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A large part of the aid Britain now gives to developing countries goes either in the form of contributions to international bodies such as the World Bank, the UN or the EU, or in ‘budget support’ to governments of beneficiary countries. The idea is to enable these governments to implement policies which are conducive to balanced development. Sounds good! Gone are the days of practical projects carried out by experienced and well-motivated officials, volunteers and contractors in the framework of ‘best value for money’ policies; gone also is the concept of ‘tied aid’, by which goods and services which the aid recipient needed to import would be sourced preferentially from the UK, thus returning to the UK economy a benefit from money provided by the British taxpayer. Broad is the smile of many a minister of an African, Asian and Central American country with which Britain ‘co-operates’ (i.e. provides money to) on learning that the opportunity exists for British aid money to be spent wherever they like. Four BMWs in the drive of the family home is not unusual according to one recent report.
In states where central leadership is weak and ‘presents’ to public servants are the norm, it hardly raises an eyebrow if ministers and officials pocket some of the money that passes through their hands. You are funded for a silk purse but buy a pig’s ear instead and use the difference for a new house, say, perhaps to maintain prestige alongside your colleagues. Meanwhile, filling the seats in the aircraft once occupied by project personnel, we now have accountants, economists and management consultants sent out to try to trace money which never quite got to where it was supposed to go.
A former Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short, was quoted (perhaps in jest) as describing her task as ‘the easiest job in the world’, which handing out money might appear to be. But where is the legitimacy of a strategy that turns our overseas development programme into the fat boy in the playground with a pocket full of sweets?
What a sane development programme should be offering is not bounty at the disposal of ministers but livelihoods for the poor. It is all very well for experts here to tell us that we live in a post-industrial age (post-industrious, more like!); what the poor need (if they are not to up and seek their fortune in richer lands) is skills training and equipment. Take the Singer sewing machine: this simple piece of equipment, backed by the training schools set up by the company, has provided many times more livelihoods for the poor than Oxfam will ever do. This surely is the example of development productivity that all those in the business should be aiming at. But apparently not: for the gentle folk of Palace Street this is mere ‘trade’ and of no concern to them.
If it were recognised that some ‘trade’ is highly developmental in character, especially in helping the poor, then a case for using part of the aid budget to enhance the effectiveness of the trade could easily be made. For example, finance could be provided for technical support beyond what can strictly be borne by commercial transactions. This could free experienced visiting staff to embed technology more effectively and to promote further livelihood-creating activities, leading perhaps to the opening of new markets for the products of beneficiary communities in the donor countries. Reciprocal trade.
DfID, by seeing overseas development as primarily a government-to-government activity and not respecting the role of business ventures on the smaller scale, is not seeing the trees for the wood.
It will not be possible, finally, to avoid the question of legitimacy. Taxpayers have an image of officials, charities, volunteers and specialist firms such as ours working closely together to bring benefit where it is most needed. What if the reality were exposed: that the UK’s development ministry is uninterested in practical programmes but diffuses its funds through governments and international organisations, few of which can give any but the vaguest account of how the money has been spent?
Steps to improve governance are of course a good thing and no-one should challenge this aspect of overseas development policy, but why not at least in part go back to a role of intervening as directly as possible where it will be most useful?
And most admired.
Cradley Heath, November 2004
Following the National Audit Office’s report into light rail, published in April this year, which criticised the reluctance to embrace technical innovation, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee called a hearing on November 10th.
The Department for Transport was represented by its most senior civil servant, Permanent Secretary David Rowlands, who endured criticism from the committee on the relative high cost and poor performance of UK light rail schemes compared with those in Continental Europe.
When the point about innovation was raised, Mr Rowlands’s response was that the DfT wished to explore the potential of, for instance, the ‘ULR’ concept. The DfT is now prepared to receive submissions for a number of smaller schemes of this kind in the next phase of the Local Transport Plan process (‘LTP2’).
The OFEX market on which PPM shares are traded was itself in a state of some uncertainty in the early autumn, resulting in changes in directors and recruitment of a new chief executive, Mr Simon Brickles. Mr Brickles, a person of some standing, was formerly head of AIM.
Unlike some other companies, PPM Ltd – though concerned about the ‘bad’ press – decided to maintain its membership of OFEX. As we are engaged in attracting new investors at a crucial time in our company’s development, we are particularly interested by OFEX’s proposal to ‘showcase’ companies in our position. Such a move returns OFEX to its original position which was particulary suited to the needs of promising start-up ventures.
Thank you for your letter dated 7 October.
