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London - Dying like a Dinosaur

by Helen Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 06:42:20 PM EST

Officially, the population of Britain is about 65 million, with estimates of increase suggesting that it might rise to 70 or maybe 75 million by 2030, or 2050 or some other fantasy time in the future we don't have to plan for.

However, even that may not be the end of the story, the Independent claims that the present real population may be much higher.

It is the statistic that dare not speak its name, though eventually it must. ......So don't forget you read it here first: the population of the UK is presently somewhere between 77 and 80 million.

Consumption - that's the thing. Based on what we eat, one big supermarket chain reckons there are 80 million people living in the UK. The demand for food is a reliable indicator; as Sir Richard Branson says, you can have all the money in the world but you can only eat onelunch and one dinner. I have a second, respectable, source. A major, non-commercial agricultural institution reckons there are 77 million of us in the UK. Again, its reckoning is based on what we eat.

However, whether the population is 65 million or 80 million, the reason why most commentators complain is that at least a third of that population, and probably the majority of that phantom population, are crammed into the south east. As that is where the commentators are also based, their impression is of a country desperately over-crowded.

Again, officially the population of London is a paltry 7 million. However, the population of the "Home Counties", ie a circle approx 100 miles around london, is officially nearly 20 million, plus who knows how many unregistered. After all, most of the unregistered are where the money and opportunities are.

And the problem is, the South East doesn't work. Not anymore. Slowly, year by year, London is suffocating and fewer swollen pegs are fitting in their holes.


Transport
Most of the wealth of the South East is generated in the two closely related financial districts of The City and Docklands.  Most of the rest, including West End shopping, Government department, the Law courts etc, are sited within the North Circular road, roughly a semi-circle 6 miles in radius. Which means that during the rush hour over 10 million people commute into London every day, whilst a few million more are driving their children to school, terrified of allowing their children to share the crowded roads.

The road and rail network in the South East was not designed for this load. Railways have suffered from decades of under-investment and some parts of the network seem to be held together more by habit than engineering. Most commuters will talk of regular snarl-ups which render them hours late for their journeys.

Although roads have seen considerable investment, the fact is that, with so few alternatives, all of the roads are overloaded. The M25 will only see significant tailing off of traffic between midnight and six in the morning on any given day. Any severe hold up at a critical time, however quickly resolved,  will have consequences throughout the rest of the day.

All in all, it's a barely-integrated transport network that has difficulty coping at the best of times. One where the most minor giltch at the wrong moment will quickly create terrible problems. The difficulty is that, however much you improve the roads and rails; at some point they will all be competing for the same space, creating yet more bottlenecks. That is the failure of the much-vaunted CrossRail, at great expense it doesn't actually solve any problems, simply displaces them a couple of miles further on

Housing

However, transport is by no means the only problem. The fact is that the south east is running out of space. Urban sprawl radiates away from london in every direction. The area up to 25 miles from the centre is almost entirely built upon. Significant stretches, such as towards Reading in the West, Milton Keynes in the north, Brighton in the South, Southend and Gillingham either side of the Thames, take urbanisation much further out. The rest of the S East is mostly either some of the best farmland in the country or too far from the useful transport infrastructure to be part of a solution.

Which all means that the prices for accomodation are astronomical. House prices are now hovering at around 8 times the average annual wage which, for a huge number of people makes owning a house too expensive. Thanks to Margaret Thatcher selling off nearly the entire stock of social housing in the South East, renting is now almost entirely in the private sector and is far from being a cheap or even a convenient option.

The Government talk about using "brownfield" sites for new builds and, yes, there are opportunities, but nowhere near enough to solve the  problem. Not in such a way as it will make housing more affordable. And that then reveals a deeper problem.

Because there are certain people whom you need to have around to make a city run, even if you're unwilling to pay them very much. Emergency services are obvious, particularly nurses and firemen who are slowly being squeezed out of the south east. The only nurses who can afford to be here are either living with their parents or married to somebody a lot better paid. But also it's the same with waiters, teachers, sandwich shop managers, dustmen, bus drivers. In fact, you name a poorly paid ancillary service and they're understaffed because fewer and fewer of them can afford to live here. Once they could have moved to the suburbs and commuted. But prices fall so slowly by distance now that commuting itself becomes unaffordable.

Maybe it doesn't matter at the moment, but each year the pool of people able to afford to work in london diminishes. Maybe people over 30 won't move away, but those who are single, have degrees or have just worked it out are slipping away. Well away from London in Britain and abroad.

