has others in a similar vein.

14 March 2007
A thousand new carriages
Patrick Crozier

I see that the government is set to spend £1bn on 1,000 extra “carriages” to ease overcrowding.  Groan. 

Groan, because, if the last train splurge is anything to go by the new trains will be either unreliable, inappropriate, expensive or late - or all four.

And groan, because that’s going to be something like a £1,000 subsidy that people who don’t use trains will have to pay each London-bound commuter.  Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

Overcrowding is caused by fare control.  The answer is to abolish fare control.

It’s a complicated explanation but railwaymen rarely talk about carriages these days, preferring to refer to multiple-units.

Update 16/03/07.  Tim Hall has further thoughts.

13 March 2007
Here are a few fun animations from Nexus (whatever that is) showing how London's rail network has grown over the last two hundred years.

Warning: big files and you'll be wanting to use the pause button and when it opens up the window may turn out to be bigger than the screen.


Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (0)London Underground
10 March 2007
Save the planet: close down loss-making railway lines
Patrick Crozier

Notwithstanding the hornets’ nest that this week’s global warming documentary has stirred up, it occurs to me that if you follow the party line on all things global warmy then don’t you also have to look forward to the closure of loss-making railway lines?

Let me explain.  The basis on which we get warm, fuzzy feelings about railways is that they’re supposed to produce much less CO2 for each passenger moved.

True.  But only if there are lots of passengers on the train.  If you have a train with only a few passengers - and therefore the sort of service that is going to be making a loss - then efficiency goes right down.  Probably - I am far from sure of the numbers here - to way below the level you’d get from just a normal, family car.

09 March 2007
Nice league table (complete with stats and pretty pictures) of the world's underground systems from, of all people, Virgin Vacations (hat-tip: Live from the Third Rail). Though what possessed them to put London at the top and Tokyo - which in my humble opinion is far superior - fifth, heaven only knows.

Patrick Crozier • PermalinkFeedback (1)Rail
07 March 2007
Against state roads
Patrick Crozier

This is a follow-on from my posting on the government’s pricing scheme.

I am against state roads (and in favour of private roads) because:

  • I am against state ownership in general
  • I don’t think they are very good

What’s wrong with them?

Jams, Potholes, Pettifogging rules

So, how would private roads solve jams?

Partly by charging.  In the UK we already see this with our one toll motorway, the M6 toll.  As I understand it, the M6 toll is free flowing all day long while the original M6, which runs parallel to it and is free is jammed for most of the day. Partly by building more.

Well, if charging is the solution maybe state roads should charge.

An idea that is currently up for discussion.  The problem is that the state is incompetent.  If it is incompetent when building and running roads there is no particular reason to think it would be any better at charging for them.

But if all roads were private wouldn’t you end up with the chaos of having to pay a toll at every road?

First of all, not all roads will charge.  Some road owners and I am particularly thinking of the owners of roads with shopping malls and other attractions at the end of them will want people to drive down them and so won’t charge.
I think a lot will depend on how roads are privatised.  Ideally, local roads would be assigned to local councils and then the councils would be privatised, hence creating ready-made super-landlords.

But how will people get to work?

Ah, well this is where pricing really helps.  Pricing will lead to fewer vehicles and faster roads.  At this point buses and coaches will enter the market although you’d probably need private buses for this to work properly.  Given that buses can move far more people than cars can there is every reason to think that with private roads more people rather than less will use them.

But I don’t want to travel on some smelly bus.

Buses can be very nice these days.  Who’s to say that in a free market suppliers won’t leap in to provide luxury bus services?

But should we be encouraging roads what with global warming and all?

The assumption being that roads means vehicles, vehicles means CO2 and other pollution.  Pollution meaning global warming.  That may well be true.  In which case the solution is to charge the polluters.  There are ways of doing this.

But if someone owns the road outside your house he could, in theory deny you access.

A good reason to make sure that you have at least some kind of interest in whatever body owns your road.  Again, I think most urban roads will end up being owned by some form of super-landlord.

But how would private roads get built? you are against compulsory purchase after all.

