The Emirates, the Donald, Q-Park, Empark, Her Majesty


The Emirates, the Donald, Q-Park, Empark, Her Majesty

So, as I said last time, back to the desert for another stint in the sun as Abu Dhabi, UAE, gets set to launch another mega parking project. So far, it seems that only people in the region have picked up on this. It’s 25 square miles of developing real estate with about 60,000 parking slots and a 30-year concession.

But as far as the big players are concerned, it seems to have sunk without trace. I understand that the return on the other project I did out here, which was about twice as big and has been running for about six years, is just a bit south of a billion dollars. Your loss, guys.

In the old days, hotels used to rip you off when you used their phones with sky-high charges. We all got cellphones, so they moved on to silly Wi-Fi costs. Now that seems to have stopped with most places offering free connection.

Out here, they have a new way to part you from your moolah: the hotel laundry. I put six days’ worth of clothes out to be cleaned: total bill, somewhere around $150. A few years ago, I did stay in one place where it was cheaper to go into the shopping mall next door and buy new clothes from a French brand-name shop than to launder what I had.

What really annoys me is that I have discovered a laundry in the back streets behind the hotel that will do the same job for about 10% of the cost.

I saw that the Donald (Shoup, not the other one) has picked up on the city of Westminster’s plan to surcharge diesel-powered vehicles at parking meters. “The government” is now mounting a thinly disguised war against diesel vehicle drivers that, only a few years ago, they were pushing as less environmentally damaging than their petrol-powered counterparts.

Obviously, Westminster didn’t see or chose to ignore the research suggesting that, far from being a work of Satan, they were actually less environmentally damaging – at the point of use – than the equivalent electric vehicle.

The other “little detail” is that they don’t say how they will enforce this. I have a diesel car, but there are no markings that say it is diesel-powered, so the only way that they can check is by contacting the vehicle licensing agency, which takes a day, and the ticket has to be issued at the time of the offense. 

Far from me to suggest that this is pure political blarney, but I am not convinced. Didn’t the Donald (the other one) coin the phrase fake news?


Interesting factoid: In a carpark, an electric vehicle will spend 17% of its parked time charging and 83% parked, occupying a charge point to the exclusion of other users.

A couple of afterthoughts on my trip to the Persian Gulf:

Talk about the 11th hour, on Sunday afternoon, I was asked to contribute to another bid that was getting submitted on Monday! The government was tendering the enforcement service for the city center, which was a bit of a surprise because only the people that I was working for had the legal authority to write tickets!

Faced with the possibility of a silly bid from a local labor company used to employing street sweepers, we came up with a cunning plan. If we replaced all the meters with new ones that would require the parker to enter their license plate, we could use LPR and reduce manpower by 90%, and the wage cost saving was more than the cost of the meters.

When my lovely wife picked me up at the airport back in the UK, she pointed out a rather amusing glitch in the airport carparks’ state-of-the-art bay-finding system. You know, the thing with a green light over every vacant bay – only it wasn’t. The system had obviously had a hard day and decided, just for a laugh, that it would put a green light over every occupied bay.

There is a short story called “The Machine Stops” by E. M. Forster that tells of a machine-dependent world and what happens when the machine stops. Was this the start? Be afraid, be very afraid.

Dutch parking giant Q-Park has put pen to paper in a deal, reportedly worth $2.2 billion, with KKR, a leading global investment firm, for it to acquire 100% of the shares in Q-Park. KKR manages investments across multiple asset classes, including private equity, energy, infrastructure, real estate, credit and hedge funds. Q-Park operates some 870,000 off-street spaces in 10 European countries, with an annual revenue of around $1 billion.

At the same time, Iberian giant Empark, which also operates more than half a million on- and off-street spaces across several European countries, is seeking interest from buyers with around 1 billion euros and change for 100% of the equity. One feature of the Empark portfolio is the long-term nature of its business, with an average contract term of 30 years, in a market where contracts are often for less than 10 years.

And finally, the Buckingham Palace visit. See the picture nearby. The lady in blue is the Queen and the gentleman in the shades is the guy who would have introduced me to a world of pain if I had tried to get any closer without being invited. Very British.

Article contributed by the Parking PT team.
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