Morning all, another week stretches in front of me, I wonder what will happen this week. Bozzie was on the phone to that Muslim woman who claims she was told that she was being sacked because her Muslim faith made other people “uncomfortable”. I heard that she was amongst a group of 22 junior ministers sacked at the time and that she had been found to have misled House of Commons committees half a dozen times.
The next step towards the Elizabeth Line opening started yesterday with test trains running from Ilford, on the Shenfield branch, to Paddington. Eventually, 12 trains an hour from Shenfield will mix with 12 trains an hour from Abbey Wood to create a 24 trains per hour service under central London between Liverpool Street and Paddington. The trains to the west of Paddington are already running to Heathrow and Reading.
As of July this year, all new cars sold in the EU will, by EU law, have to be fitted with a speed limiting device. The device will use a combination of GPS and road sign recognition cameras to display the maximum speed a car can drive at, sounding an audible and visual alarm if the speed is exceeded. Despite it not being the law (yet) in the UK for such a device to be fitted here, it looks like European imports will all be sold with this device in the UK. Fortunately, the device will have a switch to turn it off as the current versions that read road signs are not very accurate.
The RAF has announced that the last two BAe 146’s in the Royal Squadron (No 32) are to be retired to museums immediately. One is going to Duxford and the other to St Athan. These are the two oldest of the type the RAF had and were bought new from the manufacturer. The RAF also acquired 3 others 146’s second hand from TNT Airways, these slight newer aircraft, have been sold on to civilian operators and will be handed over shortly. The question is what are the RAF going to acquire as replacements? I understand that it is under consideration and should be announced shortly. As the UK doesn’t manufacture anything suitable, I guess it is likely to be a Boeing or an Airbus or maybe a Gulfstream.
I hear that now that Covid restrictions are easing the Queen has left Windsor and been flown by helicopter to Sandringham, where she is expected to stay for several weeks. She normally goes to Sandringham for Christmas with most of her family but this year didn’t go because of Covid. She is expected to stay past 6th February, the day she became Queen 70 years ago when her father George VI died. This will officially mark the start of her platinum jubilee celebrations, although the main celebrations are scheduled to be over a double bank holiday weekend on June 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.
So Grunt Shatts is to make an announcement later today that the Day 2 Covid test is going to be abandoned for double jabbed passengers arriving in England. I can just hear my scribe, WG, saying ‘not before time’. Until now passengers arriving in England from abroad (but not Ireland) had to take a private PCR test on, or before, the second day of arrival quarantine, until they got a negative result or 7 days had elapsed. Most medical people pointed out that this was stupid as there was virtually no control over who bothered with quarantine and people had to travel home from ports and airports often by train or bus. The other 3 countries in the union usually follow England’s lead. It would be silly not to as people headed for, say, Glasgow would only need to land in England first before travelling on to avoid the test and quarantine.
I was delighted to read that Walkers have finally managed to get their production software sorted out and all flavours of their crisps are back on the shelves of the major supermarket chains. However, are some of them profiteering? A standard six-pack is on sale in Tesco and ASDA for £1.50 while the same pack is £1.70 in Sainsbury’s and Morrison’s. That’s a 13.3% additional profit margin in two shop chains. Why the difference?
What a horrid grey day. The Little Otter was moaning that it was dark in the kitchen and Bozzie put the lights on. That started the Little Otter going on about how she hoped it was ‘green’ electricity. Bozzie muttered he didn’t care as the state paid the bill.
Could Govia Thameslink be the next train operator to be nationalised? I hear the company who hold the Thameslink, Southern and Great Northern franchises and run about a quarter of all UK train services have just delayed reporting their accounts for a second time over the £25 million their then company SouthEastern should have returned to the Government. The money was eventually returned, but the SouthEastern franchise was taken back into government holding just like LNER. The financial report was originally due in December, then at the end of January and is now due at the end of February. However, this leaves only a month to agree to new franchises for these three operations. It might be simpler to take them into public ownership.
