Monthly Archives: December 2014

Maintaining public highways (Law Report) …

The Times 12 December 2014

Regina (Redrow Homes Ltd) v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Before Lord Dyson, Master of the Rolls, Lady Justice Gloster and Lady Justice King

Judgment October 31, 2014

A highway authority could lawfully enter into an agreement with a developer or other party that, after a road had been adopted as a public highway and thereby became maintainable at public expense, the other party would continue to pay a sum towards its maintenance.

The Court of Appeal so held, dismissing the appeal of the claimant developer, Redrow Homes Ltd, against the decision of Mr Michael Fordham, QC, sitting as a deputy judge of the Queen’s Bench Division ([2013] EWHC 3734 (Admin)) on the developer’s claim for judicial review of the requirement of the defendant highway authority, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, that an agreement between the parties for the adoption of roads as public highways maintainable at public expense pursuant to section 38 of the Highways Act 1980 should provide for the developer to pay the costs of future maintenance of street lighting, to make a declaration that, on the proper interpretation of section 38(6), an agreement under section 38 could in law provide for the party other than the highway authority to pay a sum referable to the expenses of highways maintenance after the date on which it became maintainable at the public expense.

Mr Michael Barnes, QC, for the developer; Mr Paul Tucker, QC and Mr John Hunter for the highway authority.

THE MASTER OF THE ROLLS said that in February 2011 the developer had been granted outline planning permission to carry out a development of 525 dwellings on land at Huyton near Liverpool. The first phase included estate roads constructed by the developer. The normal course with such developments was that the roads when constructed became public highways maintainable at the public expense, usually by agreement between the developer and the local highway authority under section 38 of the 1980 act.

Both the developer and the highways authority wished in principle that that should occur. The highways authority said that it would not enter into an agreement unless it contained a provision that the developer paid £39,000, a commuted sum representing the estimated capital sum to cover the cost of future maintenance of the street lights. The developer said that no such provision could lawfully be included in a section 38 agreement.

Section 38(6) of the 1980 act was expressed in wide and unqualified terms. On its face, it permitted an agreement between a developer and a highways authority containing “such provisions as to the dedication as a highway of any road . . . the bearing of the expenses of the construction, maintenance or improvement of any highway . . . to which the agreement relates and other relevant matters as the authority making the agreement think fit.”

It could hardly be wider in its scope, in particular, nothing in the language of section 38(6) drew a distinction between what was permitted in respect of the periods before and after the road became a highway maintainable at public expense.

His Lordship rejected the developer’s submission that in fact section 38(6) was subject to the restriction that it only permitted an agreement for the construction, maintenance and improvement of a road or way before it became a highway maintainable at public expense.

First, as a matter of ordinary language, the phrase “maintainable at the public expense” connoted that the highway authority would be liable as a matter of public law to maintain the highway without indicating how the authority was required to discharge that liability. The authority could carry out the maintenance itself or make an agreement for a developer to carry out the work. It could choose to pay for the maintenance out of public funds or obtain the funds from the developer or a combination of the two.

Whichever course was adopted, the highways authority remained liable and the highway continued to be maintainable at the public expense. The use of the phrase “maintainable at the public expense” was far too slender a foundation for an argument that the apparently wide and unqualified words of section 38(6) should be given the restrictive meaning for which the developer contended rather than their plain, natural and ordinary meaning.

Second, it could be seen from such provisions as sections 44 and 278 of the 1980 Act that an act of private maintenance or an act of the provision of expenses was not inconsistent with the concept of a highway being maintainable at the public expense.

Third, section 38(1) read together with section 53 showed that parliament could not have intended to preclude the possibility of an agreement for maintenance by a developer after the dedication of a highway.

Lady Justice Gloster and Lady Justice King agreed.

Solicitors: Mr Graham Cope, Ewloe, Flintshire; Borough Solicitor, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, Huyton.

Investors avoid Stagecoach’s long and winding road …

The Times 11 December 2014, Marcus Leroux

It looks lovely to most people, a stunning vista of Scotland at its best, but for investors the empty seats on Stagecoach’s Glen Nevis tour are anything but pretty. Indeed, after the company admitted to a faltering performance from its regional bus routes, those investors wasted little time yesterday in disembarking.

