Monthly Archives: May 2016

Water taxi that goes straight to your door …

The Times, 28 May 2016,

High-speed amphibious taxis could be brought in within 12 months under plans to beat congestion in some of the most traffic-clogged cities.

A British firm has conducted the first successful test of the Humdinga, on the Thames near the O2 Arena

High-speed amphibious taxis could be brought in within 12 months under plans to beat congestion in some of the most traffic-clogged cities.

A British firm has conducted the first successful test of the Humdinga, on the Thames near the O2 Arena in a move that could halve journey times between east and west London.

A real ‘Humdinga’ of a commute

The vehicle seats up to nine people and wheels fold beneath the 23ft chassis in less than five seconds upon hitting water. It uses a carbon fibre chassis and a powerful engine to travel at more than 30mph on water — three times as fast as existing vehicles — and 80mph on land.

The inventor, Gibbs Technologies, based in Nuneaton, claims that it is close to a deal to mass-produce the amphibious taxi, which could be running on the Thames in a year or two. It added that the technology could be adapted to other cities, such as Glasgow, Liverpool, New York or San Francisco.
The Humdinga travels at more than 30mph on water

Official forecasts suggest that traffic levels will rise by a third in 25 years. The Department for Transport estimates that average morning rush-hour speeds could fall to less than 24mph in urban areas. In London, they could fall to 13mph.

The Thames has a speed limit of 12 knots — just under 14mph — and the vehicles would also have to be licensed by the Port of London Authority before carrying passengers.

Neil Jenkins, of Gibbs, which has been working on the technology for 20 years, said: “The Thames is severely underutilised and this is all about using it as a thoroughfare, as it was in the 1700s and 1800s.”

Gibbs has built eight vehicles, from a water motorbike and quad bike to a truck capable of carrying two tonnes. The fastest travel at more than 45mph on water and 80mph on land.

Swansea bus museum appeals for donations and helpers …

SWANSEA’S bus museum is appealing for donations, sponsorship and volunteers as it struggles to survive.

The museum, based at Bevans Row in Swansea’s SA1 development, has an impressive collection of historic vehicles.

It consists of buses from South Wales Transport (SWT), its acquisitions, successor and other companies, including United Welsh, Morris Bros, Rees & Williams, Swan Motor Co, Neath & Cardiff (N&C), Llynfi, Red & White and London Transport.

Open top bus rides to Mumbles

The museum also contains a collection of Scammell mechanical horses and military vehicles including Land Rovers and a Green Goddess fire engine.

On Sunday, the museum opened its doors for a special family day in which members of the public were treated to free rides to Mumbles and back on open topped historic buses.

Former South Wales Transport bus conductor and driver Alan West, the chairman of the Swansea Bus Museum, said the Seaside Splash! event was one of a number they are planning to raise the profile of the museum which was finding it tough to survive.

He said:”We don’t get financial backing from any institutions of businesses at the moment including the local council or the Welsh Government.

‘Transport history’

“We have a great resource here and are holding on to a lot of the transport history of this area.”

Speaking on Sunday, Mr West added: “Luckily, the sun has come out for us and we’ve been very busy, the trips to Mumbles and back being very popular.

“We stop in the Mumbles area long enough for our passengers to have an ice cream, then it’s back to the depot. It’s not bad value because it’s all part of the £3 entry fee to the museum.”

The Swansea Bus Museum was formed by Mr West and others in 2004 and initially it was based in Hafod, Swansea, eventually switching to the site in SA1 close to the new Swansea University Bay Campus.

‘We really need to be pulling together now’

Mr West said the museum had considered a number of alternative sites as ownership of its own premises would make applying for grants easier.

But for the time being, the museum officials have now decided to stay in SA1.

Mr West said: “I’m making a heartfelt appeal for as much assistance as possible from members and volunteers on Sundays.

“The future success of the museum depends on all of us, while failure will see the break-up of the collection and the likely loss of many historic vehicles to the scrap man, something we have worked hard to avoid over the years.

“We really need to be pulling together now.”


Explaining the role of volunteers, Mr West said: “Running the museum involves much more than just fixing buses. We need people to help with general duties such as assisting the general public during our opening times and keeping the museum clean and tidy.

“During our event days there is always plenty to do with general organisation, assisting the public, driving (subject to appropriate licence) and conducting.

“Our stall is an important source of income, both during our own shows and at other rallies we visit. An hour spent practising your selling skills can be good for the soul.”

The museum is open to the public every Sunday between 11am and 4pm.

Adult admission is £3 (except shows when higher charges may apply), with accompanied children under the age of 16 admitted free.

Some of the buses and coaches in the museum’s collection are also available for private charter and have proved popular at weddings.


Councils cash in by doubling revenue from parking fees …

The Times, 13 April 2016, Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent

Councils have almost doubled the money that they collect from householders to let them park outside their home.

A study by the RAC found that in some areas takings from residents’ parking fees had soared by 90 per cent over the past five years.

At least six in ten councils have some form of residential parking scheme, with an average of £59.17 levied on householders. Motorists in one area are charged £750 a year.

Many authorities also impose extra charges, including higher fees to park gas-guzzling cars, register more than one vehicle and to replace lost permits.