You may have read that Genting Hong Kong, the owner of Crystal Cruises, had hit serious money problems and had filed for Bankruptcy. Part of the problem was a new cruise liner being built for Crystal by MV Werften. The ship, the 5,000 passenger Global Dream, is about 75% complete and a large payment was due and its non-payment was the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. The question is what happens now? MV Werften can’t afford to have a 75% finished unpaid for ship on its hands, but do they or Crystal own it? The answer could be for one of the big operators (Royal Caribbean, Carnival, Norwegian and MSC) to buy Crystal out of bankruptcy and pay off the shipyard and acquire their fleet and the new hull. Or could someone smaller like Azamara, Sycamore, Ponant or Lindblad step in? Watch this space.
While talking about Crystal Cruises, which has now suspended operations, I hear that last week the Crystal Serenity was heading for Miami in Florida with 300 passengers and 400 crew on board. Suddenly it was announced on board that a US judge had granted an arrest warrant on the ship due to the company owing money for fuel. So instead the ship didn’t enter US waters which would have allowed a US marshal to take control of the ship and it docked in the Bahamas. The 300 passengers were then ferried to Fort Lauderdale and bused back to Miami.
So the Metropolitan Police are to launch an enquiry into some of the parties at Downing Street. The knock-on from this is that the Sue Grey report will not now be released until after the police investigation is complete. Grey was supposed to report this week and depending on what she said he could have been out on his ear. But now it’s down to Cressida Dick’s mob. What if she comes back and says, ‘No case it answer,’ will Grey still release her report?
The Rolls Royce consortium, who want to build small modular reactors, have written to Local Enterprise Partnerships and the Welsh Government to ask them to bid for a site where they can manufacture the proposed SMRs. The consortium is looking to see who will offer them the best incentives to build the factory in their area. Of course, there are some things that will be a given wherever they decide to build like good road and rail access and a pool of skilled labour. But there are other things that can be offered like, assistance with the building of the plant, business rates holidays and guaranteed planning permission. It will be interesting how quickly the site is chosen. I guess we will never know what finally swings the chosen location.
I hear that ITV are changing their early evening news output. They have announced that they intend to run a full hour of national news from 18:30 to 19:30 each weekday evening and they will continue the present practice of broadcasting regional news from 18:00 to 18:30. This will put them into greater competition with BBC1 who broadcast the national news from 18:00 to 18:30, regional news from 18:30 to 19:00 and a news review from 19:00 to 19:30. The other result of this change will be that ITV’s soaps Emmerdale and Coronation Street will be rescheduled putting them into and overlapping with the BBC’s Eastenders on some nights.
No frost this morning so I was happier taking my pre-breakfast constitutional. Mind, Bozzie is in such a foul mood again I did consider staying out in the garden. But you know me and food. The prospects of a bowl of Felix soon had my stomach rumbling so I crept into the kitchen and got my head down into my grub and listened to what he was saying while staying out of his eye line. Apparently, he is worried about someone called ‘Old Bill’ coming round to ask questions about parties. Why is Old Bill asking Bozzie about parties, he only goes to them, shouldn’t he be asking the Civil Serpents who seemed to be able to throw them at will!?
I hear rumours that many pubs are considering putting up the price of a pint of beer because they are struggling with margins. Apparently, the rise is not just a few pence which causes outrage if the Chancellor puts up the tax in a budget, but by 50p a pint. I read that the average price for a pint in the UK is £4.07p but the average in London is much higher at £4.84. But this is an average across a wide area of London with many pubs in the suburbs charging lower prices while central London prices can be well over £6 a pint. So a 50p increase could mean paying over £7 a pint.
Last night the Labour NEC voted on a motion, from a trade union representative, to reinstate Steptoe as a Parliamentary Labour Party member. You may remember he was thrown out of the PLP for failing to offer a proper apology for running the Labour Party when it was found guilty of anti-Semitism and now sits as an independent MP. Well, it was hardly surprising that the vote to reinstate him failed by 23 votes to 14 votes with 1 abstention. Is this a step nearer Steptoe setting up his own extremely left-wing party and being joined by several of his Labour MP acolytes?