Water

The South East of Britain has always been the driest corner of the country. Indeed, Clacton in Essex is officially dry enough to be classed as a desert. The deluge of this summer has meant that this year has been the first time in nearly a decade when there wasn't an official water shortage somewhere in the region. If the population wasn't to increase at all, there would still be water supply problems most years yet, with every person that moves into the South East the strain becomes worse. Water for the county of Essex comes from Norfolk, itself facing a shortage. So much so that Norfolk has a continuous objection, overriden by Central Govt, to any further development in Essex.

The aquifers that sustained the area in times of drought are now being tapped into on almost a  permanent basis. A couple of years without excessive rain will undoubtedly result in water rationing as there are simply no more supplies to tap.

Geology & Climate change

After the Ice age, the north of Britain began to rise as it was released from the burden of billions of tons of ice. Unfortunately, for every action, there is a reaction and that means that the South East is gradually sinking. The Thames barrier was built because, gradually, year by year the tides are reaching higher up the banks of the river. Storm surges would now be capable of regularly inundating the City, if they weren't held at bay.

Yet climate change is now accelerating this process. The barrier will have to be replaced by something much more substantial by 2030. Yet it is the Thames Gateway, aka the floodplain that will be increasingly inundated by these changes, that is currently the last best hope of building the vast number of houses needed to cope with population growth.

Conclusion

Government in Britain has become more about the illusion of control matched by the increasing abdication of general responsibility for the well-being of the country. The situation in the South East of Britain has been allowed to spiral out of control to the extent that it is almost beyond saving. Yet, no doubt, all will claim they never saw it coming yet the warning signs have been there for decades.

More and more people are cramming in to try to claim some of the wealth supposedly trickling down from the increasingly fevered activity in the financial districts. Yet, year on year, those who do the basic jobs are being squeezed out as new, previously unattractive areas are discovered to be residentially desirable. The wealthy move in and the rest move on until finally, squeezed too far, the next generation leaves.  They are not being replaced, and London becomes increasingly a non-viable environment because rich people still need the poor to clean up after them. It's no good saying the immigrants will come in and replace them if they have nowhere to live and can't afford the cost of living.

London is dying like a dinosaur. It is mortally wounded, but it will take years before the message gets through.

Display:
One of my former bosses came home.  Since his wife was Dutch they decided to retire in Holland.  After five years they came back to the States.  Holland it seems got overrun by foreigners!
by Lasthorseman on Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 07:14:46 PM EST
Good diary.

But then I would say that.

For me, one of the important things about London (and this is reflected in other places around the world, e.g. SF) is that network effects tend to trump cost issues for a long time.

The market theory is that businesses faced with all these expenses (after all cost of living translates into labour expenses in the "higher echelons" of the economy) will move to cheaper parts of the country.

And yet. It just doesn't happen. Some of it is down to the decay of the transport network. But Leeds, for example, has soaked up some percentage of legal service and banking operations (by virtue of being up the electrified train line) from London. But still, you can count the number of business decisions made up here on one hand.

My own view is that this is all a toxic blend of American economic voodoo being applied to a European country. Part of the US ethos of "getting government out of the way" fundamentally relies on geographical plenty. We can see this not only in the expansion of say, Austin TX, but also the business model of Walmart.

Trouble is, we can see that London just doesn't have that much land around it, so leaving things be just pushes us towards an inflection point.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 07:22:26 PM EST
And no small part of this is the fact that the 20th century Anglo economy emerged and thrived in an unusually stable global climate. The geographic expansion you describe was driven by the belief that the landscape would always be available, always be safe from natural disaster, well-watered, etc. Sprawl across the sunbelt all you like, there'll always be enough oil, water, land, wood, food.

By the 1990s it became clear that the 20th century was, on the whole, an anomalous period in the global climate, as scholars discovered the profound effects of things like the ENSO, or the centuries-long drought in the US Southwest that drove the Anasazi culture into collapse, a drought that may be reappearing.

But by that time it was too late; Anglo elites and enough of their voters agreed that the party HAD to continue, that the threats were too abstract or paranoid or "un-American" to be allowed to shape urban geography.

Now folks seem to be coming around and accepting reality, but the 30-year insistence that nothing was wrong has robbed us of the tools and political momentum to react properly.

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 07:36:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of the US ethos of "getting government out of the way" fundamentally relies on geographical plenty.

