14 Apr 2014

Biggest fare dodger in history

"Train bosses have come under fire for not prosecuting a wealthy hedge fund manager who was described as the “biggest fare dodger in railway history”, evading more than £42,000 in train tickets. The City executive is believed to have dodged the fare for the 82-minute commute between the Sussex village of Stonegate and central London for five years.

He exploited a flaw that allowed him to go through barriers at Cannon Street station in London by “tapping out” with an Oyster travelcard. After finally being caught by a ticket inspector, the executive was able to pay £42,550 in dodged fares and £450 in legal costs within three days of being asked to pay up as part of an out-of-court settlement." Daily Telegraph article

One has to admire the guy's ingenuity. One also has to question the competence of the people who set up the system, for not spotting the flaw. Perhaps they should employ him as a consultant to check the security of their systems in future.

7 Apr 2014

Crossrail - one railway for the price of two

Expectations of an imminent start on a new north-south rail line across London have been damped, with the former chief executive of Network Rail warning that no work on “Crossrail 2” will happen in the next decade. (FT article)

The route, on a south-west to north-east axis from Chelsea to Hackney, was first proposed as a tube line in 1901 and has popped up regularly ever since. Now Crossrail was also originally intended to relieve the congested Central Line and the northern part of the Circle Line. This could have been satisfied by building another tube line on roughly the present alignment from Paddington to Stratford. In an easterly direction, it might have continued to, perhaps, Woolwich, and at the westerly end, it might have run to Hammersmith, and possibly, eventually, Heathrow.

The London tube uses small 3.5 metre diameter tunnels and electrification by conductor rail. Crossrail, by contrast, is a full-sized railway with overhead electrification, requiring 6 metre tunnels. Thus, almost four times as much material has to be excavated, and costs cannot be less then double the cost of a tube line.

Thus, for the price of Crossrail 1, Londoners could have had both Crossrail 1 and Crossrail 2 for their money. Thus is the money wasted on over-specified infrastructure. How did this happen?

HS2 threatens wildlife habitats, MPs warn.

The Government should examine the option of the maximum speed being reduced from 225 mph to 185 mph to cut carbon emissions, says the House of Commons Environmental Audit Select Committee. The report calls for full environmental surveys along the length of the route and ringfencing of cash to preserve habitats. Guardian article.

31 Jan 2014

HS2 benefits 'made up', economists tell MPs

Government calculations used to justify the £50 billion HS2 scheme were “essentially made up” a former member of Whitehall’s high speed rail advisory panel has told MPs.

Henry Overman, professor of economic geography at the London School of Economics said he had quit the panel after he felt its role had changed from providing independent advice to promoting the project.

Article in Daily Telegraph.

30 Jan 2014

Transport Secretary blocks HS2 report

The transport secretary has blocked the release of a sensitive report believed to undermine the case for the proposed high-speed rail network. Patrick McLoughlin took the unusual step of vetoing the publication of a November 2011 review by the Major Projects Authority, despite the information commissioner saying it should be released after Freedom of Information requests. Read more here.

2 Jan 2014

Government to pay to convert 1st class vehicles to standard



Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, is preparing to pay millions of pounds to turn first-class vehicles to standard-class on First Great Western trains operating into and out of London’s Paddington station.

The simple answer to this is to have a reasonable standard seating density in a single type of vehicle and change the class designation as required. A mark 3 coach will accommodate 76 passengers and their luggage comfortably, which was the arrangement before their most recent refurbishment. The virtual image above illustrates an interior with a mixture of facing bays and airline seating. This gives the same number of seats in a slightly shorter vehicle than the mark three, which could therefore be slightly wider, built almost to the full width of the loading gauge.