Monthly Archives: November 2014

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Being homeless is better than working for Amazon

AmazonJust like Wal-mart, Amazon treats it’s low level employees like robots; pawns in their pursuit of unlimited riches for the few at the top.  That’s a bit unfair actually as robots require enough electrical power to keep them going, whereas Wal-mart doesn’t pay staff enough to live.  Without proper regulation, these corporations are costing the government money in social services and aren’t paying tax.  Meanwhile the Waltons (who own Wal-mart) cling on to their riches to remain more wealthy than all of their workers combined.

Who owns your news?

You might assume that, living in an ostensible democracy in an ostensibly enlightened age, the news you’re receiving as a citizen of the UK would be impartial and unbiased. This isn’t a dictatorship, after all – this is Great Britain, not some place where the media shapes our thoughts and feelings based on how our democratically elected rulers want us to think and feel, you might think. Anyway you’re wrong, and if you needed an indication of how the mainstream media represents the interests of those currently in power, look no further than the fallout from the #CameronMustGo hashtag. Continue reading

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Include the Green Party in the TV Leaders’ Debates

GPLogoWorldGreenForWebIt says something about the state of our media that this has to be petitioned for.  Why should the green party not be included in these debates?  The media coverage UKIP have enjoyed recently is very disproportionate; before October 2014 they never had an elected MP.  The Green Party has had
an MP since 2010.  It’s not surprising though when 52% of the press is owned by two right-wing billionaires and newspaper coverage is becoming increasingly partisan with 71% of the newspaper readership being told to vote conservative in the 2010 election.

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Global weirding is here

Screen Shot 2014-11-28 at 18.25.06What is quite startling about this is the visual difference between RPC2.6 (All hands on deck) and RPC8.5 (do nothing).  This isn’t subjective, it’s based on research from over 800 scientists, citing more than 30,000 mostly peer reviewed scientific articles.  This will happen unless we stop it.  We have the ability to stop it, and it will benefit us in many more ways than just surviving as a species.

Debunking train fares

This morning I watched the commons ‘Urgent question’ on the East Coast main line.  For the last 5 years the  line has beeEast_Coast_HST_first_liveried_setn operated by East Coast, a publically owned company.  It was always planned to re-privatise the line by December 2013, even though that has failed twice before.  Now the Conservatives have sold off the franchise to Stagecoach/Virgin Rail.

The Conservatives say this will provide more frequent services with links to more stations, including a direct line to Huddersfield for the first time since the 60s.  Huddersfield is my home town and where I return to visit my parents, and so this will directly affect me.

Labour argue that the government should not be switching from a successful publically owned service to a privately owned one when private franchises have failed twice previously on this line.  They questioned why the East Coast Company were not even allowed to bid for the franchise.   There were also two mentions of the very high fares on Virgin lines on the west coast.

I’m not going to argue for or against this privatisation.  Privatisation generally syphons money out of the public sector, and while people use efficiency as an argument, it’s more often a symptom of bad politics and management rather than a fundamental problem with public services.  In this case, I don’t know enough about both sides of the argument to make a compelling case.

However, I did want to fact-check Labour’s ‘high fares on Virgin West Coast’ argument.  I have travelled several times from London to both Birmingham and Wakefield.  Usually I get the (cheaper but slower) Chiltern Railways service to Birmingham, and the East Coast service to Wakefield.  I know how expensive the East Coast service is, so found it hard to comprehend the West coast Virgin service could be even more expensive. Time for some Maths.

Let’s say I want to travel from London to Birmingham or Leeds at around 8:00 tomorrow morning and return around 17:00.  I’m going to select the ‘Anytime’ fares on both services, as these are without restrictions or offers.

The Virgin service to Birmingham takes 1h24m and costs £82 each way, £164 total.  That’s 99.81 miles between Euston and New Street as the crow flies, which works out as 82p a mile and 50.5s a mile.

The East Coast service to Leeds takes 2h15m and costs £124.50 each way, £249 total.  That’s 167.48 miles between Kings Cross and Leeds, which works out as 74p a mile and 48.4s a mile.

So the publically owned East Coast service does work out cheaper, but only 10% less than the Virgin service.  It’s also slightly faster.  Either way you look at it, these are still very high fares.  For comparison, it’s £124 return to fly direct from Heathrow to Leeds Bradford with BA, and it only takes an hour.  Our rail fares in the UK are considerable higher than Europe.

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If we are to encourage train travel in this country and better connect the north, we can’t keep raising fares every year when they are already so high.  Thankfully the government froze fairs for 2015, although that still means they will be rising 2.5% with inflation.  Let’s see if the same happens in 2016 after the election.

Inset image: Telegraph