Trolley Bus Stops Pollution


The old adage that what goes round comes round is very evident when considering the use of electric trolley buses in inner cities to reduce pollution.

Many cities have reintroduced trams, others  are hesitant due to the significant costs and disruption to city centres whilst a tram line is constructed. Yet this form of public transport could be one of the key answers to reduce pollution in city centres from engine exhaust.

The good old eclectic trolley buses had a huge advantage. They were electric powered, used no energy whilst waiting at traffic lights, at bus stops or stuck in traffic. The downside is the need to clutter streets withe overhead cable need to feed power to the buses – the same need as for trams.

The installation of a trolley bus network is infinitely smaller than that for a tram. Using dedicated bus lanes will assist the conversion and drop the point of use greenhouse gases to zero. Doncaster had a test track built with a state of the art trolley bus on trial for several years. This sophisticated version of the trolley bus was dual powered. It could revert to using its diesel engine if the route extended beyond the overhead cables.

The Doncaster experiment in the 1980’s was doomed not by technical difficulties, but that it coincided with the privatisation of bus routes. Who owned the track, the rolling stock and took the risk threw the trial into political stalemate. But maybe now is the time to have a fresh look. London trashed the bendy buses, but now is reconsidering. It bought a whole fleet of new Routemaster buses when perhaps sitting down to reflect on the long term future, and reviewing pollution free electric trolley  buses as well as cars would have been a better and almost immediate solution. The UK bus builders could develop a new vehicle designed and manufactured in the UK and exported worldwide, for this is an International problem  looking for a solution that may really be history repeating itself.




Scrambled News On Eggs


I know we have been told, eventually, not to eat eggs for a bit whilst they work out who scrambled the message from Holland to Belgium to the EU to Britain. Shades of Edwina Curry springs to mind, for she was the last to make an omelette out of an egg scare in 1988 when “all our eggs had salmonella.” On that occasion she turned out be a little soft boiled when just about everyone said she had got the facts wrong.

The benefit of being in the EU is its timely control of food standards. Except on this occasion the news was  poached by the press before the EU were ready. The EU were to hold a series of plenary meeting to decide who was actually to blame, and why, and why not and really hoped it would blow away, after all we had eaten all the evidence so not to worry.

Anyway I was reading a notice in a cafe, just to see if the egg sarnies were a health risk when I spotted a disclaimer that must meet all know EU regulations and as a warning to the poor guys who have to scrutinise the menu to check if there is anything nasty. And here is where my education was extended. The main ingredient in food and drink preservation is Sulphur Dioxide to which many people are allergic- especially asthmatics. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.


Life Conundrums


An economist has derived that the tax generated by smokers during their life far outweighs the additional NHS costs associated with caring for their smoking induced ill health.

In a similar vein, the early demise of some 90,000 of us through inhaling noxious fumes from vehicle exhaust will save the cost of our elderly care and dementia.

If we all switch to electric vehicles their operation will not be cheaper than fossil fuels. This is due to the government having to transfer the current hefty tax on fossil fuels to electricity. Secondly their very quiet operation will scare the bejabbers out of many pedestrians who will be unaware of their approach. This  replaces the costs of lung disease with increased costs from the number of heart attacks and having to fix mashed bodies from unintended car/pedestrian  collisions.

Swings and roundabouts, as they say.

Water Water Everywhere


I can’t help thinking  the children using the scout camp where this sign was spotted must have been having a water pistol ball. Better to be squirting water than the evil forces behind the moped acid gangs. But then again the guys at the scout camp must have been making a right mess filling their water pistols – presumably at some pace to get back in the action. I assume the water being used came from taps and not the toilet itself and it was not germ warfare in action.

Shake Rattle and Roll


Anyone who has traveled on the Pacer trains can relate to the title. A great idea that proved a bit of an issue in realty. These trains formed by welding a bus body onto a freight truck indicate how our railway systems are going backwards.

