Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TEQs or What are Your Views on the Environment?

At the election hustings organised by Radio Lincolnshire yesterday in Horncastle Market square, the parliamentary candidates were asked about the environment.  Romy Rayner, for the Green Party, took the question in her stride of course, and the Liberal said "No Fracking", but it was the Conservative candidate, Victoria Atkins, barrister, daughter of  former Tory minister Sir Robert Atkins, who gave the note-worthy reply.

Lincolnshire, she told us, had some beautiful scenery and she didn't want it spoiled by wind turbines.

And that was about it, that was our possibly future MP's policy on something as big as The Environment.

And to-day is Earth Day.

So let's just think about a few of the things Victoria Atkins didn't mention.  It's not all doom and gloom; there's the pair of peregrine falcons that have taken up residence on the spire of St. James's Church in Louth and have laid two eggs. Well, that might spell doom and gloom for some of the local pigeons but we should take a holistic view of the ecosystem and not get too sentimental about nature being red in tooth and claw.  2015 marks the 500th anniversary the completion of the spire.  Sadly, it has seen the best of its days and will not survive a further 500 years.  Louth stands only a few metres above present sea level and the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are no longer stable.  There's still doubt over just how quickly the ice can melt but as sure as peregrine eggs is eggs, the Greater North Sea will rise over the Lincolnshire Marsh to leave the higher ground of Louth as a seaside town on the banks of the Lud Estuary.  The church is on the lower ground.

Louth's survival, even as a seaside town, is actually in doubt as that presupposes that human civilisation will survive long enough to see the sea rise up that far.  A metre or two is on the cards for this century, the lifetime of Victoria's son, Monty.  That's enough to wipe out half of Bangladesh and much of the the most fertile and densely populated parts of Vietnam, south-east China, Thailand, Pakistan, Egypt and many other places.  A lot of people will be on the move. If they are still alive.

And here's the rub.  The now inevitable rise of sea level will be preceded by a rise in global average temperatures not seen since long before humankind walked the planet.  Our business-as-usual policies of Victoria's Tory Party and similar governments around the world lead inexorably to climate change in which the global agricultural system will collapse.  Billions will die before ever the sea washes over their graveyards.

Victoria wants economic growth and the nice views of Lincolnshire not interrupted by wind turbines.  I want for Victoria's Monty and my own granddaughter to have lives that will not be nasty, brutish and short.

So what shall we do?  On May the 7th vote Green, if in Louth & Horncastle vote Romy Rayner, but beyond that, the urgent task is to stop burning fossil carbon. We all can play our pert there. Divest from the fossil carbon complex and press the government to adopt a carbon capping mechanism to force change.


Which brings me to the real point of this blog, to announce the publication of the latest paper on Tradable Energy Quotas.  This is the mechanism, the instrument, that actually has the potential to change everything.  And Victoria Atkins probably knows nothing about it.  Get a step ahead:

Reconciling scientific reality with realpolitik: moving beyond carbon pricing to TEQs – an integrated, economywide emissions cap


Shaun Chamberlin Fleming Policy Centre s.chamberlin@flemingpolicycentre.org.uk
Larch Maxey Plymouth University, Network of Wellbeing larch.maxey@plymouth.ac.uk
Victoria Hurth Plymouth University victoria.hurth@plymouth.ac.uk

Abstract This article considers why price-based frameworks may be inherently unsuitable for delivering unprecedented global emissions reductions while retaining the necessary public and political support, and argues that it is time to instead draw on quantitybased mechanisms such as TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas).
TEQs is a climate policy framework combining a hard cap on emissions with the use of market mechanisms to distribute quotas beneath that cap.
The significant international research into TEQs is summarised, including a 2008 UK government feasibility study, which concluded that the scheme was “ahead of its time”. TEQs would cover all sectors within a national economy, including households, and findings suggest it could act as a catalyst for the socio-technical transitions required to maximise wellbeing under a tightening cap, while generating national common purpose towards innovative energy demand reductions.
Finally, there are reflections on the role that the carbon management community can play in further developing TEQs and reducing the rift between what climate science calls for and what politics is delivering. 



Monday, April 20, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 4 A result.

Followers of the story so far in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 may be interested in this e-mail I received today:
Dear Mr Vernon,
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the placement of election posters within the Highway.
I have spoken to the representatives of the Party concerned at length and they have from our initial discussions relocated or removed Signs erected within the Highway to other locations. There are a couple which have been brought to our attention which are on the boundary which we will not be pursuing as the evidence of the boundary is not distinct and identifiable – the agreement of the adjacent landowner I understand has been given in these cases. To precisely identify the boundary would take a lot of officer time and reference to archive documents and then require a legal view before we could then take action (or not).
I apologise for not responding to your message sooner but can assure you that this matter was actioned promptly.
Best regards
Andy Ratcliffe
Area Highway Manager


I suppose we might wait for Victoria Atkins, barrister and probably MP from May 7th, to apologise for breaking the law and for not being honest with the local paper the Louth Leader, but I do not recommend holding one's breath until she does.  In this safe Tory seat of Louth and Horncastle matters such as law-breaking and dishonesty will be quietly disregarded when returning a new Conservative MP to replace the retiring Sir Peter Tapsell.


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 3

I forwarded my information, as set out in Part 1 and Part 2, about Louth & Horncastle's Tory candidate Victoria Atkins's election posters that she had sited at various locations on trunk roads in this Lincolnshire constiuency, to various arms of the press: The Guardian, Huffington Press, The Mirror, The Grimsby Telegraph, The Louth Target and the Louth Leader.

First to rush to print was the Leader.  But, oh dear, they didn't bother with the information I had supplied but just did a little white-wash job with a quote from someone uninformed at the Lincoln County Council Press Office and, would you believe it, Victoria Atkins herself.  Here's what they wrote:

This newspaper received a number of complaints after election signs for parliamentary candidate Victoria Atkins were placed on land at the side of a number of roads throughout the Louth and Horncastle constituency.

But a spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed that they have received no complaints of any kind regarding this matter to date and no action will be taken.
Conservative parliamentary candidate, Victoria Atkins said: “I have been made aware of two incidents, both of which people have been vandalising the posters and discarding them onto the road.
“There was also another incident where an enthusiastic supporter had put an election poster up onto a grass verge by the roadside, but as soon as we were made aware of this, it was taken straight down. This was simply an honest mistake.”
At least there can be no doubt that Victoria Atkins knows about the issue now. And let me remind you of the issue. All candidates or their election agents were sent a document from the East Lindsey Electoral Services reminding candidates of their legal obligations and included a document produced by Lincolnshire County Council reminding candidates that

"THE HIGHWAYS AGENCY WILL NOT GIVE CONSENT TO THE SITING OF POSTERS WITHIN THE LIMITS OF TRUNK ROADS. ALL POSTERS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE TRUNK ROADS."
and reminding them of the law and the risk of prosecution and a fine.

