Looking Back on Stories Reported in 2019
So, a year ago I reported on London Gatwick Airport’s plan to launch the amazing Stanley Robotics automated parking system. This is apparently used at an airport in France, coincidentally owned by French giant Vinci, who also is the majority shareholder at Gatwick airport. It was going to be up and running by summer 2019, for the tourist season. Then autumn. I phoned them again today, and the nice lady said that “trials are ongoing”, and she would get her colleague who knows all to call me back. Still waiting…
I am absolutely convinced that we are past the time when the world can afford to rely on carbon-based fuel and the internal combustion engine. Without a dramatic change in the way we design, build, and use transport, we are heading towards a cliff. And that in turn has serious implications for our industry. Humankind is going to want personal mobility and we will store the vehicles during their down time be they cars, horse-drawn buggies, or bikes. I am equally convinced that simply forcing diesel out and electricity in doesn’t get the job done.
For several years now Her Majesty’s Government has been beating the “diesel bad, electric good” drum, even though their numbers don’t add up and the power generation and distribution infrastructure manifestly could not support a replacement EV fleet. The media have pretty much toed the party line on this, reporting every EV good news story uncritically, ignoring the growing body of evidence that suggests that, far from being the savior of the world, EVs may actually be more damaging than the vehicles that they seek to replace. Now, just today, five magic words in a local news bulletin suggest that, just perhaps, the message is finally starting to be questioned. The article was reporting on the purchase of some new all electric buses in the fair city of Salisbury.
Setting aside that the buses cost twice as much as an ICE alternative, were range limited, and would never recover their cost, they are a good thing. However, the blessed journalist used the magic words “at the point of use” to qualify the claim that they produced zero emissions. Yes, finally, the truth. If you burn coal or gas to generate electricity, the vehicle is not non-polluting, the pollution is displaced, not eliminated. Could we finally be going to have an adult fact-based scientific debate about this? Let’s hope.
BTW, a lot of people here rail against the teenage activist Greta Thunberg: “she’s too young, never had a job, never had to pay the bills, blah, blah, blah”. ‘Tis all true, but it doesn’t follow, though, that she’s wrong. Just saying.
And while we are talking numbers, someone has estimated how much extra “stuff” would be needed to build all these electric vehicles. To replace the current vehicle fleet in the UK, just the UK, with electric vehicles, would require about twice the world’s, the whole world’s, cobalt production; three quarters of the world’s lithium production, half the world’s copper production and just about the world’s production of other rare metals.
Given that the total UK fleet represents less than half a percent of the total world fleet, I just don’t see that we are working towards a viable solution.
I didn’t know, but over here it is illegal to sit in a car with the engine running while parked. I always thought that it was bad practice and I have a car that has an automatic stop/start system, so that if I stop and put the car in neutral (stick shift) the engine shuts down. Now I am reminded that since 2002 it has been a crime. I thought about this because twice a day my house is surrounded by lobotomized parents who drive their kids to and from the local school. You want to park on the narrow blind bend so that other peoples’ kids can’t cross the road safely, fine? Park three feet out from the curb on a narrow two-lane street, what’s the issue? Block my access “well, I was only gone ten minutes, what’s your problem? But at least most of them switch the bloody engine off. Apart from the guy in the seven series BMW - talk about stereotypical!
A few months ago, I reported that after what seemed like a quiet period, the parking meter thief/vandal seemed to have returned and once again municipalities were suffering from break-ins, vandalism and theft. However, it does seem that the City of York has dealt with the problem in a novel but effective way.
SMARTWATER is a forensic marking product that is invisible to the naked eye but leaves a permanent mark which can be tracked to the source site. It takes several weeks to wash off skin and permanently marks fabric. This means that if anyone is exposed to the liquid the police can send a sample to SMARTWATER who then can link that person to a site and a crime.
York has placed bottles of SMARTWATER inside its machines and if the meter is broken into the bottle sprays the miscreant. The machines are prominently labeled with warnings. There were five break ins in the year before installation and none in the eight months since. Seems like job done.
One of our new government’s election pledges was “free parking at hospitals” (Oh, yes, and £350m pounds extra a week for the NHS after BREXIT, where has that gone)? This particular promise, the free bit, not the £350m a week bit, has now been fleshed out. What they actually have decided is: free parking for registered disabled (N.B. that doesn’t include someone with, say, a broken leg on crutches) regular (undefined) outpatients, such as people having dialysis, fair enough; parents with kids in hospital and night staff. So, what if granny is terminal, do I still have to pay? Why night staff, rather than staff who cannot access the site except by car? In my misspent youth, many of my friends were nurses and the problem wasn’t the night shift who traveled during the early evening and morning; it was the late finishes when the nurses shared the tube ride home with the drunks.
And how in the name of the great god Shoup, will the hospital management be able to manage this without creating a monster bureaucracy, not only losing parking revenue but also spending money that could have been used to improve medical services? That said many hospitals have made a rod for their own backs. Current guidance does recommend that hospitals should make special arrangements for vulnerable groups but, unfortunately, many have chosen to ignore it.
Brexit, it’s done, sort of. We left the European Union on 31 January, but nothing actually changes until at least the end of the year. Our leader BOJO has promised that he will have negotiated a fantastic new deal by then. Now where did I put that application for Irish Citizenship?