Yes. The Turner Thesis in 25 words or less.  A convenient myth that has driven American expansionism for more than two centuries.  The irony is that Turner's thesis sought to explain why America was different from Europe, "the Old World," because we had an open frontier to expand into. In the last half century the mantra has become "Yes! You too can be like us!"  Well, the inconvenient truth is that you can't be like us.  Hell, we can't be like us any longer, now that that marvelous open frontier, with all those material resources "free for the taking," is gone.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You might as well have been describing Southern California, or even the San Francisco Bay Area. Obviously we face different geological and climatological problems, but the underlying factor - vulnerability to a warming climate that exacerbates existing threats (earthquakes here, a rising Thames there) - is basically the same. And the human geography you describe fits California very well.

For CA I'd rewrite your penultimate paragraph:

"Government in California has become more about the illusion of responsiveness to problems matched by the increasing abdication of general responsibility for the well-being of the state. The situation in the state has been allowed to spiral out of control to the extent that it is almost beyond saving. Yet, no doubt, all will claim they never saw it coming yet the warning signs have been there for decades."

The Anglo disease, it seems, isn't just about wealth capture through financialization - it's also about the destruction of the public sector's willingness and ability to respond to these looming crises.

Now that you mention it, rural Bulgaria doesn't sound so bad...

And the world will live as one

by Montereyan (robert at calitics dot com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 07:26:24 PM EST
You could write it about almost any American city.  By our standards, London has spectacular public transport, though.  It is, however, much like an inland American city, with the obvious difference -- aside from transport -- being the density of population.

I'd add that a major problem is London is the prevalence of terraced houses above high-rises.  You've essentially got the New York Metro area with no apartment towers with comparing.

I'm not sure a comparison between London and Frisco is reasonable, aside from both being prone to environmental disaster.  (No offense to folks in San Fran, but the earthquakes alone are enough to keep me as far away as possible.  I'll stick to hurricane territory, thank you.)  San Fran doesn't include a lot of room to begin with, whereas London has simply expanded to the point that, when Helen and I visited Brighton, I couldn't tell where one ended and the other began.  And we're not talking about a brief ride on the Underground here.  We're talking about fifty or sixty miles on a straight shot.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:33:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're talking about fifty or sixty miles on a straight shot.

I think I should make it clear that there are NOT housing estates running endlessly from central London to Brighton (about 60 miles.)

There is a seemingly endless built up area that stretches south from London to the M25--

--by which point I imagine Drew and Helen had given up on looking at the view--followed by an area known as "The Green Belt".  Beyond that there is Gatwick/Crawley/Horsham sprawl--but with countryside beyond that, and then a large forest (Tilgate) followed by smaller towns (Haywards Heath, Burgess Hill) which are also surrounded by countryside.  These are then followed by The South Downs!

Behind which lurks Brighton, which is very built up--and has very strict rules about basically not being allowed to build anywhere that hasn't already been built on.

I don't know if this link works:

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?q=south%20east%20england%20map%20satellite&svnum=10&um=1&h l=en&ndsp=20&oe=UTF-8&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=il

But if it does, you can see the "finger of smog" stretching down from London and ending at Crawley--and all the green below the M25.

</south of england information broadcast>

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 09:02:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, okay, but to be fair:  It was dark out, and I'd already had a few pints.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 09:37:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I'd add that a major problem is London is the prevalence of terraced houses above high-rises.  You've essentially got the New York Metro area with no apartment towers with comparing."

As a small side point, high rise buildings are a huge upcoming problem. They rely on large furnaces heated by natural gas, and a brief overnight failure of the gas supply in the winter would cause the pipes to freeze, making the buildings uninhabitable. If there is a significant glitch in the energy supply to New York, the city could become vacant in a matter of a week.

by asdf on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 09:33:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
also the elevators w/o which few people can make it much above the 10th floor and many not even that far.  some of these idiotic stuctures have no opening windows and rely entirely on forced air both for heating and cooling (and breathing).

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:04:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite ... as Jane Jacobs pointed out long ago, a very efficient urban housing model is stacked townhouses ... ground floor and basement, first (US second) and top floor.

Once you get populations up to the level to support genuine urban districts, it seems to me that the only direction to address the megalopolis problem is to pursue network cities.

But my geographic knowledge of Britain in terms of travel distance is sketchy ... if there was a real HSR line north from the City of London, where would the half hour radius go to the north? and the hour radius?

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 06:52:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Knock yourself out.