Shares in the transport group plunged 28.2p, or 7 per cent, to 379.2p after it revised down profit from its British bus and North American businesses. However, it insisted that its share of profit from Virgin Rail Group, in which it has a 49 per cent stake, would offset the reduced profits elsewhere in the group.

It also warned that the plunging price of oil would not necessarily feed through to better profits because it may be forced to pass on savings to passengers because of competitive pressures and the lure of cheaper fuel for motorists. The company also said that it was being forced to pay staff more to fill vacancies, a sign that the tighter jobs market is beginning to push up wages.

Stagecoach reported pre-tax profit of £98.3 million for the six months to the end of October, marginally lower than last year’s £98.5 million. Revenue rose 4.8 per cent to £1.5 billion.

Government promises enough cash to fix 18 million potholes …

The Times 23 December 2014, Matt Dathan

Motorists and cyclists are set to benefit from the government’s record £6 billion spending spree to fix potholes across England over the next six years.

The £1 billion-a-year investment will be enough to fill in 18 million potholes, according to the department for transport, as well as improving other local road infrastructure.

The southwest will benefit the most, with £850 million going to the region, while the northeast will receive the least with £270 million.

It is the first time councils have been given locked-in funding over this length in time, which the government says will help local authorities plan ahead and save money for the taxpayer. Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, said potholes were a menace and that long-term planning would put an end to short-term fixes.

Labour reacted angrily, suggesting the government’s poor record on road maintenance was the reason such a large investment was needed. The party pointed to the department for transport’s 2013 road conditions report that showed spending on minor roads had fallen by 20 per cent since the coalition came to power in 2010. According to the report, 17 per cent of local roads — more than 19,000 miles — should be considered for maintenance work.

“You can’t believe a single word ministers say,” Michael Dugher,Labour’s shadow transport secretary, said. “Local roads are in a desperate state under David Cameron. Over 2,220 miles more of our local roads now need maintenance work compared to 2010.

“Hard-pressed motorists and businesses are justifiably sick and tired of having their vehicles damaged because of Britain’s pothole crises. This Tory government is all talk. Motorists have had enough of their failure and broken promises.”

More than £4.7 billion will be shared between 115 English councils, while £575 million will be set aside to help repair and maintain highway infrastructure such as junctions, bridges and street lighting. The remaining money will go into an incentive fund scheme to reward councils that deliver cost effective improvements.

Local authorities welcomed the investment, but said £6 billion fell far short of the amount needed to repair Britain’s “poor quality” roads. The Local Government Association (LGA) criticised the decision to hold back more than £1 billion, insisting all the funds should go to town halls.

An LGA spokesman said: “Previous LGA analysis of the £6 billion funding over five years found it equated to an extra £300 million a year on top of the £700 million councils were expecting, but was still £800 million short of what was needed to repair the poor quality of roads in one year alone. So while helpful, this new money does not bridge the overall funding gap which is increasing year on year.

“It would be more useful if the whole £6 billion was given to councils to get on with the important job of fixing roads, rather than £1 billion of it being tied up in Whitehall bureaucracy.

“Recent harsh winters and decades of underfunding by successive governments have created a national backlog of road repairs that would take £12 billion and a decade for councils to fix.”

Mr McLoughlin said: “Poorly maintained local roads, blighted by potholes, are a menace to all road users, particularly during the festive period as people travel to see family and friends.”

Highways Agency overhaul for £15bn road plan given green light …

The Times 10 December 2014, Robert Lea

Jobs for hundreds of economists, planners and regulatory wonks are to be advertised as the government’s plan to turn the Highways Agency into a Network Rail of the roads comes closer to reality.

The Infrastructure Bill has passed its latest parliamentary hurdle and now the government will publish a strategic business plan for Highways England, into which the Highways Agency is to morph.

It is understood that splitting from the Department for Transport will mean the hiring of 500 new staff on top of the existing 3,500 to deliver a £15 billion, seven-year roadbuilding plan. With Highways England cast adrift from Whitehall, the assumptions of the newly hired economists and planners is to be independently overseen and regulated for the first time.

