Archive for the ‘railways’ Category

There’s a good story to be told (somewhat in the New New mode) about the old Eurostar terminal at Waterloo Station.

It’s basically as follows: after the Eurostars moved to the new St. Pancras, the thrillingly modern structure Nicholas Grimshaw gave them was abandoned to rot by “Sir” Brian Souter’s privatised train empire and eventually used as the stage for a production of The Railway Children “with a real steam train!” This, of course, is an example of everything that’s wrong with our society, nicely dramatised by the fact that the home of nuclear-powered, French super-express rockets has become the setting for a slap-up feast of Victorian kitsch and is now entirely surrounded by additional retail opportunities. Hey, the panto advert even has “Welcome to Yorkshire!” on it even though you’re very unlikely indeed to get to Yorkshire from Waterloo.

Like all the best myths it even fits the facts. Pat Robertson’s best mate is indeed responsible. But then you read a good blog; London Reconnections‘s horrifically detailed discussion of the possibilities of improving the South West main lines. In fact, although the trains suck, it’s not because they’re short of platforms at Waterloo, and the best option for making use of the Eurostar terminal requires building a flyover near Clapham Junction and painfully reworking the timetables.

It does worry me, though – how much of what passes for a national discourse is just weightless aesthetic guff? There’s a big difference between the sort of thinking you get with just the look-and-feel and the sort you get once you shove in something like that LR post under it.

If you did want some weightless style page handwaving guff, though, I’d like to point out that I really was a 1980s kid and because of this, I *don’t* have any memories (fond or otherwise) of The Breakfast Club – I’m too young. So if you’re younger than I am, you surely don’t. Nostalgia for the past you don’t remember. Now there’s a bit of conservative culture for you.

This LA Times story about the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (so called because it’s still a dream – let’s get the last drop from that joke before it goes into service) and the role of outsourcing is fascinating. It is partly built on a paper by a senior Boeing engineer which makes among other things, this point:

Among the least profitable jobs in aircraft manufacturing, he pointed out, is final assembly — the job Boeing proposed to retain. But its subcontractors would benefit from free technical assistance from Boeing if they ran into problems, and would hang on to the highly profitable business of producing spare parts over the decades-long life of the aircraft. Their work would be almost risk-free, Hart-Smith observed, because if they ran into really insuperable problems they would simply be bought out by Boeing.

Even in its own financial terms, the whole thing didn’t make sense, because the job of welding together the subassemblies and hooking up the wires doesn’t account for much of the profit involved. Further, the supposedly high-margin intellectual-property element of the business – the research, development, and design of the plane – is only a profit centre after it’s been built. Until they’re done, it requires enormous amounts of investment to get right. The outsourcers were expecting the lowest-margin element of the company, assembly, to carry the costs of developing new products. Whether they were funded with equity or with debt, this implies that the systems integrator model, for aircraft at least, fundamentally restricts innovation.

This is one of the points I’d like to bring out here. Hart-Smith’s paper – you can read it here – is much stronger on this than the LA Times was willing to be. It’s a fascinating document in other ways, too. For a start, the depth of outsourcing Boeing tried to achieve with the 787 is incompatible with many of the best practices used in other industries. Because the technical interfaces invariably become organisational and economic ones, it’s hard to guarantee that modules from company X will fit with the ones from Y, and if they don’t, the adjustment mechanism is a lawsuit at the financial level, but at the technical level, it’s rework. The dodgy superblock has to be re-worked to get it right, and this tends to land up with the manufacturer. Not only does this defeat the point of outsourcing in the first place, it obviates the huge importance of avoiding expensive rework.

Further, when anything goes wrong, the cost migrates remorselessly to the centre. The whole idea of systems integration and outsourcing is that the original manufacturer is just a collection of contracts, the only location where all the contracts overlap. Theoretically, as near to everything as possible has been defined contractually and outsourced, except for a final slice of the job that belongs to the original manufacturer. This represents, by definition, all the stuff that couldn’t be identified clearly enough to write a contract for it, or that was thought too risky/too profitable (depends on which end you look at it) for anyone to take the contract on. If this was finance, rather than industry, it would be the equity tranche. One of the main reasons why you can’t contract for something, of course, is that you don’t know it’s going to happen. So the integrator essentially ends up holding all the uncertainty, in so far as they can’t push it off onto the customer or the taxpayer.