I think there are ways of doing this.
Robot videos
Brian Micklethwait

Okay, so far, it won’t go so far.  But this certainly seems fraught with transport possibilities.  Thankyou engadget

It just seems so much smoother and more itself, if you know what I mean. As opposed, say, to this (video here) which just mimics a person, very badly.  It’s the hydraulic leg extending which makes the difference, I think.

And while rootling around some more at engadget, I found this, where there is video of a robot car parking system in New York that I got interested in a while back.

Plus, I just clicked on engadget’s complete transport archive, for the first time.  Can’t think why I never did that before.  Rich pickings.  Plus lots of black boxes to tell moron motorists where they are.

06 March 2007
Very big bore
Brian Micklethwait

This looks likes a fairly boring story in more ways than one:

Two of the world’s largest tunnel slurry borers are starting to drive 9-kilometer-long tunnels under China’s Yangtze River, in Shanghai. They are a key element of the $1.6-billion, 25.5-km Shanghai-Chongming Expressway. The link between Shanghai, Changxing Island and Chongming Island is to be completed in time for the 2010 Shanghai Universal Exposition.

At the Yangtze’s estuary in Shanghai, one record-breaking, 15.43-meter-dia tunnel-boring machine set off from a shaft at Pudong late last year. The second, close on its heels, is also expected to drive 400 m a month through clay, silt and sand.

Yeah, yeah, record-breaking, I thought.  But then I took a closer look at the picture there and saw the little tiny blokes at the bottom.  This really is a big borer.

04 March 2007
Train cakes and vapour trails
Brian Micklethwait

Here at Transport Blog we have a tradition of featuring food that looks like transport.  We have, that is to say, had postings about food that looks like transport.  One anyway.

So, news of a cake mold that cranks out cakes in the shapes of a railway train:

This is one little locomotive no one will want to miss! Our ingeniously designed cake pan bakes a complete nine-car train that’s ready to decorate and eat. From engine to caboose, there’s no limit to the colors and decorative details imaginative young bakers can add to each train car. Made of durable cast aluminum by NordicWare, the pan bakes each little cake to perfection every time. The premium nonstick interior turns out cakes with beautiful detail and is easy to clean. Hand-wash. 6-cup cap.; 15 1/2” x 9 3/4” x 1 3/4” high. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive.

Cake tin

I stumbled upon this by a route so random that it does not signify, but once I found it, how could I not pass it on to TB readers?

On a more serious note, I now have a special category at my person blog for Bridges,and have dug up and thus categorised as many earlier bridge postings that I could find.

I’ve had a Transport category for some while now.  In my opinion, this quite recent transport related posting, about a dirty-looking vapour trail, is actually quite profound.

03 March 2007
There are 1,381 licensed cabs in San Francisco…
Patrick Crozier

...and, if the government has anything to do with it, always will beJay Jardine comments:

Is there a more stable and basically unquestioned shakedown racket than the taxi licensing scams that operate out of every city in the western world?

Well, apart from state healthcare, state education and state housing etc, of course… but point taken.

01 March 2007
A licensing authority over-reacts.  Or does it?
Patrick Crozier

I’d heard the palaver over Muslim cabbies at Minneapolis-St Paul Airport refusing to carry alcohol a couple of times before.  My reaction was: “Well, if that’s what they want to do, let them.  It’s their incomes.”  So, I was rather surprised to hear that the licencing authority will suspend any driver who refuses to take alcohol (Hat-tip: Pajamas Media).

I was even more surprised when I read the build up to it:

In September, the commission proposed a compromise that would have let Muslim cabbies purchase and mount a different-colored light on their cab if they didn’t want to pick up passengers carrying alcohol.

But that proposal triggered a huge backlash, from both passengers and other taxi drivers who feared it would make travelers avoid taxis altogether.

Huh?  There’s got to be more to this than that.  Could it be that AP (the author of the report) has missed something?

Stung into action by the success of the petition against road tolling, I see the Social Market Foundation is backing a counter-petition, calling upon the Prime Minister to: “tackle the environmental, economic and health consequences of ever increasing traffic congestion and car usage.”

Ugh. Why can't they both lose?

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