This role has been given to the Office of the Rail Regulation, which monitors Network Rail, and is expected to need beefing up substantially from the 350 staff it already employs.

Passenger Focus, the often-outspoken watcher of the train and track companies, will change its name to Transport Focus as it gets charged with keeping an eye on the roads, as well.

Highways England is expected to come into being in April on the expected passing of the Infrastructure Bill by the end of the parliament.

Commuters, you’ve never had it so good …

The Times 8 December 2014, Oliver Moody

You wouldn’t want to say it out loud on the concourse of King’s Cross at 8am on a Monday morning, but the British commuter is profoundly lucky. Bothered by the invasion of your personal space? In Tokyo 70 per cent of schoolgirls told one survey that they had been abused on the city’s preposterously overstuffed subways by chikan, suited fetishists who spray teenagers with mayonnaise and worse. The vice has bred its own genre of pornography, norimono poruno.

Fed up with exorbitant fares? One of the first season tickets issued in mid-Victorian Britain cost £50, a year’s wages for the average worker of the day. It sold out anyway. Bored of plasticky food? Victorian commuters endured famously awful railway sandwiches — “the real disgrace of England”, according to Anthony Trollope — and what Charles Dickens called “a class of soup which enfeebles the mind, distends the stomach, forces itself into the complexion, and tries to ooze out at the eyes”.

We are safe, too. Travelling by train in the early days of steam was often dangerous. In 1865 ten people died when a train racing to London from Folkestone ran downhill at 50mph into a viaduct that had been closed for repairs. Six carriages fell into the riverbed below and the seventh, in which Dickens was a passenger, was left balanced over the precipice. He climbed out and passed his hip flask of brandy to other survivors. Today ten people still die each day on the commuter railways of Mumbai.

The history of the journey to work is in large part the history of modern society. With the frantic spread of railways, trams and omnibuses in the 19th century, as the working class began to enjoy the same mobility as City stockbrokers, it became hard to ignore their political will. In 1867, the year of the Second Reform Act, the political journalist Walter Bagehot suggested that there was no better place to take the pulse “of the ordinary mass of educated, but still commonplace, mankind” than “the opinion of the bald-headed man on the back of the omnibus”. This insight later found its way into cliché as “the man on the Clapham omnibus”.

Rush Hour, an entertaining study by the corporate lawyer turned historian Iain Gately, falls into three parts. The first and longest is a lively account of the stress, overcrowding and social awkwardness that have dogged travellers since the first railway lines opened. Then comes a survey of the shape of things today, tapering into a not entirely convincing argument that commuting generally makes people happier and healthier.

The book is best in the last section, where Gately indulges in some futurology. Telecommuting, HS2 and maglev lines that could take travellers from Dover to Aberdeen in an hour are studied and discarded before he settles tentatively on driverless cars as the likeliest next widely adopted technology.

Rush Hour is never less than interesting, pacey and rattling with trivia. The only big disappointment, apart from Gately’s reliance on secondary sources, is the lack of attention dedicated to cycling as a solution to clogged motorways and crowded trains and buses. In 1939 twice as many British commuters cycled to work as drove a car. Three quarters of a century on, getting back to that ratio would be something almost like progress.

Rush Hour: How 500m commuters survive the daily journey to work by Iain Gately. To order for £14.99 including postage visit or call The Times Bookshop on 0845 2712134

Roads ‘will mend themselves’ by 2050 …

The Times 3 December 2014, Gabriella Swerling

Potholes plugged with a self-healing concrete and roads that warn cyclists of icy conditions may become the norm by 2050, scientists have suggested.

The Future of Highways, a report by Arup, the international design consultancy, considers how trends in urbanisation, climate change, resource depletion and changes in human behaviour will affect our roads.

Arup raises the prospect of pavements that use kinetic energy from pedestrians to power street lamps, tyres that deploy retractable studs for increased grip when ordered to by the car, and drones that monitor and carry deliveries. The report comes after George Osborne this week announced the the biggest road-building programme for a generation, pledging £15 billion for improvements.

