Azara Blog: January 2012 archive complete

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Date published: 2012/01/10

Guided bus is a very expensive use of public money (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

The guided busway's millionth passenger is due to travel on the route this week.

One lucky customer travelling from the St Ives park and ride site on Thursday morning is likely to be taking the millionth journey, five months since the service was launched.

Staff from bus operators Stagecoach and Whippet will surprise them alongside representatives of Cambridgeshire County Council to celebrate the occasion.

More than 200,000 trips are being taken monthly on the busway, the longest in the world, since it opened in August last year.

This is pretty poor. 200k trips represents 100k people, and dividing by (roughly) 20 working days per month, that means the equivalent of around 5k regular users. Given that the scheme was subsidised to the tune of around 180 million pounds, this means that each of those 5k users is in effect getting a subsidy of around 36k pounds. Even if the ridership doubles, that is still not a very effective use of public money.

And unfortunately the companies and the county council are not revealing how many of the journeys are actually taken by old people with bus passes, who do not pay.

Over a thousand student rooms in cb1 (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

The redevelopment of Cambridge's station area has taken another leap forward with the submission of plans for 232 more student rooms.

The accommodation will be provided in two five-storey blocks, one of which would front on to Hills Road, next to the Earl of Derby pub, and another between the guided busway and the railway line.

Ultimately 1,250 student units will be provided as part of the £850 million project, known as cb1, and construction of 511 bedrooms for Anglia Ruskin University is already under way.

In the latest phase Anglia Ruskin students will get priority but, contrary to neighbours' expectations, the units will not be tied to a single institution and Cambridge University scholars would also be welcome.

The railway station area is one of the most expensive in the city, thanks to London commuters. Students do not need to live near major inter-city transport hubs. It is terrible civic planning that the city is encouraging developers to put up student accommodation near the Cambridge railway station.

HS2 gets approved by the government (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Plans for a £33bn high-speed rail network have received a mixed reaction, after being approved by the government.

The British Chambers of Commerce said the plan would be welcomed by "businesses up and down the country".

But critics say the route will damage the environment and dispute projected benefits of up to £47bn, describing the scheme as a "white elephant".

BBC transport correspondent Richard Westcott says opponents are seriously considering legal action to halt HS2.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said she had agreed to a new "railway revolution in Britain".

"A modern and reliable and fast service between our major cities and international gateways befitting the 21st Century will transform the way we travel and promote Britain's economic and social prosperity," she said in a statement to the House of Commons.

Ms Greening said there would be extra tunnelling along the 140-mile (225km) first phase in an attempt to offset environmental concerns.

Phase one of HS2, between London and Birmingham, should be running by 2026, later extending to northern England, she said.

That will be followed by a second phase of the Y-shaped route reaching Manchester and Leeds by about 2033.

The stated cost of 33 billion is almost certainly an underestimate. The stated value of 47 billion is almost certainly an overestimate. It will be extremely lucky if the cost is lower than the value. So it is extremely likely that this project will never pay for itself.

Given the ability of middle class (i.e. rich) protestors to create legal obstructions, it will also be lucky if anything is up and running by 2026.

Traditionally even when vast engineering projects like this do not pay for themselves, future generations are thankful that past generations did the work, because it means the infrastructure is there. Unfortunately in the current situation, the cost for this will just be piled onto the already huge UK government budget deficit, so in fact future taxpayers will be paying for this project, more than current ones.

The worst thing about this project is that it will encourage London commuters to live even further away from London than they already do, pushing up house prices as they migrate outwards.

Assisted suicide report (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

There is a "strong case" for allowing assisted suicide for people who are terminally ill in England and Wales, a group of experts says.

The Commission on Assisted Dying - set up and funded by campaigners who want to see a change in the law - said the current system was "inadequate".

It said it was possible to allow assisted dying within a strict set of rules to ensure it was not abused.
...
The group said that assisted suicide should be allowed if a person was over 18, terminally ill and judged as having less than 12 months to live, making a voluntary choice and not impaired mentally.

Before it should be allowed, the person would also need to be independently assessed by two doctors, the report said.

It also suggested that the individual would have to take the medicine themselves as euthanasia - where another person administers the substance - should not be allowed.

And it said end-of-life care needed to be improved to ensure people were not pushed into the decision because of inadequate access to care.

This represents one small step forward, but of course the usual control freaks who think they should be able to force all people to die a miserable death, brought up their usual stale talking points, and it is unlikely that anything will be done on this front for years if not decades.

Date published: 2012/01/02

More Cambridge Lib Dem propaganda (permanent blog link)

The Lib Dems love to continually push propaganda through the letter boxes of the households of Cambridge. If they were half as good at running the city as they were at delivering propaganda, the city would be in great shape.

Once again they have delivered something called the Cambridge Herald, cynically titled that way to make it sound like it is some kind of independent newspaper rather than just garden variety Lib Dem propaganda.

Funnily enough, Ed Miliband features on the front page, not Nick Clegg. But that is probably because the entire country hates Nick Clegg.

They were evidently struggling to find fodder material for the Herald, so in the centre fold we find what is apparently the first sentence of the Lib Dem constitution:

The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

The Cambridge MP, Julian Huppert, apparently believes this is "beautiful - almost poetic". But he is a (sort of) scientist, and evidently has little idea about poetry. And that sentence is completely vacuous and could be written by pretty much any political party in Britain.

