Archives for category: Services

Connectivity, though identified as such in the Midlands Connect strategy report,  is not the greatest transport problem

The Midlands Connect Partnership and the Department for Transport have developed a transport strategy that identifies the major infrastructure projects needed to improve the connectivity of the region’s key locations and drive economic growth, but it omits any reference to waterway passenger and freight potential. 

Its ‘Final Strategy’ paper (left, March) has no canal or waterway references, 12 to congestion and only one to air pollution.

Sir John Peace, the current Chair of Standard Chartered plc and Burberry Group plc, has been appointed as Chair of the Midlands Engine and will continue to chair Midlands Connect. As his experience is in financial services and retailing, he needs to draw on the wealth of experience in organisations such as Freight for London, the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) and the Canals and River Trust (CRT). Though employment opportunities abound in the inland waterway transport sectors in India, Uganda, South Sudan and continental Europe, according to online advertisements, Midlands Connect appears to be unaware of the transport potential of waterways. 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor, reported years ago that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade because of gridlock on the motorways according to a new study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”. What has changed?

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found. All valid points today. 

The CRT report, Transport energy, planning for inland waterways freight, records evidence given to the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRAC) 38 suggesting that there is significant traffic potential. One barge company claimed that, “without trying at all”, there was half a million tonnes of freight that could be transferred from road transport and that the Aire & Calder Navigation could quite easily take 2,000 lorries a day off local roads.

To create a more comprehensive strategy, Sir John Peace and the partnership could co-opt a number of people with the right expertise. One of many is Tim West of Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. He was consulted about low bridges restricting the ability of the inland waterways to accommodate some cargo on certain stretches and replied that his firm has been able to carry large abnormal loads to locations such as Worcester, Leeds, Nottingham, Rotherham, York, Preston and Manchester. The Inland Navigator (above) sailed down the River Ouse carrying a transformer to Drax power station, avoiding a possible 15 mile tailback on the motorways.

London’s River Bus Express (above) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities. The city is also moving large amounts of water and construction materials by water.

The CRT report points out that it is Government policy to promote alternatives to road transport for both passenger and freight movements, partly to reduce congestion and partly to reduce the environmental impact of road transport.  

Inland waterways have the potential to assist in both these objectives.

 

 

 

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40 Vendors. 2 Days. Unlimited Coffee. Birmingham’s First Coffee Festival.

10am-6pm

From independent coffee houses and speciality roasters, to companies that are expanding across the UK, we will celebrate the gift that is the coffee bean.

Sipping, Shopping & Networking at the Custard Factory

Gibb St, Birmingham B9 4AA

​These two days will bring together the top 40 independent coffee shops and coffee culture experiences from the local area and beyond.

 You can sample specialty coffee and food from all around the world. Whether you are a coffee drinker, enjoy the coffee shop experience, or own a store, there is something for everyone. ​From finding your new favourite blend to picking your next machine supplier, we have it all.

Have a coffee, cake or lunch and relax in our seating area whilst listening to local musicians. Unlimited samples will be available from our partners as well as plenty of things to buy on the day.

In 2017 our chosen charity is the ‘The Black Country Kitchen’, a volunteer based organisation that helps provide a hot meal every week for the homeless and those in need. All our live music acts will be ‘busking’ and 100% of the money raised by them will go straight to the charity.

Get all the latest news and updates on the festival

on the Birmingham Coffee Festival website.

 

 

 

 

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 In February Pat Thomas wrote an articleLet’s get UK chefs talking about GMOs’.

San Carlo is ahead of the game. 

Outside its restaurant in Temple Street, Birmingham San Carlo’s menu sheets open with the declaration (photographed in driving rain): “We are advised by all our suppliers that all their products are GM free”

 San Carlo is one of the restaurants founded by Carlo di Stefano which have won more than thirty regional national awards – to read more go to: https://sancarlo.co.uk/our-story/. There are sixteen in Britain and a growing number overseas. Not only is it ‘GM wise’ but – as visitors from Mumbai last Wednesday all agreed – lunch there was delicious.

