Sunday, 21 April 2013

Open Honest Government?

Up north of me is the town of Crewe, it sits in Cheshire very close to the North Staffordshire border. Over the past 20 years there have been considerable infrastructure developments and growth in the area.

In particular the development of a whole new national east west road route that passes just south of Crewe, comprising various existing roads, some improved bits of road and some completely new road links. They have been built piecemeal but now have created a complete through route connecting Hollyhead, and the Irish ferries, back along the North Wales coast, around Chester, across to Crewe crossing the M6 at junction 16, the route then extends east around Stoke on Trent and along the new A50 to Derby and the M1 motorway, from which the A14 runs to Felixtowe

It’s obvious to a child that this is the western end of a planned route to connect cities and trade routes in the EU. I know David over at WitteringsfromWitney has been on about the semi-covert European transport initiative for some years. This route provides a superb example of grand planning on a piecemeal stealth basis.

The other thing that has been going on for the past decade is a significant concentration of housing and business development in and around Crewe, with plenty more in the pipeline that will be taking up huge areas of currently green field sites in south Cheshire. For some years it has been obvious the area was being deliberately overdeveloped, but much less obvious as to why.

The final pieces of the puzzle are the improvements to some local roads that were pinch points on the grand east west route. Originally there were a number of by-passes planned to improve the existing road to the west of the M6 motorway, some preliminary work was done. Then about 10 years ago all these were abandoned in favour of a whole new stretch of high quality dual carriageway. The oddity of this new road was that it contained a huge raised section and bridge where it crosses the existing west coast main railway line just as the line enters the old area of sidings and shunting yards south of Crewe station.

Now we have the final piece and all becomes clear. The northern extension of HS2! Not published until recently, wasn’t going to have any stops except Birmingham and Manchester, but apparently is now to run into Crewe alongside the existing west coast line and will have a station. So 20 years of development, large bridges, road improvements that made little sense, all is suddenly explained.

What is not explained is how all this development started years ago when HS2 wasn’t even officially mentioned and yet fits so well together.  It’s not as though we have a ruling elite or government that plans ahead in secrecy behind the scenes then release details to the public only as and when expedient, or is it?

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Why are garages allowed to use tenths of a penny?

Go into any modern petrol station to fill up and you will pass a board with today’s prices in pence per litre. Cunningly concealed at the end of each number is a dot and a smaller number, almost always “.9”. Thus in effect the price is always point nine of a penny per litre more than shown by the large displayed price. It has been this way for many years and we are all well used to it.

However pumps themselves usually carry a notice to the effect that the minimum purchase is 5 litres. So if you purchase 5 litres of petrol at 140.9 pence per litre how can you pay them 704.5 pence? The half penny was withdrawn years ago. If you wanted 6 litres the cost would be 745.4 pence? Again, how can you pay .4  pence? The banks won’t recognise a fraction of a penny, there is no coin smaller than one penny, so it’s an impossible price.

Of course bits of a penny will always happen with anything bought loose. Half a pound of apples at 99p per pound will create a half pence, but those traders are not advertising the price in fractions of a penny.

In the case of petrol however the companies are quite deliberately displaying and advertising a price which cannot be paid. Can it be legal to advertise and sell something at a price that doesn’t exist in the real financial world? I know of no other products that do this, so wonder why petrol companies do it? 

I also wonder if the companies realise what a public relations disaster they have created because every time we see this pricing tactic it confirms our belief that they are out to deceive us?

Friday, 5 April 2013

Policewomen and kerbstones. Missing the point

The media last week were full of the story about the policewoman who was setting out to sue a garage owner for damages after she tripped on a kerbstone during a callout. As far as I can tell absolutely every commentator was saying how appalling it was that a member of a ‘risk’ profession like the police should be able to sue a member of the public in this way

I think all those commentators missed the point.The media so often does nowadays, there is no logic applied. There is surely nothing wrong in a policeman, or any other member of the services suing a member of the public if that person has done something really stupid and dangerous. Leaving , for example, a large unmarked and unfenced  trench across a dark area of garden then expecting someone in the emergency services to run across the garden might be construed, quite correctly, as the fault of the owner.