Simon Williams, RAC spokesman, said: “Residents without such schemes are often angered when they cannot park near their homes due to the influx of commuters, shoppers and visitors, but many are also annoyed that they have to pay the council for the privilege of being able to park close to their own house or flat.

“What can happen as more schemes are introduced is a domino effect where commuters end up trying to park in the next nearest location to their workplace, shifting the parking problem to another area.”

In the latest study, the RAC surveyed almost 1,800 motorists and obtained details of council receipts from permits using the Freedom of Information Act.

In London, Haringey council’s revenue rose by 90 per cent from just over £1 million in 2010-11 to £1.95 million in 2014-15. Over the same period it increased the number of parking schemes from 15 to 29.

Ealing council’s income rose by 84 per cent, from £938,988 to £1.73 million. Cambridgeshire county council recorded an 80 per cent rise from £254,328 to £458,387 while Carmarthenshire county council brought in an additional 70 per cent — from £31,820 to £53,935.

Some 61 per cent of motorists said that the system simply shifted parking problems to other parts of the borough. Only 17 per cent were actively opposed to the principle of charging if it meant that parking problems in their area could be solved.

A separate study in December found that councils collected a record £1.45 billion from parking tickets and permits last year. This left them with a £700 million surplus after the cost of running their parking services was removed. Councils are banned from using parking as a revenue-raising mechanism.

End of the road for pavement parking …

Motorists face being banned from parking on pavements under new plans to de-clutter residential streets and encourage more people to walk, The Times has learnt.

Ministers are considering extending an all-out ban on pavement parking which has been in place in London for 40 years to the rest of England.

The move would make it illegal to park on the kerb unless local councils expressly grant motorists permission to do so, potentially landing offenders with fines of up to £70.

Ministers also confirmed plans to scrap pelican crossings in favour of “puffin crossings” that hold traffic for longer and rely on a green man crossing signal at head height as well as at the other side of the road.

Road safety campaigners and disability groups welcomed the proposed ban on pavement parking.

The Times, 16 April 2016, Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent

However, motoring organisations claimed that the new powers could be abused by councils in order to raise revenue, warning that many already failed to provide sufficient street parking.

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “The concern would be that local authorities will be able to ban pavement without looking at the consequences or studying the alternatives. Getting rid of pavement parking is fine but only if you then remove some redundant double-yellow lines to create space elsewhere.” Pavement parking has been banned in London since 1974. Councils are required to seek exemptions to the rule, with motorists often warned of changes through special blue parking signs and white bay lines.

Outside the capital, parking on pavements is generally allowed except where vehicles are causing an obstruction or on roads with other restrictions such as double-yellow lines. Councils usually have to resort to a bureaucratic “traffic regulation order” to impose an all-out ban in a local area.

The Department for Transport has now confirmed that it is considering overhauling the rules to bring the rest of the country in line with the capital. Its recent cycling and walking investment strategy outlined a commitment to “examining pavement parking outside London” this year.

This included investigating the “legal and financial implications of an alternative pavement parking regime and the likely impacts on local authorities”.

Councils outside London would be able to levy parking penalties of up to £70 for offenders.

A spokesman for the department said: “We are currently considering the rules around pavement parking, including whether more can be done to make it easier for councils to tackle problem areas in a consistent way. Work is ongoing and no decisions have been made.”

Army of white van men give the economy a boost …

The Times, 26 April 2016, Graeme Paton, Transport Correspondent

The stereotypical white van man who leers at women and swears at slow drivers is a thing of the past, it seems: today he is more likely to be delivering freshly cut flowers or the latest fashion lines to your doorstep.

The number of vans on British roads has topped four million for the first time, thanks largely to an online shopping boom, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. Almost six in 10 of the 4,007,331 vans are white.

The society said in a report that internet shopping — and the need for more vans to deliver the goods — was providing a significant boost to the economy. Mike Hawes, the chief executive, said: “Commercial vehicles have never been more important to the British economy, transporting vital goods and services using the latest low-emission technology.”

Less welcome, however, is the ever-rising volume of traffic on British roads: separate figures from the Department for Transport show that vehicles travelled on local A roads at an average of 23.6mph during the morning rush hour in the year to September; down from 23.7mph a year earlier. In London, vehicles reached an average speed of barely 15mph.

The number of miles covered by all vehicles across Britain increased by 2.2 per cent to 316.1 billion. Van traffic increased by 6 per cent to a record 46.9 billion miles.

Cycling dinosaur …

The Times, 3 May 2016, Will Pavia.

Cyclist puts fitness and creativity on the map
Stephen Lund, a GPS artist, created a giant stegosaurus with his movements

Anyone following Stephen Lund on a cycling trip could be forgiven for thinking he is completely lost as he makes a series of strange diversions. But trace his movements from above and you may see a giant stegosaurus or a giraffe take shape.

Mr Lund is a GPS artist who has created monumental doodles using his bike like a “crimson-dipped paint brush” as he weaves through Victoria, British Columbia.

Mr Lund said the giraffe already existed withing the streetscape

People often thought his giraffe sketch rather crude, he told a TEDx online conference.

“Then I tell them . . . that from head to front hoof she stands 11km tall. . . to draw her I had to travel 115km.”

Mr Lund said that he did not really create the giraffe, she already existed, upside down, within the streetscape.