I appreciate your desire to get the Parry People Mover into passenger operation as quickly as possible and we will do all we can to facilitate this aim. However, there are inevitably certain preconditions that need to be in place before the vehicle can be allowed to operate on what is still part of the National Network, and in order to avoid any misunderstanding, I felt it would be worthwhile to set out Network Rail’s position regarding the next stages in taking the project forward.
When any new rail service is proposed, Network Rail has a statutory obligation under the terms of its Network Licence to ensure that the rolling stock is capable of safe and reliable operation, that the operator is in possession of the relevant qualifications and skills and that the method of operation accords with all relevant safety and regulatory requirements. These conditions apply to all train operators on the network, regardless of the scale of the proposed operation, and are ensured by compliance with approvals processes and consents. While we can determine the extent to which any particular operation needs to comply with these requirements, we have no authority to waive or otherwise fail to adhere to them; indeed, we would leave ourselves open to action being taken against us by the HSE and Rail Regulator should we attempt to do so.
We have not said that the Parry People Mover will not need to comply with the Vehicle Acceptance Process; indeed, I understand that Bernard Hulland has on a number of occasions emphasised that, whatever the outcome of the derogation submission to HSE, Network Rail will still need to satisfy itself that the vehicle complies with relevant standards relating to such matters as, amongst others, crashworthiness, braking capability, fire protection, door control, and passenger stepping distances. It is true that, in view of the nature of the proposed operation and the design characteristics of the vehicle, the standards that apply will not necessarily be the same as those applied to other rolling stock. It is also true that certain parts of the process will not necessarily be applicable to the vehicle, at least in the context of the proposed operation to Stourbridge. Nevertheless, you should understand that a form of vehicle acceptance process will need to be carried out.
In setting up the project, Bernard Hulland has proposed that the initial phase covers two main areas of work:
The latter will provide all parties with a clearer idea of the work required to allow the vehicle to operate, the time likely to be taken and the cost involved.
We consider that, following receipt of derogation from HSE, at least the following items will need to be addressed before the vehicle can enter service:
As you rightly point out, the previous periods of test running have undoubtedly yielded much useful information which can be applied to the above processes and any others which may be required, and some of the work may amount to no more than a “tick in the box” to demonstrate that it has been considered. Notwithstanding this, however, it is clear that there is still a significant amount of work to be undertaken to get the vehicle into service.
The procedures with which we are required to comply will in certain cases be subject to minimum periods of consultation with other industry members as laid down in the Network Code and other regulatory documents. A realistic timescale to completion will become clearer when we have a better understanding of how many of these processes will apply, and the production of a programme will form an important part of the first phase of work.
Turning to another issue touched upon in your letter, the way in which Network Rail is funded precludes us from making any significant contribution to activities which fall outside the description of Operation, Maintenance and Renewal (OMR) of the network. Effectively, our income, based on the Regulator’s assessment of our costs in carrying out these activities, is fixed for each 5-year Control Period, and we have no means of funding capital investment in projects which do not clearly contribute towards our OMR activities. Even limiting our contribution to management time would result in a loss, as those members of staff allocated to Third Party projects are funded by income generated by those projects, rather than being accounted as an operating expense.
Our support for this project therefore has to be on the basis of a Commercial Agreement whereby you meet our direct costs. A draft Basic Services Agreement to cover the first phase of work as outlined above has already been sent to you, and I understand that you have expressed your willingness to enter into it.
Finally, I would like to make it clear that the remit given to my staff is to assist in enabling the vehicle to enter experimental public service on Sundays for a period of up to 12 months. In order to avoid distractions from this objective, we do not intend as part of this work to consider any future developments such as 7 day a week operation of the branch using light rail vehicles, extension of the branch as a tramway into Stourbridge or moves for approval and certification of Parry vehicles for use on the main line. We would, of course, be pleased to discuss these latter issues with you separately if they remain long-term aspirations.
Exasperation mounts in the transport industry over the situation where standards and derogation issues have prevented the timely commencement of the long-awaited experimental Sunday service at Stourbridge. It is clearly the wish of the controlling authorities that the service should be up and running by now - but it's not.
The letter from Network Rail on the opposite page at least - for the first time - sets out in plain and understandable language what the regulatory environment requires to be done and makes a commitment to co-operate in the process. But common sense got left out of the equation some time ago.
While everyone plays musical chairs with some places removed following the recent White Papers, the 'barriers to innovation' in the light rail industry - having been identified by the National Audit Office - went before the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons on 10th November. The conclusion reached was that both private shareholders' and taxpayers’ money is jeopardised by the inflexibility of officialdom.
