Monthly Archives: February 2014

Super-rich splash out on London’s luxury homes and costly cars

Deirdre Hipwell, The Times February 3 2014

If buying a luxury home and parking a Mercedes outside the front door is the ultimate sign of success, then business is booming again for the residents of the top neighbourhoods in London.

Research by Savills shows that the resurgence in the economy and the accumulation of wealth among the world’s super-rich have led to large increases in the purchases of luxury homes and cars.

The property consultant said that, in the year to October, there were 254,053 new registrations of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus cars — vehicles that range in price from £27,200 to £73,413. This reflects a 12 per cent rise on the previous period and surpasses the pre-crisis peak in May 2008, when there were 227,728 registrations.

Savills, using data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, added that sales were also rising at the top end of the car market. New registrations of Aston Martins, Bentleys and Porsches rose by 3 per cent to reach 10,400 last year, compared with a low of 6,000 during the recession.

The listing price of a Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible is £182,100, which is 74 per cent of the average price of a British home and equivalent to an 80 sq ft parcel of land in Mayfair. An Aston Martin DB9 V12 is not far behind at £143,080, 490 per cent higher than the average house deposit by a first-time buyer.

While luxury car sales have been rising, house sales in Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham — four of the capital’s top neighbourhoods — jumped by 10 per cent to 11,500 transactions during the same period. Cash buyers of homes overall rose by 15 per cent last year to reach 372,077 transactions, although this is still some way off the peak of 436,533 in August 2007.

Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, said: “The two major purchases most people will make is a car and a house and what we can see here is there are some people that can afford to make these purchases relatively easily and, in some cases, entirely in cash.”


Sunbeam engine

Letter to The Times, February 3 2014.

‘The 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine.’

Sir, Your report on the National Motor Museum’s ceremonial firing-up of the 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker (Jan 30) was not entirely accurate. The car was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine. This was emphatically pointed out to me in the 1970s by a Mr James who had joined the Sunbeam company in 1912 and worked on the development of the original Land Speed Record (LSR) car.

A fundamental difference lies in the valve layout: the LSR engine has three per cylinder whereas a Manitou had four. The car engine owes much of its parentage to the dangerously unsuccessful Sunbeam Arab crudely cribbed from the Hispano-Suiza aero-engine. Sunbeam had provided aero-engines in the Great War, mainly to the Admiralty, and had specialist experience and unsold parts at the close of hostilities — it would have drawn on both resources for the car.

Ian Walker

(Editor, Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq Register Newsletter)
Datchworth, Herts


Welsh fare worst from rail services

The Times, December 8 2013

There are “huge disparities” in the quality of train services in different parts of Britain, according to a report.

Services are best in London, southeast England, northwest England, the West Midlands and Scotland, says the report from Credo, a business consultancy, and the Campaign for Better Transport .

However, rail services in Wales, eastern England and northeast England perform much less well.

Even though services in London are well used and have benefited from major investment, passenger satisfaction “is hindered by concern about cost and overcrowding”, the report says.

It adds that there are improvements to be made everywhere, with services in Wales, for example, being less well-used and being less accessible than in other regions, as well as suffering low passenger satisfaction levels.

The report also says that eastern and northeast England “have relatively sparse rail networks, making services inaccessible to many people”.

Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of the campaign, said: “The research exposes the huge disparities in the quality of train services across the country. Importantly, it suggests the answer is to give local administrations more control over their rail networks.”

Matt Lovering, transport practice director at Credo, said: “The research highlights important issues for rail right across the country.”

Peter Wilkinson, franchising director at the Department for Transport, said: “Credo’s study raises important issues about the relative performance of the rail industry across the UK. There are challenges for all regions in improving the performance of our railways.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which speaks for the railway industry, said: “While there is always room for improvement, rail passengers are travelling on services that are unrecognisably better when compared to 15 years ago.”


Chairman’s Report: February 2014

The death of our President. Professor John Hibbs, marks a significant event in the life of the association that he and Professor Theo Barker founded. An obituary is included in this edition. The Association was well represented at a very moving funeral service on November 24 at the Carrs Lane Church in Birmingham, at which Martin Higginson made an impressive and sincere statement citing John’s intellectual contribution to the world of transport economics and history. A donation for Guide Dogs for the Blind, John’s selected charity, on behalf of the association, has been presented.

The Show moves on

The committee had duly met on November 5, at the Kithead headquarters in Droitwich, following Philip Kirk’s translation from the Oxford Bus Company to that of Kithead Archivist [and indeed much else!]. Philip spoke of the Kithead Trust’s foundation and of plans for the future.

Whither the route and whence we came

The Committee focussed upon ways in which the association might now be developed with a view to offering guidance to the AGM in Coventry on Saturday, March 28. The committee tried its best to concentrate upon the practical. Preparatory discussions had already taken place in south Wales and Kingston, with the Omnibus Society, and Coventry Transport Museum, and it is hoped that therefrom specific ideas will be identified for the AGM’s consideration. The priority is to identify members willing to assume responsibility, however measured and limited, for running the Association. To minimise further the individual burden, it is anticipated that tasks could be shared. As agreed by the committee, each of these tasks need not be too onerous, the programme of events having been modified and our routines simplified. That said, however, it is, of course, essential for us to put on our ‘thinking caps’ so that we avoid any hiatus at the AGM! Your present chairman took on that task three years ago very reluctantly when it appeared that no one else was willing. We owe it to our late President to rise to this challenge.

A great accomplishment

The Association is delighted that the University of Wales Trinity Saint David has taken on the task of printing and distributing the Journal at no cost to the Association. This is very much an instance of a two-way relationship. The University, for its part, seeks to contribute to a learned journal in a discipline central to its work. Discussions are taking place to explore how the Journal might be developed realising that for many members the quarterly edition is the chief benefit of membership.

Dates for the Diary

As earlier advised, the Spring AGM and Conference will take place in the refurbished Coventry Transport Museum, which will surely be worth seeing, on Saturday, March 21, 2015, when the theme will be ‘Transport and the City Region, in History and in Prospect’. Devolution is making the topic particularly pertinent and it would now be useful explore what might now be appropriate taking on board the lessons of history. The programme and booking form are also included in the edition.

The Autumn Conference will take place in the Coventry Transport Museum on Saturday, October 3, 2015, on the theme of ‘Maps in the History of Transport’.

Until next time

As ever, should you suppose that, as far as you are concerned, the bus has taken the wrong turning, please ring the bell! The Committee would be pleased to consider your comments.

Robert McCloy, chairman and clerk pro tem.