Monthly Archives: April 2007

How the rest of the world sees us



low cost cars – the global challenge

I found this interesting Business Week article on the development of really cheap cars by chance, but it raises some fundamental questions, albeit from an American perspective:


Some further thoughts:

  • the comparison with no frill airlines and cheap clothes retailers (H&M, etc) is right in this context – if the western consumers can go low cost the emerging markets can start at low cost and the global market for very cheap products increases
  • Imagine a $2,500 (£1,250) car’s impact on developing countries traffic levels, when India and China’s emerging middle and upper working class can join in (or as the article suggests we are already seeing a $7,000 car impacting on poorer populations in eastern Europe and increasingly on the west…like the Dacia/Renaut Logan)
  • You can hear the complaint from the emerging nations – “why shouldn’t we have personal individual mobility like you have had for the last 100 years, to cover for your guilt about environmental damage and climate change” (Thanks, Gottfried Daimler, btw)
  • From my personal perspective I muse – what does this do to the motorcycle and scooter market – will Japanese, Korean, even the Chinese and Indian manufacturers who are currently growing, go the way of Triumph, BSA, Ariel – all world dominating businesses when a motorcycle was the first step on the mobility ladder. Better go for plan b, Honda… and dont even start to think about what China’s bicycle manufacturers will turn to next (the usual reference point in discussions about developing countries and cars)
  • I recall a similar article in Car magazine some 15 years ago and its predictions certainly came true – your European car is likely to be assembled anywhere labour is cheap (uh…Derby, Sunderland, Swindon? OK, but point taken) out of bits from Brazil, Indonesia and for all I know Chad, and finally discounted to get the metal out of the the fields near the ports and onto your drive
  • can a developing world cheap car achieve the same role in society again as the original VW, Fiat Cinquecento, Citroen 2CV or even Mini – and will these new ugly boxes on wheels become anti-fashion statements – they may become the first teenage car of choice for cash strapped parents, but I can’t see the Chery, Geely, Great Wall Motor, Nanjing, Hafei, Zhongxing, or Brilliance China (all rising Chinese brands) capturing the Fiesta, Saxo or Corsa market.

Going Underground (yes, an obvious title)

Tunnels are on my mind this week, having noticed for the first time the intriguing architecture of the Mersey Tunnel (Queensway)entrance in Liverpool (after a meeting at Merseytravel in Hatton Garden) and reading about new tunnels between Russia and Alaska, as well as Morocco and Spain. Obviously the Channel tunnel experience is not putting anyone off?

The Alaska/Russia link, at 64 miles would be twice as long as the Chunnel, would have rail, road, gas, oil pipelines and electric lines and would cost $12 billion to build over 15 years – although apparently a Japanese contractor has come forward offering to do it half price ($60m a km!).

40km from Spain to Morocco looks slighty easier, although reuniting two continents after billions of years, confronting immigration fears and delivering this project on time looks less likely. No doubt our competitors are sharpening their pencils to get the quotes out as soon as possible.

Edit:  Sydney Morning Herald reports in depth, identifies a lot of problems – oh dear 

Camera fines not going back to the Treasury – shock!

From the cash generated from fines on bus lane enforcement cameras in Reading, up to £10,000 per month is going to be made available for new Readibus services. Good for once to see the linkages working, where transport money stays in transport.

The enforcement cameras came into play in September last year and apart from initial press excitement seem to be doing their job. Of course the fines income will probably reduce over time as people learn that they will get nicked, but as it helps the least mobile in the town its almost a charity – maybe I should run through the bus lanes a few times to aid this good cause!

Actually as a motorcyclist Reading has always been enlightened about powered two wheelers (as we now have to call them) using bus lanes and government is coming around to less antagonistic view – see the latest DfT guidance.

Disclosure: PBA works for Reading Borough Council

Not 300, but 900


As if stealing the thunder of the 300 Spartans the figure of 900 improvements was broadcast wide and far today – £2.44 bn of Network Rail and other agencies money (well our money, really) is going on schemes all over the country, over the next two years (think of all the weekend line closures!). Apparently this is double the normal spend on enhancement projects. Its all in their 2007 Business Plan launched today.

Some of the highlights of this modern day epic include:

 Airdrie to Bathgate new line: £214m (£300m – funded by Transport Scotland)
Brigg line freight capacity enhancements: £9m (£9m)
Bristol Parkway new platforms: £10m (£10m)
East Midlands Parkway new station: £24m (£24m)
Grays platform extension: £3m (£3m):
King’s Cross extra platform: £15m (£15m)
Manchester airport new platforms: £15m (£15m)
Newport station new platform: £5m (£5m)
Olympic schemes: £109m (£400m)
St Pancras Thameslink station: £78m (£78m)
Trent Valley track doubling scheme (part of West Coast Main Line upgrade): £165m (£300m)
South Wales platform extensions – 42 platforms: £13m (£14m)

Other projects – with total cost shown – include:
Edinburgh Waverley capacity enhancement: £49m
Great Eastern overhead line rebuild scheme: £50m
Gretna-Annan track doubling scheme: £35m
Hull docks schemes: £9m
Luton station redevelopment: £10m
Wakefield Westgate new platform: £1.4m
Virgin West Coast stations car park extension scheme: £90m

Plenty in there to get your teeth into (money for engineers, maybe?) and just in time for the lead up to the local elections, but that would be too cynical – wouldn’t it?

I also have a suspicion that this is an announcement of schemes already agreed and just aggregated for fresh news, but I could be wrong (often am) – comments anyone?