But the Leader article says nothing of this.  No mention whatsoever of the blatant disregard of the criminal law.  If Victoria Atkins had just been ignorant of the law (no excuse) when the posters were originally placed, then she is all too aware now.  But all that has happened is the removal of a poster put by the roadside by 'an enthusiastic supporter'.  The other posters are still there (apart from at least two that the wind ripped from their cable ties on Saturday) standing, illegally, on the verge of trunk roads within the highway's boundaries, testament to the contempt in which the local Conservative Association holds the law.

When I started writing Part 1 of this series, I was happy to give Victoria Atkins the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the posters were put up by a group of enthusiastic supporters who were ignorant of the law.  But then I saw the photos  of Victoria Atkins herself posing with the posters.  She was certainly endorsing their placement.  Even then there was the possibility that she hadn't bothered reading the candidates instructions and, despite being a barrister, was ignorant of the law in this area.  But today she has been alerted to the problem and still denies to the press any hint that she may be guilty of breaking criminal law.

I am of course, still willing to give the Louth Leader the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the article represents merely a piece of poor journalism, and not a deliberate attempt to paint the Conservatives in a good light rather than expose criminal actions.  I have, of course, set the record straight with the reporter.  She replied:
"I am more than happy to go back to the press office in the morning with your blog posts and explain that you have spoken to the police as well and who specifically you have spoken to and when. I will again ask for confirmation if this matter is intended to be looked into any further by Lincolnshire County Council."

More, perhaps, in Part 4.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 2

A couple of days ago I posed the question as to whether the Tory Parliamentary candidate for Louth and Horncastle could have broken the law.  I like to give folk the benefit of the doubt so assumed that some over-zealous Tory party activist had taken it upon himself to put up some election posters around the roads of Lincolnshire, not realising that there were some rather important laws involved and that he was liable to be prosecuted for a criminal offence.  Victoria herself, being a barrister and upstanding member of the community would have known better and never endorsed such action had she known.

Oh, how naive I am.

One of the Tory activists, who describes himself on facebook as Deputy Chairman Political at Conservative Party, posted a number of photos of the election posters being erected on the verges of Lincolnshire trunk roads.

Now remember that The Highways Act 1980 Section 132 reads:

132 Unauthorised marks on highways. 

(1)A person who, without either the consent of the highway authority for the highway in question or an authorisation given by or under an enactment or a reasonable excuse, paints or otherwise inscribes or affixes any picture, letter, sign or other mark upon the surface of a highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in a highway is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £100 or, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding £200. 

(2)The highway authority for a highway may, without prejudice to their powers apart from this subsection and whether or not proceedings in respect of the matter have been taken in pursuance of subsection (1) above, remove any picture, letter, sign or other mark which has, without either the consent of the authority or an authorisation given by or under an enactment, been painted or otherwise inscribed or affixed upon the surface of the highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in the highway.

And also remember that the advice issued by Lincolnshire County Council to all Parliamentary candidates or their agent read thus:


"THE HIGHWAYS AGENCY WILL NOT GIVE CONSENT TO THE SITING OF POSTERS WITHIN THE LIMITS OF TRUNK ROADS. ALL POSTERS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE TRUNK ROADS."

Here's one of the pictures, which I reproduce here as the public interest is involved:

I think it is reasonable to conclude that Victoria does know about the posters and as a Parliamentary candidate, never mind being a barrister, it is reasonable to suggest that she should be aware of the laws relating to the placement of election posters on trunk roads, especially as they have been so clearly indicated in the guidance sent to candidates or their agents.

Ok, so what?

Well, putting aside for one moment the technicality of breaking the criminal law, there is a rather good reason for being cautious about putting things on roadsides.  At about lunchtime on Saturday I had a phone call from someone on the A153 saying she had seen one of the posters blown away and land on the carriageway.  Fortunately it was flat on the ground when a motorcyclist hit it and rode over it without accident.  It takes little imagination to realise that a tragic outcome was all too possible, but thankfully Victoria is not facing a manslaughter charge.

The police have been informed and they have, in turn, passed the matter to the Highways Agency.  Here's their message to me:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

I have this morning informed Highways and the local planning dept who would be the prosecuting agent in these circumstances. The safety of all road users within Lincolnshire is of our primary concern. It is usual in the run up to a general election to have a police liaison officer who is able to offer advice and guidance to political candidates in such matters as this, and today I have informed Supt Taylor who is responsible for neighbourhood policing for this area.

Kind Regards

Insp Michelle Mcilroy






Friday, April 10, 2015

BBC Excludes Green, Promotes UKIP (Again).

New ~ Monday morning:
Yo. I've just had a phone call to say that Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, has changed his mind and invited Victoria Percival to the hustings in Boston after previously excluding the Green Party. He says that some of the many messages received were well reasoned. Thanks to all who helped win this little battle. And thanks to Charlie for listening to the voice of reason and having the good grace to change his mind.

Older ~ the day before yesterday: On May the 1st in Boston, Lincolnshire, there will be election hustings, organised by the BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Here is an e-mail I have received from Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of the station when I asked him to confirm reports that the Green Party is to be excluded.

Hi Biff,
Thanks for your email. It is indeed the case that our Boston Debate on Friday 1st May is going to be between the 4 main parties: Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP.
Our decision is based on previous electoral performance and evidence of support locally. Although the Greens will not be invited to take part in the debate itself, we will be contacting you in order to arrange an interview with you in the 3 hour election programme that the debate is part of.
I should point out that the Boston Debate is one of seven that BBC Radio Lincolnshire is promoting, and that the Greens will be included elsewhere.
I hope this makes our position clear.

Best
Charlie Partridge
Editor, BBC Radio Lincolnshire

The event is jointly organised by the local newspaper, The Standard in which they announce the event, quoting the BBC thus:
Charlie Partridge, managing editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, commented: “I’m delighted we are able to link up with the Boston Standard and Skegness Standard to present this special debate.
“This is the most important election in a generation and the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally.
“It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues.
“We hope this debate - just a week before the election - will help achieve this.”

And the reason why "the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally"?  It is, of course, because the media have made much of the issue of immigration and in Boston's case of people of east European origin.
I wrote about the matter a couple of weeks ago here.  
The Green Party's candidate, Victoria Percival, is the one candidate who has a positive message of welcome and support for our friends from eastern Europe, who is not calling for tighter immigration controls, who is not scapegoating the immigrant and who sees failure in service provision in her constituency as a failure of the current government and not something to be blamed on foreigners.
BBC manager Charlie Partidge says "It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues."  But he is doing the exact opposite, only including those candidates who present one face of this local issue and silencing the voice of the one candidate who is working for the common good.