Once renown for our railway expertise the Pacer perhaps epitomises where it all went wrong. These diesel powered trains rattle about the countryside letting in water when it rains and cold air in the winter. Showing signs of their age perhaps? The warning sign on the door (see image above) – originally to warn of platform gaps externally – now has a new meaning internally !

Australian Bike Park


The massive adoption of bikes as the key mean of transport in Amsterdam leads to a problem securing your bike.

Apart from the huge multi story bike parks, seen below, there is always the alternative. Grab a spare 6 feet of railings and to flag up the location of your bike from the thousands of other – park it like an Aussie.

Shopping Malls On The Way Out


Another sign of the times. The pundits in the USA say the growth in internet shopping is now causing the death knell of the out of town shopping mall.

Within the next five years they expect over 25 per cent of shopping malls in the USA to have closed down. Seems ironic these shopping malls in turn caused the death knell of the corner and High Street shops. And in another 10 years perhaps internet shopping will have been superseded and we will all see the re-emergence of the corner shop as a means of getting out and meeting people. What goes round comes round as they say.

In the meantime could I add a couple of issues I hope will be phased out, like multi-choice options on the phone, ‘no reply’ emails from corporations who can be arsed, foreign based help desks, supermarket ‘quick check out tills’ which aren’t and broadband suppliers who charge a single rate even though the line speed is 10 per cent of the government’s minimum standard.

Image courtesy of yodiyim@ free

Switch it Off Then Back On Again


The ways of the world are in constant flux. What was commonplace is now superseded, no more so that in the recent BA saga.

For years the ancient maxim to regain control of an errant computer was to switch it off than switch it back on again; such advise generally given by a chap on the help-desk in India. Yet BA now advise this was the very reason for the massive computer shut down over the bank holiday.

Apparently a man in a white van popped into their computer control room near Heathrow, pulled the plugs out of the computer to boil his kettle for a cuppa and the emergency back power supply into his toaster. Then after his break put the plugs back into the computer and went on his way.

The computer was only half way through shutting when it was switched back on again. The software then met itself in the middle, attempted to mimic the Hadron collider by smashing things into each other at high speed and the rest is history.

I love the explanation given by the techie guy at BA when the computer was switched off – “This resulted in the total immediate loss of power to the facility, bypassing the backup generators and batteries. This meant that the controlled contingency migration to other facilities could not be applied”. Basically he means “it all went tits up”.

BA Show How Not To Do It


My favourite whinge topic has just had another airing. Sorry about the pun but airlines are in the news again. This time BA response to a monumental cock-up shows how not ‘to fly to serve’.

Have you noticed the biggest corporate PR screw ups come from companies with two initials in their name. BA, VW and BP come to mind.

To fly to serve, the motto of BA has bitten them so hard in the bum it is going to hurt big-time. Their only income over the next year is probably to come from the textbook that is to follow; “How to create a magnificent crisis – without trying”.

Crucially in the preparation stage you need to out-source everything and thereby  sack everybody who knows what to do, especially in a crisis. This saves a fortune in payroll and then you can blame Indian IT after all they can hardly defend themselves. They may even be completely unaware the lights actually went out. And here’s a clever part, apparently the massive failure may have been caused by a ‘power surge’, except if you play this hand make sure the power supplier doesn’t say no such surge took place.

A vital point in the process is to avoid all classic PR mantras, after all this is the new world. Thus never appear in public to reassure and take charge. BA introduced this approach went terminal five baggage handling system went AWOL during the building opening days and the BA Director of Communications was seen running away just before a press briefing. BP also adopted this concept during the ill fated Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. And VW just resorted to telling lies.

And  so the front line BA staff including contractors had no information to give out to frustrated passengers. Having smashed 78,000 peoples travel arrangements BA by default tried  to make the most of the situation by recharging passengers for recovery flights on BA. And to help passengers  insisted the stranded passengers booked their own on going flights because you can also charge them for using the premium fee phone lines operated by BA to re-book flights. And charge extra to upgrade if these are the only seats available.

