Thursday, October 03, 2002
Item 1 on this evening's BBC London news was about unlicenced minicabs. They produced a figure of one rape per week in unlicenced cabs. Not sure about that one. Wonder what the figure for black cabs and licenced minicabs was.
Anyway, never mind, the call was the usual one for ever more laws and regulations. Had anyone thought (don't be so stupid) that it might be the existing regulations that had caused the problem in the first place? Apparently not.
I don't know what exactly the regulations on cabs are in London but I would guess they go something like this. All cabs have to be licenced and the supply of licences is in some way restricted. This causes a shortfall in the number of cabs. But all you need to run a cab is a saloon car so it is not entirely surprising that this gap in the market gets filled. Nor is it any great surprise that the gap gets filled by criminals. Yet another example of the state trying to solve a problem of its own creation.
So, what would happen in a free market where anyone could ply their trade in a cab? Well, for starters there would be a lot more of them. But I believe that the branding effect would soon come into play. Customers would want to know that the cab that they were getting into was safe. This would encourage the emergence of cab companies which could be relied on to screen drivers and provide other deterrents. Competition would drive up quality and soon cab rape would become a thing of the past.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss...
So, it's goodbye Railtrack and hello Network Rail. And to celebrate the BBC has written an article. Hurrah.
The company [Network Rail] will be faced with the huge task of restoring public confidence in train travel and upgrading the state of Britain's rail infrastructure.Is it in charge of upgrades? I thought that was in the hands of the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) these days. I also love this term "restoring public confidence". How would you know? I suppose what it really means is "getting the issue off the front pages until the next general election."
Network Rail will be run as a not-for-profit company, which means it will plough any profits it makes back into rail maintenance rather than pay dividends to shareholders.Profits? Fat chance. There are no shareholders, stupid, so no one to please. And they've got a £20bn borrowing facility.
Last year the then Transport Secretary Stephen Byers put Railtrack into administration rather than keep contributing to the company's rising track repair bill.So, they've decided to keep contributing to NR's rising track repair bill instead. Yippee.
The Evening Standard loses its rag.
Meanwhile, Tube rebels defy bullies. How odd. You don't normally get a crack in a strike until much later.
The £1m Tube vandal - and he had his own special grinding tool. Stepson of a barrister. That figures. Wonder what he'll get when he's sentenced on Friday. Although Christian Michel has dropped the idea of restitutional justice I haven't. And I also like the idea of convicts having to make up for all those offences where the offenders weren't caught.
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
A reliable railway?
John Armitt, head of Railtrack, yesterday claimed that it would take three years before trains returned to "consistent" levels of performance.
One has to wonder what he means by "consistent". I presume he doesn't mean "consistently bad". Does he mean pre-Hatfield levels? Or pre-fragmentation? Surely, he cannot mean Japanese levels of performance? It would be nice to know.
Despite this I was pleased to see that Armitt is emphasising the need to repair bridges, viaducts, embankments and signal boxes rather than glamorous projects like the West Coast Route Modernisation. It has long been a belief of mine that getting railways right is all about getting all the boring stuff right. If, and only if, you do that can you move on to the headline-grabbing cutting edge stuff.
It is my belief (and Lord knows I can't prove it) that Japan's success originated with the private railways. These were the railways which just plodded on with the mundane job of getting commuters to work and did it to cost and to a high standard. It was this private culture that prevented JNR (the state-owned railway) from complete collapse by providing it with some stiff competition. Sadly, the private railways could not prevent JNR from losing its shirt but when the government decided that it had to do something about JNR it was fortunate enough that the private railways provided the model.
Monday, September 30, 2002
Lord Montague slams "anti-motorists"
In a letter to the Times* he said:
Every motorist should be grateful to Mr. Frederic Harrison for his frank letter advocating the suppression of motoring. It shows how much hatred, malice, and uncharitableness there lies behind the complaints of many anti- motorists. This trait - that of opposing progress - has been manifest for untold generations. Their arguments are always the same and are always proved baseless by time...But he reserved his his severist criticisms for the police saying:
By all means let police-traps be placed where there is any reason to think danger may exist, but if the police and law-abiding motorists are to combine to suppress the road hog, the tactics of setting traps on roads where there is no danger in speed must be discouraged by the authorities. At present, the police neglect their other duties and look upon trapping as a regular sport...Oh, and when did he write this letter? September 30, 1907.
*The Times (bastards) require foreign readers to make a paid subscription.
Sunday, September 29, 2002
Holland isn't perfect - shock
Holland is not perfect. I found it difficult to believe too but the view came from a Dutchman and so I guess I will have to (reluctantly, mind you) accept that Netherlands reality diverges in significant degrees from Utopian fantasy.
"How?", I asked.
"Well, your road manners are much better than ours." came the reply. Boy, was I glad my chair had arms - otherwise I would have fallen off it. Boy, was I glad there was a carpet - otherwise my dropping jaw would have sustained a nasty accident.
But this guy was the expert. He had lived and drived in both countries and found that when he went back to Holland he was surprised that people would tailgate, that they wouldn't let him in and in various other ways weren't quite as nice.
Well, well, well.