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law?

What a preposterous notion!  That Victoria Atkins, daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, a barrister, and Parliamentary Candidate for Louth and Horncastle, would break the law is hard to believe.  I expect she would be mortified to learn that her name is associated with an illegal act.  However, is appears that somebody who supports her campaign has blundered, and anyone driving far in parts of Lincolnshire today can hardly fail to notice.

Large boards carrying a photo of Victoria and encouragement to the electors of the Louth and Horncastle constituency to vote for her, have been placed on the grass verges of trunk roads.

Victoria or her Election Agent will have received in the election pack from East Lindsey Acting Returning Officer, Stuart Davy, a note from Lincolnshire County Council regarding Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980, providing detailed information about the conditions that the display of posters within the highway for the purposes of elections are subject to.

Excuse the shouting capitalisation, please, but this is how Richard Wills, Director for Development set out to emphasise his message:

"THE HIGHWAYS AGENCY WILL NOT GIVE CONSENT TO THE SITING OF POSTERS WITHIN THE LIMITS OF TRUNK ROADS.  ALL POSTERS WILL BE REMOVED FROM THE TRUNK ROADS."

The document continues:

"In addition, attention is drawn to the following:-
1. Contravention of the terms of the above consent may lead to prosecution under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 and to a fine."

Of course it may well be perfectly legal to display posters on private land, the other side of the fence along the highways, and one may display election posters on non-trunk roads but only within 200 metres but not less than 25 metres from the entrance to a polling station and then only from 48 hours before the election day.

The Louth and Horncastle Conservative Association appears to have flouted the law in both their placement and the timing of election posters.

If you see any of the posters still remaining on the highway I suggest you report the matter to Stuart Davy, Acting Returning Officer on 01507 613430 or election@e-lindsey.gov.uk   or the police.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What’s Climate Change got to do with Lincolnshire?

Involved in the general election campaign, working to get more Green Party candidates elected to Parliament and local government in Lincolnshire, I was asked "What's climate change got to do with Lincolnshire?".

I've given a written answer:

First, let’s just deal with the basic science, the stuff about which there is absolutely no controversy within the scientific community.  The physics was determined in the 19th century.  Add ‘greenhouse’ gases such as carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere and the global average temperature will rise. It’s as certain as gravity causing apples to fall to the ground.  More effort has been put into studying the climate than any other field of science and there are now no working climate scientists who dispute the basic understanding.  For sure there is still plenty that is uncertain; just how quickly a given amount of extra greenhouse gas will cause the temperature to rise by how much and just what that will mean for the climate in any particular place is not known quite exactly.  But then it’s also hard to be sure which way a falling apple will bounce and whether it lands on a daisy or a dandelion.

Global warming is real and most of it is caused by human action.  No question.

Second, let’s deal with confusion of language; why people sometimes say ‘global warming’ and sometimes ‘climate change’.  They are often muddled and used without careful thought.  Global warming refers to the increase in temperature of the whole of planet Earth.  It’s easiest to measure with thermometers in the air at the surface of planet but this method has limitations.  About 90% of all global warming takes place in the deep oceans.  The average rise in temperature of the atmosphere only accounts for about 3% of the extra heat retained by our greenhouse gasses.  Climate change refers to what happens at a particular location as a result of global warming.  Some places get drier, some wetter and with more water vapour in the atmosphere as a whole, rainfall patterns change, with sudden downpours producing floods while shifts in winds cause some areas to experience long droughts.  With global warming causing average temperatures to rise, some areas will experience a greater than average warming of their local climate, while other places will warm more slowly, or even experience a cooler climate, at least for a while.

The climate of the British Isles is dominated by the Atlantic Ocean, temperate with extreme events being rare.  It is likely that we will not experience such a rapid shift in climate as many parts of the world.  Places with continental climates or subject to monsoons or in the Arctic or the tropics, are likely to experience faster change. Nevertheless, even small changes in average temperature can have significant impacts on farming and wildlife. Changing distributions of insects and birds have already been noticed in Lincolnshire and species of fish once confined to southern waters are appearing off the Lincolnshire coast.

The most immediate threat is the increased probability of extreme events. Global warming makes weather events that have happened only rarely, happen more often.  So we should expect more periods of very dry weather and more periods of stormy weather.  Both droughts and floods will be more common in Lincolnshire in a warmer world.  A more long-term threat is the possibility that the ocean currents in the Atlantic will slow down.  This is far from being certain but there is some evidence emerging that such change is underway.  A reduced influence of Atlantic currents would make our climate more continental, with cooler winters and warmer summers.

The practical consequences for living and working in Lincolnshire involve slow, gradual but relentless adjustments.  Farming patterns will change to cope with the occasional but severe droughts, making investment in water conservation and supply imperative.  Flood defences and maintenance of the drainage system will also need prioritising.  The design of new buildings should take into account the likelihood of extended heat waves as well as being insulated to avoid energy costs for heating.  Our population needs to be prepared to cope with heat stress.

Lincolnshire will undoubtedly be affected by rising sea level. As the ocean waters warm they expand and this has been contributing a couple of millimetres to the sea level each year.  Melting glaciers, particularly the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, are now contributing to more sea level rise than thermal expansion of the water.  Estimates of future sea level rise are uncertain but as evidence is gathered the indications are that it will be greater and faster than previously thought.  The Environment Agency, in planning future sea defence work, assumes a rise of about one metre by the end of the 21st century.  That’s within the lifetime of today’s small children.  There is more possibility that this is an underestimate than an overestimate. It is more likely that things turn out worse than expected as we are only just beginning to appreciate the way in which melting is occurring under the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets.

It costs money and effort but a one metre sea level rise can be coped with fairly easily; we only have to look to the Dutch to see how it’s done.  A continuous programme of improving the sea defences with higher walls and banks in some parts, managed retreat in others, will be a feature of Lincolnshire’s coast for the rest of the century.  But sea level rise will not stop in the year 2100.  It now seems likely that the great ice sheets are in an irreversible decline and no matter what we do in the future all of the ice will eventually melt.  Opinions differ as to how many centuries or even millennia it will take, but eventually much of Lincolnshire will be lost to the sea under a sixty metre rise. At 83m the Boston stump would have its top 20m above the waves.  With its 90 metre spire and standing on ground 20 metres above today’s sea level, St. James church in Louth fares better, but of course the church will be destroyed as soon as the waves crash at the base.  The spire celebrates it 500th anniversary this year but it won’t make it to 1000.

