19 October 2009

Jenson Button and Ross Brawn

Congratulations to Jenson Button and Ross Brawn, and their team, on winning the Formula 1 drivers' and constructors' championships. It was a hell of an achievement, and a great story. I enjoyed this article from The Times.

Another thing that I admired was Ross Brawn - in an interview at his moment of victory, not mentioned in the newspaper - paying tribute to the members of the team who had to leave when it was downsized at the beginning of this year to save costs - but had done so much to develop the cars to a winning design.

Well done, everyone.

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10 July 2009

Best ever road deaths figure, but rural speed limits to be cut

In April, I blogged about the UK Government's initiative to cut speed limits in order to reduce the number of road deaths. My objections were:
  • Restriction of mobility when the UK already has some of the safest roads in the world

  • The method of enforcement (24x7 cameras) and civil liberties impact - everyone's movements could be logged and traced

  • The cost of installation and ongoing enforcement, including the possibility of another failed Government IT project

  • These proposals haven't gone away - they're out to consultation. The open consultation finishes on Tuesday 14th July, so if you have an opinion, you still have a few days to respond.

    The Times reported on 25th June that Deaths on UK roads fall to record low.

    Lord Adonis, the Transport Minister, says that "Britain now jointly has the safest roads of any major nation in the world".

    I agree that every road death is unnecessary, but I disagree with the speed limit proposals. These will have a huge set-up and operating cost, and will restrict mobility outside built-up areas by increasing journey times at all times of day and night.

    Some better approaches would be

  • Harsh penalties for causing death and serious injury; killing someone with a car is manslaughter or murder, and should be treated that way

  • Better road education: males under the age of 20 seem to be particularly likely to kill themselves, their friends, and innocent third parties

  • Restrictions on new drivers during the first few months after passing the test; curfews and rules about number of passengers, P plates (showing Passed - but recently)

  • Invest in better road layouts where these are known to be unsafe

  • Enforce speed limits in known black spots; this should be far cheaper than country-wide speed restrictions
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    22 April 2009

    Speed limit to be cut

    The Times (21 April) reports that the speed limit on many UK A roads will be cut to 50 mph under plans to reduce the number of road deaths by a third. The default limit will be reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph unless the local council gives acceptable reasons to retain the higher limit. It would become easier for councils to reduce the limit on residential roads from 30 mph to 20 mph, and average speed cameras would be introduced to enforce the new limits.

    The UK achieved huge improvements in road safety between 1990 and 1995, when the annual death rate fell from over 5000 to under 4000. It's now under 3000, and continuing to improve. This is despite a rising population and hugely increased number of vehicles using the roads. So despite the success of the current measures, our heroic Government has come up with an idea that will restrict everyone who lives outside a built-up area and uses cross-country routes. The unpopular measure can be enforced through the recruitment of thousands of new automated police officers (average speed cameras) that can issue penalties 24 x 7, regardless of the traffic and weather conditions, and into the bargain develop a database to show the vehicle movements of a majority of the population. So useful to maintain public safety.

    Of course, in revenue terms, this will be 'free'. The cameras, data network, central fines processing and recovery, repairs, replacement, surveillance database if required, signposting, etc., will cost a few billions per year. But the Government probably reckons that it can get the money back through fines - and if they don't collect enough, keep raising the fines. If all else fails, print a bit more money. Of course, we can be sure that this HM Government IT project will be a glowing success. So important when taxpayers money is involved.

    Of course, this may be just another kite-flying initiative either (a) to distract the mob from the appalling Government debt that will be revealed in today's Budget or (b) to allow the spin doctors to say "we've listened" when the whole thing is scrapped. Time will tell...

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    17 April 2009

    Greedy Times?

    The hikes in the annual subscription for The Times/Sunday Times have outstripped the rises in the cover price. Since 2001, the cover price has doubled, but the subscription rate that we pay has almost trebled.

    Annual subscription
    06/06/2000: £91
    23/05/2001: £91
    17/06/2002: £91
    4 x 12 weekly subscriptions: (add 8% for yearly rate)
    24/11/2003 - 24/10/2004: £96
    25/10/2004 - 10/09/2005: £120
    11/09/2005 - 20/08/2006: £144
    21/08/2006 - 16/07/2007: £156
    17/07/2007 - 16/06/2008: £192
    17/06/2008 - 16/05/2009: £216
    17/05/2009 - 16/04/2010: £240 (about £260 a year)

    Some cover prices gleaned from Google:
    Oct 2001: 40p weekdays, 70p Sats, £1.20 Suns - £3.70 per week
    Oct 2002: 45p weekdays, 80p Sats, £1.40 Suns - £4.45 per week
    Sep 2006: 65p weekdays, £1.30 Sats, £2 Suns - £6.55 per week
    Sep 2007: 70p weekdays, £1.40 Sats, £1.80 Suns - £6.70 per week
    Aug 2008: 80p weekdays, £1.50 Sats, £2 Suns - £7.50 per week
    Jan 2009: 90p weekdays, £1 Sats, £2 Suns - £7.50 per week

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