1 November 1999.
Index of earlier issues - click here.
THE RSI is still a little bit of a problem, so there may yet be further interruptions in the regularity of The Other News.
(Those who like digging about will find that there are hundreds of articles on many subjects to be found on this site.)
I am working again on old issues of Other News (1993) and hope soon to put a few more of them on the site.
WHEN THE LAST government was ransacking the public's wealth and resources and putting them in private hands they formed a part of the British Railways system into a land-owning company called Railtrack which they then flogged off cheap to 'The City' (possibly largely a selection of faithful Tories, but one is never sure since the Labour party disappeared and has been replaced by another Tory party under the title 'New Labour'). The people who bought the shares and those who ran the company then set about selling all the spare bits of land they could find within the company and thus filled their coffers substantially, whilst collecting rents from the various incompetent train companies that now used the tracks.
The rents from tracks are proably quite substantial, but in order to keep them in good order considerable sums of money have to be spent on maintenance, and therefore what looked like a good return had the railways been state-owned began to look like something that might be improved for the directors (and shareholders on a relatively tiny scale) of the now private company if ways could be devised for saving on maintenance. A selection of ways were found, no doubt, but as every director knows if you just do not bother with maintenance at all during what you are planning to be your last few years in the job, you will probably get away with it, leaving the headaches for the incoming new directors when there is a change of board. This, of course, has the advantage that profits will be even higher than normal during your last years, and so you can go away with a nice golden handshake on top of all else you have wrung out of the operation.
Part of the maintenance of tracks and the profit and loss of owning them will lie in the signalling systems and safety margins, which will mostly look after themselves - they are, after all, only designed for emergencies and a driver can probably be blamed if they fail to come up to expectations. Such things as a system once designed that will not allow a 'conflicting movement' cost more to run than a few red lights and warning bells, I believe because they use extra track that would otherwise be used by other trains, thereby creating extra rent for the company. It has been argued that this efficient bit of management coupled to the fact that the signal in question could not be seen very easily led to the recent Paddington train crash in which about 200 people died.
To fix the problem that led to the Paddington incident and several other problems of a similar but possibly worse nature (for there are allegedly hundreds of similar ones), Railtrack would have to spend quite a lot of money, and one imagines they don't feel like doing that because it would eat into profits, so somehow the present government, now that Railtrack have spent most of what they got, are going to have to either subsidise them or re-nationalise Railtrack.
The first option the public would not like because the public probably largely feel that the directors and shareholders had our railway off us very cheap and the least the directors could do in exchange for being made into multi-millionaires overnight is to run it properly for us instead of themselves. The second option will be unpopular for the same reason as the first, but with the additional reason that as soon as there is serious talk of re-nationalisation the share price is likely to go rocketing, thereby giving them an even greater prize for their incompetence and greed than they already had.
There must be another - perhaps a more modest - way. Perhaps the directors should be obliged to give everything above a sensible sum back to the public and the company should be re-nationalised, with the government holding all the shares that are not held by pension funds, but should nevertheless continue to be run as a company, so that the huge profits from running the company and the money handed back can be used to maximise the safety and efficiency of the system. The governemnt could then have the option to buy any shares the pension funds decided to sell off in the future and thus increase it's holding and the public's benefit.
I think most of us can accept the idea that the world cannot be entirely safe, but I also think that the great majority of us would like to think that our railways were run to the best standard of safety possible within the framework not of a private company out to make profits but a public service. There is evidence that this is not currently happening.
I am still waiting in the hope of hearing that the matter that I saw in front of an appeal judge recently is going forward in some way, thereby giving me a chance to understand it better and to see a few more fireworks and fun and games in some court somewhere.
Perhaps I am being over-optimistic. Lawyers can keep on delaying things until the man dies - it doesn't matter to them.
I HAVE IN THE past written that Southwark have largely replaced service with a complaints system. Anybody with a sense of economics must know that this cannot go on for long without the complaints system collapsing, but that does not seem to be what Southwark believes.
We have now reached a point where if you need to communicate with the council it is not possible because they do not answer the phone, do not answer mail, and only occasionally respond to a written complaint - in my experience only in a manner that fails to resolve the matter in hand (like the recent letter I had that told me that the writer assumed the matter had now been resolved or she would have heard more about it (!), when in fact after a few years of trying I have all but given up and am waiting to get together the money to bring a County Court action as it is the only thing that might get a result).
A friend of mine has been trying for the past five years to get Southwark to do a small amount of elementary building work which would cost less than £100 but would save them thousands of pounds - a leaky rainwater pipe. Having failed to get any action, she tried to bring them to their senses by threatening legal action, which, when she seemed to be serious, led to scaffolding being put up around the whole building at a cost of many thousands of pounds -whilst the work which she needed done will (if she is lucky) be done by a man standing on a stepladder at ground level and will take about fifteen minutes. (One cannot help but think of freemasons in this connection).