On the back page of the Herald are two key stories. The first is on the proposed 20 mph speed limit for Cambridge. The Lib Dems ran some kind of "survey" and the story says that 69% of the respondents wanted a 20 mph limit across the entire city. Well, this just goes to show how biased the survey sample was, no doubt being dominated by the usual academic middle class suspects including the cycling lobby.

The Lib Dems now promise to waste more money getting the city council to run its own survey. These surveys are all flawed, because the respondents are biased towards the middle class (i.e. the rich). And the cycling lobby in particular is very good at stuffing the ballot box (so to speak), as they have shown in the past (e.g. on the Gilbert Road cycle lane consultation).

The Lib Dems hint in the Herald story that perhaps they will not support a city wide 20 mph limit. It doesn't make sense to have such a limit on the main roads, and the fact that over two thirds of respondents to their survey thought it did shows how out of touch these respondents are. The Lib Dems are the most cynical of the large political parties in the UK, so it's quite possible that they suggested a city wide 20 mph limit as part of a cynical ploy to then look less extremist when they opted not to include the main roads in the eventual proposal. Who knows.

The second story of interest on the last page of the Herald is that the Lib Dems are getting the city to spy on its citizens, via some organisation called Heatseekers. They will drive around the city creating thermal images of houses, which they will then post to the home owner to try and scare them into insulating their houses more (or whatever). It is just one small step from this to forcing house owners to do what the Lib Dems think they should do, as far as home insulation is concerned (and who knows what else). Yes, the Lib Dems are not very liberal. They are just typical middle class control freaks.

There is not one sentence in the entire Herald about making Cambridge attractive for companies to do business here. It's almost like they don't realise that there is a recession on. But the Lib Dems represent the academic middle class, who largely haven't noticed the recession yet. In any case, the Lib Dems have no clue about business, and the city survives in spite of the Lib Dems, not because of them.

Cambridge United stadium proposal at Trumpington Meadows (permanent blog link)

The Cambridge News says:

Britain's richest man has been urged to boot out Cambridge United's plans for a new stadium.

Rural campaigner Robin Page, chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust, claims the scheme at Trumpington Meadows is "environmental vandalism."

He wants the Duke of Westminster, figurehead of the company behind it, Grosvenor Developments, to step in and block the proposal.

Former TV presenter Mr Page told the News: "The intended development of a football stadium and 400 new houses is an absolute disgrace. Grosvenor Developments made it quite clear on their original planning application that there would be no further development on the site and there would be a properly maintained green buffer.

"Apparently going back on their word is outrageous, and makes a mockery of the whole planning system.

"I am a long-time supporter of Cambridge United and wish them well - but this site for their new stadium? It is not only unacceptable, it is environmental vandalism of the highest order.

"It will be planned gridlock - Grantchester will become a football rat-run and the lights will intrude on an important part of the Cam Valley and on Grantchester village itself. It is a plan dreamed up in my view by environmental and social Philistines - if it was not so absurd and threatening it would be a joke."

Page is a ridiculous figure, and his rant here shows why. Cambridge United wants to move away from their current stadium, and anywhere they move to will create a certain amount of problems, because that is the nature of sports events. But to describe the (latest) proposal as "environmental vandalism" is so stupid it is hard to believe that anyone could say it with a straight face.

The Trumpington Meadows site is as good as any, because the M11 provides a good motorway link. Most people going to the site would come either on the M11 or from Cambridge city centre. Hardly anyone would come through Grantchester, and the stadium would cause far fewer traffic problems for Grantchester than does The Orchard.

The current proposal for a "green buffer" between the Trumpington Meadows housing and the M11 makes no sense. Any buffer that should exist should be created on the other side of the M11.

An alternative site for the stadium would be between Newnham and the M11, but of course the NIMBYs of Newnham run Cambridge, and so they have far more sway than even the NIMBYs of Trumpington.

The annual whining about train fare increases (permanent blog link)

The BBC says:

Rail commuters preparing to return to work after the Christmas break face fare rises of up to 11% from Monday, watchdog Passenger Focus has said.

Chief executive Anthony Smith said they should not have to keep paying for a "fractured, inefficient industry".

The annual rise will see the average price of regulated fares, such as season tickets, increase by 6%.

The Association of Train Operating Companies said money raised through fares helped pay for better services.
...
The Campaign for Better Transport is organising a day of action on Tuesday against what it calls "rip-off rail fares".
...
Currently, passengers contribute about £6.5bn to the running of the railways, with taxpayers picking up the remaining £4bn.
...
BBC correspondent Graham Satchell said big questions are now being asked about why it costs 30% more to run the railway in Britain than elsewhere in Europe.

Part of the problem is indeed that the railways are inefficiently run, and that is down to the idiotic way they were privatised by the last Tory government. But rail companies all over the world get massive taxpayer subsidies, and it is an inherent flaw in this particular transport mechanism, which the zealots never understand.

In Britain train commuters are far wealthier than non-train commuters, and so the taxpayer subsidy of billions of pounds each year represent a massive transfer of wealth from the relatively poor to the relatively rich. Not surprisingly the usual train commuter lobbies, such as Passenger Focus and the so-called Campaign for Better Transport, support this massive transfer of wealth, because they have a vested self interest, but the government should just ignore them.

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