I read that the American engineering consultant company Brydon Wood has been working on a scheme to repower US coal-fired power stations with small modular reactors. The idea is that by replacing the coal-fired boilers with SMR’s and keeping the same steam turbines, generators and power equipment suggesting that a saving of up to 15% on a brand new power station could be achieved. But, of course, it’s not quite as simple as Brydon Wood is making out. Yes, an SMR outputs steam to drive a steam turbine, but the big saving comes from factory building identical SMR’s and matching them to standard size turbines. For example, the Rolls Royce SMR is intended to produce about 440Mw. So to use it in the Brydon Wood scenario you would need to find a 440Mw boiler to replace but that was not a normal size; 120, 200, 220, 350, 600, 660Mw were common sizes for steam boiler/steam boiler combinations and these days a 1000Mw is normal. So the problem is if you have to design each SMR to match each size turbine you lose the factory build commonality of a matched reactor and turbine. Then of course different steam turbine makers use different steam temperatures and pressures, easy to accommodate with a coal-fired boiler by adding or subtracting a bit of superheater tubing not so simple with a standard SMR. Sounds like a good idea on paper but not so good in reality.
I see that Boeing yesterday announced that 3 years running where they have made a loss, this year taking a $3.5 billion charge. Previously losses laid the blame firmly at the feet of the Boeing 737Max grounding. But now that model is back flying and being ordered the problem has moved on to the 787 which used to be a money-spinner but has been a problem now for some while. In fact, I hear that all deliveries have been halted for 15 months. The old models continue to fly and have no problems but it is the updated models that have the problems. The tale I hear is that some years ago Hawaiian Airways were looking to upgrade their Airbus A330 fleet. Airbus offered the A330neo and Boeing the 787. Boeing were so anxious to win the order that they offered their plane below cost price and won the order. Boeing then set about reducing the cost of manufacturing the plane and hereby lies the problem. Boeing’s changes have apparently been the catalyst of the model’s problems. Remember when you fly it is normally on the planes supplied by the lowest bidder!
The Canary Wharf Elizabeth Line station has finally been handed over to Transport for London. This leaves only the long-delayed Bond Street station outstanding. The history of Bond Street is horrendous with the contractor being changed halfway through construction, a huge overspend and massive delays. Now it seems that an end to the Bond Street Saga is in sight with the station likely to be handed over late this year. Of course, all this means that the Elizabeth Line is likely to open for public service with trains initially running through Bond Street without stopping. Fortunately, the station is within simple walking distance of Oxford Street station and is also served by the Central and Jubilee lines.
With the completion of Canary Wharf station, I understand that work is due to start on three large sites adjacent to it. The Canary Wharf Group are ready to start the major development of what is known as North Quay located just to the north of the station. This would be a mixed development of offices, apartments, hotels, student housing, co-living and green spaces. The second site, again just to the north of Canary Wharf station and to its east side is the old Billingsgate (fish) Market that is being put up for sale by the City of London and is earmarked for low rise housing. The third site is to the north of the Billingsgate site where there is the Poplar Dockland Light Railway depot. As I understand it, the plan is to build housing over the existing DLR depot. This lot seems to add up to a huge development although as I understand it only the North Quay has planning permission at the moment.
Wow, two days without frost and it was even a bit warmer this morning. Bozzie has been moaning that the Gray report has still not arrived. He was complaining that she seems to have given it to the police but hasn’t given it to him yet and he commissioned it.
Now that the end of Covid testing and quarantine is to be cancelled for the double vaccinated coming into the country I hear there are calls to scrap or greatly simplify the passenger locator form. I understand that the PLF can be long and complicated for some people. When my scribe came back from his cruise he told me it took about an hour to complete mainly because he had to fill in a section for every country he had visited in the previous 10 days. The same would apply on a European coach tour, you might have to fill in 10 countries. I heard Grunt Shatts saying that it was necessary so that people going through electronic passport scanners could be checked to have been vaccinated. I guess this is by the passport number being linked to the PLF and you having to declare on it that you have been jabbed. This is rubbish really because anyone could lie on the form. With millions travelling, I wonder how many of those forms are checked for accuracy?