Whilst putting up the scaffolding, the scaffolders have created a problem of a similar type to that which started the matter now referred to - on the other side of the building.
I think we can rely on another five years of wet walls, fungus and peeling wallpaper - and another five years of failing to access the complains service - by which time she will be eighty and will probably no longer have the energy to try if she hasn't already died of the effects of it all.
This is a site concerned with one of the most unpopular planning decisions ever made in Greater London, the Crystal Palace Complex. It is so stunningly awful that only a handful of people who do not live near it appear to approve, whilst the rest are not entirely uninclined to mention such things as payola, freemasons....you name it! The site belongs to the London Borough of Bromley, but the aggro generated by it and the destruction of amenity caused by it will be almost entirely suffered by residents of adjoining boroughs and not the people of Bromley themselves.
This is a recycling site based in London, and offering materials to anybody. The organisation is a charity seeking to link suppliers of surplus materials with users. Especially good for the more ingenious designers amongst us.
The email of the people who run the above site is email@example.com. They are called Creative Supplies. Look them up for more info.
Here's an interesting education site - particularly for those who have young children and are not quite sure what to do to avoid the worst of what`s on offer in the mainstream of education.They are called www.edrev.org.
early Othernews - 1992, 93, 94.
There were a few essays that went out with the early Other News as a freestanding item. You can read these by clicking below.
The Soup Designer`s Handbook.
London Journey - a trip from Docklands through Beckenham and back to Docklands.
(Friday Woodworkers are suffering a temporary break due to some of the episodes not having been fully edited at the time of writing. It may take some timne to fix this problem.
(These articles were written in 1988, and were my first attempt at writing. Some people when shown these fell about laughing, some smiled faintly - and some yawned. I thought I was going to write a technical book, but it soon became apparent that I was much more interested in the people than the technology - and that is the main reason there are no drawings - although it might be rather good to do a couple of caricatures sometime.)
Index of Friday Woodorker articles (and a means of access).
We are still redesigning The Other News From England. Noticed the change so far?
There is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
A READER COMPLAINED that it was not possible to go back more than 6 articles in Gabriele`s area. Regrettably this is because there is no index, and I have not the time to organise one yet. However, for those determined enough to find the early ones, they should be accessible by going to an early Other News and clicking through from it. This will not be fast, but I think will do the job. They started about November 1997 I think.
(I wish someone would make a contribution before I am forced to put in some of my own stuff here).
So new, in fact, that there is nothing there. I want to open a section of this site to be used as a kind of green reference. Ordinary folks usually know what to do in order to be green, but there are times when (a) they don`t know the technology, or (b)they are short of ideas, or (c) they would like to see what some other people think.
So the purpose of this area will be for people to describe to others how they made their own electricity, or saved a great deal of domestic water being wasted, or captured the methane gas from their cesspit, designed their solar bicycle with regenerative braking and portable overnight windcharger, caused plants to grow in a desert, made a solar water pump, etc.
A site for forward-looking people, in fact.
It may be very difficult to edit, but I would like a few articles and tips that are concise, easily understood and ecologically useful. Authors will be named if they so wish. These will be left on the site, and gradually as the number of articles builds up hopefully somebody will construct an index. I won`t volunteer myself, as I have yet to make a subject index for the whole Other News site.
One week carried an article that might be of interest to anybody thinking of taking out an Abbey National mortgage - or those who already have one.
Interestingly, one of the London papers described them as being "among the greediest".
There will soon be a new twist to this story, but I am not sure what it will be until it happens. They are trying to make it as difficult as possible instead of as easy as possible to resolve the present dispute.
(see several weeks back).
This Lexmark business gets worse. I refilled the black cartridge with an ordinary cartridge refilling outfit and it won`t print despite telling me that the cartridge is full and that it is printing.
In an earlier issue I told you about my feelings regarding Tempo retailers and the Lexmark 3200 printer I bought from them. I have now found out another thing about it.
The Lexmark 3200 printer I got from Tempo must surely be the most uneconomical printer I could possibly have bought. The black cartridge only does about 250 pages of ordinary type - for £28! That makes each sheet cost 11.2 pence plus the cost of the paper and probably another 11.2 pence more if any colour is used! - ABOUT 22.4 PENCE A SHEET! Nearly a pound for every four sheets!
I wouldn`t recommend you to buy it - but also look at my earlier article for an idea of Tempo`s service.
A person to help make up a subject index for the growing numbers of articles on The Other News From England. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
8- or more-track tape recorder. email email@example.com
Also want good working VW or Volvo 7 series 2.4litre turbodiesel engine. This is the type that goes in an LT van or a Volvo 740TD. email firstname.lastname@example.org
£2,000,000 at 0% interest would quite good too, although I would probably waste quite a lot of it employing musicians to do the great work.
All material on this site is copyright. Contact me if you want to use it. I am quite flexible. Educational non-profit use is free - but ask for permission and print an acknowledgement. If you can`t think what to print, put:
From The Other News From England. http://www.othernews.co.uk