Tony Marshall, of Arup, said: “It’s interesting that the government strategy included significant investment in funding innovation. The aim of [our] report is to look at trends and predict how they will develop.

“By thinking across modes we can move towards a connected, low-carbon future.”

The world’s vehicle count is expected to grow by 3 per cent each year until 2030 and the proportion of people living in cities is predicted to reach 75 per cent by 2050. The report created a series of fictional case studies to deal with greater urbanisation and analysed global innovation in vehicles, materials and technology.

Researchers from the universities of Bath, Cardiff and Cambridge are developing a self-healing concrete that uses bacteria to seal cracks. Giken, a Japanese construction company, developed an automated underground bicycle park that can retrieve b

However, Ian Pearson, a futurologist, dismissed the significance of the report’s low-carbon focus. “It will be a historical issue. By then we will have more nuclear and solar energy, so we really don’t need to worry about using oil. It’s basically a hit list of what you can do in 2050,” Dr Pearson said.

Driverless Google cars will break speed limits …

The Times 22 August 2014, James Dean, Technology Correspondent

Google has programmed its driverless cars to break speed limits by up to 10mph because it believes that allowing them to do so will improve road safety.

Dmitri Dolgov, the lead software engineer on Google’s driverless cars project, said research had shown that keeping to a speed limit when nearby cars were going faster was more dangerous than speeding up.

Google is testing its cars on the streets of Mountain View, the Silicon Valley town that is home to Google’s headquarters. The cars have not yet been tested in the UK, but Vince Cable, the business secretary, announced last month that companies will be able to test driverless cars in certain cities from the start of next year.

The Highway Code states that vehicles cannot travel faster than the national speed limit in any circumstance. The government has promised to review road rules in advance of the introduction of driverless car testing.

Some research has suggested that a car moving slowly amid faster-moving traffic is likely to cause other vehicles to bunch up behind it, which could lead to an accident. “Thousands and thousands of people are killed in car accidents every year,” Mr Dolgov said. Allowing driverless cars to speed “could change that”.

J Christian Gerdes, faculty director of the REVS Institute for Automotive Research at Stanford University, said that the Google car’s ability to recognise unusual objects and to react in abnormal situations were significant hurdles that had yet to be overcome.

There were also ethical issues with driverless cars, he said. “Should a car try to protect its occupants at the expense of hitting pedestrians? And will we accept it when machines make mistakes, even if they make far fewer mistakes than humans?”

There are also unresolved issues around legal liability when a driverless car is involved in a crash.

Google’s driverless car project, which began in 2009, is being run by its Google X experimental technology division. The same unit developed Google Glass, the “smart” eyewear that was released earlier this year.

* Britain is a nation of middle-lane hoggers even though motorists facing a fine of £100 for breaking the law. A study by ICM Research found that almost six drivers in ten say they hog the middle lane of the motorway and almost one in ten admit that they always or regularly do so.

Driverless cars given green light for trials …

The Times 4 December 2014, Callum Jones

Driverless cars will be permitted to take to the roads in four locations around Britain next month, it was confirmed yesterday, as George Osborne announced a boost in research funding.

People in Bristol, Milton Keynes, Coventry and Greenwich, southeast London, can expect to see them being tested from January 1.

Funding for three trial projects — Gateway, Venturer and UK Autodrive — was announced by the chancellor yesterday. The government has provided another £9 million for the trials, which will take between 18 and 36 months to complete, increasing the overall budget to £19 million.

Experts at Innovate UK, the government agency charged with accelerating economic growth, hope the research will increase understanding of the technology. The departments for transport and business, innovation and skills have each committed £2.75 million of fresh spending for the project, with the Treasury putting up a further £3.5 million for its budget.

Nick Jones, Innovate UK’s lead technologist, said driverless cars would trigger “the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine”.

Britain has a head start over some of its European competitors in the field, who are restricted from road testing the technology for the next three years by the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. It is estimated that the autonomous transport industry will be worth £900 billion before 2025.