Using the models we discussed in your HSR diary
DoDo:

If it is easy to implement, I'd suggest you refine your model with these next simplest assumptions:

  1. give 40 km/25 miles and 10 minutes each for the acceleration and deceleration phases (the latter is in reality much shorter, but let's have buffer for city entrances),
  2. calculate the rest at maximum speed, if you're a bit bolder, 220 mph (which is a bit under the 360 km/h max for the next generation of Shinkansens),
  3. accept half-hour distances as minimum.

Final point: what about Houston-NOLA, St. Louis-NOLA, Jacksonville-NOLA? All seem to be within the scope of your rules (and all would be great to serve some major sub-million cities along the way, too).
I get
          town minutes
1     Aberdeen 138
2  Aberystwyth  63
3   Birmingham  36
4      Bristol  37
5      Cardiff  47
6        Derby  39
7        Dover  26
8    Edinburgh 109
9       Exeter  52
10     Glasgow 110
11   Inverness 148
12       Leeds  58
13   Liverpool  59
15  Manchester  56
16   Newcastle  80
17     Norwich  37
18  Nottingham  39
19      Oxford  27
20  Portsmouth  26
21   Sheffield  49
22 Southampton  27
23        York  58
for non-stop journeys from central London. It probably makes sense to round to the next higher 10 minutes.


We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 07:51:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So Dublin should be three or four hours from London, not twelve?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 07:53:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How long is the ferry connection to Aberstywyth, with a fast catamaran?

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 07:54:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Dublin - Holyhead is 100 minutes, apparently.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:08:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Aberystwyth  has a very tidal yacht harbour, but nothing that would take a ferry. (the 63 minute journey does make me salivate though) probably the best place to run a high speedline to for Ireland would be Fishguard, you then wouldn't have the problem of getting onto Anglesey to reach Hollyhead when building the line.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:00:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Fishguard would require Colman to go to Wexford by train!

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:09:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
so we have to build some high speed line in Ireland too? Or is Colman banned from Wexford?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:25:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Anglesey is not a problem! You could have a high-speed rail station at Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 10:46:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well apart from how to get a bridge across the Menai straights, avoiding all the chunks of heritage on either side, if you're putting an entirely new line in.

you'd have to not stop at llanfair.p.g. though, just drive straight past at speed so that the passengers thought,"did that sign really say what I thought it did"?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 10:56:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, on that the whole Midlands is basically inside an hour. I reckon if its point to point ... eg, Luton, Northhampton, Birmingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester ... that goes beyond an hour end to end, but would still retain a network city effect.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:22:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I also calculated your proposed indicator of suitability of HSR links (namely, geometric mean population divided by distance) for the UK's 10 largest conurbations by population (wikipedia). Here's the result:
         from         to     score miles
90 Manchester      Leeds 41654.487  44.0
88 Manchester  Liverpool 38969.011  34.7
86     London Birmingham 36850.567 118.0
84 Manchester  Sheffield 30957.756  38.7
82 Birmingham Nottingham 23908.977  51.6
80 Birmingham Manchester 23736.151  95.3
78      Leeds  Sheffield 23732.979  41.3
76     London Manchester 20703.905 208.0
74     London Nottingham 18349.031 128.0
72     London    Bristol 18100.438 118.0
70     London      Leeds 17975.517 196.0
68 Birmingham      Leeds 15422.111 120.0
66      Leeds  Liverpool 15259.233  72.5
64 Manchester Nottingham 15065.351  81.1
62 Nottingham  Sheffield 14986.543  43.6
60 Birmingham  Liverpool 13961.131  97.8
58     London  Sheffield 13873.797 166.0
56      Leeds Nottingham 13618.395  73.4
54 Birmingham  Sheffield 13456.476  89.9
52     London  Liverpool 12319.395 211.0
50      Leeds  Newcastle 11661.980  98.5
48 Birmingham    Bristol 11542.302  97.2
46 Manchester  Newcastle  9683.194 145.0                                  
44     London  Newcastle  9605.132 281.0
42  Liverpool  Sheffield  9142.400  79.1
40     London    Glasgow  7716.775 403.0
38 Manchester    Glasgow  7455.181 217.0
36 Birmingham  Newcastle  6848.996 207.0
34    Glasgow  Newcastle  6714.830 151.0
32  Liverpool Nottingham  6584.736 112.0
30 Manchester    Bristol  6277.328 177.0
28      Leeds    Glasgow  6016.128 220.0
26 Birmingham    Glasgow  5632.880 290.0
24  Newcastle  Sheffield  5402.064 139.0
22  Newcastle  Liverpool  4761.271 178.0
20  Newcastle Nottingham  4669.284 164.0
18    Glasgow  Liverpool  4458.924 219.0
16      Leeds    Bristol  4370.254 208.0
14 Nottingham    Bristol  4297.704 141.0
12  Liverpool    Bristol  3725.906 180.0
10    Glasgow  Sheffield  3379.604 256.0
8   Sheffield    Bristol  3301.136 180.0
6     Glasgow Nottingham  3128.789 282.0
4   Newcastle    Bristol  2329.008 299.0
2     Glasgow    Bristol  2162.716 371.0

