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? 

 

Paddington Green fatal stabbings – what to do next?

Four fatal stabbings in so many years makes Paddington Green a hotspot for stabbings not only in the City of Westminster but probably in the whole of London. Yesterday’s lunchtime fatal stabbing, just adds to the pattern that has been obvious for sometime now unfortunately. 

Additional Youth services are a must whilst policing activities on knife crime needs increasing focus in Paddington Green. On the former, the previous Tory administration of the Council had cut it down to the bone, to maintain a low council tax.  We need to restore the Youth Service we had in the borough and have it particularly focused in hot spots like Paddington Green. There are some Youth activities in the locality offered at the Little Venice Sports Centre by one of our local coppers, Paul Reading and his weekly boxing classes. So we need to build on that clearly with additional boxing classes and maybe five-side football, as well as other sporting activities. 

Yesterday, fatality occurred in St Mary’s church yard. It’s a long neglected part of the neighbourhood with huge potential to be turned into another Paddington Gardens, as l have argued on this blog page. But maybe with the underused sports centre – Little Venice Sports Centre – at one end of the the Church Yard, the whole of St Mary’s church yard could do with a sporting upgrade with outside gym facilities. 

Money should not be an issue either capital or revenue, given the CIL monies available from developers of both phases of West End Gate which immediately looks over Paddington Green. Let’s just hope the will exists to get the boys to drop their knifes. 

And it goes without saying that some urgent community work needs to be undertaken with the local Kurdish community along the Edgware Rd, who have now lost three young sons amongst the four stabbing fatalities at Paddington Green.  I trust the council is prepared to do this urgently, as it must be unsettling to lose so many young men who’s lives have barely began.

Justice for Grenfell – agonising delays bring shame to the government

Six years ago, the world watched the horror of the Grenfell Tower inferno. I watched it first hand driving along the Westway and almost crashed the car on the Paddington slipway, coming off the Westway.  It is also 72 month since the inferno, and its 72 victims were killed in the fire and still not had any justice of any sort.  My strongest recollections with the local community afterwards was the moaning of the families in the subsequent funerals some of most harrowing experiences of my life. 

The terrible loss of life at Grenfell Tower was ultimately caused by political decisions made at the highest level. For at least 40 years, policies relating to housing, local government, the fire and rescue service, research and other areas have been driven by the agenda of cuts, deregulation and privatisation. The Fire Brigade Union (FBU) argue well that its this political approach that has weakened and undermined fire policy and the fire and rescue service. Believing that a deep-seated culture of complacency has developed with regard to fire policy and fire safety. Ultimately, politicians at a ministerial level must bear responsibility for the creation of this complacency and its consequences. We have yet to hear from the Grenfell Inquiry on their recommendations on this front at all. 

The fire at Grenfell should have changed everything but, in reality, not nearly enough has happened. Of the 12 recommendations made from phase one of the Grenfell Inquiry, a third have yet to be implemented. This delay is inexcusable and dangerous, and we should all be concerned that the country has not taken the action necessary to avoid another tragedy of similar scale.  Indeed we had only in the past week had another external cladding fire via balconies in Whitehorse Rd, Croydon. Where thankfully no lives were lost but three flats on top of each were badly affected. So although we have had some progress made in removal of flammable aluminium composite (ACM) on high rise blocks over 18 metres, many of those below 18 metres have been left with the same cladding. So whilst the governments current contract to ensure developers cover the costs of the removal only covers 1,100, there are between 6,000-9,000 unsafe buildings alone. So the government has to do a lot more to counter the fear that “it could happen to me” around the country. 

On the night of the fire, 15 of the 37 disabled residents at Grenfell died. So not surprisingly a key recommendation in the Grenfell Inquiry phase I report was the urgent need for personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEP) plans to be in place, yet the government has repeatedly failed to introduce them. This failure has ensured that the safety and dignity of evacuation of people with disabilities forces many vulnerable residents to live in fear in the place they should feel most at home. 

Finally, justice delayed is justice denied and the trauma of the local community has been further compounded by now years of silence and equivocation by the authorities. This much evidence and still no justice. The delays in the implementation of the recommendations from the first phase of the report as well as publication of phase two leaves the families and friends of the victims feeling very ignored and thus inexcusable. The least the loved ones want is closure, rather than constantly having to fight. 

 

Carrying on striking in Westminster

We should not forget that whilst we have major national strike action in the City of Westminster along Praed St, Paddington by Rail and hospital workers over the past year at both Paddington Railway station and St Marys Hospital, lets not forget those action taken more locally by traffic wardens and housing officers.

The first local action involves parking wardens who are on the front line of road rage from car owners whilst bringing in a substantial income for councils like @RBKC and @CityWestminster So NSL should be offering them a decent liveable wage anyway. This while they have made £39 million on this contract from the Westminster City Council while bringing tens of millions into the Council coffers. Parking wardens in both boroughs do a tough job for low pay and contractor NSL need to get round the table and make a fair pay offer as soon as possible. This looks as though it will be resolved in the near future in Westminster City Council and hope this appears also to Royal Borough of Kensington as well. So it was good to meet with many of the workforce over the past few weeks during their dispute and listen to their concerns.

At the same time, housing workers at St Mungo’s are at strike whilst they receive extra grants from City Hall, SW1 for work with street homeless, yet they are forcing poverty wages on their street workers. This while St Mungo’s has £22 million reserves and senior management have six figure salaries like for the CEO and others. 

So do join they picket lines this morning at Rochester Row, SW1 in front of St Mungos offices.  They and the traffic wardens deserve decent pay rises in the worst cost of living crisis for a generation and l trust locals will support them. 

 

Should Metropolitan Police have been given anymore powers?

The headlines in the our local paper, the Westminster Extra, on Policing over the Coronation chimes with the devastating conclusion of the Baroness Casey Review of the Met being ” institutionally racist, misogynist and homophobic”  as it appears to be going from one crisis to another even before the incidents during the day of the Coronation. 

That is the arrest of night time volunteers handing out rape alarms to vulnerable women; locking up republicans for 16 hours for the crime of unloading some placards and detaining a royal “superfan” for 13 hours because she happened to be sat near some protesters.

Since the Coronation, its officers have been filmed shooting two dogs and tasering their owner; admitted keeping crucial evidence relating to the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry locked up for years in a safe near Senior Officers and an Officer been sacked for punching and kicking a 14 year old boy and then lying about it. 

Furthermore, Baroness Doreen Lawrence further added that the Met has failed to change some 30 years after the death of her son and the MacPherson Report as well.   

So it’s quite clear the additional Public Order powers, given days before the Coronation, should not have been given to the Met, in the first place until it sorts itself out under special measures already.