The once loved British Airways; “to fly to serve” has potentially been dealt a massive brand shot in the foot entirely of their own making. With the scope of service and conditions being ever reduced to that of a budget airway, they have even managed to screw that up.

There remains a host of unanswered questions and recriminations. How they are to repair the damage to the name of BA is yet to be seen. The problem lies in the senior guys who failed to be aware of the implications of what they were trying to achieve before the lights went out. IAG the owners of BA have just announced a very healthy improved profit. But BA, like Icarus, misjudged things and flew too close to the sun. Maybe the most damning criticism is they had no obvious disaster plan programmed to counter Murphy’s law: ‘if it can happen it will happen’

The only happy guy in the entire situation is Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airways. He has been toppled from the top spot of Man with a Weird Mission by Alex Cruz CEO of British Airways.

Modern Technology Bites Back


So you have parked at the top of Mount Wellington near Hobart. Wandering around the top of the mountain to admire the fantastic view you notice a damn great TV transmitter mast alongside the car park. When  you pop into the viewing platform to get out of the inevitable wind – it is the top of a mountain after all, you nonchalantly spot a warning sign that tells you the TV transmitter has probably fried all of your car’s electronics whilst you are reading the warning sign! The sign advises of a few work around solutions like how to get in the car when the door lock has been blitzed, but your only real consolation is you are on top of a damn mountain and  it’s all downhill from there.


Where’s the Loo


There are standards and there are standards. Normally the location of a toilet in a restaurant is as discrete as possible to comply with our sensibilities. But in Australia there can be a more brutal approach. The ‘dunny’ is a primeval requirement and needs to be close at hand, sometimes closer than you think.

Penang Cycle Paths


The World Heritage site of Georgetown in Penang has adopted a quest to get more people to use bikes. Primarily aimed at converting those currently using scooters and motor bikes these two – stroke smoke monsters  at least leave a visible toxic fume trail – unlike our diesel issues.

The incentive to riding a bike is the appearance of cycle ways on footpaths thus avoiding the traffic. There is a slight issue for the pedestrians as can be seen in the image. The footpath for mortals has been reduced to a strip requiring you to walk sideways to avoid any right of way issues.


Airline Service Levels In Decline


Air travel is one area where expectation and reality have gone their separate ways. Influenced by the desire to see offspring, who have taken empty nesting to the extremes by now living in Australia and Singapore, we are blitzing their inheritance in sizable donations to airlines.

Years ago the excitement, the glamour was something to behold. Now the annual trip is close to purgatory. I don’t think we have become pickier, seeking vast improvements to their service commensurate with the price. It’s just that the norm has deteriorated, beyond recognition in some cases.

Airlines don’t have staff on the ground, they are all sub contractors whose job it is to shift you around an airport at the least cost. Brand image of an airline can be stuffed right at the start – at the check-in. Cost saving measures have minimised staffing levels, if they encounter a problem they need to dump it rather achieve any resolve. Their problem means you are a queue blocker and don’t deserve further support. You end up at the ‘service desk’, along with countless other souls suffering a check-in cock up. A recent experience at Sydney took over 60 minutes to partially resolve. You appreciate why they want you there three hours before the flight time.

The extremes of polite and cheerful and the officious and obnoxious staff man the necessary security checks. There is no median. Security is a necessary evil but there must be a better way of handling it rather than assuming everyone is a terrorist and to be treated as an idiot who has failed to keep up with the constantly changing rules and different interpretations.

Aircraft only make money when they are in the air full of passengers. Crew levels having been reduced and to reduce the demand on the remaining aircrew all passengers are required to sleep. An unnatural phenomenon in the middle of the day. As aircraft spend most of their time in the air they cannot be efficiently cleaned  thus aircraft have become one of the dirtiest places on earth. But in all it is a way of getting from A to B and for this I suppose we should be grateful.

Airlines need to make a profit to survive but many are on a death spiral. They constantly fight the brand image of service quality alongside a customer base that seeks the lowest cost. Not easy bedfellows but as the industry is following the lead of the cheapest airline with the most cost effective, or minimal service level we have to accept the experience of air travel is set to get a whole lot worse .



