Sunday, July 06, 2014

Bridge or Tunnel?

I took the photo above last week whilst out one evening with my camera. I was amazed to see a young adult fox on the roof of the Vinton Metals warehouse, off Manor Road. The photo shows the fox reacting to the sound of my camera's shutter. The animal was scruffy and quite possibly suffering from Mange. It stayed on the roof for around five minutes before disappearing from view. Foxes in the local area have become almost completely indifferent to people; I saw a fox (it may have even been the same one as in the picture) on the footpath a couple of weeks ago. It had been going through a dustbin bag put out for collection. I moved toward it, expecting it to run off, but it just sat there watching me with evident curiosity. I then saw it again on Thursday evening when it was sitting on top of a wheelie bin, no doubt trying to get inside. It has absolutely no fear at all. 

The debate about the possible new cross Thames bridge in South East London drags on. After doing some research, I was astonished to discover that plans have existed in one form or another since 1943, where it was due to form part of the post war London regeneration plan. Then it was seriously proposed in 1979, before being subjected to a lengthy public inquiry, redesigned, subjected to a further inquiry, approved in 1991, cancelled in 1993, revived in 2002, subjected to another inquiry in 2005 – and finally cancelled again in 2008, after pressure from the London Borough of Bexley, who were concerned that there was no provision for improving the road infrastructure on the South side of the bridge to prevent serious congestion. If you look at London as a whole (in essence Greater London already functions as a semi independent state) there are twenty two road and rail crossings to the West of Tower Bridge, and only two to the East – the Rotherhithe and Blackwall tunnels (the Dartford QE2 tunnel and bridge do not count as they are outside Greater London). Bearing in mind that more than fifty percent of the population lives to the East, and a majority of the growth in both housing and jobs is going to come in the future, it seems curious that so little priority seems to have been given to improvements in communications to the East. There are practical problems; as the river travels eastwards, it becomes far wider as it heads towards the Thames Estuary. Any crossing will by nature have to be larger and more expensive than those in the West. This is one of the reasons I recently suggested a runnel crossing between Rainham and Lower Belvedere as an alternative to a bridge between Beckton and Thamesmead at Gallions reach, which seems to be the solution favoured by most of the current group of decision makers. Personally I think the Gallions Reach option is a poor one; whilst the Beckton side of the river is mostly a brown field site, with old factories and other structures which could easily be demolished to make way for bridge approach roads, the same cannot be said of the Thamesmead side – where a large and well established housing estate and residential nursing home are situated. It is evident to me that the planners of the Gallions Reach bridge have not spent any time in the area that the proposed structure will affect, or they would be aware of the unsuitability of the solution they propose. Studies have been carried out as the negative impact that additional traffic coming up Knee Hill in Abbey Wood – a narrow road through Abbey Wood that struggles with anything larger than a small car, yet carries HGV’s in a constant stream, which would only get worse with traffic from a proposed bridge. The areas surrounding Knee Hill would also have their own problems – Wickham Lane in Welling is already heavily congested, which would only get worse, as would the side streets which extra traffic would no doubt use as a “rat run”. There would be additional air pollution on top of any increased congestion levels. If this was not enough, any new bridge would need to be high to allow ships underneath, both to the new cruise terminal adjacent to the O2 Arena, and to the Pool of London. If a bridge had sufficient air draught to allow large vessels to fit underneath, it would also need to have very long approach roads to avoid a too steep gradient during the climb up and down from the cross – river bridge span. Conversely my proposed tunnel would have none of those restrictions, and would connect the A13 in South Essex with the A2, and the South Circular in Kent. I feel that other crossings on the East of London will also be required, especially with the creation of Ebbsfleet Garden City (or whatever name the scheme finally gets given) and the Paramount theme park. It seems as if my outline plan for the “Arthur Pewty Memorial Tunnel” (image here) between Rainham in Essex and Lower Belvedere in Kent have at least been in part listened to by the civic planners. On Wednesday an announcement was made that a formal proposal for a road bridge between the two towns was to be launched by Transport for London, in addition to the Beckton / Thamesmead one, as previously described. TfL’s argument is that having two new river crossings would mean that the volume of traffic over each would be reduced, relieving any potential local congestion problems. My concern is that the river is very wide at Lower Belvedere, and any bridge built there would need to be high, long and consequently very expensive. I am still of the opinion that my tunnel proposal is a superior solution. Please feel free to leave your comments below, or Email me privately to I just hope that planning consent does not take over seventy years like the current scheme already has.

