Costs of rail privatisation

May. 23rd, 2017 06:21 pm
damerell: (trains)
[personal profile] damerell
I've been meaning to write this for a while, but I just got blocked on Twitter by the editor of Rail magazine for pointing it out (!), so now seems like a good time. If there is some reason I am laughably wrong, now's the time to point it out.

Fairly often, when renationalisation of the railways is discussed, a neat little pie chart turns up showing some small percentage of income goes on TOC profits (here is an example: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/images/structure/css/fact-about-fare-2014.jpg - this one discusses fare income, but as far as I can make out from http://www.orr.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/24149/uk-rail-industry-financial-information-2015-16.pdf today's figure of 1.9% does reflect the distribution of all income. I don't know why Network Rail can't replace their pie chart with one based on more recent figures...)

As far as I know this is true, but what pops up next is the assertion that only that small percentage is to be saved by renationalising the railways. That seems to be totally untrue, as a bit of a peek at the other slices of the pie chart will reveal.

First of all, there's a much bigger chunk (11% in 2014, 7% now) marked "leasing trains". Do the rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), which were of course created out of British Rail, make a profit? You bet they do. Their surplus is about 20%, so there's another 1.4% right there.

Secondly, there's "interest payments and other costs". There was a bit here about how the TOCs are probably hiding some profits via (say) borrowing money from associated companies in countries with less corporation tax, but as far as I can make out all the interest payments are made by Network Rail. There is a pretence that Network Rail is not just a bit of the government, and that compels it to borrow money at a higher interest rate than the government would.

(However, the ROSCOs may well be posting an artificially low surplus, either through such tax avoidance or via the private equity practice of buying an asset with a loan secured on that asset. That would represent yet more profit that doesn't show up on the pie chart.)

Then we have staffing costs (25% of the pie chart). Fragmenting the railway has added untold layers of bureaucracy; the ROSCOs have staff to deal with leasing the trains to the TOCs and the TOCs have staff to deal with leasing the trains from the ROSCOs. The TOCs have staff to deal with Network Rail and Network Rail has staff to deal with the TOCs - a lot, because a train cannot simply be delayed now without a careful apportioning of the costs arising from that delay. A vast management tree is essentially duplicated across 20-odd TOCs (yes, it would be a bit bigger in a company the size of BR, but there wouldn't be 20 of it). It's hard to obtain any decent estimate of this (I would be intrigued to see figures on the relative number of officebound staff employed by BR and the current system, but I suspect they are well hidden) but it's hard to suppose it's too small a proportion of that 25% to show up.

So I think two things are true; the proportion of the railways' income that is lost to the structures of privatisation certainly is not 1.9% - it must be at least as high as 3.3% if we add the ROSCOs' profits in - and there is every reason to suppose it is considerably higher, even if it is hard to know exactly how much.

A thing I had not previously realised

May. 23rd, 2017 04:13 pm
kaberett: Lin Beifong crying (lin-tear)
[personal profile] kaberett
You know the way tear are an excretionary mechanism for Nope Too Much Of That Emotion Let's Have Less Of It? No, they really are, maybe: emotional tears contain more misc hormonal wossnames. Have an art project!

Jew-ish

May. 23rd, 2017 01:45 pm
liv: In English: My fandom is text obsessed / In Hebrew: These are the words (words)
[personal profile] liv
This weekend I went to another Jewish-Muslim interfaith event. I was not exactly the main target audience, which was mainly people whose actual job is religious education. I did get to meet some Somali Bravanese Muslims, an ethnic minority from Somalia via Kenya whom I hadn't encountered before.

Anyway we had some very interesting discussions, including around the use of language. Some of the Muslim participants said they didn't like what I had thought of as an otherwise neutral older spelling, Moslem. They said they associate that spelling and pronunciation with people like Donald Trump, and I can see that people who haven't bothered to update their language might well be assumed to be hostile. I don't particularly need to change my own language choices since I have been using the modern spelling anyway, but it's useful to note.

Then of course the conversation turned to the Jewish side, and the somewhat fraught issue of what we should be called. is 'Jew' a slur? )
[personal profile] swaldman
David Davis has reportedly threatened to walk out of negotiations if the EU continues to demand a £100bn exit payment. Lots of people are banging on about this sum of money, on in various countries, for internal political purposes, and in all cases... ARRGH.

Leaving the EU is a long term choice. That payment is a one-off. Yes, it's a lot of money. If you believed the £350m/week claim, it's five and a half years' worth of membership. More realistically it's a bit under eight.  Ignoring other economic impacts of brexit, even with a £100bn payment, after a maximum of eight years we're better off. (no, this doesn't take account of inflation, NPV, etc.. I don't care.)

