Tuesday, 23 September 2014

New UK Railways- How the protest movement works on a day out.

A supporter of Britain's projected new rail line to the midlands and north, High Speed 2, was in the Chilterns recently following the Tour of Britain cycle race. He reports as follows:

"The familiar "Say No to HS2" signs had lined the roads to Gt Missenden for 2 hours. We were pedalling the lanes to see the Tour pass through. The posters seemed particularly thick at our chosen viewing spot. The cyclists eventually swept past and were followed up the hill by a couple of men collecting the signs. I casually remarked to the man standing next to me :"That's interesting,they've been specially put there for the race." His posture stiffened. With alarming clarity I knew instantly: wrong words,wrong place. The mood of this Chiltern resident was hostile. My innocuous comment had lacked the mandatory anti-HS2 venom. I was among the wrong tribe.My lips froze and I sought sanctuary by quietly walking away. A little later,at the top of the hill, the full "Say No to HS2 Mobile Reactionary (unintentionally the key word) Force" was mobilised. Flags, banners, posters, hoardings and crowds on both sides of the road to catch the TV cameras."

This is a good illustration of the kind of opposition to this and other infrastucture projects large and small particularly around more affluent rural areas of Britain. Most striking is the mood of intolerance. There is a torrent of well financed mis and dis information distributed by large numbers of vociferous well organised activists with it seems a lot of time on their hands. Any attempt at discussion is usually brushed aside with well worn, and frankly misguided, statements. There is little chance of a friendly chat about the pros and cons in the pubs of Buckinghamshire. HS2 supporters are not welcome inside their doors,- or even outside in the garden.

Despite all this effort, most of it so far has been in vain other than as a delaying tactic. TV viewers will hardly have noticed this roadside graffiti which has long disfigured parts of the Chiltern Area of outstanding Natural Beauty which its distributors claim to be protecting. The Hybrid Bill meanwhile continues its determined, if slow, progress through Parliament despite the noise and interventions of "very influential people" and local councils throwing six figure sums of taxpayers' money into the protest pots rather than using it for anything useful such as properly repairing a few of their seriously potholed roads.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Russiaway under threat?

Back in the 1970s Europe's airlines began to get very limited access to rights to fly over Russia en route to Japan. BA predecessor BOAC marketed it as their Russiaway. Initially in those days of Boeing 707s and DC8s an en route landing had to be made in Moscow. Later, with the longer range widebodies, nonstops became possible and were permitted.

China though continued to block the way to the rest of Asia until its staged easings of restrictions in the 1990s paved the way to the opening of the northern routes overhead both China and Russia to all airlines. Until then Hong Kong in particular could only be accessed via the southern route, the most direct of which avoided the Gulf by cutting north west over Afghanistan and Pakistan via the Wakkhan corridor. Depending on winds, flight times usually exceeded 15 hours .Even with 747-400s ad hoc refuelling calls were not infrequent towards the end of the sector. These could result in flight termination or extensive delay due to the crews' statutory or union agreed flight time limitations.

We could be heading back there. All of a sudden the plethora of  "quick" 12 to 13 hour routes from North, North East and South East Asia to Europe and the UK by western airlines look as if they might be fragile.

The fallout of the EU and America's sanctions on Russia and their imminent tightening could well be the suspension of their airlines' Russian overflight rights to all but Russian destinations. Russia's irritation with the Wests' response to its involvement in Ukraine is clear. So far it has refrained from using this weapon. It has though given clear indications that with the increasing tightening of the sanctions screw it just might.

Now in a seat pocket near you....The first joint BA/Iberia branded on- board item.

Yes, it's arrived.

Hopefully part of the dramatic promised savings from joint activity and not a portent of things to come, it's a BA/Iberia branded sick bag.

BA staff and former shareholders might see it both as that and as a rubbish bag into which they put money.

 Iberia staff and former shareholders might see it as a goodie bag from which they can extract the lucre.

However it's perceived it's a joint production though and likely to be the first of many. Jointly liveried aircraft are a long way off and shared fleets don't look close either.