At the coalface: designing the fastest living rooms on earth …

The Times 4 December 2014, Hazel Davies

If you want to know where Luc Donckerwolke’s next “top secret” assignation is to, look at his watch. Bentley’s design director won’t tell me where he’s going tomorrow to test the newest designs but he does let slip that he has changed his watch accordingly. I notice he’s wearing a Rolex Submariner and wonder if perhaps the next batch of Bentleys might be in for a dunking.

The work that goes into designing Bentley’s latest models, due for release in 2017, is confidential so the cars are taken to highly secure places.

Mr Donckerwolke’s job involves leading a 140-strong team of designers, meeting suppliers, presenting the cars and testing them in often quite hairy conditions: “We have to do this because we need to see, for example, whether you can see the graphics on the instruments in extreme sunlight or whether you get reflections on the dashboard. You have to see how your design works in action.”

He’s even in charge of people specifically dedicated to getting the colour and trim correct: “The colours will fade in the sun so they need testing too. It’s aesthetics and chemistry.”

Mainly, says Mr Donckerwolke, “my role is about taking a vision and transforming it into a real product; something that will fascinate people and make them happy. Frankly, nobody buys a Bentley because they need it.”

We meet in the Crewe factory and showroom, where he is based most of the time, surrounded by Bentley paraphernalia.

There are shiny white surfaces, a display shelf of wooden steering wheels, delicate figurines and leather samples and a slightly intoxicating smell in the air, which can best be described as the scent of opulence.

Via stints at the Volkswagen Group and Audi, through head of design at Lamborghini and director of design at Seat, the Belgian-born designer joined Bentley nearly two years ago.

The son of a diplomat, he was born in Peru and brought up in Africa. He was always destined to be a car designer, he says, and drew cars from a very early age.

“Changing school and country almost every year, drawing cars was my constant, even when I was living in cities with no traffic lights.”

He was told he would never make a living doing that so he was duly packed him off to study engineering. After graduating, he contracted hepatitis in Bolivia and while he was recovering his then-girlfriend brought him some magazines.

In one of them was an advert for the Art Center College of Design in Vevey, Switzerland, which was offering a course in car design. So when he was better, Mr Donckerwolke drove (a “boy-racer, Renault 11 Turbo”) to the village, asked for directions at the police station and enrolled himself.

From there he joined Audi where he learned the basics of design in the industrial world, before going to Skoda, where he joined a small team of designers.

“I was lucky,” he says: “You can end up doing wheels and seats and rear-view mirrors but I contributed to Skoda’s rebirth. It was the first time I contributed to the DNA of a brand. I was designing a future for the company too.”

Other high points included designing the new Audi A2, which was, he says, ahead of its time in terms of its environmentally friendly credentials.

Audi taught him the basics of aerodynamics and then he went to design racing cars, which he says, is just “design but a bit more extreme”.

“Form always follows function but race engineers only want the car to win. However, if nobody associates with the brand then there is no point in racing.” He quotes Henry Ford: “What wins on Sunday, sells on Monday.”

From Audi he went to Lamborghini (“a job you don’t even dare dream about”) and then to Bentley, where he is now working on “the fastest luxury living rooms on earth”.

Bentley is not just about the car, he says: “It’s about your senses being rewarded in the car. In many ways it’s the opposite of Lamborghini. A Lamborghini is always saying, ‘Are you good enough to drive me?’ Bentley tells you, ‘You are the best driver in the world’.”

Unlike some designers, Mr Donckerwolke has no artistic pretensions about his work. “We use art as communication but here we are doing something that works in the industrial process, following economic rules,” he says: “There is no art in it. Yes we have a feel for shapes and light but I don’t like the term ‘artist’.”

The design process never stops at Bentley, says Mr Donckerwolke, because the cars are constantly personalised. The leather, trim and wood panels are all customised. People fly to Crewe to have their cars configured for them.

There’s an enormous colourful wheel made up of bits of car bodies in every colour you can imagine. “This one is called sequin blue, after a customer came in wanting her car to match the sequins on her dress.”

Bentley, he claims, is the only car brand that embodies both speed and luxury: “It’s silent and soft and insulates you from the world but when you want to drive it fast you have everything you need. It’s the butler concept. There when you need it.”