As was discussed in the US HSR diary, a minimum travel time of 30 minutes corresponds to about 86 miles. A hypothetical Liverpool-Manchester-Leeds train barely has time to reach cruise speed before it has to slow down for the intermediate stop, so the first HSR link that makes sense is London-Birmingham.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:23:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, that place looks like it was build for high speed rail ... is that the same UK that took a bloody ax to its rail system a while back?


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:52:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Sad, isn't it?

Considering the Leeds-Manchester-Liverpool line seems to be a no-brainer and potentially the most sensible of all major rail links in the country, I decided to check nationalrail.co.uk to see what the situation is like at present.

The fastest direct train takes 1h47 minutes, while we know it could take as little as 27 minutes non-stop and less than 40 minutes with a stop in Manchester. At nearly 2h travel time it almost makes sense to fly from Leeds to Liverpool, but a good rail connection via Manchester would such the airlines dry of their market share.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:59:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Set aside HSR ... what would it be at modern Express speed? 10 minutes each accel, 10 minutes each de-accel, that's 40 minutes ... for a tilt-train, say for simplicity that its 7 miles each phase.

OK, Leeds, Manchester, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 30 miles at 100mph so about 18 minutes, for a total of 38 minutes.

Manchester, Liverpool, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 21 miles at 100mph, is about 13 minutes, for about 33 minutes.

10 minutes for debarking and embarking at Manchester, and eventually arriving after an HSR London/Birmingham/Manchester arrives and before it returns, would yield 1 hour 21 minutes.

Non-stop Leeds/Liverpool, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 59 miles in 39 minutes, 59 minutes.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 01:30:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is probably what is in place now, except that there are more intermediate stops. 1h21m is not that different from 1h47m, especially if you add additional stops. TransPennine runs Class 185 trains with a top speed of 100mph on all its lines. It could introduce some Class 43 trains for a cruise speed of 125mph (though the top speed is closer to 150mph). That's what passes for "High Speed" in the UK, but it is 25-year old diesel technology.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:00:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Intercity Express Programme - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The DfT states that their involvement in a future fleet specification and acquisition is necessary for several reasons. Though Britain's rail operators are privatised, their franchises seldom last for more than 12 years; a train, on the other hand, may remain in service for more than 30 years. It is therefore entirely unprofitable for the franchise operator to replace the fleet, leaving the only other option to hire newly acquired trains from third parties, which can prove extremely expensive. The DfT also states that it can, and has, brought train operators together with a `whole system, whole life' perspective to decide on a specification that will be more flexible with regards to future routes and fleet transfers as well as more environmentally aware.
(My emphasis)

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:03:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends on the standard of the local rail network as well,  Our local railway route lost its ability to run class 43's in about 1993, runing direct to Birmingham at reasonably high speed. One of the main reasons that it was reported to have happened was so that the train companies could reduce the ammount spent on track maintenance by running lighter trains. one of the side effects of this are frequent patches where we are told that we are running slowly in an area due to track conditions.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:16:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Our local railway route lost its ability to run class 43's in about 1993, ... One of the main reasons that it was reported to have happened was so that the train companies could reduce the [amount] spent on track maintenance by running lighter trains.

Say what?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:26:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All the trains on the line when I last went on it were all These

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:36:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Obviously I don't know the terrain ... it could be, but 1:20 quite definitely is a different mode split to 1:47, as well as at least one more set to run the same number of services.

But it looks like the key there is conventional Non-Stop / Express / Local scheduling with the Non-Stop chasing the Express chasing the Local into Manchester (on either side).

Assuming 125mph and working that through again ...

Leeds, Manchester, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 30 miles at 125mph so about 15 minutes, for a total of 35 minutes.