The cinema industry is starting to get very nervous about the forthcoming Google Glass wearable computer. Vue Cinemas and the Cinema Exhibitor’s Association had bilaterally announced that Google Glass wearers will be banned from their cinemas. They have concerns that the camera in the Google Glass headset will be used to pirate movies by recording them from the screen. They seem to have overlooked the fact that the current version of Google Glass can only record 720p video for a maximum of around 45 minutes, and is thus incapable of recording an entire movie, and even then not in true high definition. They also have a “recording in progress” light which fairly blatantly shows observers what the Glass wearer is doing. I understand the wariness of the cinemas though; the technology being showcased in the current prototype version will be upgraded to increase the devices’ capability before the proper commercial launch; I would not be at all surprised if the actual production version of Google Glass bypasses 1080 HD, and goes directly to 4K resolution. This would be a genuine boon to potential pirates, though any films recorded in this manner would still be as obviously low quality, wobbly and pirated as the current ones readily available on dodgy DVD on Morrison’s car park in Thamesmead from the Chinese pirate DVD sellers. To be honest I think there is just as much resistance to the cinema industry to new, potentially disruptive technology they neither understand or want.

A story from the News Shopper caught my attention this week;  a lady called Michelle Roberts got sent  down for three and a half years for a range of thefts, including from her own relatives at her Uncle’s funeral in Southend in 2011, and from other friends and well wishers when she fraudulently claimed that her son had cancer so that she could obtain money for his treatment. You can read the story here. Many readers think she only got six months in prison, but the judge sentenced her to six months for each offence, which are to run concurrently. What this news article does not say is that I used to know her when she worked at the Gallions View Nursing Home in Thamesmead, where my Dad spent the last six and a half years of his life. She was a care assistant there, and to be honest she was not bad; we certainly would not have taken her for a habitual thief and liar. I notice in the photo the News Shopper use, Roberts has a stethoscope around her neck. This must have just been a pose, as she was not a qualified nurse, or even a senior member of the carers. Knowing the Gallions View team as a whole, I am sure that they will be horrified at the news that a former employee could turn out to be such a nasty and dishonest piece of work.

Regular readers may be aware that I run an occasional feature on independent local businesses, and how their work benefits the economy. This week I have received an Email from Dave Parsons, the boss of Kort Propulsion – a world famous and long established marine engineering company that are based in the old River Police station in Erith High street, right on the river front. The Email contained a press release concerning a large export order the company have recently won:- "Kort Propulsion receives order for further 28 x 7.5M RAMEWC Tugboats in Egypt. Kort Propulsion has received an order for the second batch of twenty eight Tug boats for the Egyptian Army. The 7.5M RAMEWC tug boat which has a requirement of 8 Knots and 2.3T Bollard Pull. The first fourteen recently completed by Kort exceeded the Egyptian Armies expectations and requirements. We are delighted to receive this positive feedback and the new order, it secures the future expansion plans of Kort Propulsion. Managing Director David Parsons comments "For the past 6 years we have been working on this project which started with an order for 1 Tugboat, Fourteen more in 2012, and now the quantity is increasing to Twenty eight. This new order well into 7 figures gives the platform for further growth in the company. "This is a special day and a mile stone for the company, my late Father Norman who started this project back in 2008 will be very proud of what we have achieved in such a small period of time. We are continuing his 40+ years of service to Kort and proving we can continue in his footsteps for many years to come." This new order for Twenty eight boat sets from Alexandria Shipyard will consist of Deutz Air Cooled Engines, ZF Gearboxes, Shafting, Propellers, Kort Nozzle Rudders, Steering Gear, all of the Fenders on board, Electrical Controls, and switchboards. Alignment and commissioning will be carried out by Chock Design UK in Alexandria, Chock Design was acquired by Kort Propulsion in 2013 and helps strengthen the group, this company specialise in mounting and alignment of rotating machinery, it also has the distribution rights to the RotaChock adjustable mounting product which are being used in the mounting of the prime movers in this project. "With further quantities due in 2015, this provides a great platform to build on our success in previous years. It's exciting times ahead for the company. We have added new members to our team with Naval Architects in our design office and another member of family to the team. Ann- Marie Parsons, will be looking after the marketing and image of the company moving forward. A new website will be launched within the next 2 months to show the continued growth." Interesting stuff indeed. When Dave has returned from his annual holiday, I hope to visit their offices to interview him and his staff, and to compile a feature on the well known and long established independent local company.