Laundry Gives Underwear The Slip

There is a time in the ascent of man when technology overtakes logic. Take underwear for example. A fan of Marks and Sparks for decades I suddenly became overwhelmed by the element of choice.

Rather like light bulbs, which have extended from a selection of 40, 60 and 100watts and a single bayonet fitting. Now the damn things are now available in three operational types, four fittings and five power ratings. Gone are watts and now we have to be conversant with lumens. These are equal to the amount of light emitted per second in a unit solid angle of one steradian from a uniform source of one candela. Yeah that’s what I thought. Similarly M&S gent’s under-apparel for the use of are now available in eight form designs, five material types and a multitude of colours. The selection criteria has been shoved into overload. This has me standing with vacant stare in the underwear isle; ergo in the bleeding way of all the women folk supposedly sent out by their bewildered spouses. The range challenge is not lightly undertaken for there are unforeseen pitfalls. Technology has reared its meddling head. White cotton now replaced by man made fibres, stretch fabrics, some stuff called stay-fresh, and others possessing the unique ability of fast wicking.

These new features imply they are designed to cope with all manner of gentlemanly afflictions. Wicking dribbles into the ether possibly being the most advantageous, but I can understand the stay-fresh ability has significant additional benefits to mankind in the vicinity.

But then each of these new materials come with their complex washing washing instructions. Having been long banned from the use of our washing machine – largely due to being caught making the crass assumption you chuck laundry into the drum, add an abundance of power or liquid into the drawer and spin the control dial to acquire the wash cycle on the same random basis as roulette.

The better half thereby, and perhaps understandably, has assumed all duties associated with laundry. Yet, I believe in retaliation has also adopted a sod-you attitude with regards to the M&S drying procedures of ones nether apparel. These cherished items of underwear are whacked straight into the dryer. Although this provides huge benefits to our relationship, reducing some of the drudgery of the laundry process it also involves, I am convinced, some element of payback. For each cycle reduces the dimensions of said underwear by several mm. This assiduous process reaches a point where the area of fabric fails to provide anything like the coverage the designer intended, let alone meet the specification argued by my mother in case you have to suddenly visit the doctor.

Bending down to tie shoelaces invokes an entirely unnecessary wedgie. This takes some recovery if inadvertently induced in a public place. Adjustments can be seen as being significantly anti social. It also urges the need to check if there is anything you can do whilst being down there.

You may recall my household duties revolve around everything at floor level. The house has several rooms decked out in York stone flags. It’s old you see. Cleaning the beggars falls under my jurisdiction and invoke rather arduous effort. Being an engineer and way back briefly involved in work study there are clearly methods to be developed here to achieve the cleaning process in minimum effort and timescale. OK several trials have not proven to be ideal but valuable lessons have been learnt. One of these is to always complete the task whist Florence is out thereby avoiding unnecessary criticism whilst the master plan is being developed.

My latest experiment involved chucking a bucket of soapy water over the floor, dashing about with a mop intending to agitate any dirt before being promptly sucked up with a wet vacuum cleaner. The theory seems to hang together, yet mysteriously in practice the process proved to lack finesse. The sudden ingress of water edged dangerously towards certain carpet rugs, whilst in other areas it disappearing down unseen voids at an alarming rate. This holds the possibility of being absorbed by the substrate and potentially likely to emerge as a bleeding great damp patch requiring rather skillful explanation. This is very much work in progress.


Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at

Alphabet Changes

Here’s a thought. As we pass through various ages  the relevance of the alphabet subtly changes.

Five year old:

A for apple, for ball, for cat, D  for dog, for elephant


for Acne, B  for breasts, for college, D  for date, for exams

30 year old:

A for account B  for bank, C  for credit D for debit, for expense


A  for Alzheimer’s, B  for blood pressure, C  for cancer, D  for dementia , E  for examination


Perhaps  it’s time to convert to the Greek Alphabet.


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at