Manchester, Liverpool, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 21 miles at 125mph, is about 10 minutes, for about 30 minutes.

10 minutes for debarking and embarking at Manchester, and eventually arriving after an HSR London/Birmingham/Manchester arrives and before it returns, would yield 1 hour 1:15 minutes, so not the same improvement as :145 to 1:20.

Non-stop Leeds/Liverpool, 14 miles in 20 minutes, 59 miles in 29 minutes, 49 minutes.

Not surprisingly, the bonus for a slight ratcheting up of the speed of the class 43 is is the Leeds/Liverpool non-stop.

But to me, the linchpin there for the regional transport task is a true HSR line London/Birmingham/Manchester, and Non-Stop / Express / Locals chasing each other into Manchester to connect with the HSR. However, if it is possible to get an effective Dublin connection by ferry from Liverpool, then I can see taking a London/Birmingham/Manchester HSR on into Liverpool.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 06:56:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Government in Britain has become more about the illusion of control matched by the increasing abdication of general responsibility for the well-being of the country.

Bullseye.

Yet climate change is now accelerating this process. The barrier will have to be replaced by something much more substantial by 2030. Yet it is the Thames Gateway, aka the floodplain that will be increasingly inundated by these changes, that is currently the last best hope of building the vast number of houses needed to cope with population growth.

It's not going to happen, is it? What will happen is that homes will be built, a new barrier will also be built, and even if - and it's the proverbially huge if - the two are coordinated so that new homes are protected, the barrier will fail sooner than expected.

I expect London to be permanently underwater by 2050 at the latest, and very possibly subject to at least one serious and very damaging Katrina-style flooding event before 2030.

The Thames is not the only threat. The kind of rain that feel on Yorkshire and Gloucestershire this year would have overwhelmed London as easily it did the other areas. The difference is that with a much higher population density and much less robust transport links you have a much bigger potential disaster.

There's already talk of building houses on stilts. Which is an idiotic solution unless people are going to be expected to launch and navigate boats, in order to get to and from work and to buy essentials.

When an idea like that is being discussed seriously, the situation is already desperate. But Whitehall is working on the assumption of business-as-usual, and is barely even thinking about the effects of climate change on the South East.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Oct 30th, 2007 at 07:43:10 PM EST
I'm amazed anyone would suggest stilts.  Where, I must know, are they suggesting that be done?

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:43:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here, for example.

Not just stilts, but even more bizarre ideas.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 10:20:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Amazing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 10:14:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Look on the bright side, TBG.  We'll get to see if all that fluff about the English and their naval history is really worth the powder to blow to hell in modern times.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 08:00:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe too little too late, but they have finally figured out that connecting London to Birmingham and Manchester with high-speed rail is long overdue...

Reuters: High-speed rail links may be expanded (Oct 30, 2007)

The government is to look at ways of speeding up rail and motorway links between London, Birmingham and Manchester and has underlined its support for airport expansion in southeast England.

...

In a report entitled "Towards a Sustainable Transport System," it raised the possibility of widening motorways, introducing congestion charging schemes in towns and expanding high-speed rail.

...

But environmentalists criticised the plans to expand airport capacity while relying on the European emissions trading scheme to deal with growth in aviation's CO2 emissions.



We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:49:55 AM EST
Migeru quoting Reuters quoting Whitehall:
it raised the possibility of widening motorways, introducing congestion charging schemes in towns

So a measure designed to make it easier to drive between cities meets a measure designed to make it harder to drive into them.

Inspired.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 06:31:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it raised the possibility of widening motorways, introducing congestion charging schemes in towns and expanding high-speed rail.

Colour me cynical, but let me guess which one of the three options will be dropped because it's impractical, or because it's too expensive.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
These are the times when no one cares about collective functionality. By the ideology and belief, no one has to care. No wonder then that collective infrastructure and functionality are degrading badly.
by das monde on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 05:24:20 AM EST
sigh...we have chosen to learn the hard way...

money is a vampire with its teeth sunk in humanity's neck, and caring for  possessing its power has made a whole society (except for a few clued-in folks) hard and mean.

it seems like we are about to reap what we have sown.

brighter note...it seems there is a new report on the effects of modern diets on cancer rates in the uk, (i just saw reported on bbc world)....eat less red meat, 5 servings of veg a day, no sweets and junk food, etc.

the same as what was revealed in the mcgovern report back in the seventies in the usa, but was squelched at birth by the milk board, the egg board, the meat board etc.

progress..

