Archive for Communistical Leaning Government

Old faithful returns

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Engineering, Irregular Features, Rantings, Tunnels, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2010 by awickerman

UK engineering is littered with jobs that have been repeatedly proposed for years but are never going to happen, CrossRail Glasgow for instance has been hawked about since at least the 1970s. Quite simply it is as bad an idea now as it was then, if for no other reason than it involves opening a new station in the Gorbals. One of the few benefits of the Beeching Axe was that it cut the Gorbals off the rail network, why on earth would you want to re-connect it? Fortunately common sense prevailed and the scheme didn’t make the recent Scottish infrastructure 20 year plan. And for those wondering why Scotland has a 20 year plan, it is because Alex Salmond is four times more communistical than Stalin. Fact.

Returning to the subject today the grandfather of all not-going-to-happen-but-keeps-being-announced schemes once more rose from it’s coffin; The Thames Gateway Bridge (or East London River Crossing or Gallions Reach Bridge or any one of it’s many names).

The earliest mention appears to be way back in 1903 when William Rees Jeffreys, “The man who numbered Britain’s roads”, made one of the first recorded denouncements of how awful London’s roads are;

Their encircling boulevards are the pride of many a continental city, and it is a crowning disgrace that, notwithstanding the absence of any great engineering difficulties, no road exists encircling the metropolis.

This is important to bear in mind next time someone blames government x for the awful state of the country’s roads, they have always been a ‘crowning disgrace’ and probably always will be. (Incidentally that is a phrase I intend to work into as many conversations as possible from now on.) To remedy their awfulness he proposed the following scheme;

Rees Jeffreys' Ring Roads, fresh from the wonderful chaps at CBRD. Note the crossing at Woolwich, the first sighting of the Thames Gateway Bridge.

Sadly the quite grand sounding Royal Commission on London Traffic ignored his ideas (not necessarily a totally bad thing, he did want the ring road to contain a pedestrian lane and one for traction engines) and instead proposed some madness about a grid of 140ft wide (40m+) ‘main avenues’ bisecting the city. As you may have noticed if you’ve been to London, that didn’t happen either. However they did achieve the setting up of the London Transport Board which first met a mere two decades later in 1924 and then promptly did very little.

The crossing, and Rees Jefferys’ ideas, lived on and emerged in the 1937 Highway Development Survey (written by, amongst others,the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who had just finished designing Dehli. This was the start of the long British tradition of ensuring people with no practical skills or experience of roads were instrumental in transport policy.) Sadly a rather expensive effort at stopping Germany ruling Europe intervened and so the scheme disappeared for a few years, eventually surfacing in the 1944 Greater London Plan as ‘Ring C‘. Understandably the post-war reconstruction of London was focused on just getting housing rebuilt as fast as possible and it was only belatedly realised that it might have been a good idea to leave some space for roads and transport links, by which point everything had been rebuilt. Fortunately there wasn’t any money left (that had mostly been spent on fighting a war with Attlee spending the little left over on such wise investments as British Coal and British Railways) so it was somewhat academic.

By the time there was some money knocking about in the 1960s there wasn’t any space left in London and planning looked like being a nightmare, fortunately the government had a plan; The Greater London Council. Nasty transport rumour has it that the entire point of the GLC was to get a new road network built in London (the alternative explanation is that it was a political plot to balance out Labour dominated inner London with Tory strongholds in outer London, certainly no-one believes it was actually a particularly good idea on it’s own merits). In any event the GLC churned out masses of road schemes, including the barking mad Ringway 1 which would have required re-homing 35,000+ people to build a £1 billion ‘motorway box’ around most of central London. And that’s £1 billion in 1969 pounds, push it through a share of GPD converter and you end up with something like £30 billion in today’s money, for comparison that is two CrossRails or enough to take High Speed rail all the way from London to Glasgow AND link up every major city on both sides of the Pennines. So really very pricey for essentially one orbital roadway, especially as they wanted to build four of the buggers.

For our purposes however it is Ringway 2 which is of most import it contains the Thamesmead Tunnel, a twin bore beauty crossing the Thames slap bang on the site of the Thames Gateway Bridge. Interestingly it was very vaguely referred to as the East London River Crossing as the planners wanted to retain the bridge option, just in case.

The Ringways died a death due to being mind-boggling expensive and requiring far too much demotion and re-homing. Ringway 1 was just outright killed, parts of the northern half of 2 happened under a different name (a string of upgrades to the North Circular) but the southern half just died while Ringways 3 and 4 were badly nailed together to form the M25. On which note always remember the M25 was a bodged solution that could only hope to provide a 1/4 of what 1960s planners thought would be needed for 1980s level traffic, which they had woefully under-estimated to start with. The wonder isn’t that the M25 is so bad, it’s that it works at all.

From the wreckage of the Ringways the East London River Crossing emerged and even got past two planning inquiries in the late 1970s and early 1990s, sadly each time emerging into the teeth of a recession and so being delayed till the money was available, by which time the planing had lapsed and the scheme had to be redesigned.