The biggest effects of global warming will be felt, indeed are already being felt, far from Lincolnshire.  We see the devastating effects of floods around the world with increasing frequency and new records are being set for tropical storms. The ongoing drought in the south-west of the USA has had a devastating effect on California’s fruit production.  The cost of almonds and marzipan has shot up in our shops.  It is now widely accepted that one of the key triggers for the civil war in Syria was the worst drought in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ since agriculture was invented in the Neolithic, driving a million farmers from their land to the cities in search of help.  They found none so turned to religion and guns.  The political instability across many parts of sub-Saharan Africa can also be related to the spread of deserts.

But we’ve seen nothing yet.  Many of the world’s greatest cities and much of the world’s best agricultural land lies within a couple of metres of sea level.  The squeeze is already well under way in Bangladesh and several of the small island states of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Many millions, perhaps billions, of people will become climate refugees through the coming decades.  Lincolnshire is part of the global economy and cannot remain detached from global financial and political change, rises in food prices and pressure from migration.

The issue of global warming and the consequent climate changes have to be tackled at all levels from international agreements between governments, through planning and spending policies of local government, to the individual actions that each one of us make.  We are all responsible; we all have both a duty and an opportunity to act.  The first priority has to be mitigation, doing what we can to reduce the harm.  That means stopping burning fossil carbon fuels, coal, oil and gas, as soon as we possibly can.  Secondly we must learn to adapt, changing our homes, our lifestyles, our work and our farming so that we can enjoy a zero-carbon future.  We must embrace the new energy technologies of wind and sun.  Almost all of the fossil carbon that has already been discovered needs to be left in the ground.  To explore for more is folly.

And we must be mindful of the debt we owe to many other part of the world. Britain started the coal-based industrial revolution and our historical contribution to global warming has been second to none, yet the first to suffer and those who suffer the most are often among the poorest in the world and in no way to blame for the unravelling tragedy.

The tragedy of British politics is that it is largely concerned with the next election. With the scramble for power over the next few years, the long term future is given little attention, and the interests of generations not yet born have no voice. The Conservative Party has shifted from a promise before the last General Election to be the ‘greenest government ever’ to ‘cut the green crap’.  The LibDems have made ineffectual efforts to counter the climate-deniers in the Treasury and DEfRA.  Labour, once responsible for the 2008 Climate Change Act, has done little to promote global warming as a significant issue in the political debate.  None of these parties has given the greatest threat to our future, to the world’s civilisation’s future, the attention required. UKIP is in complete, and absurd, denial.

Only the Green Party has consistently argued that global warming and climate change are the most important issues for politics.  Only the Green Party takes seriously our long-term obligation and responsibility.  The voiceless future generations must be given voice, not sacrificed for our present convenience. And it is in our own interests.  We cannot be truly happy, to live satisfying lives, while we know that our grandchildren’s lives will be nasty, brutish and short, because we have been too selfish, to party on while the future goes hang. 

It is time to act for the common good.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Victoria Atkins Lied

It's a serious allegation, so please allow me to present the case.  Last night at a hustings in the Lincolnshire village of Ludford, the parliamentary candidates for the Louth and Horncastle constituency faced questions from the public. The candidates present were:
  • Romy Rayner, Green Party
  • Peter Hill, Monster Raving Looney Party
  • Matthew Brown, Labour
  • Victoria Atkins, Conservative
  • Colin Mair, UKIP
The candidates were asked whether they were in favour of Trident renewal and whether they would be prepared to 'press the button'. The questions were asked by two small children, the son and daughter of the Green Party candidate for Boston and Skegness, Victoria Percival. The ensuing discussion included consideration of the threats facing the UK and, in particular, the Russian threat. Victoria Atkins, the Tory candidate, seemed particularly keen to emphasise the need for Trident in the light of what she alleged were recent Russian military aircraft incursions into UK airspace.

I pointed out that the Russian planes had kept to international space and had not entered UK sovereign airspace.  Victoria rounded on me, telling me that the fact was the Russians had entered our airspace and that it was important that everyone knew the facts and stuck to the facts.  She seemed to emphasise the word 'facts' with such enthusiasm that I did, for a few seconds, doubt my own recollection of the news stories.  The discussion moved on with a UKIP supporter in the audience pointing out that RAF planes had in the past 'strayed' into Russian sovereign airspace.  Victoria doubted this but the man responded by saying that he, personally, had been close to the border in eastern Europe and witnessed such incidents.

Now I would be happy to let a little straying off the truth in an off the cuff remark to pass by un-remarked in most instances.  But in this case, the vehemence with which Victoria Atkins contradicted my statement and the way she used my alleged false testimony as an example of why the facts are crucial, has led me to investigate further.

I've looked up recent press reports.  Now it maybe the case that Victoria is privy to information not released to the media, but which she feels can be shared with the good citizens of Ludford.  So we must keep an open mind before calling her a liar.  However, it's either her, her party's leader or the Wall Street Journal that is lying.
 “At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into U.K. sovereign airspace,” Prime Minister David Cameron said. 

Here are my press cuttings:


14/11/2014
The RAF has intercepted Russian military aircraft as they neared UK airspace for the second time this week, the Ministry of Defence has said. Guardian

19/02/2015
Two UK Royal Air Force jets intercepted a pair of Russian aircraft flying near British airspace this week, the British Defence Ministry said Thursday CNN

19/02/2015
Britain deployed fighter jets to escort two Russian bombers away from the Cornish coast, the second time in three weeks the U.K. has warned off Kremlin warplanes near its airspace. “At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into U.K. sovereign airspace,” Prime Minister David Cameron said. WSJ

22/02/2015
Two Russian bombers last week skirted British airspace off the coast of Cornwall, where they were intercepted and escorted by the two RAF Typhoon fighters. Daily Mail

30/01/2015
Russian military planes flying near UK airspace caused "disruption to civil aviation" on Wednesday, the Foreign Office has said.  BBC News 

30/01/2015
The RAF has intercepted Russian military aircraft as they neared UK airspace for the second time this week, the UK ministry of defence has said. Irish Times 

