Archive for the And thus the Mystery was solved Watson! Category

Didn’t the BBC Used to Do Research?

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Mining, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings with tags , , , on May 28, 2014 by awickerman

Someone at the BBC has managed to read the ONS report on jobs and is surprised that Westminster has the highest number of mining workers in the country.

Alas clearly that reading left them too knacked to fire up Google as that would have very rapidly revealed that BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Anglo-American all have major offices and/or their headquarters in Westminster. But then that would have taken literally seconds of work, and those companies are only the first, second and fifth biggest mining companies in the world, so perhaps I’m just expecting too much.

In fairness on Spelthorne being the biggest by % mining community in the UK it was indeed the gravel pits. But as the writer then goes on to doubt the statistics, despite them being correct and him having quite clearly put bugger all effort in, he must then lose any credit he has gained.

Is it unreasonable to ask people to put just a little bit of work into this sort of thing, particularly when your calling it “Small data, curious numbers in the news”? Surely explaining it would help meet the BBC ‘Inform, Educate and Entertain’ mission. But then inform and educate are such hard work compared to just making a half arsed effort at entertain, so perhaps I am just being unrealistic.

Heroes of planning

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on April 7, 2014 by awickerman

The Royal Town Planning Institute is celebrating, if that is indeed the correct word, it’s centenary and decided to hand out some honorary lifetime memberships. OK technically they did so at the start of the year and it’s taken me this long to get round to it, but to be honest if you want cutting edge analysis you are at the wrong blog.

Anyway, to the point. Given the lamentable level of house building and the ongoing existential question over the future of Britain’s high streets who did they pick? One of the pioneers of the New Towns perhaps or a prolific developer maybe. Surely it would be people who have really improved Britain’s towns and cities through innovative planning and developments.

Of course not, these are Britain’s planners. They picked a selection of tree huggers and unrelated wastrels. To quote the RTPI’s favourites;

Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England; The Lord Deben, Chair of the UK’s independent Committee on Climate Change and a former Secretary of State for the Environment; Professor Susan Owens OBE Professor of Environment and Policy, University of Cambridge and Naison Mutizwa-Mangiza, Chief of the Policy Analysis Branch of UN-HABITAT and Editor-in-Chief of the Global Report on Human Settlements.

Malcolm Grant is a lawyer who has served as UCL provost and at no point ever done any building or planning, The Lord Deben is better known as the notorious god-bothering, tree hugger John Gummer, Susan Owens does a great deal of work on Environmental Governance which just sounds awful while Naison Mutziwa-Mangiza may well do excellent work at UN-HABITAT, I just can’t find out what on earth UN-HABITAT does, beyond publish reports that no-one reads (apart from Professor Owens and her students. Maybe even they don’t bother, who can tell?)

This I think clearly demonstrates one of the key problems with the British planning system, the planners themselves. They admire environmentalists, lawyers and report writers, not people who actually get things planned and built. This I feel explains why so many of them view a scheme blocked as a bigger achievement than helping a scheme go ahead.

Perhaps specialisation is important

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2013 by awickerman

Property developer set up their own construction company after becoming “increasingly dissatisfied with the service of external construction companies”.

Construction company has a few good years, buys itself wins an award as construction company of the year in 2011.

Company goes into administration on 7th October “after serious flaws were unearthed in the pricing of a number of the contracts”. They also admit “”[We have] encountered considerable difficulties in progressing and completing current projects.”

It’s almost as if pricing construction works and then delivering them is not as easy as it appeared. Maybe they should have stuck to what they were good at rather than branching out into something they clearly weren’t as good at as they originally thought.

Either way as they couldn’t offload the job for Southampton Cricket Club onto a different contractor fast enough they have left their current clients in the lurch, and no doubt ‘increasingly dissatisfied with external construction companies’. If you don’t find that amusing you have a heart of stone.

Interesting Definitions

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day, Tunnels with tags , , , , on September 25, 2012 by awickerman

I’m clicking through one of the tunnelling comic and see the decidedly vague headline European countries agree on railway tunnel construction. Slightly curious I head to the article and discover it is in fact about a tunnel between Turkey and Georgia, neither of which really fit in my mental definition of Europe. Of course they are both in Eurovision, but everybody is in Eurovision, I mean Morocco was once in Eurovison.

Luckily this isn’t just me, the geography-defying ambition of Eurocrats aside everyone else agrees both nations are, in fact, in Asia. Well the UN statistical bods do and frankly that’s good enough for me.

The wonderful world of the railways

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, The Railways, Tunnels with tags , , , , on November 10, 2011 by awickerman

Started the week all set for an exciting run of tunnel inspecting night shifts, having made the mistake of not getting it wrong the last few times round I was top of the list this year. While some idiot had booked Tuesday to Friday night, instead of the more civilised Monday to Thursday I had carefully established as the norm, it was still four short nights work for five full days pay. Variety being the spice of life I was also looking forward to the change of scene and a chance to escape the office.

