Wednesday, 14 November 2007

If all they can think of is road pricing...

If all a political party can think of is national road pricing it shows they are incapable of thinking of anything else. The poverty of ideas that they have for our roads is just amazing.

The problems are:
Taxes on our lorries are so high that it is much cheaper for foreign lorries to drive on our roads ... and they don't pay for that.
In distant rural areas the car is an essential so you don't want to overprice that.

One possibility instead of road pricing is to change the annual tax disc system. We pay for our road tax each year. Split the road tax into two sums: One the annual MOT and insurance check, the other a vignette for using Motorways and dual carriageways. You pay for them together but if you happen to live in a rural area you could opt out of paying the Motorway and dual carriageways vignette. So no real change for almost everyone except its cheaper in rural areas. The big difference however is that all foreign cars and lorries now pay for the use of Motorways and dual carriageways with a vignette that like the Swiss system is a sticker in the window. They get that sticker and pay the fee when they arrive at Dover or any other port.

The big advantage is that it evens out the competition for road hauliers by charging foreign lorries for the roads.
Foreign cars make a contribution for the cost of the damage they are doing to the environment and towards the repair costs of the roads
Its a hell-of-alot simpler to organise and administer than these irresponsible road pricing technological proposals.

There are more alternatives to national road pricing than just this idea but it illustrates how our politicians have shown that they are unwilling to think constructively about the problems.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

The dilemma of the House of Lords

Our illustriuos leader (Blair) wishes to change the House of Lords. His motive appears to be to make them more compliant in that they have this annoying habit of disagreeing with the House of Commons.... and thank God that they do! Our current breed of politicians are too dominated by people from the legal profession. They lack the ability to develop practical solutions to anything. Just look at the orchestrated chaos in the health service, IT projects that waste vast sums of money, the mess of our transport system - we need practical people in government.

The dilemma for us is that the House of Lords is at its best, not when it opposes for the sake of opposition but when it seeks to amend and modify for the sake of making proposals workable, fair and practical, even when the House of Commons gets upset by that. It is at its best when it has the authority to make the House of Commons think again.

Nobody in the country - anywhere - ever votes in favour of the whole manifesto of the winning party. The concept that the House of Lords should not be able to oppose the more stupid ideas from the manifesto is untennable.

Thus any replacement House of Lords will work best if the main political parties are effectively excluded. It will be at its worst if it becomes just another elected House with the same political parties vying for our votes.

We have a population of around 60 milion people. Only 3 million of them actually belong to any political party. It may be surprisingly possible to make it a requirement for the House of Lords that those who are considered do not, and have never, belonged to any political party.

I wonder what effect that would have?

Tuesday, 2 January 2007

Reduce Motorway Congestion

In return for reducing the national speed limit to 60 mph we could easily add an extra lane to every Motorway in the country. So why do you need to drop the speed limit? The ways its done is that as Motorways are repaired you extend the hard shoulder and it becomes an intermittent hard shoulder everywhere (intermittent hard shoulders are normal already - we just extend them) but in some locations the present hard shoulder is already narrow - so to get the extra lane and the space for the armco barrier to protect the item (e.g. a bridge) we need to make the existing lanes narrower - which is why we need to drop the national speed limit to 60 mph to allow narrower motorway lanes.

Doing the work as Motorways are repaired minimises disruption and cost.

The result would be that Motorway traffic would flow more smoothly because of the extra lanes so there would be less hold ups .... meaning less stress .... and, of course, fuel economy would be greatly improved.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Don't put wave machines out at sea - use them for harbour walls

Wave machines have had limited success because out in the open sea storm wave forces are huge. Harbour walls are costly to maintain so why not use wave machine to make an outer harbour and calm the wave forces. I realise that they would generate slightly less power than out in the open sea but they would still generate electricity for the port community.

The same could be done on the East coast using wave machines to calm down the wave forces and generate some electricity at the same time. This would have the double impact of reducing the rate of erosion of the East Coast of the UK.

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Getting water from Scotland to London

Let's think of our railways in the UK in a new and different way. Let's turn them into utility highways.

What if the Railway lines became a utilities highway?
Much of our telephone network already uses phone lines that are part of our railway track system.

There is currently a big row about megapylons to get power from Inverness to Edinburgh. Funnily enough there is a railway line that goes from Inverness to Edinburgh that needs to be elctrified. Is it beyond British engineers ability to add some additional power cables to the gantries - no of course it isn't. The mega-pylons proposed could then be smaller pylons that cause less offence.

The idea gets better: The common thing between railways lines and water pipelines is they both avoid steep hills. We could lay a pipe alongside the railway track that links reservoirs from North to South of the country (and east to west). The same power cables that are in the overhead gantries can provide power to pumping stations to pump the water.

This would allow water to be pumped from reservoir to reservoir overnight and we could get water to the South East or anywhere there was a water shortage anytime we wanted.

Now that would be vision!

It requires our politicians to bring people together: National rail with the electricity companies and the water companies - and persuade them to cooperate with each other. We'd have truned the railways into a utilities distribution network - not just transport but water and power as well as telecommunications.

It could all be done for a tenth of the money wasted going to war in Iraq.

Saving energy = 12V DC

All new houses in the UK should be built with both a 240V AC standard ring main* and a new 12V DC ring main.

Today our houses are full of transformers that are consuming power all the time and that are there to reduce the voltage to that required for the device. Even lights today come with transformers on them.

Our cars have 12V DC systems in them and we can run iPods, mobile phones, computers, televisions, lights and all sorts of equipment from them.

If we simply added a safety cover to the cigar lighter type of power fitting we see in cars so that they could be installed in houses then we could do away with large numbers of transformers and STOP wasting electricity.
MORE than this - small green power sources like solar cells, garden windmills, downpipe turbines have enormous difficulty generating 240V AC but 12V DC is easy and they can then be small and discrete power generators. They won't have to be large and ugly trying to generate a stupidly high voltage.

The market for local discrete power generating devices that supply a 12V DC system would blossom so we would save power generation at the national grid twice over: 1) We'd stop wasting it through transformers and 2) we'd generate some power for ourselves that was not dependent on the national grid at all.

What it needs is a political encouragement to builders to link them to suppliers and designers of 12V DC systems.

*I do realise that we no longer have 240V AC but rather power on the national grid in the UK is between 220V and 230V AC now but people here still talk about "240V" when talking about our ring main