This year ‘Beyond GM’ is introducing ‘GMO conversation’ to chefs, caterers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and others in the British food service industry.

Pat Thomas (below left) noted in March that in the US, chefs like Alice Waters and Tom Colicchio are leading the public discussion on GMOs. But in the UK our chefs, caterers, hoteliers and restaurateurs are largely silent – and possibly not well-informed. She adds that concern in Europe is already growing. In France, an open letter about GMOs and the corporate takeover of the food has been signed (so far) by 330 chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others in the food industry. The letter was launched on gastronomy news website Atabula and initiated by its founder and editor, Franck Pinay-Rabaroust, a former editor of the Michelin Guide.

A survey (now closed) was organized which focussed on preferences and informed choice when eating out and its early results will be brought to a roundtable on provenance hosted by Chef Cyrus Todiwala. It will also inform a report being produced on GMOs in the restaurant and catering food chain and this, in turn, will form the basis of talks planned for later in the year.

 

 

 

 

So says George Monbiot in the Guardian. He trounces Blairite MPs who, disloyal to their elected leader and helping to grant Theresa May a mandate, ‘tolerated anything the Labour party did under Blair’:

They “proclaim disenchantment now that it calls for the protection of the poor, the containment of the rich and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

The popularity of Corbyn’s recent policy announcements leads Monbiot to believe he has a chance, albeit slight, of turning this around. His pledge to raise the minimum wage to £10 an hour is supported by 71% of people, according to a ComRes poll; raising the top rate of tax is endorsed by 62%.

He cites Labour’s 10 pledges, placed some time ago on another website, which could – incorporated in its manifesto – appeal to almost everyone. They promote the theme of security:

secure employment rights,

secure access to housing,

secure public services,

a secure living world.

Compare this with the attitude of the major funder of the Brexit campaign, billionaire Peter Hargreaves: ‘Insecurity is fantastic’.

Those who question Corbyn’s lack of experience and competence should remember where more ‘credible’ politicians led us:

  • Blair’s powers of persuasion led to the Iraq war.
  • Gordon Brown’s reputation for prudence blinded people to the financial disaster he was helping to engineer, through the confidence he vested in the banks.
  • Cameron’s smooth assurance caused the greatest national crisis since the second world war.
  • May’s calculating tenacity is likely to exacerbate it.

A progressive alliance/tactical voting?

Much advice follows; the most congenial is that Labour should embrace the offer of a tactical alliance with other parties:

“The Greens have already stood aside in Ealing Central and Acton, to help the Labour MP there defend her seat. Labour should reciprocate by withdrawing from Caroline Lucas’s constituency of Brighton Pavilion. Such deals could be made all over the country: and as the thinktank Compass shows, they enhance the chances of knocking the Tories out of government . . .”

Monbiot ends:

“The choice before us is as follows: a party that, through strong leadership and iron discipline, allows three million children to go hungry while hedge fund bosses stash their money in the Caribbean, and a party that hopes, however untidily, to make this a kinder, more equal, more inclusive nation I will vote Labour on 8 June . . . I urge you to do the same”.

 

 

 

Exol Lubricants, based in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, won an Award of Excellence from the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) for its commitment to the waterways. It was presented to Exol sales director and IAAF CV Committee chairman Steve Dunn at the Freight Transport Association Multimodal awards in front of more than 600 guests.

Exol has become a recognised user of the waterways, investing in this environmentally-friendly alternative to transport large loads. There is a practical advantage to using one barge rather than 25 lorries: as they have to test the arriving oil before it is unloaded, one barge load is easier to test than 25 lorry loads.  

Waterways transport is part of the company’s larger strategy to reduce its carbon footprint: something it is keen to promote to students on Aston University’s career and placements programme in which Exol is a partner.

The CBOA said it recognises Exol’s vision, commitment and good business sense in introducing a new barge, Exol Pride, to the North East waterways to transport raw materials from the port of Hull to its bulk-blending plant at Rotherham, Yorkshire. David Lowe, CBOA chairman, said: “The Award of Excellence – CBOA’s highest honour – acknowledges Exol’s significant contribution towards developing inland waterway transport in the UK and promoting this means of shipping within its industry. Many congratulations to the company.”