This also reminded me a little of Red Plenty – one of the problems is precisely that it’s impossible to ensure that all the participants’ constraints are mutually compatible. There are serious Pareto issues. There may be something like an economic law that implies that, given that there are some irreducible uncertainties in each contractual relationship, which can be likened to unallocated costs, they flow downhill towards the party with the least clearly defined role. You could call it Harrowell’s U-Bend. (Of course, in the macroeconomy, the party with the least well defined role is government – who you gonna call?)

Anyway, Hart-Smith’s piece deserves a place in the canon of what could be termed Sarcastic Economics.

I suspect that the problems he identifies have wider consequences in the economy. Given that it’s always easier to produce more or less of a given good than it is to produce something different, the degree to which it’s possible to reallocate capital has a big impact on how quickly it’s possible to recover from a negative shock, and how bad the transition process is. I would go so far as to argue that it’s most difficult to react to an economic shock by changing products, it’s next most difficult to react by producing more (you could be at a local maximum and need to invest more capital, for example), and it’s easiest to react by producing less, and that therefore there’s a structural bias towards deflationary adjustment.

Hart-Smith’s critique holds that the whole project of retaining product development, R&D, and commercial functions like sales in the company core, and contracting everything else out actually weakens precisely those functions. Rather than being able to develop new products quickly by calling on outside resources, the outside resources suck up the available capital needed to develop new products. And the U-bend effect drags the costs of inevitable friction towards them. Does this actually reduce the economy’s ability to reallocate capital at the macrolevel? Does it strengthen the deflationary forces in capitalism?

Interestingly, there’s also a presentation from Airbus knocking about which gives their views on the Dreamliner fiasco. Tellingly, they seem to think that it was Boeing’s wish to deskill its workforce as far as possible that underlies a lot of it. Which is ironic, coming from an enormous aerospace company. There’s also a fascinating diagram showing that no major assembly in the 787 touches one made by the same company or even the same Boeing division – exactly what current theories of the firm would predict, but then, if it worked we wouldn’t be reading this.

Assembly work was found to be completed incorrectly only after assemblies reached the FAL. Root causes are: Oversight not adequate for the high level of outsourcing in assembly and integration, Qualification of low-wage, trained-on-the-job workers that had no previous aerospace experience

I wonder what the accident rate was like. A question to the reader: 1) How would you apply this framework to the cost overruns on UK defence projects? 2) Does any of this remind you of rail privatisation?

evolving

Did you know that each successive generation of German high-speed trains has had air-conditioning plant built for higher temperatures? The trains from the early 90s handle a temperature range from -20 to +32 degrees Celsius. Those from the mid-90s, -20 to +32, but if necessary they can exceed that. The ICE Type 3 handles temperatures up to 35 degrees, and the ones still to be delivered up to 40. And the next class? They’re planning for 45 degrees. Apparently the International Railway Union standard is going to be revised upwards.

There is something pleasantly surreal about this story. London Reconnections reports on the appearance of the heads of Tube Lines, the Underground, and Mr. Chris Bolt before the London Assembly’s transport committee. It doesn’t sound obviously hilarious, but then, who is Chris Bolt? You may vaguely remember him as the Rail Regulator, the chap who had the unenviable task of acting as ref between Railtrack, the train operators, the rolling stock lessors, and the Government in the glory years of rail privatisation. That was all 10 years ago, so why is he being quizzed by the committee?

Because the Tube PPP contracts specify that he, and only he, act as arbitrator of any disputes between the contractors and the Tube. Not the institution of the Rail Regulator, which in any case has been abolished – Mr Bolt personally.

It’s been a while. Did they ever lose touch with him? What colour was his hair when he answered the call? I can imagine Department for Transport civil servants looking on park benches and in squats in Dalston, scrutinising all the Facebook pages ending in Bolt, placing advertisements in provincial newspapers. What if they hadn’t been able to trace him? Would his next-of-kin have inherited the heavy responsibility – the DfT Director, Railways descending on an otherwise harmless citizen, like some Sicilian matriarch in a grey suit bringing news that the vendetta is now up to you?

Or is the process less brutally secular? Perhaps a Bolt will simply emerge, like the next Dalai Lama.