Interesting bit of information on Covid came out this morning. Of the 13,000 people in hospital with Covid, more than half of them are not in hospital because they have Covid. They are actually in hospital for something else and have either caught it there or were positive when admitted as an emergency. What the report said was that those in this second cohort are all affected very mildly and would not have been admitted except for their other problems. No wonder the Government is rowing back on restrictions.
I hear that scientists and researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab in California claim to have made a breakthrough in nuclear fusion. They say that using 192 lasers they have managed to create a sustainable fusion reaction. But I think the word ‘sustainable’ is pushing it a bit, as the reaction only lasted a fraction of a second. Apparently, the scientists believe that they are very close to achieving their aim of making the two types of hydrogen molecules they are working on fusing continuously and yielding huge amounts of heat and no radioactive waste. I hope they make it work, someone will do one day.
Another scientific breakthrough I read about is a company in Massachusetts that has come up with a new way of reprocessing lithium-ion batteries. They shred the batteries and then crush the remains into a powder which can be processed into its component metals. The black powder is then turned into cathode material for new batteries. The company claim that they custom-make batteries for particular EV makers and that their batteries last longer and can recharge more times than other makers. The company already has an order to supply batteries to Honda.
National Rail launched a new commuter incentive programme yesterday and was immediately in trouble when the associated website put users in an infinite loop. The idea was to reward regular commuters with things like a bacon roll from Greggs or a pure coffee but they needed to register on the website and that proved very difficult. The idea was to encourage commuters and was timed to coincide with the end of working from home. Unfortunately, it was very hard to get onto the site, with people trying to register having to continually select all the pictures with zebra crossings or traffic lights and being rejected. If they did manage to get past that, it was taking over an hour to get a confirmation email. I suspect that a lot of people gave up, considering the reward of a bacon roll insufficient for all the hassle.
Pfizer have started testing their new coronavirus vaccine, this one new version is specifically designed to tackle the omicron variant. They have signed up 1400 Americans for the test and will be using it as a 4th jab for anyone who has already had 3, as a 3rd and 4th jab for anyone who has already had 2 jabs and as a series of 3 jabs for the currently unvaccinated. Moderna and AstraZeneca are also working on a new version of their vaccines but are a little behind Pfizer. It looks like another round of jabs is coming for you lot.
The frost was back again this morning even though the sun was out. Bozzie was a bit happier this morning, it seems the Met has asked Sue Gray not to publish her report in full because it could affect their investigation. When are we going to see a report from the Met?
I hear that luxury cruise lines Silversea and Azamara have decided to up the ante on passenger vaccination. At the moment cruise lines expect passengers to be at least double jabbed. Now, from 1st March, these two lines will only accept passengers who have also had a booster jab. These lines do recognise that not everyone is able to get a Booster jab, children for example, and they will only have to be double jabbed. How long before all the rest follow suit?
The Indian company Ola, who own the world’s 3rd biggest ride-hailing app, have announced that they are to spend £100 million on building an electric vehicle research and development facility in Britain. The facility will be in Coventry and is initially expected to employ some 200 people. The company has already launched a road-going electric scooter and is planning an electric car. Somehow I don’t think that any EV resulting from this research will be made in the UK with wage costs being so much lower in India.
The police stopped a man driving a Mini in Nottingham on Wednesday evening when an automatic number recognition camera flagged up the car as having no tax or insurance. The police were amazed when the driver admitted that he had been driving for over 70 years, had never passed a driving test or bothered to have a license, tax or insurance. I wonder how many others like that are out there?
I hear the Fred Olsen Line cruise ship MS Borealis is laid up in Liverpool after cutting a cruise very short due to a Covid outbreak on board. The ship was supposed to be on a long cruise to the Caribbean and back but turned around in mid-Atlantic when a number of crew members went down with Covid. Apparently, there were no serious cases and several were asymptomatic. The liner is to remain in Liverpool until 11th February when its next cruise is due to start.