In the meantime, PMO and PPM are pushing through the jungle of requirements in order to achieve passenger service.
If 19th century livery stable specialists were asked to advise on the implications of the new ‘horseless carriages’ with engines replacing horses, they might have assumed that fuel, like fodder, would be brought to the ‘stable’. Anticipating versions larger than the early cars, they might have assumed ‘horseless omnibuses’ would have 4 engines to haul greater loads. Imagination and foresight applied to planning exercises require looking ‘outside the box’ but few consultants do this, even nowadays.
In their report “Trains, Trams, Tram/Trains” the consultants AEA Technology Rail stuck to their brief to look at the existing network, not at the prospect of extensions - like BOAC’s designers who, asked to source a new jet aircraft, looked at traditional routes where many airports had short runways. When the beautiful VC10 aircraft emerged designed for short take off and landing, the runways were already being extended to take the capacious and far more economic Boeings. End of VC10!
JPA was shown the AEA report in draft form, and pointed out via the client, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), that changing from heavy to light rail on smaller branches – including extension of the line where possible – would bring about dramatic changes in economics and patronage. In Manchester and Croydon, when the change was made from heavy rail operation to light rail, new passengers arrived in droves! And why was this? Simple: trams every few minutes, many more stops for boarding and - crucially - the trams emerge on to the street to distribute their passengers over 5 or 6 stops instead of a single central station.
The consultants knew this, but the brief is the brief and they followed it. And so we are left with a detailed, well documented, and attractively presented report which stays ‘within the box’. It concludes for instance that remote branches such as Looe to Liskeard in Cornwall should remain interoperable with the main network because occasional direct services should be able to run down the main line to Plymouth and the vehicles should be able to go to railway workshops for maintenance – in Cardiff! Lines are recommended to remain interoperable because of the possibility of future use for freight. It is of course beyond the wit of man to bring in a freight train at night to avoid conflict with daytime passenger operations.
Having been unable to find any good reason to bring a freight train down to Stourbridge Town, and recognising how far the PPM/PMO project had advanced, the consultants grudgingly accepted that this may happen – but hardly anywhere else. And what about the environmental benefits of the change from running a 41 tonne train, with a huge diesel engine, to vehicles a quarter the weight and one-eighth the fuel consumption? Not a word! Environmental issues not in the brief?
Meanwhile, in a classic case of one hand not knowing what the other is doing, the Countryside Agency, one of ACoRP’s sponsors, has just issued a well researched handbook on reopening railways. This seems largely based on the Wensleydale experience. Will Pendolinos ever go thundering down such light railway lines in future? No chance. More likely the tram-like railcars that ACoRP’s consultants waived away as “cheap and cheerful”. Cheerful certainly, because cheap-to-operate is more sustainable than losing your shirt and polluting the environment on every trip.
The final insult from the consultants is to have considered maintenance from the heavy railway perspective.
While a simple local depot can perform all the required tasks, they argue the benefits of sending the vehicles to be maintained at a distant depot. This wrong assumption means that - for this reason alone - they must be brought up to comply with Group Standards, negating the prospect of weight, cost and environmental savings that would be possible if they were confined to the branch line.
Mr Scott Handley and Wing Cmdr Steve Deane, directors of the Wensleydale Railway, visited the Chasewater Railway on 1st July in order to take a trip on Car 12. The WR’s immediate requirement was to link their base at Leeming Bar to an eastern terminus close to Northallerton main line station.
The Wensleydale Railway is one of Britain's most recent new railways, first opened for passenger services in 2003. It is being developed on a line leased from Network Rail to provide a genuine local travel service for the communities of the Yorkshire Dales.
The WR currently operates trains over a 17-mile route from Redmire to Leeming Bar, but eventually the line will stretch from Northallerton to Garsdale, on the Settle-Carlisle line.
PPM’s environmental advantage
At the western end of the line, the trackbed crosses into the Yorkshire Dales National Park, requiring rolling stock with minimal intrusion. PPM technology offers low noise and low emissions from a self-powered railcar with no electrical power infrastructure.
Flywheel energy storage and a gas prime mover give the necessary environmental performance. Line-of-sight operation and low-level access, minimising the visual intrusion of signals, platforms and fencing, would also be possible.
Although preparations for the Stourbridge project prevented the release of Car 12, discussions have now begun aimed at tracking down funding for an 80-passenger vehicle to operate on the railway and at establishing the environmental case for operations through the National Park.
PPM Car 11 has entered public service after the Cambrian Railways Society gained HM Railway Inspectorate approval.