This is the STUPIDEST thing of all the possible things to be arguing about.

Cambridge North

May. 22nd, 2017 04:53 pm
jack: (Default)
[personal profile] jack
We went to visit the new north cambridge station, and had a lovely trip to Ely. I hadn't realised we'd actually got to the opening so it was a pleasant surprise.

Overall, it looked really nice, clean, modern, a little artistic, if it works out practically I'd really enjoy using it.

In many ways well provided, like having a lift fairly central and not buried off somewhere, despite a few flaws.

There were some nice touches, like mains and usb charge points in the waiting room, although I did feel, if you're going to add any, why add only four, why not put them round the room? And why not put them next to a shelf?

I wasn't sure quite what trains I was hoping for, there aren't the ones Liv and ghoti had hoped would exist, and for now the connections seem annoyingly inconsistent, but any trains at all from North Cambridge is really nice. I think as I get used to having it available I will find it's really handy; ambling there on the bike puts a train trip in the "why not" category not the "sigh, I suppose so" category even if it doesn't save that much time overall.

My biggest worry was that it would instantly become as busy as the old station, taking a lot of the traffic from north cambridge, and making chesterton into more london commuter belt, and not be able to handle that traffic, but other people seem to think that wouldn't happen. Presumably there is *some* plan for expansion if necessary by people who know (there is still something to be built next to the station judging by the empty lot).

Blogiversary

May. 22nd, 2017 04:08 pm
liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (_support)
[personal profile] liv
I note in passing that it's 14 years to the day since I started this blog, 6 years on LJ and 8 years on DW. That's a lot of writing and a lot of conversations. I've made just over 2000 posts in 14 years, and I think the average length is only a little under a thousand words, so somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million words and that's not even counting comments. I was really not expecting either the site or my interest in blogging to last as long as 14 years, but I'm really glad you're all still here.

I still don't have a good way of making an offline archive of DW; the program LJArchive is timing out because, I think, my DW is just too huge, and it doesn't have a way of downloading one bit at a time. Does anyone have any recs?

It's also coming up to the end of my 7th year of working at Keele – I've finished teaching and only have exams to go through before this academic year is over. It's a pretty awesome job in lots of ways. Our senior people like to point out that there have been over a million consultations when patients have been treated by Keele-trained doctors in the ten year history of the medical school, and I've contributed to the education of quite a high proportion of those doctors.

And it's the 20th anniversary, give or take, of my leaving school. I have signed up to attend the reunion next month; I'm not entirely sure that was a good idea, but I am at least somewhat curious to see if I can pick up some gossip from anyone who isn't on Facebook. I don't think anyone is going to be surprised that I'm an academic, that's what everybody was predicting when I was going around convinced I was going into school teaching. But they might well be surprised that I'm married and poly.

Anyway, now I'm going to catch a train from the new exciting local to my house station.

Wait, what, lib dems?

May. 22nd, 2017 10:52 am
[personal profile] swaldman
I just had a flyer through my door from the lib dems, vaguely pretending to be a regular newsletter as ever (though it only ever appears around election time). Under the heading "Voting Labour won't stop a hard Brexit" it says,

"The only party that will give the British people the chance to reject the deal eventually negotiated by the Tories is the Liberal Democrats".

Errrr. Surely, if the Tories are in power then the referendum that the LDs want won't happen? And if the LDs are in power, then the deal won't be negotiated by the Tories[1]? Either the person writing this leaflet hasn't thought it through, or it's an implicit announcement of a desire for another Tory/LD coalition.

[1] Except insomuch as the die is probably already largely cast from Tory behavior to date.

Single-issue parties

May. 22nd, 2017 07:39 am
[personal profile] swaldman
I've observed before that in England, the SNP tends to be seen and portrayed as a single-issue party that's entirely about independence. This is, of course, not remotely true (although possibly it was in the past, before the days of the Scottish Parliament?). In Scotland, in my limited experience, there has been a more nuanced understanding. But this general election campaign has turned weird up here.

In England, the Tories and Lib Dems are trying to make it a campaign entirely about Brexit, while Labour are suddenly deciding they ought to do something left-wing after failing to oppose the Tories for two years and are desperately trying to ignore Brexit. But for Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives, all of this is forgotten. They have become single-issue parties here, and their single issue is "no #indyref2". They have made their entire campaign revolve around broadcasting how scary and nasty the SNP are and alledging that the SNP has only one policy and that it's independence, despite it being very clear in Scotland that this isn't the case. Possibly they're both having to do this under orders from London, with London understanding Scotland about as well as usual? There's not a mention of Brexit, except from the SNP - who are trying to make this election about everything other than #indyref2 at the moment. Sturgeon has a delicate tightrope to tread, given the significant number of people who voted Yes and Leave.

Or possibly I'm misreading things. The SNP certainly isn't popular in all quarters here (show me a party that's been in power for ten years that is), so perhaps a campaign of "we're not the SNP" is strategically sound. If cycnical and depressing as hell.

NB - I didn't see last night's Scottish leaders' debate, so this isn't a comment on that. Apparently it turned into a debate on devolved matters, and so was pretty much irrelevant to the current election...

Soldiers' Tale

May. 22nd, 2017 06:28 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Samuel Hynes - The Soldiers' Tale

This is a book about war narratives - not war as such. Even if Hynes wrote one himself.

Did he study too few narratives? )

The Long Road Home

May. 22nd, 2017 06:26 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Ben Shephard - The Long Road Home

After World War Two ended, there were still lots of people who were not where they wanted to be, where they were supposed to be or were in a situation where they would still be killed in short order if they did not move.

Post-WW2 refugee movements were bit bigger than the current ones )

A War of Nerves

May. 22nd, 2017 06:24 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Ben Shephard - A War of Nerves

Warfare causes more than just physical wounds – but the mental side of the toll of war was really not studied for centuries (mainly because common soldiers were expendable anyway). So the study really started only around the World War One. Ben Shephard traces some of those developments, mostly based of Western European and US records.
From shell shock to PTSD )

Somebody Else's Kids

May. 22nd, 2017 06:23 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Torey Hayden - Somebody Else's Kids

(This is repost from LJ)

In this book Torey Hayden has officially lost her class to inclusion laws that force kids of special needs to go the classes with other children (that's sometime in the 1970's somewhere in the East Coast of USA, I presume, but could as well be Finland of the 1990s). First she does only some extra teaching but eventually Hayden ends up with a small, new class to call of her own. And in the process she ends up being accused of idealism more than once.
Kids becoming Hayden's problem )

Mindplayers

May. 22nd, 2017 06:22 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Pat Cadigan - Mindplayers

(This is repost from LJ, And this is just one of the first written by Queen of Cyberpunk)

Alexandra "Deadpan Allie" Haas, this world's equivalent to a drug junkie, is caught red-brained using an unlicensed psychosis and the Brain Police gives her a choice - train yourself to become a shrink or go to jail. So she goes to J. Walter Tech to become a professional.
Cyberspace the psychiatrists' way )

Illegal Aliens

May. 22nd, 2017 06:20 am
elfbiter: Default icon (Default)
[personal profile] elfbiter
Nick Pollotta & Phil Foglio: Illegal Aliens (1989)

(This is repost from LJ)

Spherical alien ship lands on the Central Park of the NYC and teleports a group of test subjects inside to test their suitability to enter the Galactic League. Or that's what they say. The humans just happen to be a gang of street thugs. And the hilarity ensues.
Not the kind of First Contact the SETI people would probably wish for )

a tumblr grouch

May. 20th, 2017 08:37 pm
kaberett: Photo of a cassowary with head tilted to one side (cassowary)
[personal profile] kaberett
is there a current way to get it to disgorge a list of all the tags you've ever used? I'm running searches but not managing to turn up anything relevant to the current site layout.

Model-Making: Warhammer 40K Predator

May. 19th, 2017 10:38 pm
major_clanger: Clangers (Royal Mail stamp) (Default)
[personal profile] major_clanger
Recently my brother R gave me a bunch of model kits to practice on. He's into Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 gaming system (universally known as '40K') which if you're not familiar with it can be summed up by its tagline IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR. From their fearsome redoubt outside Nottingham - you get a good view of it on the train - GW flog a vast ecosystem of miniatures, models, rulebooks and accessories, all defended by intellectual property lawyers only marginally less terrifying than 40K's legendary Space Marines (very definitely TM).

One of the kits was a Predator tank. I should note that armoured fighting vehicle design in 40K is low on pragmatic realism and rather higher on GUNS and RIVETS and MORE GUNS, preferably painted in rather spectacular livery. R actually has a relatively subdued scheme for his models of black with yellow highlights so I've gone with that, but I decided that this would be a chance to practice weathering techniques (i.e. making your model look dirty - see this post) so this would definitely be a tank that had quite literally been in the wars.