Things began well when, before we even began, Thursday night was cancelled as Network Rail wanted to put a test train through and so cancelled all other work on site. When we arrived on Tuesday night things improved further when, due to a combination of the world’s slowest road-railer and a double booking, from our original 3 hour time slot we managed about 1hr 30 of work. That’s 1hr 30 including travel time around the site, so you can imagine how little we actually achieved.

Things hit a peak on Wednesday night when both that night’s work was cancelled due to a tiny mistake in the paperwork AND Friday night was also canned, as Network Rail belatedly pulled the plug, perhaps realising that Friday night is a right bugger to resource and they couldn’t manage it. Almost as if I had deliberately avoided Fridays in previous years for a reason that wasn’t just personal comfort…..

As this is all abortive works we can just pass all the costs onto the client and leave them to argue over who’s fault it is, thus I can happily stick down a full week on the timesheet having only gone to site twice and done barely 1hr of actual work. As a bonus all the work still needs doing before year end, so we’ll be back out in a few weeks for a second attempt, all charged as extras.

To all politicians, rail users and transport pressure groups I say thank you for this wonderful paid holiday. If you focused on the current network and all the problems there, instead of scrapping over white elephants like HS2, I might have been forced to some real work this week.

A self contained mystery

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Rantings, The Railways, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2011 by awickerman

Rick Haythornthwaite, the chairman of Network Rail, has decided not to seek re-election (i.e. as a well known Labour placeman he probably correctly thinks a Conservative-Liberal government wont ‘elect’ him). As he was leaving he decided to share this wisdom with the public;

“We know that many of the public view the leadership of the industry with confusion, suspicion or disdain. They don’t trust us and therefore are resistant to changes we want to make.”

But why? Why on earth would the public distrust a leadership that includes men like Rick? I mean yes he was picked solely due to being close to New Labour, his last real private sector job went badly, his previous government job was on cutting Health and Safety rules (he didn’t)  and he had absolutely zero experience of the railways, but is that any reason not to trust his wise leadership? Or men like chief executive David Higgins, a man who was Chief Executive of the ODA and was in charge while the final bill for London 2012 skyrocketed and then took his zero rail experience (but his vast knowledge of spiralling budgets) to Network Rail.  And the disdain surely can’t be because of the huge sums they earn for incompetence, so how on earth can we explain Ricks’s problem? Luckily Rick gives us the answer in the same article;

“I believe we have the chance to leverage a newfound appetite for change among the public, born of crisis, to galvanise a shift from a fragmented to a connected Britain.”

Breaking that down ‘leverage an appetite’ means pushing through expensive schemes that would normally be rejected as a waste of time and money, ‘born of a crisis’ means doing expensive schemes quickly so no-one has a chance to stop them, ‘galvanise a shift’ means push through expensive schemes in the face of entirely accurate opposition and ‘connected Britain’ means High Speed 2 and dozens of other very expensive schemes. To those who are spotting a common theme – well done.

In summary anyone who speaks such utter tripe will be untrusted and disdained and damned if I know why he’s surprised at that.

Ohh and “resistant to changes we want to make” is not only referring to High Speed 2, it’s also code for ‘we want bring back the massive bonuses that we got regardless of how bad things went’, something most people are quite rightly resistant of.

Lib Dems Expecting Long Recession

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Posts that are far longer than I first intended, Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , on September 17, 2011 by awickerman

Vince Cable has decreed we need more toll roads to save us all from the slow down in growth. There are two possible conclusions one can draw from this;

  1. He’s expecting a very, very, very long recession OR
  2. He’s an idiot.

Considering the example he gave of the M6 Toll motorway that took 23 years to go from consultation on route (options published 1980) to actually opening to traffic (December 2003). Even if one is generous that it is the construction work and not the road itself that is the object of the exercise that still took took two decades. If we’re still in a recession in 2030 I think the one thing that will be certain is that some new toll roads wont help.

Slightly more seriously even I would note that Vince appears to be asking for something no-one in the private sector actually wants to do (note he wants the private sector to actually build and operate theses new roads). The M6 Toll extension died a death because the traffic levels on the original stretch were ‘disappointing’, the Welsh plan for an M4 Toll never got beyond grand announcements and the SNP  turned against toll roads once they found out there was no way to make it free for Scots while still charging English motorists.

Honestly a bit of faffing about with payment methods is not going to change any of that so I am therefore compelled to think that option 2 is the correct conclusion. Which frankly is a relief, a two decade recession sounded a bit grim frankly.

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