04/03/2015
One plane was diverted and another delayed to avoid two Russian bombers that flew through Irish-controlled airspace without warning in February, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said on Tuesday. The disruption is believed to have occurred during the same February 18 incident in which British RAF Typhoon fighters were scrambled to escort two Russian bear bombers identified flying close to British airspace….However, the IAA sad there had been "no safety impact to civilian traffic in Irish controlled airspace". The aircraft did not enter Irish sovereign airspace, but flew in Irish controlled airspace within 25 nautical miles (46.3 km) of the Irish coast between 1500 GMT and 1900 GMT, according to the authority. Daily Telegraph 


~~~~~~~
The question the child asked, "Would you press the button?" was avoided by all except Romy Rayner, whose clear position was for renouncing nuclear weapons.





Sunday, March 08, 2015

Some Questions about Migration

The local newspaper rang up to say they were doing a piece about migration into Boston and Skegness and could I forward some questions to our Green Party candidate, who is currently at the Spring Conference in Liverpool, and could they have the answers by tomorrow morning, please.

So I thought I'd jot down a few notes.  Here are the questions:

1.What is your response to the figures [from the Oxford Migration Observatory]? Do they paint an accurate picture of migration in Boston and Skegness?
2.How big an election issue is migration in Boston and Skegness? Could it decide the outcome for the area?
3.What are your party’s policies on migration, and how could they apply to this new picture of migration to Boston and Skegness?
4.What actions would you call for to deal with a growing migrant population in Boston and Skegness, if any? 
5.What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?


Last question first:

5. What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?

Stop flagging migration up as a big issue by writing newspaper articles about it! But hey, we support a free press and the press’s right to write what they like, so on with the rest of the questions.

1. What is your response to the figures? Do they paint an accurate picture of migration in Boston and Skegness?

Let us accept that the Oxford Migration Observatory has produced data as accurate as is available, but the ‘picture’ is only seen when the numbers are set in the context of the wider Uk.  From the 2011 census figures the proportion of people not born in the UK was about 15% for Boston and less than 4% for East Lindsey.  Now compare that with a few other towns in the east Midlands: Peterborough 20%, Nottingham 20% Cambridge 29%, Leicester 34%, and if we go to the wealthiest parts of the nation we find these figures: Kensington and Chelsea 52%, Westminster 53%.  So we see that Boston and Skegness do not have an unusually large proportion of non-UK born residents.

2. How big an election issue is migration in Boston and Skegness? Could it decide the outcome for the area?

Not a very big issue and no, it will not decide the outcome of the election. Boston and Skegness has always been a safe Conservative seat with the Tory candidate gaining 49% of the vote at the last general election.  Labour gained 21% the Liberal Democrats 15% and the other 15% being split between two far-right parties.  In the 2015 election we expect the anti-EU and anti-immigration vote to be split again between the two far-right candidates, one from UKIP and the other a former UKIP candidate.  That vote will be further split by a candidate from the British National Party and an ex-Conservative party member who failed to be selected and is now standing as a Lincolnshire Independent on an aggressively anti-immigration ticket.

The Green Party, which did not contest the 2010 election, expects to gain votes from disaffected LibDems, Labour and Conservative voters but is unlikely to have any impact on the 15% of the voters who support one of the smaller right wing parties.

3. What are your party’s policies on migration, and how could they apply to this new picture of migration to Boston and Skegness?

Green Party policy is set out at length here

It is important to understand the Background and Principles involved.  Unlike the other parties, the Green Party has a long-term vision and looks to the interests of the youngest children who hope to see in the 22nd century and develop a sustainable world order beyond that.  But we also have to deal with the practicalities of the short term.

Background
MG100 The Green Party's long-term global vision is of an international economic order where the relationship between regions is non-exploitative, each region is as self-reliant and economically self- sufficient as practicable and the quality of life (social, political, environmental, cultural and economic) is such that there is less urge to migrate. Logically, in order to move away from the current level of immigration controls, we must create a fairer world.

MG101 The existing economic order and colonialism have both been major causes of migration through direct and indirect violence, disruption of traditional economies, the use of migrants as cheap labour, uneven patterns of development and global division of labour.

MG102 We are aware that, in the 21st century, there is likely to be mass migration of people escaping from the consequences of global warming, environmental degradation, resource shortage and population increase.

MG103 The Green Party recognises the contributions made by many migrants to their recipient area or community. We value the cultural diversity and intercultural awareness resulting from both temporary residence and migration.

Principles
MG200 The Green Party's highest priority is the creation of a just and ecological world order in which environmental devastation is minimised and needs can be met without recourse to migration.

MG201 We believe that the world's people have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure ecological sustainability, human rights and social justice. Within this, they have the right to self determination.

MG202 International action and a willingness to share resources will be required to meet the needs of environmental migrants.

MG203 Richer regions and communities do not have the right to use migration controls to protect their privileges from others in the long term.

MG204 Communities and regions should have the right to restrict inward migration when one or more of the following conditions are satisfied:

a)The ecology of the recipient area would be significantly adversely affected by in-comers to the detriment of the wider community (eg. National Parks, Antarctica);

b)The recipient area is owned or controlled by indigenous peoples (eg Australian aboriginal people) whose traditional lifestyle would be adversely affected by in-comers;

c)The prospective migrants have, on average, equal or greater economic power than the residents of the recipient area and they or their families were not forced to leave the area in the recent past.

MG205 Migration policies should not discriminate directly on grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation. Preference should not be given to those with resources or desirable skills.

MG206 The Green Party is opposed to forced migration and forced repatriation.

MG207 Regions or communities must have the right to reject specific individuals on grounds of public safety.

MG208 The interests of both prospective migrants and the recipient area or community must be recognised and, hence, the appropriate resolution of a particular situation (unless covered above) must depend on negotiation between the parties affected.

We support the free movement of people within the EU and acknowledge the positive contribution that East Europeans are making to the economy of Lincolnshire and to the enrichment of our culture.  Boston has a long tradition of trade with the Baltic going back many centuries and it is our relationship with other lands that has been central to the town’s history, remembered in the 14th century Baltic oak roof timbers of the Guildhall and the emigration of the Separatists, or Pilgrim fathers in 1607.  Migration is not all one way and in modern times many Lincolnshire folk have found employment or retirement overseas.

It is with great concern that we view the desperate migration of people from war-torn or drought-stricken parts of North Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean to seek sanctuary in Italy.  As global warming proceeds throughout the coming century we must be prepared to come to the aid of the displaced environmental migrants.  It is not actions of the Pacific Small Island States that cause sea level rise but our shared humanity calls us to act positively when whole nations sink beneath the waves.

4. What actions would you call for to deal with a growing migrant population in Boston and Skegness, if any?