Of course, Bolt’s role is deeply mythic. Alone, the Bolt continues to guard the sacred wisdom of the Railtrack years, wandering in the wilderness. One day, he will return to judge Tube Lines’ trespasses, or rather not:

Chris Bolt felt it was important to reiterate that the increased cost of the contract was not based on the failures of Tube Lines so far, but on a natural increase in the theoretical cost of the upgrade work.

The faith cannot err; it can only be betrayed.

Even Boris Johnson has repented of rail privatisation.

It is time to bring an end to this demented system.

Actually, he’s only recanted – I see no sign of repentance from the man who accused Stephen Byers of being as bad as Robert Mugabe, not once but twice, in order to defend Railtrack after the corpses had piled up.

So, after all the hype, I’ve now managed to visit the rebuilt St. Pancras Station no fewer than four times. And I think it’s not great. Why?

Well, the structure itself is spectacular – but then we knew that already, ever since 1867. The civil engineering of it is pretty damn impressive too; huge tunnels and bridges, the top of the station undercroft turned into a vast raft to support the new station, a ride at 186mph through the guts of Dagenham, down past the Queen Elizabeth bridge and off into Kent that’s even smoother than on the French side.

But the architecture? Ah. I suspect a lot of influential people were deceived by the romance of the great project, and their affection for the original building; because it is nowhere near as good as it should be. On the good side, the device of putting the Eurostar check-in function, the ticket offices, and the security checkpoints under the platforms works, and it creates clear and step-free walking routes all the way along two levels of the building. You can pass very quickly from the Tube into the Eurostar, or from the car parks into the station.

Unfortunately, getting out of the station into the Tube is a lot worse; and generally, transferring is worse than it should be. The problem is that the approach that embodies all the architecture critics’ favourite things is the one real people will never take; through the grand main entrance. Nobody really walks along the Euston Road, and the cabs pull up elsewhere, and anyway the entrance is currently blocked by plywood hoardings. (It’s not finished, of course.) That one will, indeed, bring you straight into the grand trainshed face to face with the trains, without a shop in sight.

However, the whole point of St. Pancras/Kings Cross is that two main lines, the Eurostar, two regional (Thameslink and WAGN) networks, two suburban networks (Midland and Great Northern Electrics) and six tube lines go into it. If you are catching a train here you have probably arrived on a train; if you are arriving here by train you are probably going to catch another to finish your journey. This way – the way the gigantic majority of its users will come – you are in fact dumped directly into a shopping centre.

Worse, the main flow between St. Pancras and the tube crosses the area where people wait to meet arrivals from the Continent, which is in any case hopelessly under-sized. A concrete staircase abutment opposite the exit guarantees precisely half a corridor width here. There is a closed, locked gateway at least twice its width leading into the spacious area where the Eurostar check-in is located; this is a blunder.

So far I can find precisely two public toilets; one of which (at the tube end, on the main walkway, opposite the arrivals) is missing any sign of which is the gents, so staff have plastered bits of paper to it. The queue suggests that the ladies’ is underscaled, as is traditional; the gents is probably too small as well. Signage is terrible throughout; the signs are poorly designed and there are hardly any, and some of them lie. At the taxi rank, there is a sign reading TAXIS with an arrow pointing to the Tube station; someone has plastered a ragged paper sign to a nearby pillar pointing in a direction 90 degrees from it. A small favela of portable signs is already growing.

Leaving the station with all the other people on your train, you find yourself in the Tube; unfortunately there are stairs immediately before the ticket hall and the lift queues extend across the underscaled space in which the crowd makes a 90 degree left turn. Then there is a tiny ticket hall, where the ticket queues fill the available space so the gangway through it is obstructed. There is no visual grammar to this space at all – at least the Underground’s signage is better. As far as all public spaces and shared infrastructure go, it seems the architects worked from London & Continental’s traffic forecast…the one drawn up for the tax lawyers, not the one drawn up to get money out of the Government. In a sense, the whole thing matches this; it feels like a film set for a station, not a station, a private sector enterprise pretending to be a public space.

For God’s sake, let’s all hope they don’t opt for the stupid version of Crossrail, running south of Oxford Street – this would mean the Northern Line would be permanently dysfunctional, having to disperse all St Pancras passengers to the planned Tottenham Court Road Crossrail station. For all other issues on this, I refer you to these guys.

Oh yes, and the “longest champagne bar in Europe” is a chiz; it’s not actually one continuous bar.