Last week I covered the new Bexley College campus on the piece of land between Walnut Tree Road and Stonewood Road, which is getting close to completion, and is scheduled to open in September for the new academic year. Whilst I was being shown around by Principal Danny Ridgeway and Deputy Principal Martin Peat, we discussed some of the archaeological finds that had been unearthed on the site before construction of the new college building began. I was very surprised when they told me that the foundations of the original Erith Swimming Baths had been unearthed; I was aware of the original baths, but erroneously thought that they were located on the opposite side of Walnut Tree Road, adjacent to the old and currently unused Carnegie gifted library building. Actually the baths were sited in Stonewood road, which back in the day was known as Station Road. If you click on the vintage photo above, which dates back to 1908 you can see that the baths were little more than a tin shack with an open roof, right next door to the old Erith tram shed; from the original ordnance survey plans, one can see that the baths were opposite a large coal yard, and very close to cattle pens that at the time existed outside of Erith Station. There was also an electricity generating station where the current substation exists, next to the old library, and the smoke from the boilers would have added to the whiff. The place must have reeked – and I would have thought it would be used more by the working man than by the local gentry. The photo shows some kind of special event, possibly involving a game of Water Polo, which was then becoming popular, after the sport made its first Olympic appearance in 1900. I think the aristocratic looking lady and gentleman standing on the poolside to the centre left of the picture are John Parish and his wife. Parish was a wealthy local businessman who owned several enterprises in the local area, including Erith Ballast pit and the accompanying riverside wharf. You can read more about John Parish here. what is tragic about the photograph is that many of the young men featured in the picture would not have survived the First World War, which took place only six years later.

Residents in and around Manor Road have learned with dismay that their inconvenience is going to last longer than they were originally informed. The large scale re – engineering of the main road, which had planned to be shut to traffic for ten weeks has slipped by a further week, only eleven days after the work began. Residents have not actually been informed of the change in plans, the only way they discovered that things were progressing more slowly than anticipated was that hand written notices that had been spray painted on the old road surface on the section between Londis and Frobisher Road which had read “No parking from 3/7/14" were hastily re – written to say “No parking from 8/7/14". It would seem that the new road surface is being laid at a slower rate than was expected. Residents were told that a liaison officer from the surfacing contractor would be available to answer questions, but little evidence of such a person has been seen. The fundamental re-engineering of Manor Road is vital to the economy of the area, and I suppose a little pain now should lead to a lot of gain later – it is just a pity that communications between the contractor F.M Conway and residents are not better.

This week Samsung announced that they would be ceasing production of plasma screen TV’s by the end of this year. A lot of film and sports fans are very keen on plasma technology, as it offers screen images with very deep blacks and almost imperceptible motion blur. The downside to plasma technology is that it uses a relatively large amount of electricity, and the screens can run very hot. This is not a major issue for commercial users – you will often see very large plasma displays used in offices, where they are often inset into meeting room walls. They have become less popular for home use, however, where LED and LCD technology has been improving steadily, to the point where picture quality differences are now minimal. On top of that, the newer technologies consume far less power, and consequently run at a lower temperature. To cap it all, plasma TV’s can be made in resolutions higher than 1080i, but they are very difficult to make reliably at full 4K resolution (the old spectre of “dead pixels” returns as the pixel density increases exponentially between HD and 4K resolutions).  Plasma televisions tend to be substantially thicker that LED screens – something that is a major factor for many buyers, who want the thinnest possible television in their living rooms. As I wrote last week, now is really not the time to be shelling out a large wodge of cash on a new television – the technology is in too much flux right now. Better to spend a small amount on a cheap and cheerful HD TV and save your cash for when 4K TV has matured to the point when the big broadcasters are actually providing 4K programming before investing in a 4K television, which will also have the benefit of having dropped considerably in price. I recall when I first saw a flat screen television in John Lewis at Bluewater. It had a 42” screen and was about five inches thick – and it cost £12,000! Nowadays a telly a quarter of the thickness would be about three hundred quid; the same will happen with 4K, even if the first sets have not been quite so eye wateringly expensive as the very first HD ones were.

A team from Exeter University led by Doctor Fiona Matthews recently published a report:- "The Effect Of Mobile Telephones On Sperm Quality: A Systematic Review And Meta-analysis”  in the journal Environment International. The team of academic researchers have been studying the effects of microwave radio frequency energy from mobile phones on the production of sperm.  Many men carry mobile phones in their trouser pockets, and the team were keen to discover if this could be a contributory factor in the increase in male infertility in the last twenty years or so. Currently around fourteen percent of couples in developed countries have problems in conceiving a child, and mobile phone radiation may be a contributory factor. The University of Exeter team discovered that in normal conditions between fifty to eighty percent of sperm are healthy and viable, but that this falls by a little over eight percent where they have been exposed to microwaves on the same frequency as used by mobile phones. Dr Mathews said: "Given the enormous scale of mobile phone use around the world, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified. This study strongly suggests that being exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from carrying mobiles in trouser pockets negatively affects sperm quality. This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of infertility, and further research is required to determine the full clinical implications for the general population." Certainly a cause for concern. You can read the full, extremely detailed and technical report by clicking here.

Long time Maggot Sandwich reader Brian Silk (who is also webmaster of the Erith Town website) is also the Manager of local amateur football club Bexley Invicta. They recently won the Aslie Pitter MBE Trophy after winning 4-2 against Bexley Police F.C. at the Thamesmead Town ground in Bayliss Avenue in front of a crowd of more than a hundred people including local MP Teresa Pearce and Aslie Pitter himself. The Aslie Pitter MBE Trophy is named after a chap who first raised the subject of homophobia in football after playing in the late 1980’s for Sutton United and later Clapham Old Boys; when a fellow team  mate discovered that Pitter was gay, he got dropped from the first to the fourth team the very next day by the manager. He realised he was never going to be accepted just for his footballing talent and quit the team. By 1991 Pitter had set up Stonewall FC – the first gay football team in the UK.  Today Stonewall FC has grown to sixty players, and they field three teams, playing home games at Barn Elms playing fields in Barnes, West London. Aslie still plays for and manages the second team. "Today there are five other gay teams in England so we're no longer unique. But with all that we've been through, from some colleagues dying of Aids to others meeting their life partners, the club has become an extended family, and more than a football club." Bexley Invicta are an inclusive football club with both straight and gay players, and are keen to fight homophobia in the game. Bexley Invicta play their home matches at the Northumberland Heath Recreation Ground. If you would like to know more about the local club, you can visit their website by clicking here. Please feel free to comment below. Brian is also a talented amateur musician - here is the video for his latest song. 

No comments:

Post a Comment