A ceremony led by Cllr David Cooper, Borough Mayor of Oswestry, on 26th September officially launched the Sunday passenger service.
Revenue from the Car 11 operations is split between the Society and PPM.
Allan Pugh, Tram Project Manager, has written to PPM to say that they have had very positive public feedback since the launch of the service. Accessibility for the disabled was especially praised.
HRH the Duke of Gloucester officially opened the Chasewater Railway’s heritage museum on 4th November.
Our good friends at the Railway kindly provided for Car 12 to be prominently displayed and for the line to be made available to run. The Duke went for a brief trip and was clearly impressed, asking questions about cost and application.
What impressed us was the speed and thoroughness of the process under which approval was granted for the Royal Personage to travel on Car 12. The three weeks that this took compares with three years that the humble folk of Stourbridge have been waiting to ride on the very same vehicle, on a branch of the national rail network.
Parry technology does not generally enter into the field of electronics and the internet, but the Parry websites have become an essential medium for communicating with the world.
Two separate, comprehensive internet sites are now running, one each for JPA and PPM, linked from a common gateway. Both have been heavily updated in recent months, with the JPA site radically renewed and relaunched in September.
Information now available from www.parryassociates.com includes full coverage of the company's activities in development, transport and energy with detailed coverage of issues solved by Parry technology and success stories around the world. The ease of obtaining information about JPA has been proved by new enquiries from around the world.
On www.parrypeoplemovers.com visitors can view video footage of Car 12 in operation and use an interactive specification and design tool to visualise PPM vehicles for a range of applications, as well as getting full technical details of railcars and trams on the Products page. A further set of information shows how PPM technology can help provide improved transport to meet local needs.
Updates for e-mail subscribers
Both websites are frequently updated and so the companies now have services to keep people abreast of the latest changes and news. Subscribers receive regular e-mail news giving a summary of recent developments.
If you would like to be on either - or both - of the JPA or PPM e-mail update lists, just let us know your e-mail address and which company interests you.
The development continues of the PPM bogie (see Parry News 39), which will allow PPM vehicles to be larger than previous designs with two-axle chassis. Brush Traction, the UK's foremost locomotive engineers, are to undertake the work.
The new design breaks rail convention by incorporating a complete powertrain, including LPG engine and flywheel, into a detachable bogie that can be quickly removed from the vehicle for maintenance. The vehicle can return to service immediately after a bogie swap and continue to earn revenue while servicing is carried out.
The powered bogie concept also provides redundancy in the event of failure and places most critical components on an easily-removed unit. This interchangeability has many features in common with the ‘power by the hour’ provision of aircraft engines, which are swapped at airports en route.
Initial bogies will be designed to use LPG as a fuel and run on branch lines but there is a larger market if the design can be adapted to other uses. These include tramcars with low-floor sections and vehicles using different power sources and operating on different track gauges.
With the assistance of HM Railway Inspectorate, Centro and the Strategic Rail Authority, Parry engineers are preparing a detailed performance specification, including full details of the PPM powertrain and the standards that must be met. Once the design is complete, Brush will manufacture the frames for delivery to the component assembly workshop for installation of the powertrain.
Powered chassis: a new product range
Complete vehicles are not the only PPM products. In several potential export markets the possibility exists for local manufacture of vehicle bodies - for example by bus manufacturers.
PPM can supply bogies or two-axle chassis, ready for fitting to separately-procured bodies. In this way, PPM will win business for its unique capability and knowledge, local industry will be boosted and the new transport system using the PPM concept will benefit the economy, the environment and the transport needs of the community.
In September 2004, PPM was approached by an Australian company with a proposal that could bring entirely emission-free transport. Going Solar, based in Melbourne, is a specialist in the technology and techniques of solar power. PPM vehicles' low energy requirements make them ideal to make the most of free energy from the sun.
Going Solar envisage solar panels covering the roofs of tram stations supplying PPM's intermittent power needs, where vehicles pick up electricity at the stops only.
There are at least five potential uses for such transport systems in the state of Victoria. These include Melbourne’s inner-city zones, new housing developments in Caroline Springs, an environmentally sensitive area at Phillip Island and a regional airport link in the northern part of the State.
Seriously green power
A partnership between Going Solar and JPA is already planned to provide technical expertise and professional advice: a one-stop shop for green transport solutions.
In order to prove the concept, PPM Car 6 is being modified to become a solar showcase at the Cradley Heath site. When the British weather doesn't permit operation by solar power alone, the principle of electrical power can be demonstrated with the mains supply.