More recently the King of the Newts, former Mayor Ken Livingston, lost the last planning inquiry in 2007 and his successor Boris “Shagger” Johnson decided not to appeal that decision as there was a small £300 million shortfall in the £500 million budget. The most recent twist was a cunning name change to ‘Galleons Reach Bridge’ as Boris tried to use the £200 million in PFI Credits the last government had put up as a pre-election bribe to help Ken win the election investment in East London. The smart money is saying the consultants have reached the ‘correct’ conclusion that a new lower-capacity crossing can be nailed together for about £200 million, this should meet the planning objection that a high capacity crossing would bugger the local road network and solve the funding problem.

Naturally though there are a few problems; 1. The greens will be out in force to stop the scheme, if only because it’s a road. 2. If the capacity is low enough not to disrupt local traffic there’s no point building it whereas if it can carry a useful amount of traffic then it will disrupt the local area. 3. The PFI credits were only ever an election bribe (allegedly) so will the new government actually honour them. 4. Are they even applicable as sole finance? They were designed as a partial funding contribution with TfL paying most of the cost, BoJo is planning to use only PFI credits with no actual contribution from London. Good for London, bad for everyone else. Is that even an option in the age of austerity when were all in in together (*insert hypocritical and slightly sickening government slogan here*)

Taking it all together I can confidently predict the crossing wont happen anytime soon, a new vehicle ferry may emerge somewhere near Galleons Reach as they are dirt cheap (relatively speaking) but there will be no fixed link crossing on the Thames Gateway Bridge site. And thus concludes today’s lesson and prediction.

Advertisements

National Stereotypes #431

Posted in And thus the Mystery was solved Watson!, Tenuous Link of the Day, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on October 5, 2010 by awickerman

Today’s proof that national stereotypes are not without their grain of truth comes from the Orient. And Holland. Our story begins with a new bridge between Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland…

Continue reading

Outstanding Adverts #34

Posted in Irregular Features, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , on September 16, 2010 by awickerman

In another one of the many occasional series for which this blog isn’t famous it is my pleasure to present this nugget of sexist joy;

Outstanding sexism from everyone's favourite Government owned car maker

This cunning and daring burst of sexism is yours from ChevyMall, the official tat seller for Chevrolet, one arm of everyone’s favourite government owned, and probably still technically insolvent, car maker General Motors.

Honestly I don’t have a problem with it but I can confidently predict there will be trouble over this, after testing the ‘All publicity is good publicity’ maxim to destruction (I doubt constant coverage of an impending bankruptcy helped GM sales) you’d have thought they’d be more careful.

Poverty Saves Lives

Posted in Irregular Features, Rantings, Tenuous Link of the Day with tags , , , , on September 11, 2010 by awickerman

Less people are dying on US roads, a marvellous result no doubt, however the explanation given by the government bod in charge, Ray LaHood, is somewhat unusual;

LaHood said the weak economy was a contributing factor as many Americans chose not to go out to bars and restaurants after work or on the weekend.

So because people are too poor to got out they’re not dying on the roads. Frankly I think the millions of unemployed people would say that’s cratering the economy to make the roads marginally safer is an over-reaction, but who’s going to listen to them? Probably not LaHood who also said;

“While we’ve come a long way,” he said, “we have a long distance yet to travel.”

Expect further economic destruction in the name of safety, better to be unemployed and homeless than have a fractionally  higher chance of dying in a car accident.

Three for One Health Special!

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Even Stevie Wonder Saw That Coming, Rantings with tags , , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by awickerman

And now a news story that manages to annoy me in three distinct ways. The BBC reports that the
Life expectancy gap ‘is widening’, which while not good news (all else being equal I think most people would prefer the gap to close) this is not in itself annoying. The three annoying points are;

1. The NAO says the figures mean a Labour government target to reduce the difference in life expectancy by 10% by 2010 is unlikely to be met.

Sodding government targets. Why anyone even bothers measuring them I’ve no idea, they were only ever a cheap headline and never got resourced (apart from the PR and monitoring). So after wasting money publicising them we now get fleeced again assessing them. Why? Seriously why?

2. It is calling for more investment to help GPs tackle problems like smoking and poor diet in poor communities.

The solution is ‘Basically we need more money’. It’s always that, never ‘We recommend taking a step back and thinking about this’, instead the demand is always to hurl more money at the problem in exactly the same way. The report goes on to say anti-smoking campaigns were less effective in poorer areas and so the solution is to double the spend on said campaigns. WTF?

Leaving aside the fact we probably can’t afford to see too many smokers quit (tax revenues are ~£10 billion a year from tobacco duties alone) this is madness. The schemes don’t work in poorer areas for whatever reason so why on earth will doing the same thing but harder be any different? Why not instead recommend changing the scheme, perhaps to one that might work. Why not spend the extra money on a research scheme to find out what will work? But then I suppose if the schemes work and people stop smoking all the anti-smoker workers will be out of a job; it’s in their interest for the scheme to fail or they’ll all be made redundant.

3. But it says that at present the system “does not provide enough of an incentive” to encourage family doctors to focus on the neediest groups in their practices.