I understand that the Indian Government has been preparing Air India for sale to the Tata Group. They have cancelled the sale and leaseback arrangements of 21 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This is often a method used by an Airline that is short of money to raise cash but can lead to many years of expensive lease payments. Hence the government trying to clear the payments off the books. Now the airline owns 27 787s outright, so it looks like Tata will be getting Air India without any debt.
I hear shocking news for anyone booking an all-inclusive holiday to the Balearic Islands. These holidays are normally popular because people can drink as much cheap booze as they like all day and every day from 10 in the morning to late at night. But the local government has introduced a new law restricting inclusive guests to just 3 drinks with lunch and 3 drinks with dinner. So instead of unlimited drinks guests are effectively limited to just six drinks. The Balearic Government has also banned pub crawls, happy hours and two for one offers in an attempt to stop drunkenness. No fun anymore.
It’s quite mild in London this morning but a little damp underfoot. I was awake early this morning, I think it’s because it’s beginning to get lighter a little earlier these days. Bozzie has gone off to Chequers again so no Mutt and no Brat to put up with. As usual at the weekend it’s guess who is on Larry feeding duty this weekend, the Dreamies Girl I hope.
There is a new largest cruise ship in the world. Royal Caribbean has just taken delivery of its fifth Oasis class ship, Wonder of the Seas. The previous four ships of this class had a gross registered tonnage of between 225,000 to over 228,000 for the previous largest cruise ship Symphony of the Seas. Wonder can carry up to 6,988 passengers and 2,300 crew and displaces 236,857 grt. Genting Hong Kong has the Global Dream on order and although this ship is slightly smaller at 208,000 grt it will be able to pack in more passengers (if it is ever finished) at maximum capacity, with all double cabins occupied by families they will be able to carry 9,000 passengers!
I hear that talks between Dassault and Airbus over the division of work on the proposed Future Combat Air System, the 6th Generation fighter, have broken down. The FCAS is supposed to be ready for 2040 and is meant to replace the French Rafales and the German Eurofighter Typhoon. Spain is also a minor member of the joint venture. The French are said to be insistent that Dassault lead the project and have the lion’s share of the design work and production. The Germans are not happy with this. After they joined with British Aerospace and Spain to build the Eurofighter they feel they should have more of a say in the FCAS project. BAe have a rival project involving Saab and Leonardo of Italy and could be open to the Germans joining them. That would leave the French to do their own thing, which is not unusual and the Spanish out on a limb.
The latest news on Sad Dick says that his popularity with London voters has slumped badly. The latest opinion polls show that 48% of Londoners say he is doing a bad job with 25% saying he is doing a very bad job. Only 38% say he is doing a good job which is a fall of 7% since the last poll. The -10% overall rating is his worst ever having never been in negative territory before. The polls show that he is weakest on crime and transport which I think most people would have guessed.
The container ship MV Madrid Bridge is reported to have lost a number of containers in rough seas on its journey from the Far East to America. It is currently docked in Charleston, North Carolina, where specialist riggers and dock workers have been struggling to stabilise hundreds of containers that have shifted. However the owners of the ship have told several companies that their containers have been lost somewhere in the Atlantic. This has caused some consternation in the cooking world where two American celebrity chefs have announced that all copies of their latest cookbooks are now on the seabed. Please make up your own jokes.
I hear of a motorist in Leicester who four years ago believed all the green hype and bought a secondhand Mercedes hybrid car. At the time the 4-year-old car cost him £27,000. Recently the battery failed so he inquired at a dealership as to the cost of a replacement battery and was told £15,000 which is more than the value of the now 8-year-old car. This is unbelievable, I can’t see the advantage of buying an EV when you hear tales like this.
For my last story this week I want to tell you about Jacob Rees-Moggy’s Christmas present from his wife Helena. He described it as the best present ever, but I’m not so sure it was to everyone’s taste. What was it I hear you ask? Well, it was a bracelet made from the mane from the Duke of Wellington’s horse Copenhagen and it only cost £5,100. Not for me, I’m afraid.
That’s it another week done. I am off for my afternoon snooze, I fancy a kip on Bozzie’s bed today. Chat to you all again on Monday.
© WorthingGooner 2022