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Dec 282014

So we have another story about how overrunning maintenance work on our railways has caused travel chaos. One of the things to remember is that we only hear about the overruns and not the successfully completed work. I would not be surprised if only a tiny minority of work overruns.

But that isn’t much comfort to those caught up in the chaos.

Somewhere within National Rail, there is a department that decides when engineering work can take place, and they will have made a calculation to determine when the least “costly” overruns can be scheduled. They probably make this calculation based on the number of travel hours lost.

But perhaps they are not considering the quality of those hours lost. Some travel is more valuable than other travel; not in simple economic terms, but including other factors such as the amount of distress caused.

Holiday travel is a bit different to everyday travel in that :-

  1. People tend to travel further and make more connections. Disrupting their travel could well leave them stranded in an unfamiliar environment.
  2. More “vulnerable” people travel for holidays – children and old people – who are less likely to cope well with the disruption.
  3. Frankly most normal people value their holiday trips higher than their work trips; missing a day’s work because you cannot get in is mildly annoying, but missing a holiday is devastating.
  4. Lastly, making alternative arrangements is much more possible during normal working hours.

Of course nothing will change because all this will make no difference to those in charge who have chauffeur driven cars to take them everywhere and who regularly get their ears bent by industry pressure groups.

Feb 062012

If you read certain articles, you might believe that the current UK government is anti-business. The Tories ? Anti-business ? That is simply preposterous – the Tories would never let the government be anti-business. They are after all in politics to help their business buddies.

What certain bankers don’t understand is that there is a certain level of anti-banking here – which is not anti-business. Banks are merely a subset of business, and given that many banks are “too large to fail” comprise a rather special category of business that is not very business-like.

And the government is not really anti-bank at all, but anti-preposterous banking bonuses. Banking bonuses seem to have risen out of proportion to the value that people add to a bank. As mentioned before, no person is wholly responsible for the success or failure of a bank – a CEO may come up with a great plan, but his or her underlings have to carry out that plan. And the success of the CEO is dependent on how effectively his or her plan is carried out.

Personally I do not have a problem with bankers earning millions in bonuses (and I’m very unlikely to ever get such a bonus), providing that :-

  1. They are properly taxed.
  2. They are proportional to the bonuses given to every other employee in the firm.

It is interesting to see that the bosses of National Rail have voluntarily given up their bonuses into a fund for improving the safety of railway crossings. Whilst there was some pressure about the potential size of their bonuses, it was nowhere near as much as that received by the banking bosses, and they gave up their bonuses a lot quicker – nice to see that some business leaders see that their bonuses may be a little excessive after all, rather than whinging about how the government is “anti-business”.

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