Bloody GPs! Apparently we need to pay them more to actually care about their patients. Because £100k a year for a three day week just isn’t enough money, they need a lot more of our cash before they’ll put down the golf clubs and actually do any work. Heaven forbid that a GP ever does anything without being paid a fortune for it.

Or we could sack the lot of them, spend the money on practice nurses, pharmacies that can issue antibiotics/painkillers/contraception and expanded A&E. Such a situation would be functionally identical to where we are now but with several  massive advantages; 1. Golf courses will go bankrupt 2. When you have an ear infection you’ll just get some drugs instead of being patronised by an idiot of a GP who will eventually works out that you have an ear infection and then send you somewhere else to get some drugs 3. Nurses actually are (mostly) caring professionals so would help their patients instead of being unmitigated selfish arseholes like most GPs.

I can but hope in the ‘savage’ spending cuts to come everyone involved in this report is sacked and maybe even deported. They wont be of course, the civil service never cuts its own bureaucracy or the useless jobs (front line services are favourite because that scares politicians off from making cuts in the first place) , but it’s a dream.

The US Oil Spill

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Rantings, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by awickerman

I’ve avoided this one as there didn’t seem a lot to say, everyone seemed to be trying to stop it and it probably would be better to wait for the investigation and all the facts to come out. Admittedly that hasn’t stopped politicians mouthing off about blame and so on, but honestly what did you expect? (Actually based on Piper Alpha I had some hopes. That was the disaster were a US firm in the North Sea badly, badly fucked up and killed 70 odd people and didn’t get criticised and threatened with death till after the investigation proved they were guilty as hell. But then American politicians do have an addiction to double standards and hypocrisy)

Anyway I’m commenting on the subject as I’ve recently found out quite how far the US government is going in it’s efforts to make things worse. First off the much hyped ‘Presidential panel’ gathering the finest experts in every field except oil production, therefore denying it of any possible relevant knowledge or experience. Now you may argue you want off-the wall ideas and fresh thinking, it’s a bad argument but you could make it, in which case why censor the panel? Now professor Katz does appear to be thoroughly unpleasant (complete with a Brass Eye-esque belief in good/bad AIDS) but someone must have thought he was an expert worth consulting, yet he was instantly dropped once it emerged he was a arse. So either this is a genuine utter disaster where you need everyone OR you can drop him as it’s not that bad, in which case tone down the rhetoric and threats.  Is consistency so much to ask?

The second point is if anything much worse as it damn near had a practical impact. To disperse oil you need a dispersant and in general they are not especially nice chemicals, hence why they all need EPA approval. The BP choice Corexit has been on the EPA list for over 20 years and was used on the Exxon Valdez spill and dozens since so is a well understood and tested choice, hence it was stockpiled in vast quantities on the Gulf Mexico in preparation for any problems. So what happened a few days into this spill? A few previously anonymous politicians and green groups (well I’d never heard of them) started whining about it and eventually got the EPA to threaten a ban. Ignoring the annoyance that anyone took them seriously you do have to ask why now? Are the US government actually trying to make things worse or do they genuinely think Louisiana will look nicer with a nice skim of oil on it? (On which note I also found out that 80%+ of state revenues in that state come from the oil industry, I therefore sincerely hope the fisherman who turn on the news get their wish and the industry is banned. I think mass unemployment and even larger taxd bills would be a just punishment for their ill-informed whining.)

So there you go, a tad more proof of Regan’s old saw

The ten most dangerous words in the English language are “Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

Stedfastly Refusing to Learn – Russian Edition

Posted in Almost Beyond Words, Your cut-out-and-keep Guide with tags , , , , , , on May 31, 2010 by awickerman

In engineering certain problems are only obvious after they’ve happen, put brutally someone has to make the mistake before anyone knows there is a problem. This is unfortunate but a fact of life. However after the new problem emerges, is publicised and even turns up in secondary school lessons as the classic example there is no excuse whatsoever for making the same mistake again.

Today’s example of this steadfast refusal to pay attention is; The Volgograd Bridge. If the scene of a wildly oscillating bridge looks familiar, that’s probably because it looks a lot like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which happened in 1940. And it’s not even like Tacoma was a one off freak, half a dozen or so bridges had excess movement and those were just the reported ones, countless others fell over but weren’t caught on camera so aren’t famous.

Now admittedly it’s one of the longer bridges in Russia, but by international standards it’s nothing special, indeed there are even bridges in Russia that are almost twice as long. There really is therefore no excuse for making such a bugger up unless there is something fundamentally wrong with your design and engineering culture. Mind you that’s probably a given as it took 13 years to build it, even in bad conditions that was at worst a five year job, indeed as the second bridge (for the other carriageway) isn’t open yet it is technically took “13 years and counting” to build.

I have saved the best till last, after this embarrassing mistake what has the reaction been? They closed it for a few days to check it out, but have now re-opened it with a clean bill of health and without modification, save for one change; a monitoring system to close the bridge if it gets windy! If that isn’t a vote of confidence I don’t know what is. This will end in tears, mark my words.

%d bloggers like this: