Author Archives: Murad

SUV parking in Central London – how to do it maybe?

With Parisians voting for higher SUV parking fees in a backlash against large cars , can the same happen in Central London?

Not surprisingly after hearing the results from Paris on SUV (Sports Utility Vehicles) parking, many wondered whether it can be done in London. Certainly in Central London boroughs like City of Westminster and Camden, is the short answer. As TfL does not have charge over all the roads and streets of London in the same way as London Councils do – only the red routes – so such an initiative would have to be lead naturally by critical Central London boroughs using their parking powers already.

Now SUVs are bigger and heavier cars and are quite simply incompatible with our goal of reducing global emissions as well as improving our air quality. The majority of SUVs are petrol-powered and consume about 20 per cent more fuel than the average car. Even if the car is electric or part electric the same sums apply as heavier cars require more energy. Bigger cars don’t just emit more, their tyres produce more particulate pollution as well. They also take up more parking space as any pedestrian and cyclists can tell you when getting pass them! And, to make matters worse, SUVs cause significantly more pedestrian fatalities than other cars. You only have to look at the tragic case of SUV crashing into an end-of-year tea party last summer at a girls’ preparatory school in Wimbledon, killing two school girls tragically. So the case for additional parking charging for SUVs is pretty clear cut.



We also need not go through TfL consultations like done so for congestion charging at the beginning of the century to get it implemented even when the first Mayor of London Ken Livingstone clearing already had a mandate to under take this from winning the 2000 Mayoral contest. As there is right now the City of Westminster council is having a consultation on their emissions-based parking charges to tackle poor air quality who drive into the city, this is the best opportunity to see whether there is scope to do so in Central London, much quicker than we imagined.

So lets get on with this consultation for our views and opinions not just on the emissions based parking charging generally but how it should apply to SUVs as well. The consultation ends in three weeks after the launch on the 25th of January with the links here. On CO2 missions along, SUVs should be paying a lot more their parking in Central London.

So in short it can happen sooner than we realise in Central London, as SUVs do little of the off-road driving they were designed for in the first place.

A brief version of this blog has been published in Westminster Extra this week 

Presidential Memorandums, Bangladesh & Anti-strike laws

On the 17th of November the President of the USA, Joe Biden in a Presidential Memorandum took the historical step to mark the commitment for a US President to advance worker empowerment, rights and high labour standards globally.

Many thought his administration was taking aim at countries like Bangladesh and their labour issues in the garment industry, in the lead up to their General Elections on the 7th of January 2024. The announcement came amid intense worker rights protests following the declaration of Tk 12,500 as minimum wage of the garment sector, citing the case of Kalpona Akter as an example of labour rights violation and government actions contradicting labour rights principles.

But this policy announcement on labour rights, is a comprehensive stance that applies to all countries. So is it not applicable also in the UK with the anti-unionTories push for minimum service levels through its Anti-Strike Law? The memo states the US would work to hold to account those who threaten, intimidate and attack union leaders, labour rights fighters and labour organisations. This clearly opens up the path for US involvement in our domestic labour affairs like the anti-strike laws. So watch this space!

This blog was published as a letter in the Morning Star on the 15th of Dec 2024 

UK – A case of how not to do public transport

After reading the devastating analysis of public transport provision in the UK by John Burn-Murdoch a few weeks ago, particularly the graphs below, it’s quite clear we in the UK are a case of how not to do public transport in the developed world.

It is not just the result of 13 years of Tory government but also 40 years of neoliberal thinking which much of the developed world has seen fit not to adopt in their transport sector like rail privatisation. This as we mark 30 years of the privatisation of the UK’s railways on the 30th anniversary of the 1993 Railways Act. 

The first chart shows clearly we have the worts provision of trams, tubes and light rail in our cities in the developed world including the USA with their over reliance on the automobile.

This is further reinforced with the abnormally high costs of building transport infrastructure in the UK from bridges and roads to high speed rail and its electrification.  And finally our cities outside London, have both poor public transport and poor road infrastructure as well. 

So its reassuring to see the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool reaffirmed its support for to renationalise rail and whilst supporting like public investment like HS2, in a forthcoming Labour government. 

As the returning of rail into public ownership along with water and energy has been shown to be publicly supported by the majority of the population in polls and surveys. The neo-liberal capitalism experiment with rail in the UK since the 1990s has failed with expensive disjointed pricing of rail across the country today, record low investment and a fast deteriorating services whilst the ROC’s have been making plenty of money.

 

 

 

Bangladeshi perspective on GAZA

Many of the hundreds of children killed this week, look like my nieces here in London. So the images from Gaza have been very powerful but it also touches a community nerve and memory for the Bangladeshi’s in the UK. 

As a child l watched the attempted genocide during the Bangladeshi liberation war in 1971 by the Pakistani army & air force, known as Operation Searchlight. I saw how it was particularly targeted at Hindu men, as Pakistani soldiers at checkpoints that my family went through were pulling out uncircumcised men on the coaches as we fled to India. We had British passports and were able to get transport when millions had to walk into India. All these night mares that have been lying dormant for many years suddenly came back to me, as l saw the children of Gaza telling their stories this past week. 

There was a news blackout of the genocide in Bangladesh in 1971 but with today’s social media we have such intimate details of the children’s death. As we see children writing their names on their limbs, so as to be easily identified after being killed. Is it something we didn’t have to mercifully have to do in 1971.

So lets us not forget how events like those being played out in Gaza, can hit a nerve of particular communities in the UK like the Bangladeshis as they relate their experiences and is the basis of their solidarity with Palestinians.

 

Old Oak Common – the new Paddington!

With the whole government fiasco with HS2 into Euston, it looks like Old Oak Common is going to be the terminus of HS2 in London for the foreseeable future.  This fate is not dissimilar to that of Paddington Railway Station when it was built by Brunel over 150 years ago. It has been intended to being built further into London but was pushed out to the Paddington site when it was certainly not considered part of Central London.  As it needed to be connected with Central London, the tube link was built between Paddington and Farringdon, and the rest is history so to speak!  In the case of Old Oak Common, it will of course already have the Elizabeth Line passing through to take passengers into the Centre of London. And will no doubt over time, be considered part of Central London, as Londoners and visitors get use to its location. Just we did with Paddington Railway Station. So in some ways Old Oak Common should be considered the new Paddington. 

There are also some capacity issues with both the rail and roads into Old Oak Common. The rail capacity for Old Oak Common for HS2 will have only be six platforms without grade separation on the approach. Realistically this will limit the capacity of the route to six trains an hour – possible eight – although if we were able to emulate Japanese standards of operation we could do better.  The Tokaido Shinkansen operates up to 12 trains an hour into and out of Tokyo Central station with six platforms.

And finally the sub-surface connections that is the roads, will have to be improved for cars and buses to Old Oak Common and l trust Transport of London will be doing this Hammersmith & Fulham Council for this part of W12.  

All change along Bell Street, NW1

All changed along Bell St, NW1 off the Edgware Rd 

The Bell St part of Church St Ward in the City of Westminster, is seeing some major changes in the make up of its locality.

Firstly we have seen the first residents move into the 49 flat Cosway St development between Bell St & Shroton St which the previous administration at Westminster Council had developed to cross subsidies other regeneration efforts in the Ward where properties in this bit of Marylebone were going for over £800,000 plus for the smallest unit. It is been suggested the sales went well for the development as suddenly see about more SUVs on streets around there.

Secondly along Penfold St we have several blocks of Miles Buildings, Penfold St, NW1 where we some of the worst private rented housing in the City. And its been like this since the 1960’s as “poet & hack” John Betjemen noted in a broadcast in 1968 as he took a journey from Marble Arch to Edgware noting the Contrasts

Well it appears they have all been sold to a developer who wants to refurbish them all. This probably mean a lot families made homeless with local roots as the blocks get refurbished, with an estimate of over 40 families at least.

So watch these demographic changes are happening side by side in a neighbourhood in Marylebone which is very accessible to the West End and Paddington, its proximity to these places the reason why many still stay around in this locality.

New Cosway St development sees new residents moving into them. 

 

We are all Indians now!

As India appears to be moving towards calling itself Bharat, we should not forget what the term Indian means too many on the sub-continent.

My late father was born during the British Raj rule of India, become a Pakistani after 1947 Partition and a Bangladeshi after its liberation in 1971. It was only in the late 1990s he become British citizen but during that time he and his generation felt comfortable with being referred to as being Indians. In his case his place of birth is still in Indian, so he would happily make this claim of being Indian still! For example it is well known that most of the Indian restaurants in the UK are run by Bangladeshis. And there is no contradiction here, if you remember that India refers a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-linguistic identity rather then the much more limited definition with Bharat which is intended by its advocates.

So l say, all of us with descent from the Indian sub-continent can lie claim to all being Indians, as we are all Indians now!

Save our ticket offices – Submission

To Whom It May Concern

We are writing to express our firm opposition to the proposed closures of ticket offices across England. As passengers and concerned members of the public, we stand alongside TSSA, the rail union, in opposing these changes and we urge you to reject these plans in order to protect the interests of passengers and rail workers.

The closure of ticket offices creates very significant challenges and below we have highlighted some of these crucial issues which warrant urgent reconsideration:

1.    Job Losses

The proposed closures will result in a significant loss of ticket office jobs, affecting as many as 1,923 rail workers. Axing these vital customer facing jobs will have profound impact on the livelihood of these hardworking workers and their families, adding to the growing concern of job security amid a cost of living crisis. The government and employers should be supporting the labour market, rather than axing essential jobs fuelling poverty and causing harm to staff’s mental and physical health as a result of these plans.

2.    Impact on Accessibility

Disabled passengers heavily rely on ticket office staff for essential assistance, such as boarding or alighting from trains, obtaining a Disabled Persons Railcard, and planning accessible journeys. The Passenger Assist scheme depends on station and on-train staff availability, and the ticket office staff often play a pivotal role in providing this support. With the closure of ticket offices, disabled passengers may face increased difficulties in accessing the railway and obtaining necessary services.

3.    Digital Exclusion:

A significant portion of the population, particularly older citizens, financially vulnerable individuals, and those lacking digital skills or internet access, as well as visually impaired passengers will be adversely affected by the proposed ticket office closures. Without the option of purchasing tickets in person, these groups may face barriers and digital exclusion, leading to reduced travel opportunities and isolation from the community.

4.    Community and Safety Concerns: 

The closure of ticket offices may disproportionately impact vulnerable groups, including the elderly, low-income individuals, and those without access to cars. Reduced travel opportunities can lead to increased isolation and unhappiness, particularly in rural areas where loss of bus routes is already a concern. Moreover, the visible staff presence provided by ticket offices contributes to passenger security and personal safety, especially at smaller rural stations. With reduced staffing levels and more lone working, passenger concerns about safety may escalate.

We are sure you will recognise how important it is for the public and rail workers to have confidence in your governance and management of the railways. Your plans to close ticket offices have genuinely generated a backlash from commuters and members of the public way beyond our estimations. The future of rail looks bleak if the guiding principles continue on the current path of cost cutting, redundancies, and reduction of the quality of service offered to the travelling public.

Britain needs a world class integrated transport system, with a high quality modern railway at its heart. This will never be achieved if the Government and RDG continue pursuing the managed (and at times seemingly unmanaged) decline of our railways.

BRICs digital currency – Crypto or not?

 

With the increasing easternisation of the world economy particularly around trade with China, as clearly evident by the BRICs combined GDP being bigger than G7 now, a discourse on alternative currencies for world trade is being opening discussed.  

There are also economic sanctions considerations as well but a number of pull and push factors will mean  at the mid-August annual Leaders meeting of BRICS Summit Conference, the new BRICS+ currency will announced but not probably be available in the form of paper notes for everyday transactions. It will be a digital currency on a permissioned ledger maintained by a new BRICS+ financial institutions with encrypted message traffic to record payments due or owing by participating parties. Though importantly it is proposed not to be decentralised, as its not maintained on a blockchain and not open to all parties without approval.  So clearly a case needs to be made for the adoption fully blockchain technology to BRICs digital currency. 

In the traditional financial system, many activities require multiple intermediaries: Banks maintain custody of funds, manage the process of lending and borrowing, and facilitate the transfer and settlement of money between accounts using intrabank and interbank systems. Brokerage services receive and fill orders to buy or sell securities with the help of other institutions that serve as market makers. Credit Suisse and Citadel Securities are some of the market makers that help create liquidity in the market by buying and selling securities within their own accounts.

Decentralised finance known as DeFi provides similar disintermediation services, making most financial activities possible through peer-to-peer networks through blockchain technology. DeFi disintermediation provides financial alternatives to individuals who might not use the traditional banking system. Further, DeFi solutions also offer efficient access to capital and interest earnings while offering privacy, control over custody of funds, and censorship resistance: Blockchain networks do not have a central authority or gatekeeper that prevents anyone from participating in the network, as long as participants follow the network’s rules, or an authority that changes or removes transactions on the network. Because of the immutable nature of blockchains, participants also cannot change or remove transactions. DeFi, in general, offers a new alternative source for financial services. Best example of Defi working for those who do not use the traditional banking system using blockchain technology is remittance flows from migrants from the developed world to the developing world. 

Blockchain-based remittance services provide a novel and inventive method of sending and receiving funds across borders. They provide various advantages over traditional remittance services, such as faster and more secure payment processing, lower transaction fees, and enhanced transparency and accountability. As a result fintech industries have moved into this global market, with recent for example Coinbase partnering with remittance company Remitly to let crypto recipients in Mexico cash out digital currencies at over 37,000 retail stores. Coinbase will charge a minimal fee that is cheaper than traditional cross-border payment solutions. So as blockchain technology evolves and matures, we should expect to see increased use and innovation in this critical field.

Furthermore Web 3.0, the next evolution of the internet and distributed networks, plays an important role in DeFi. Whereas Web 2.0 is dominated by a handful of organisations, such as Google and Facebook, that act as intermediaries, Web 3.0 enables users to interact via peer-to-peer networks. Additionally, while major players in Web 2.0 offer their services in exchange for ownership of users’ personal data, which they can then sell, DeFi exchanges allow participants to maintain ownership of their personal data. Data ownership provides individuals control over how their personal data is used or not used by outside parties.

So in short, a BRICs digital trading currency using blockchain technology would give you transaction transparency; an environment to conduct transaction via peer-to-peer networks that don’t require an intermediary and greater privacy over traditional banking services. All l think are very good reasons to adopt blockchain technology for BRIC digital currency. 
When are we going to get the technology to do this in London?

LO3 Energy & blockchain technology in London?

Having recently undertaken an Executive Course in blockchain technology, l came across the user case of LO3 Energy in New York and thought to myself how applicable it could be in parts of Central London. 

LO3 Energy are a private US based company, that built a technology platform to create a peer-to-peer markets which would enable residents in different parts of the world to buy and sell the energy produced locally. They launched their pilot project  Brooklyn Microgrid in 2016, a residential neighbourhood along President St, Brooklyn. There was a high concentration of solar adopters and residents interested in green technology which made it ideal location to run a test.  They also had to conduct tests that proved that smart meters could record electricity from solar panels and store the data on blockchain, where it would be accessible to neighbours with solar panels and consumers to trade power with each other. 

The platform used in New York was built to buy and sell locally produced energy was called “Exergy” and they partnered up with the industrial manufacturing company Siemens to build the grid that would enable locally generated power to be routed to different locations when needed. The proof of concept blockchain was Ethereum though they later investigated alternative networks for faster transaction speeds. They also worked closely with regulators in New York and met up with the US federal  Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure that they were complying to all applicable policies. 

Now given LO3 Energy, expanded their operations throughout other jurisdictions in the US, and countries like Australia and part of Europe, it would be useful to know whether they tried to expand in London at all? And what lessons can be learnt from their attempt. As its quite clear it would needed hardware manufactures on board along with software development, consent of regulators and local communities signed up for it. For example, what were or are the regulatory difficulties going to be given the regulators are usually far behind this new technology? I have to ask very firmly, are we there at all in London?