As population grows national and local government has an obligation to see that the infrastructure of public services, health and welfare, education, transport, housing and so on, are provided to meet changing demand.  It is always thus, with increased expenditure being matched by revenues from the increased economic activity.  Some folk may shout ‘They’ are taking ‘our’ jobs!  But this is to misunderstand the economy.  There is not a fixed number of jobs; rather, new jobs are created out of new economic activity.  It is well documented that our recently arrived migrants make a positive contribution to the UK’s wealth. When we have migrants for whom adjustment to a new culture is a challenge, then translation and advice services are needed to make the new-comers feel welcome and allow them to quickly and constructively assimilate into their new home.

5. What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?


Returning to this question again, migration just isn’t a major issue for the next election, though a small minority make much noise to try and make it so.  The main issue is whether we continue with the Tories’ neo-liberal economic agenda of austerity, a shift of spending from the public to the private sector, a shrinking of the state, a transfer of wealth from the great majority into the hands of a select few and a denial of the urgency of addressing global warming.  Or are we ready for a real change, for hope and security, for the common good?

Saturday, March 07, 2015

A Question about Wind Farms.

Wind farms are a blot on the landscape and can never generate enough power to replace conventional power stations. What do you say to that?

The science is clear: to avoid catastrophic climate change we have to stop burning all fossil carbon fuels.  The sooner we manage this the safer we will be.  Many governments now accept that economies need to be zero carbon by 2050 but the science tells us that even that timescale, and leaving 80% of the already discovered fossil carbon underground and unburnt, gives us only a two thirds chance of avoiding warming by 2°C.  Even such a modest warming spells disaster for many regions and peoples around the world.

Wind farms will not on their own generate enough power to supply our wants, but the important point to note is that each and every unit of electricity that is generated by a wind turbine is a unit that does not need to be generated by gas or coal.  Every turn of a turbine’s blades is a win for the environment, however small.

Of course wind power’s contribution is far from small, is growing rapidly and has the potential for much further expansion. The UK is one of the best locations for wind power in the world, and certainly the best in Europe. At the beginning of January 2015, wind power in the United Kingdom consisted of 5,958 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of just under 12 gigawatts: 7,950 megawatts of onshore capacity and 4,049 megawatts of offshore capacity. The United Kingdom is ranked as the world's sixth largest producer of wind power.

In 2014, 28.1 TWh of electricity was generated by wind power, 9.3% of the UK's generation.  There have been certain critical times, such as Easter 2013, when a gas pipeline from the Netherlands failed during a cold, though windy spell of weather, when electricity supplies would have been cut to some consumers had it not been for the available wind generated supply.  For several periods during the autumn of 2014 wind contributed more than nuclear.  Though June, July and September were quiet months last year, from October to March 2015 wind has typically been producing over 3GW, sometimes over 5 and rarely down to 1GW.  It has been a substantial contribution to the nation’s supply, equivalent to a very large coal-fired plant or more.

Wind is variable so can never be relied upon to contribute all our generating capacity, and nobody suggests it should, but with current grid management there will be little difficulty until it contributes at least a third of the total.  The wider the dispersal of windfarms the better as regards variability is concerned.  We already regularly import 1GW via the Dutch interconnector and much of this is wind generated.  As off-shore windfarms are developed in the North Sea and north-west Scotland, the variability will be further diminished.  It should be noted that no generation source lacks variability, sometimes planned and sometimes unplanned.  The overall performance of our ageing nuclear fleet has been lamentable recently.

On-shore wind farms are currently the cheapest new source of generating capacity, even using the normal accounting methods.  But a proper economic comparison includes those costs that are usually regarded as ‘externalities’ and so disregarded.  With nuclear power, the insurance costs are removed since nuclear power stations are exempt from the need to carry more than a minimal insurance. Ultimate decommissioning and long term waste disposal are also externalities, not accounted for in the price of nuclear generated electricity.  With coal and gas fired power stations, the costs of climate change resulting from their greenhouse gas emissions are similarly disregarded.  Thus in any accounting system that is fair to future generations, wind (and other renewables) is a far cheaper source of electricity than either gas, coal or nuclear.

The potential generating capacity for windfarms in the North Sea, on for instance the Dogger Bank, is vast.  It will take time and capital resources to build the turbines and high voltage direct current (HVDC) grid to gather and bring the power ashore but we can realistically envision a zero-carbon Britain by mid century in which all public and private transport is electric, with batteries playing a large role.  There will be a mix of generating capacity, solar, tidal lagoons, tidal stream, and geothermal, but the largest single component will be wind.

Are windfarms a blot on the landscape? Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but the beholder's aesthetic feelings are moderated by her compassion for her grandchildren.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

ZING ~ The Incredibly Light Railway. Part 5.


Important: to understand the following article, please read Zing~The Incrdibly Light Railway, Part 1 and Part 2 first!

Case Study 4: Firsby - Alford - Louth

The railway from the junction at Firsby to Louth via Alford was opened in 1848 and closed in 1970. The first station north of Firsby is Burgh-le-Marsh, though it is about 3km west of the town, retains some of the original buildings and space to reinstate the line is still available, though the new road will require to be bridged of the railway.

Two kilometers to the north, Welton-le-Marsh never had its own station but a new one would be built for the ultra-light railway. Willoughby, however, was an important station at the junction of the line to Mablethorpe, which opened in 1886. It will be reinstated. A case might be made for a new station where the line crosses the B1196 road. It would serve the isolated houses around Mawthorpe and Well and be convenient for the Alford cricket ground.

The old line reaches Alford at the somewhat ironically named Beeching Way, the station site now being occupied by a number of light industrial units. It should be possible to thread the new track past the buildings with perhaps some rearrangement of access road layout and provide room for reopening Alford Station, the main building of which is still in good repair.

The old railway line north of Alford has few interruptions though stretches of the trackbed are now only visible as crop-marks from the air. Aby for Claythorpe Station closed in 1961 but the land is still clear for a new station to be built. The bridge over the Great Eau river is still in place. The next stop, Authorpe Station, also closed in 1961 but again the land has not been built over and there is room for a rebuild.

The next station was Legbourne, but a case might be argued for creating a new station some halfway between Authorpe and Legbourne, for the convenience of people in the outlying houses of Muckton, Muckton Bottom and North and South Reston.

Legbourne Road Station was, curiously, an early closure on this line in 1953. The station was away from the centre of the village and it might be advantageous to find a more central site. On the south side of Mill Lane a new bungalow encroaches on the old trackbed and threading the line between the new houses might be a struggle. If this bungalow did have to be demolished it would free up space to build a station here, a more convenient location for many Legbourne residents.

The line continues uninterrupted to Louth, but on approaching Louth we have to consider a real danger to the project. Just south of where the line crosses Stewton Road there is currently a planning application for a major housing development. That will not pose a problem so long as the development respects the old railway's course and leaves the necessary strip of land free. A new station would be appropriate serving this housing development. It might go some way go allaying the fears of people expecting more road traffic if Zing linked this expanded population on Louth's southern fringe with the town centre and the industrial estate on the north side of the town. Another new station would be created on the north side of Wood Lane, catering for the high population density in this area and the Meridian Sports Centre.