Climate-change denier and quack weatherman Piers Corbyn writes to the paper:

The problem for global warmers is that there is no evidence that changing CO2 is a net driver for world climate. Feedback processes negate its potential warming effects. Their theory has no power to predict. It is faith, not science. I challenge them to issue a forecast to compete with our severe weather warnings – made months ago – for this month and August which are based on predictions of solar-particle and magnetic effects that there will be periods of major thunderstorms, hail and further flooding in Britain, most notably July 22-26, August 5-9 and August 18-23. These periods will be associated with new activity on the sun and tropical storms. We also forecast that British and world temperatures will continue to decline this year and in 2008. What do the global warmers forecast?

This was printed on the 24th of July. Yes, I certainly agree that British temperatures will indeed decline between now and the end of the year. Science! And what do the global warmers say to that?

Corbyn is an extreme example, but the symptoms of dysfunctional statistosis are more widely distributed than you might think. David Davis is highly rated by some bloggers (Dans Hardie and Davies, I think) as a possible bulwark against Blairite continuity and the Home Office. This is a role we badly need, in the light of current news: Brown’s announcements today that he wants 56-day detention without charge, and that he is still steaming full pelt towards the rocks on the National Identity Register. But he’s not invulnerable. Recently, the tokens broke out upon him.

You may recall that for many years, the British Crime Survey and the count of crimes recorded by the police disagreed. The recorded count was rising, the survey count falling. Nothing would convince the Tories that the BCS, as the more inclusive measure, was more likely to be right – Michael Howard even argued that the exclusion of murder from the BCS explained it, as if hundreds of uncounted corpses littered the streets.

Now, the position is reversed. The BCS shows crime rising; the police count falling. If the Tories had ever been honest about this, they would have to agree that the situation was not quite so fearful, but the BCS useless. But no; Davis has seamlessly flipped from one measure to the other. Now, the BCS is right, and the police wrong. Clearly, the actual content of the statistic is irrelevant. What matters is its ideological purity. It being the central tenet of Conservatism that the past was always better, crime must by definition rise.

The Government is no better. Thanks to the god-like genius of Roger Ford, I read the detail of the Government’s new railways plan before it was announced. It seems that an old trick is in use. Greens, and techies, are unlikely to forget the infamous DTI report in the 1980s that accidentally-on-purpose increased the cost estimate of wave power by a factor of 10.

Now, they’re doing the same damn thing with regard to railway electrification. Electrification is great; more bigger faster trains, and energy efficiencies as high as 95 per cent (for the regenerating trains on the London, Tilbury and Southend route), and the juice can come from almost anything. For some reason, the DfT (Rail) and the privateers hate it – DfT(R) is trying to claim that hydrogen fuelcell trains are a better idea. God knows why; why would you convert electricity to hydrogen and then back into electricity when you can just use electricity?

So, who is surprised to see that a Network Rail spokesbot exaggerated the power requirement for full electrification by a factor of four?

How could the principles in this post be put into effect? Here’s an opportunity. Legendary trade reporter Roger Ford discusses the situation at GNER, where the company’s franchise to operate the East Coast Main Line has been withdrawn because the parent company, Sea Containers, is in financial difficulty.

The details of the difficulty can be sketched briefly – unlike all the other rail franchises, GNER is profitable and rather than receiving a subsidy from the state, it actually pays the Department of Transport for the right to operate the service. There’s the rub – when the contract with the DfT was last renewed, these payments were considerably increased, Sea Containers believing that it would be possible to operate more trains. However, under open-access requirements, they later had to hand over the train paths required to other operators. Without the extra net income, the payments to the Treasury couldn’t be met, causing a cash crisis at the parent company.

The interesting thing is, though, that the DfT rather likes GNER. Wouldn’t you? Even if it didn’t make as much money as planned, it was after all one part of the rail network that wasn’t either haemorraghing cash or becoming a national synonym for incompetence. They want to keep the existing management in place until the franchise is re-awarded, and perhaps even under new owners.

Which begs the question – what on earth would the new franchisees be for? Using GNER occasionally, and at times quite a lot since 1999, I strongly agree with the DfT Railways Directorate that they ought to keep the job. And, even in the event that the franchise changes hands, most of the staff will change hands with it, as will assets like the traction depot in Hornsey Green.