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:22:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary, Helen.  Space will run out eventually if the population keeps expanding and we don't have vast empty areas in the UK to set up new towns in.  The practice of building new housing on flood plains and high risk areas has been responsible for the chaos that ensues every time we have really bad weather in any part of the UK and I can't understand why this isn't being stopped.  

It does feel like the short term keeps over-riding the long term and in many ways it is understandable when Governments are only in place for a few years and need quick wins to keep them there.  Taking tax payers money to invest in long term infrastructure that doesn't give anything back to taxpayers now, doesn't make for popularity.  How can we encourage the public to accept a necessary increase in tax to pay for long term security (ie infrastructure, safety from flooding etc)for the country? How can we trust the Government to invest that money effectively?

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 08:02:07 AM EST
England will come to discover the need for a Dutch kind of water board? And please follow the link, even when you do think what it is - it's another wonderful example of terminological confusion.

The Dutch water board (Hoogheemraadschap) is a diary worthy subject and quintessentially Dutch.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 09:53:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And in the right place....

Of course not, The market will provide.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 10:08:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
al-Market akhbar!

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 12:40:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our oldest governance structure!
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 10:12:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain also has a water board, in Valencia. Amazingly, nobody has any idea when it started.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:29:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just increasing the average height of buildings by one storey and replacing rows of terraced houses with "long and flat" apartment complexes seems like the way forward.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:28:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How pleasing on the eye that will be.  Consider though how many terraced houses are being converted into apartments, as well as new apartments everywhere.  We've got so many apartment blocks going up all over Cardiff at the moment.  The whole city is a construction site.

Housing isn't being connected to the communities that live in them.  We often talk about social issues that we've arrived at because the individual is sovereign these days and 'community' and the collective go out of the window. More effective town planning could play a role in regenerating and strengthening communities. Instead any spare bit of land gets another block dumped on it, without any connection being made to amenities, schools, shops, leisure, transport.  

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How can we encourage the public to accept a necessary increase in tax to pay for long term security (ie infrastructure, safety from flooding etc)for the country? How can we trust the Government to invest that money effectively?

we can't...

the public is asleep at the switch, encouraged to be that way by corrupt leadership.

short term is right...

nothing less than a breakdown will convince enough people to seriously question the status quo, the orwellian brainwashing is complete....

a war criminal is invited to bring peace to the middle east.

most of the ads on mainstream italian radio exhort us to buy new cars and change to new brands of petrol.

one of the recent ones invited us to 'cuddle' (coccolare) our internal combustion engines, (by switching brands of petrol).

every day is a strange miracle of survival, as the coming tsunami is receding before rolling in...

there's no way to be really ready for this...

a whole bunch of letting go...a time of consequences...

it is some (small) comfort that we have been given the time to try and mentally prepare ourselves...it's the ones who will wake up too sharply that worry me.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:43:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nothing less than a breakdown will convince enough people to seriously question the status quo, the orwellian brainwashing is complete....

a war criminal is invited to bring peace to the middle east.

In other news:

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah met the Queen on Tuesday at the start of a two-day state visit that has attracted widespread criticism of the Saudi human rights record.

He was due later to attend a state banquet at Buckingham Palace, where senior members of the Saudi royal family are staying as the Queen's guests.

Abdullah is scheduled to hold talks with prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday.

The Queen's meeting with the Saudi monarch came after a day of controversy in which the King said Britain had failed to act on information passed to it by Saudi Arabia which might have helped prevent the 2005 suicide bombings in London that killed 52 people.
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In an interview with the BBC, he accused London of failing to do enough to combat international terrorism and said al Qaeda remained a major threat.

The government quickly issued a statement that information received from the Saudis at the time was not specific.

Officials were then forced to deny that Foreign Secretary David Miliband's cancellation of an appearance at a conference on Monday -- where he had been scheduled to speak alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal -- was not a snub.

Officials said he cancelled because he was taking leave after adopting a second child.

Rights demonstrators and protesters against the lucrative arms trade between Britain and Saudi Arabia have planned to stage meetings outside the Saudi embassy in London later this week.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 08:31:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one has anything to say about the population being (according to the Independent) 20%-25% higher than the official figure?

The difference being made up, presumably, of an immigrant population principally of working age. Undocumented or at least slipping between the cracks of official head-counting. Unaccounted for by the census, the labour force survey, social support systems... Living how? Room-sharing? Most, presumably, working for low-paid black-market jobs.