Read more... )

Understanding St Paul

May. 19th, 2017 02:06 pm
wildeabandon: crucifix necklace on a purple background (religion)
[personal profile] wildeabandon
I recently read “Paul: The Misunderstood Apostle” by Karen Armstrong on [personal profile] angelofthenorth’s recommendation, followed by a reread of Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams for comparison. Both were good, and left me with a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings, as well as of the context which surrounded it. I felt as though I got more out of the Williams, but that was more because the thing that it was doing was of more interest to me personally, than because it was a better book in general. To me the most marked difference between the two books is that the Armstrong felt like a history book with theological implications, whereas the Williams (based, as it was, on three sermons) was a theology book with historical underpinnings.

One thread that was common to both books was the emphasis on how radical Paul’s teachings were. He often gets characterised as a fuddy duddy conservative, misogynist and homophobic, corrupting Jesus’ message and making it more acceptable to the traditionalists at the time, but actually, in the context of the hierarchical worlds of the Roman Empire and the Jewish religious authorities, his proclamation in Galatians that “There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female -- for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” would have been ground-breaking. Similarly, in Corinthians, where he says “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does”, this was just common wisdom at the time, but to follow it as he does with “and in the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” would have been shockingly egalitarian. The whole letter to Philemon, in which he exhorts his friend to take his disgraced runaway slave back into his household, but as an equal, was turning the established order of things on its head. The question of how we square this with some other verses where he seems more sexist or pro-slavery is a difficult one, and Williams notes but doesn’t address it. Armstrong makes an argument that some of the other verses were later additions by another writer, and I don’t have sufficient knowledge to assess its robustness.

Both books are short and engagingly written, and both were improved by reading the other at a similar time.

ten good things

May. 18th, 2017 11:00 pm
kaberett: Toph making a rock angel (toph-rockangel)
[personal profile] kaberett
1. Food. )

2. I received a quotation for the wheelchair repairs currently ongoing; they're somewhere under half of what I was bracing myself for, which is a great relief.

3. Excellent lunch with a good friend in a small friendly deli in South London. I was particularly intrigued by (but alas did not sample) the tiny gluten-free strawberry-and-elderflower cheesecake.

4. The trip to and from same: a beautiful cherry-blossom mural on a building's front wall; a garden riotous with poppies somewhere between bud and full bloom; irises and weird little fuzzy orange things and colours everywhere.

5. Physio, on the train to and from, and reading books with it: still working on Hope In The Dark, but I'm about halfway through now and then I'll move on to Hugo reading.

6. I dyed A's hair again last night, and am pleased with the result. (It is all-over red, because red seems to wash out of his hair more quickly than blue, in the interests of i. checking whether the new red is actually a red and ii. getting it to a state where I can actually try putting a rainbow in it with minimal rebleaching of previously-bleached hair. In fact, because this means I put a lot of red on over blue, he's got what is in essence a red-into-deep-purple ombre going on, with a darker red layer on top and a lighter red layer underneath.)

7. I am delighted by the conversation that's going on in comments over at the enchilada recipe. Thank you, folk, I keep cackling with delight. <3

8. Academia. )

9. I am continuing to sincerely enjoy Pokemon Go.

10. Chelsea Manning.
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
[personal profile] kaberett
On Tuesday I turned 27; [personal profile] me_and got me a set of lockpicks and a practice padlock, and took me to Ottolenghi Spitalfields for dinner.

The morning of, they called A to confirm the booking -- and, he tells me, followed up with "... and there's a note about a wheelchair in the booking...?" So, naturally, he braced, and was very pleasantly surprised when what they actually wanted to say was "... we've got a folding ramp and we can get it out for you."

We arrived. "Just one moment," said front-of-house, and went to get the ramp. They did not try to grab me as I was going up it. "Through this way," they said, and showed us to a table for two that was easy for me to get to, adjacent a wall neatly out of the way of everyone's path, with the sensible chair already removed for me to just slot in.

This is much better than even fancy restaurants normally manage; I was -- we were! -- impressed.

Also, they fed us really very well.

Read more... )

... and then, after a little extra faff involving buying one of the cookbooks, they got the ramp back out and held the doors open and cheerfully let me back out into the outside world, with some commiseration about the part where it had started drizzling gently. However, as I said to A, while it might not have been the best kind of rain it was definitely in my top five, so I was absolutely fine with that.

I had a lovely evening and was delighted; A has, as mentioned, been before and been a fan, so I rather suspect more visits are (however sporadically!) in our future.


Unrelated (except insofar as it's about food, and specifically pistachio cake): someone I know tweaked last month's Smitten Kitchen pistachio loaf cake recipe to include blackberries and lemon.

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Abigail Brady

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