The problems arise when the railway reaches Monks Dyke Road. From here to the old Louth Station, although a distance of only about 500 metres several houses have been built over the track and there seems little alternative but demolish about nine or ten homes. The bridge over Eastgate would also need to be rebuilt. Our survey so far, from Spalding to Louth, with branches to Skegness and to Spilsby, has only identified two small industrial buildings near Spalding and one bungalow at Legborne that are obstructing our routes, so paying the householders sufficient compensation to release this land in Louth is not going to stop the plan.

North from Louth towards Grimsby the route poses no problems as far as the Low Farm Roundabout on the A16, the start of Peaks Parkway. The construction of this road has been widely regarded as being the final nail in the Grimsby - Louth railway' coffin. We must wait till a later part of this series to learn how this problem can be dealt with. Trains will indeed run into Grimsby again. But first we must investigate the Mablethorpe Loop.

ZING ~ The Incredibly Light Railway. Part 4.

Important: to understand the following article, please read Zing~The Incrdibly Light Railway, Part 1 and Part 2first!

Case Study 2: Boston to Skegness

The line from Boston to Skegness, part of the old East Lincolnshire Railway, is still open but the section from Firsby northwards to Louth, the branch line to Spilsby and the connection to Kirkstead were closed in 1970.

It would be a simple matter to convert the existing railway to ultra-light running, the significant changes being the reinstatement of Sibsey, Old Leake (which is actually nearer Leake Commonside than Old Leake), Eastville, Little Steeping stations and Firsby, whose passenger services were withdrawn in 1961.

Firsby, once a junction for the line to Skgeness, used to be one of the busiest stations on the East Coast Main Line.  But that was before cheap flights for holidays; perhaps in a post carbon world we may rediscover the pleasures of Skegness's bracing air. Now all that remains is one station building converted to a private residence.

Thorpe Culvert station still operates but only two trains in each direction stop here per day.  The next station, Wainfleet, gets a train about every hour.  The next station, Havenhouse, is served just twice a day and the next, Seacroft, had it's passenger services withdrawn as early as 1953, perhaps unsurprisingly as it was only 2km from Skegness Station.  It's reinstatement, even for the ultra-light railway, might not be justified, though there is a caravan site 1km to the north-east and a couple of dozen houses at the hamlet of Croft Bank that would benefit from a station.

The usefulness of the whole line from Boston to Skegness would be transformed if, instead of the hourly service stopping just at Wainfleet, there was a service with a frequency of 10 or 15 minutes, stopping at nine stations on the way but with an overall shorter journey time.  It is this frequency, speed and accessibility that would make public transport a competitive rival to private cars. 

Case Study 3: The Spilsby Branch

The six kilometre branch line from Firsby to Spilsby was opened in 1868 but closed to passengers in 1939 at the outbreak of the war and closed completely in 1958.

Although a little of the trackbed has been ploughed over for agriculture nothing has been built on the line and there is still room for a terminus station in Spilsby at Vale Road behind the industrial units of Vale Court.  Halton Holgate station would be reinstated and a new station serving Great Steeping built about halfway between Halton Holgate and Firsby.

The Spilsby Branch was never a very profitable railway but Spilsby's population has grown significantly and rail services to Skegness, Louth and Boston would transform the town's connectivity.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ZING ~ The Incredibly Light Railway. Part 3.

Important: to understand the following article, please read Zing~The Incrdibly Light Railway, Part 1 and Part 2 first!

Case Study 1: Spalding to Boston.

This section of the Lincolnshire Loop Line was a 58-mile (93 km) double track railway built by the Great Northern Railway, which linked Peterborough to Lincoln via Spalding and Boston.  It was opened in 1848 and closed in 1970. Much of the track was built over for a new road so the new Zing line would have to run alongside this road.

Details

Immediately to the north-east of Spalding station, partially occupied by a new road layout of the A151 (which could easily be altered) but mostly empty and unused land, is plenty of room for the southern terminus of the Spalding to Boston Zing.  The plot extends north-eastwards to an area of largely unused land, bounded by the Splading-Sleaford railway to the west, the A151 to the south and Sandtone Gardens to the east, large enough to serve as a depot for the new line.  Google Map.

At the crossing of the B1356 Pinchbeck Road, originally a level crossing, a new bridge taking the road over the railway is required.  The route remains clear to Vernatts Drain, crossed by Sharps Bridge, see photo, and for some distance beyond but after crossing Enterprise Way (new road bridge required) the route passes through a new industrial estate.  Two industrial units have been built across the route here: Google Map, and require removal.  Another road bridge is required at the B1180 Wardentree Lane and then there is, just, room to thread the railway between two industrial units.

A station, 2km from Spalding station, at the north side of the industrial estate would be useful to workers on the estate and the village of Pinchbeck, 1km to the west.

North of the industrial estate another bridge takes the railway over the Blue Gowt Drain and the way is clear until meeting the A16.  For 12 miles to Boston a new road was constructed in the mid 1990s, the longest rail to road conversion in the country.  One might think that was that as regards railwas but, fence to fence, the land taken for road building was 35 to 40 metres wide.  The carriageway occupies only the central 10 metres, leaving ample room for Zing alongside with few obstructions to Boston.  

The Bridge over the River Glenn will need widening and on the north side the old Surfleet Station reinstated. It closed in 1961 but the road to the west is still appropriately named Station Road.

A significant challenge is the Sutterton roundabout where the A16 is crossed by the A17.  The solution may require re-shaping the roundabout with the western exits rising over the railway.  Just to the north the site of Algarkirk and Sutterton Station, closed in 1961, is still vacant but with the former station building remaining intact, awaiting its reinstatement.

The Next station is Kirton; its history recounted here.  Here were once extensive sidings but they have been built over with new housing but space remains for a new station on the north side of the A16.  

On the old line there were no stations between Kirton and Boston, but with the growth in housing a new station is justified 3km north-east of Kirton at Wyberton.  Another station on the south side of the Forty Foot Drain on what is now the dead end of Wyberton West Road would serve the residential areas of Skirbeck Quarter that have developed since the Victorians planned their railway.

A new bridge across the South Forty Foot, running along the west side of the road bridge, would need to be constructed.  This is the most significant piece of engineering that is required to connect Spalding and Boston with an ultra-light railway.

Across the bridge and Zing joins the very occasionally used single track line into Boston Docks and then the railway from Sleaford into Boston Station. That line only uses a single track so there is plenty of space for the new track into the station.  There would be some redesign of the track and platform layout to keep Zing separate from the standard size trains running from Sleaford to Skegness. Alternatively, the line from Sleaford to Skegness could be converted to ultra-light running too.  The advantages in speed, frequency, increased number of stations, energy consumption, track maintenance and other running costs, combine to make conversion of many branch lines on the still existing network, worthwhile.

The opportunity for passengers to travel from Boston station to Skirbeck, Wyberton and Kirton in a very few minutes and then on to Spalding would be so welcome that much of the traffic congestion that Boston has become notorious for would be relieved. Only two small recently built industrial building would need removal, with no residential homes requiring demolition and almost no private land acquisition needed.  