12 to 15 million extra people, most fitting that description, and most of them in South-East England? Does that seem possible?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:05:19 PM EST
The 'based on what we eat' analysis seems suspect. I mean, there's news about an obesity pandemic in the UK about every other day. Maybe a lot of UK residents are simply eating two lunches and two dinners a day.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:27:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm torn. I don't feel like I have the data to question the figure of 12-15 million extra, but at the same time, living here outside of London & SE, it doesn't seem impossible, if most of them are in the SE.

Did these food analyses account for the ongoing trend for everyone to eat enough for two? Obesity is a real thing...

Around here we've had clearly noticeable immigration. Population levels are, I would estimate anecdotally, back to pre-miner's strike (and steel and textile industry collapse) levels. For Yorkshire that suggests the population has bounced back up by half a million.

Now obviously, not all of those are from outside the UK, but a large majority are.

All the same, replicate that across the country and you only get 7-10 million increase, unless we assume (maybe not unreasonably) that Manchester, Birmingham and London/SE have had a much larger proportionate increase.

And the 60 million figure is the 2001 Census one, which doesn't include social support system info or even labour force survey info.

So, I guess I'm saying:

a) It does look possible.
b) I'm not sure that they are all "between the cracks" of society, so much as that the 60 million figure was known to be worrisome in 2001. There was the whole "1 million missing young men" (of whom I was one.) and numerous other issues.

BUT even if we say pop is 70 mil, with 7 mil "shadow pop" that is 10%, which is incredibly scary now I stop and think about it. 10% of the population...

Welcome to the Anglo disease...

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:40:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The figure I was using was Helen's 65 million above, which already isn't the Census figure...

If there really are this many extra people, then there are no employment, work volume, or productivity stats left standing... Terrible thought!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 12:49:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IT certainly would be a good one to throw at the FT next time they quote productivity per worker stats...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 01:27:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The last two censuses has had a similar problem, lots of people chose to disappear the 1991 census had lots of people vanishing to avoid the poll tax. people had a fear that appearing on the census would lead to poll tax bills for visitors, people who were avoiding paying finally being caught, it was reckoned there were a million missing from that one, the million missing men quoted from the 2001 census, were missing from the 1991 figures, from what I remember reading, so they could be 2 million out, or it could be coded language for "we don't know how wrong the figures are, but they're very wrong".        

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 01:04:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No one has anything to say about the population being (according to the Independent) 20%-25% higher than the official figure?

too many people in too little space is too many people...

give or take a few mill, same problems, writ larger...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:50:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not only are people overeating, but the "grocery shopping one a week" model also means a lot of waste as food gets to old and is dumped away. 20% of food going this way would not amaze me...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:12:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent writing, helen, thanks!

you lay out the problems clearly, in a serious, thoughtful way.

and to think i felt the SE was intolerably overcrowded in the late 60's.

lol

good luck in bulgaria!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:32:06 PM EST
perhaps we should call it (the anglo disease) the Tragedy of No Commons.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:08:15 PM EST
...or tragedy of the stolen, reformed, dwindling commons...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 12:32:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
isn't there something in the med lit about tumour necrosis, where a tumour becomes so large and dense that it squeezes or displaces the blood vessels to its own interior?  I'll google for it later.  there may be an effective structural size limit for various layouts of city design;  there are physical reasons why we don't have ants the size of dogs, or dogs the size of abrams tanks.  similar laws of scale may well apply to concentrations of human dwelling and commerce.  we may think we can cheat those design laws by throwing fossil fuel at the problem, but I think it only postpones the structural limit by a few generations.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:42:24 PM EST
i think you're onto it...

sociability recedes in crowds, excess of anything turns into its opposite.

india does huge gatherings well, mecca not so much...

a football crowd has the appeal of a nazi rally...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 12:22:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of Trantor, the capital planet of the empire in Asimov's Foundation series... It was a planet city, completely terraformed to host up to 20 billion people, iirc. It required the food and metal production of dozens of planets to sustain... but when the empire could keep up with the increasing energy required to keep the system in balance, it started to slowly disappear...

Eventually, Trantor recovered its original appearance as merchants sold all its metal back to the galaxy.

Rien n'est gratuit en ce bas monde. Tout s'expie, le bien comme le mal, se paie tot ou tard. Le bien c'est beaucoup plus cher, forcement. Celine

by UnEstranAvecVueSurMer (holopherne ahem gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:00:31 AM EST


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