So – if all that a franchise change implies is a swap of top executives, it’s arguable that the most likely change in the business this will produce is negative. Why not, then, just give the franchise to the people who work there? It could be structured in several ways, the simplest being the creation of a company owned by the 5,000 staff to take over the management of GNER.

Arguably, if GNER’s position as the operator of the ECML doesn’t give it any special claim to control access on the route, the very notion of a franchise from the government is absurd. They are just a large buyer of train paths and electricity from Network Rail’s London North Eastern Region. What is the state, as opposed from the quasistate entity Network Rail, providing here? Nothing, is the short answer. Therefore it has no claim to any money, except for corporation tax and VAT. This is, of course, unlikely to go over well with DfT Rail or the Treasury. Note, by the way, that I’m highly sceptical of open access on the railway – it works for telecoms/internetworking because there is very loose coupling between services and networks, and the privatisation experience has told us that railways are a lot different. (Look at the pain and difficulty the SNCF and Deutsche Bahn had agreeing terms for their high speed trains to run through on each other’s metals.)

If the government must have a piece of the action, I suggest this: it should lend the putative GNER Co-op the cash required to buy out Sea Containers, to be repaid over the life of the franchise at a reasonable interest rate. The risk would be minimal, backed as the loan would be by a stable cash flow and the right to re-award the job if GNER(C) went bust. Obviously, GNER(C) could choose to finance itself privately if it could get better terms, but this version is nice because it satisfies the objection that the Treasury wants its pie. (If it insisted, there could be a state profits participation defined as a percentage above some value, rather than a cash sum.)

At the moment, the new agreement provides that DfT Rail gets to grab all GNER’s revenue, and then pay back “incentive payments” if it achieves various targets. I think mine is rather more elegant. The current position also foresees the business’s net worth somehow migrating to the Government – mine would see the Government carrying an equivalent sum as an asset, and Sea Containers getting cash on the nail to go away.

To begin with, the scheme could have a fixed term of five years, with the option to continue or re-award – thus it would fulfil my criteria about test-driven development. It would be limited to one rail network, but could be generalised to others if it worked. It would get around the problem of “lemon socialism” – this is a real, successful operation.

How could the principles in this post be put into effect? Here’s an opportunity. Legendary trade reporter Roger Ford discusses the situation at GNER, where the company’s franchise to operate the East Coast Main Line has been withdrawn because the parent company, Sea Containers, is in financial difficulty.

The details of the difficulty can be sketched briefly – unlike all the other rail franchises, GNER is profitable and rather than receiving a subsidy from the state, it actually pays the Department of Transport for the right to operate the service. There’s the rub – when the contract with the DfT was last renewed, these payments were considerably increased, Sea Containers believing that it would be possible to operate more trains. However, under open-access requirements, they later had to hand over the train paths required to other operators. Without the extra net income, the payments to the Treasury couldn’t be met, causing a cash crisis at the parent company.

The interesting thing is, though, that the DfT rather likes GNER. Wouldn’t you? Even if it didn’t make as much money as planned, it was after all one part of the rail network that wasn’t either haemorraghing cash or becoming a national synonym for incompetence. They want to keep the existing management in place until the franchise is re-awarded, and perhaps even under new owners.

Which begs the question – what on earth would the new franchisees be for? Using GNER occasionally, and at times quite a lot since 1999, I strongly agree with the DfT Railways Directorate that they ought to keep the job. And, even in the event that the franchise changes hands, most of the staff will change hands with it, as will assets like the traction depot in Hornsey Green.

So – if all that a franchise change implies is a swap of top executives, it’s arguable that the most likely change in the business this will produce is negative. Why not, then, just give the franchise to the people who work there? It could be structured in several ways, the simplest being the creation of a company owned by the 5,000 staff to take over the management of GNER.

Arguably, if GNER’s position as the operator of the ECML doesn’t give it any special claim to control access on the route, the very notion of a franchise from the government is absurd. They are just a large buyer of train paths and electricity from Network Rail’s London North Eastern Region. What is the state, as opposed from the quasistate entity Network Rail, providing here? Nothing, is the short answer. Therefore it has no claim to any money, except for corporation tax and VAT. This is, of course, unlikely to go over well with DfT Rail or the Treasury. Note, by the way, that I’m highly sceptical of open access on the railway – it works for telecoms/internetworking because there is very loose coupling between services and networks, and the privatisation experience has told us that railways are a lot different. (Look at the pain and difficulty the SNCF and Deutsche Bahn had agreeing terms for their high speed trains to run through on each other’s metals.)