To me therefore the point isn’t about the right of someone to sue. The point is the issue over which this particular police woman is suing.  

The kerb wasn’t of an odd size, nor was it placed in a peculiar or unusual position where nobody would expect it to be. It was an ordinary kerb, exactly as used alongside most of our roads. They are also commonplace in any areas such as garage forecourts, motorway services, car parks and the like where they are deliberately placed to separate vehicle areas and parking bays from pedestrian areas. They help prevent vehicles running onto pedestrian areas and help drainage, preventing water from the large vehicle areas flooding onto paths. 

Almost every garage around here has similar kerb edging around the parking areas, tyre and vacuum bays and along the forecourt edges. They are not even specified by the owner. They are part of the ordinary and commonplace design and architecture specifications, drawn up by the architect and passed by the council. Any ordinary person would expect to find such kerb edging in exactly the place and of exactly the type this police woman found it!

Personally, if I fell over something like that I would be very annoyed with myself for my own stupidity! If she can get away with this then I can only suggest that everyone who has ever tripped on car parks, motorway services or just crossing the street gets to a solicitor immediately. It’ll be ‘win the lottery’ day for most of the population. I wonder if any other commonplace architectural item is also fair game?  Walk into a building, well sue the person who put it in your way.

Some years ago I was walking down the street talking to a friend when I walked straight into a lamp post. It really hurt! I suppose I better go find a good ambulance chaser to sue the council for putting such an unexpected item in such an unusual place without a barrier or warning notice.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

As the dead tree press fades into the sunset.

The past few years have been good ones for me and other news and politic watchers. Unlike my parent’s generation who usually read just one daily paper and listened to the BBC news I have enjoyed wide access to news via the internet. The ability to read a story from different perspectives, even though I might abhor some of them, and see a situation through differently tinted political lenses has been one of the defining features of the past decade.

One significant factor however has been that while the access has widened the depth and understanding of the news, as reported by the press, has diminished. Increasingly it is superficial, descending to celebrity farce in many cases, and increasingly it is propagandised. Often deliberately, but more insidiously by omission with the republishing of press releases from political parties and pressure groups without any intervening thought process or critical analysis. The press has made itself inadequate. This has fortunately been balanced by blogs and ‘non-traditional’ Internet sources. Many of which are now considerably better informed, more insightful, and more specialised than the press ever was.

As for the printed press, I think they are facing the end. Leveson and libel laws have had, and will have, a stultifying effect. I notice today all the reports about ‘the 82 year old man arrested by Yewtree detectives’. So far as I have seen only Guido Fawkes on the Order-Order blog has named him. Not because he can’t be named, simply because post-Leveson and with letters from the man’s solicitors they are too scared. The press is now censored.

The final nail in their coffins is the paywall. While I understand their need to make money, hiding out of sight seems a highly peculiar commercial method for any company that relies on selling. I see the Telegraph, just sneaking behind a paywall this week, want £20 per year to see their web pages. I suppose that for anyone who wants and needs a daily paper and would have bought a copy that’s good value. No doubt many regular addicted readers will pay it. 

But for anyone who wants a variety of sources and would therefore need multiple subscriptions to multiple press publications it’s way out of reach. For the price of a freeview box I can get a number of news channels. For a basic SKY subscription I can have over a dozen, ranging from the BBC to Russia Today and many more. All of these channels also have free web pages should I prefer to read the news rather than watch it on TV, and the cost per month for the news channels is basically pennies. 

Unless the press work together and come up with an affordable umbrella scheme that allows access to multiple publications at one affordable price, and it should be a price in pennies per week, they will sink into oblivion.