Left to right: David Gower (host, former English cricket captain), Steve Dunn Exol Sales Director, Dr David Quarmby CBE (CBOA  ), and Mark Field, Marketing Manager

Steve Dunn, Exol Lubricants sales director, said: “This continued investment in the waterways is part of our larger strategy of reducing our carbon footprint and exploring ways to protect the environment. We’re delighted to receive such prestigious recognition from CBOA and will continue to develop our contribution to barge transport.”

Exol is the largest independent lubricants company in the UK, manufacturing and supplying a range of lubricants and associated products to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agricultural, industrial, off highway and railway sectors from its bulk-blending plant in Rotherham.

 

 

 

 

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

Hannah Green’s Chamberlain Files April Fool article boomerangs. Informed readers would indeed welcome the news that National Express has launched a West Midlands canal bus relieving congestion – following the precedent set by other cities.

London’s River Bus Express (below) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities.

In Leeds, a pioneering free water taxi scheme has been made permanent. The boats, which can carry up to 11 passengers, are being paid for by Allied London, the company that owns Leeds Dock – formerly Clarence Dock. Read more here.

The Amsterdam-style service – trialled at the recent Leeds Waterfront Festival – takes passengers from Leeds Dock to Granary Wharf and back. While currently operating on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, the taxis could become a daily fixture running 7am-7pm.Simon Tipple, who drives one of the boats, which take about seven minutes to cover the route, said: “The south entrance to the railway station is opening soon. Once that happens you’ll be able to get straight off the train and onto the water taxi. It’s quicker than walking, it’s quicker than being in the car. There’s a lot of flats, a lot of commuters in the dock area.”

“We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”, said the owner Steven Cadwell.

The Manchester Evening News reports that on November 7th a water taxi service was launched, connecting Manchester city centre with Sale and Old Trafford along the Bridgewater Canal. Two Waxi boats – sadly built in Shanghai not Manchester – take passengers from Dukes 92 in Castlefield to the Trafford Centre, morning and evening, Mondays to Fridays –the first water taxi service in operation in Greater Manchester. More boats will be acquired as the business develops.

Waxi was founded by entrepreneur Steven Cadwell (above) who originally wanted a service that ran from the city centre to MediaCityUK, but had to look at other options because of the construction of the Ordsall Chord which is due to be completed in 2017. Cadwell said:

“It’s something that will appeal to a lot of people who want a different way to travel to work or to football matches. We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”. 

Birminghams canals are a neglected and underused resource; clean waterway transport should be integrated into plans for canalside residential, retail and office developments. Some have suggested water taxis sailing from the Icknield Port development into the city centre.

One precedent is the dedicated waterbus service (above, pink) operated by Sherborne Wharf Heritage Narrow Boats, stopping at Brindleyplace, King Edwards Wharf, Gas Street Basin and The Mailbox. But like most waterway vessels currently used, though it is more fuel-efficient and potentially takes traffic of congested roads, it produces some noise and air pollution.

We would recommend the hydrogen fuelled model (above) developed as part of the Protium Project at the University of Birmingham.

David Lowe (CBOA) adds: there are passenger boats in Glasgow, on Loch Lomond, and in Spalding and on the Lancaster canal.

David Lowe (Commercial Boat Operators Association) sends news of a noteworthy event, which preceded the ‘Hydrogen and Fuel Cells into the Mainstream’ Conference, covered on this site in February.

The programme brought together 11 European micro FC-CHP manufacturers into a common analysis framework to deliver trials across all of the available fuel cell CHP technologies. Fuel cell micro-CHP trials will be installed and actively monitored in dwellings across the range of European domestic heating markets, dwelling types and climatic zones, which will lead to an invaluable dataset on domestic energy consumption and micro-CHP applicability across Europe.

By learning the practicalities of installing and supporting a fleet of fuel cells with real customers, ene.field partners will take the final step before they can begin commercial roll-out. An increase in volume deployment for the manufacturers involved will stimulate cost reduction of the technology by enabling a move from hand-built products towards serial production and tooling.