If the government must have a piece of the action, I suggest this: it should lend the putative GNER Co-op the cash required to buy out Sea Containers, to be repaid over the life of the franchise at a reasonable interest rate. The risk would be minimal, backed as the loan would be by a stable cash flow and the right to re-award the job if GNER(C) went bust. Obviously, GNER(C) could choose to finance itself privately if it could get better terms, but this version is nice because it satisfies the objection that the Treasury wants its pie. (If it insisted, there could be a state profits participation defined as a percentage above some value, rather than a cash sum.)

At the moment, the new agreement provides that DfT Rail gets to grab all GNER’s revenue, and then pay back “incentive payments” if it achieves various targets. I think mine is rather more elegant. The current position also foresees the business’s net worth somehow migrating to the Government – mine would see the Government carrying an equivalent sum as an asset, and Sea Containers getting cash on the nail to go away.

To begin with, the scheme could have a fixed term of five years, with the option to continue or re-award – thus it would fulfil my criteria about test-driven development. It would be limited to one rail network, but could be generalised to others if it worked. It would get around the problem of “lemon socialism” – this is a real, successful operation.

Currently in Barcelona for the 3GSM World Congress, the mobile phone industry’s annual shindig. And, blogging from the TYR Deployable Intelligence Centre Kit, aka my laptop, a length of cat 5 and a slightly iffy Internet connection, here I am.

First, though, a warning to travellers. If you are heading to Barcelona on BA, Iberia ex-Heathrow, or Lufthansa, DO NOT GO TO BAGGAGE RECLAIM, because your baggage will not be there. In fact, although these flights arrive at Terminal A, the baggage will be taken to Terminal B for some reason, so turn RIGHT and walk to Terminal B. Worse, if you do go to reclaim in Terminal A, you will not be able to return to the airside concourse, so you will have to leave Terminal A, walk along the road to B, walk along the length of Terminal B, pass through the departures security checkpoint, and seek your luggage.

Anyway, if you’re a real techie, you won’t have any checked baggage anyway, will you? My colleague, who did have checked baggage, succeeded in passing the security checkpoint by producing his ticket stub, but this is not recommended, especially for non-Spanish speakers. This ends the public service announcement (without guitars).

I’ve had a couple of arse-awful transport stupidity experiences lately. In London, Iberia’s self-service check-in wasn’t working, due to a subtle failure. It had run out of blank boarding cards, but was functioning in all other respects, so at the end of the process you were simply told it could not be completed. The ticket desk sent me to the fast bag drop desk, who printed off my boarding card with the seat I’d selected on the machine, thus proving that it was actually working. But, as no-one thought to mention this, still less put more blanks in the machine, everyone else was clarted up in the queues.

Then, a couple of days before that, it snowed! Knowing South West Trains, I thought I’d check on the Net before setting out. Imagine my surprise to find no meaningful information on the SWT homepage, their real-time website (at the annoyingly unrelated url journeycheck.com) fallen over in a puddle, and the Network Rail Live Departure Boards site overloaded enough to fail to load actual data, but not enough to fail to load the inevitable banner ads. Don’t want to lose any of those precious eyeballs, now, do we.

The howling clue vacuum was just as obvious a few weeks earlier when a storm brought down 1,000 trees onto the rails. If you’re seeking either SWT or the LDBs, it’s a fair assumption that you are either travelling or about to travel, so you’d think somebody might have considered that its users might not be seated comfortably before a 21″ screen designer-spesh Mac G5 with a dedicated T1 line. But SWT’s site is literally unreadable on a mobile gadget and there is no low graphics/mobile version (which would also help a lot in coping with peak loads). Network Rail’s site is apparently “PDA friendly”, which I take to mean “validated”, but there is no direct link from the front page to any of the cutdown sites. They do have a WAP version, but then, if you’re down you’re down.

Compare Transport for London, whose tfl.gov.uk is quite humane in itself, but also has a genuinely austere mobile self. On the night, TFL was legible, SWT an eye-buggering slow-loading horrorshow.

I’m absolutely delighted to see that, after the chap responsible for the Tebay rail accident that killed four workers got nine years, the employers of the 21 Chinese cockle pickers drowned in Morecambe Bay have been convicted. Now come on…let’s see a proper sentence.