We need to envision the transport systems of a post-carbon world.  If we don't greatly increase the rail network then we need to convert all the cars and buses to electric.  That's imaginable, but the argument is that in a resource constrained economy the ultra-light railways are a cheaper alternative. As with petrol cars, so with electric cars, once you have one and paid the capital costs, it's often cheaper and easier to use it than use public transport.  The trick is to shift the balance in favour of public transport by creating a network of sufficient density, frequency, reliability and speed so that it's worthwhile foregoing the freedom and convenience of a private car.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

ZING ~ The Incredibly Light Railway. Part 2.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote the first part of this series about our proposals for ultra light railways.  If you haven't, please read it first.  Today, writing in The Observer, Ed Miliband said, "As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said, if the world is to hold warming below 2°C, global emissions need to peak not long after 2020 and then decline rapidly to reach net zero in the second half of this century. The weaker the action now, the more rapid and costly the reductions will need to be later. I do not want to see Britain or any country having to adopt crisis measures to halt the slide into global catastrophe because we missed this critical opportunity now."

So let us accept that by 2050 there will be no fossil fuel used for transport, public of private.  Beyond a little biofuel, the options will be walking, cycling and motors using renewably generated electricity. That said, let's take a further look at Zing ~ The Incredibly Light Railway. People who have commented on the proposals frequently talk either of disability access or of cost. The first is easiest to deal with.

The proposed trains are made up of carriages that seat people in twos side by side, like motorcars, three or four pairs facing to one end and three or four pairs facing the other end, but in the middle there is a space without seats big enough for two wheel chairs or mobility scooters or some bicycles. There would be no step from platform to carriage so they could roll easily aboard. It’s interesting to note just how many people’s first thoughts are towards disability access, a positive reflection of our times perhaps. The provision of bicycle space, however, is also important as it is the last link in the journey that makes private cars so much more convenient than public transport. Passengers need to be confident of being able to take their bikes with them, as even with the relatively dense rail network proposed, many people’s destinations may not be an easy walk from the station.

The cost is trickier. First let’s set up a bench-mark. In June 2013 the government estimated that the 192 kilometres (119 miles) of HS2 Phase 1 from London to Birmingham would cost £22 billion. Many commentators believe the final figure will turn out to be considerably higher, but let’s use the government’s estimate for now.

In 1914 we had 37720 km (23440 miles) of railways, now there are just 16753km (9788 miles). If, instead of spending the £22 billion on HS2, it were spent on reinstating the lost 22000 km as Ultra-Light Railways then there would be £1 million available per kilometre. That’s more than enough to rebuild every last little branch line that ever there was.

Or it would be if that figure of a million pounds per kilometre is in the right ball-park. So this is where, dear reader, we need your help. Just how much will it cost?

A big saving is in the cost of land acquisition since Zing’s footprint is rather small, at least when compared with HS2, which runs on a 25 metre wide fence to fence vegetation free zone (how much herbicide is that going to take?) and then a further 25m either side of restricted vegetation, making a 75m wide footprint in all and so using 7.5 hectares per kilometre of track. Zing only requires about a five metre width, half a hectare per kilometre. If the price paid for acquiring agricultural land is, say £25000 per hectare, then the comparative costs of HS2 and Zing are £187500 and £12500, a 15-fold difference. Actually the difference is far greater. Instead of running on the routes of closed railways that are still by and large free from buildings, HS2 cuts virgin territory and since it can only have extremely large radius curves there is little opportunity for avoiding expensive real estate by deviating the line, whereas the Zing route can be adjusted to miss most buildings and costly infrastructure. Land purchase, at about £3 billion, is a significant part of HS2’s cost.

The costliest item on the government HS2 shopping list is “Tunnels, including ventilation and drainage, and Bridges including viaducts and other structure”, coming in at well over £6 billion. In this area Zing scores dramatically. Few or no tunnels will be needed and bridges can be simple and cheap affairs since ultra-light weight is the essence. The low headroom required by the carriages means that where roads go over the railway, bridges can be very low; no call for heavy engineering or even the old-style hump-backed bridge. Very many bridges built for the original railways are still in serviceable condition, especially for traffic that will be much lighter than the original structures were designed for.

The roughly £1 billion to be spent on diverting existing utility cables and pipes en route from London to Birmingham will not be required in the case of Zing. HS2 requires almost £5 billion in new stations and other buildings. Most Zing stations, and there will be a lot of them, are very simple affairs. The small wheels and low ride height of the trains mean that platforms worthy of their name are hardly necessary. Rather there will be a slightly raised pavement to allow wheel-chair access with no step up into the carriage. But let’s see what we can do with £5 billion to spend on stations. With 20000 km of new railway let’s put a station every 2km, so that’s 10000 stations. We have £0.5 million to spend per station. But since the vast majority of these stations will comprise little more than a couple of strips of paving, a sign board and a flower bed or two, there should be quite a lot of change available.

Another large expense for HS2 is the power supply infrastructure, the overhead cables.  They also don't look too pretty.  The ultra-light weight of Zing allows the use of modern battery power, a 21st century technology for a 21st century railway rather than using the 25kV AC overhead system introduced in Britain in 1956.  Train batteries will be charged overnight but boosted by induction charging whenever the train stops at a station.  This is a technology still in its infancy but several prototypes are being tested on buses in various countries. Examples: Milton Keynes, Utrecht, NetherlandsMannheimGermany, Gumi, South Korea

By mid-century with the zero net carbon emissions policy enacted, there will be plenty of competitive demand for renewably generated electricity so any opportunity to produce more should be investigated.  The space between the rails, over a metre wide, is unused and unproductive on all current railways.  Fill it with photo-voltaic panels.  There's 2000 square metres available per kilometre of twin track railway.  Using today's mass produced solar panels (and power density is set to continue increasing) one might expect to generate 100000 kWhr per year per kilometre.  That's perhaps not enough to run the railway, but it is a major contribution.  The Utrecht electric buses use about 1.2 kWh/km. Running one of those every 15 minutes for most of the day would only use 40000 kWhr/year/km.

The cost of rolling stock is a significant item, especially for HS2, currently estimated by government at £7.5 billion.  How much would Zing trains cost? For such a light-weight innovative vehicle, rather than looking at the cost of conventional trains, comparison with the Tesla electric sports car may be more valid. They cost about $100000 each.  They are smaller than Zing's carriages but more complex.  Let's assume, for the sake of discussion, that Zing carriages
cost £100000.  That should be generous enough to allow for the automated systems of driverless operation.  If we run trains of ten carriages they cost £1 million per train.  The £7.5 billion rolling stock bill for HS2 thus pays for 7500 trains, or more than enough to put a train on every three kilometres of the 20000 km of new railway.

Of course many of the figures used here are very rough guestimates, but they indicate that for the cost of building HS2 we could rebuild a dense network of ultra-light railways replicating the 20000 km of line lost since the British system was at it's maximum just before the First World War.  As Ed Miliband said, let us not miss this critical opportunity now.