The ene.field project brings together over 30 utilities, housing providers and municipalities to bring the products to market explore different business models for micro-CHP deployment.

It is the largest European demonstration project of the latest smart energy solution for private homes, micro-CHP. Up to 1,000 households across Europe will be able to experience the benefits of this new energy solution. The five-year project uses modern fuel cell technology to produce heat and electricity in households and empowers them in their electricity and heat choices. It is co-funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking  and brings together 27 partners, including 10 European manufacturers who will make the products available across 11 European countries.

“A step change in the volume of fuel cell micro-CHP deployment in Europe and a meaningful step towards commercialisation of the technology”.

 

 

 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade – because of gridlock on the motorways that superseded them, according to a study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”.

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found.

From our database, 2001-2016:

  • In Bromage N, Supply Management (UK) 5 Jul 2001 Vol 6 No 14: p. 34 (2 pages) there is a reference to transporting cardboard waste from London to a recycling mill in Birmingham.
  • In 2002 cardboard waste was carried from Leamore Business Parks (Walsall) via canal to a recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.
  • West Midlands Waterways joined forces with Brumcan, the Birmingham based community recycling business in 2004 for ‘The Big Recycle’ and moved waste textiles by boat from Brumcan’s headquarters in Saltley along the Birmingham Mainline Canal to Black Country Rags in Greets Green. The boat, named Aurega, then delivered glass to Birmingham’s waste transfer station at Lifford Lane.
  • Lynne Jones MP, for Birmingham Selly Oak, issued a press release: Support Water Freight; 11.08.06, calling for government action to shift the transport of freight from our roads to our waterways, supporting a Parliamentary motion backing the sector.
  • In 2007 Marks & Spencer employed barges to take waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union Canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.
  • The 2007 West Midlands Freight Action Plan clearly identified 78 businesses in the Birmingham Study that have the potential for transporting waste & recycling, building & construction materials, steel and retail goods. It also identified 90 clusters of industrial estates and retail parks, 49 wharfs and 12 freight development sites.
  • Birmingham to the River Lee: in 2008 Richard Horne and Tim Collier loaded narrowboats Arundel and Betelgeuse with 110 steel piles, weighing 43.79 tonnes, from the company ALE Piling at Tyseley to be delivered to Lee Valley Marina at Walthamstow.
  • ALE Piling in Tyseley gave a barge company a contract to move steel piles from Birmingham to Walthamstow earlier that year. Progress was slowed through the Solihull area by silt, sunken tree boughs, supermarket trolleys and bicycles in the water. (CBOA newsletter)
  • Heathrow announced (2016) that it would accept, and in some cases exceed, all the environmental targets set out in the Airports Commission report. To this end Nick Platts, head of cargo, said he had been considering low-emission onward transport for freight, including using rail and barges on the nearby Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) which links central London with Birmingham.

Caption: ‘No congestion down here’

As Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported, the 2007research highlighted a series of environmental benefits from moving freight. Studies agree that waterborne transport is quieter, cleaner & more fuel efficient, reducing CO2 emissions by 75-80% compared with road transport. TV’s Waterworld programme made the startling claim that in one day a lorry used more fuel than a working barge would use in a year.

Next: City could use watertaxis – operating in other UK cities – to take passengers off congested roads

 

 

 

This series – to which reader are invited to contribute – opened with a tirade about the failings of our bus servicesPositive news would be preferred however and the editor thanks Ann and Malcolm Turner (below) who recently recommended the A2B taxi service (0121 733 3000).

ann-and-malcolm-2

 Why choose A2B?

  • Not because A2B is Birmingham & Solihull’s largest taxi company, with over 650 private hire vehicles operating.
  • Not because the A2B business has been around since 1991 and moves around 4.5 million passengers each year, servicing in excess of 500 business in the region.
  • And not because A2B can provide a vehicle to suit any journey & occasion, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

Because, having tried it several times since the recommendation, the writer found them totally efficient, arriving a few minutes before schedule and offering really good customer service, unlike other taxi services in the locality which have proved extremely unreliable.