London’s leading river bus provider, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers, will be running a special Saturday service this August. If it is successful, it could become a permanent fixture on the River Thames. The trip will depart from the Town Pier in Gravesend on August 7th at 9.45am. It will call at North Greenwich Pier at 10.40am before terminating at London Bridge City Pier at 11am. In the evening, the boat will leave London Bridge at 5.30pm and call at North Greenwich at 5:50pm, Tilbury at 6.30pm before arriving at Gravesend at 6.45pm. Prices start from £11 per person for a single adult journey, or £19.50 for an adult return journey. In an interview with Kent Online, Sean Collins, CEO of Uber Boat by Thames Clippers said: “We remain committed to growing the River Bus network in London and further east. "We want as many residents as possible to realise the benefits of travelling by river in and out of London, in terms of speed, comfort and frequency. "We are optimistic about the volume of passengers opting to use this special leisure service, and we hope soon to be able to offer this additional transport link permanently to Gravesend and Tilbury.” The last time that an experimental ferry service operated from Gravesend to London was back in September of 2017, when a free service was operated by the then MBNA sponsored clipper service into London, which was deemed to have been very successful. It would seem that the momentum to get a ferry service running along an extended River Thames route is increasing, though nothing has been mentioned about the Gravesend to London service stopping at Erith Pier. Unfortunately there are considerable barriers to setting up an Uber Thames Clipper ferry terminal on Erith Pier; the problems can be divided into two specific types. Firstly there are the engineering and physical challenges to enabling a ferry to dock at the pier. A free floating pontoon extension to the existing pier structure would be needed; this would project out into the deep water channel closer to the middle of the river. This would, however create problems of its own. Whilst the floating pontoon would enable ferries to dock at the the pier whatever the state of the tide was, it would also create a hazard to other shipping that uses the river. Commercial vessels, including cargo ships and bulk freighters use the deep water channel, and if a jetty was protruding into the channel, this might create a hazard to navigation, especially at night and at times of reduced visibility. There are several ways to manage this, the most obvious one being to make the floating jetty movable - to swing it out into the deep water channel only when a ferry was approaching the pier. Unfortunately this would add complexity, and therefore cost to the design, and for safety reasons would almost certainly require a supervising operator to be located on site. The jetty, whether movable or fixed, would require hazard warning lights, a fog horn, and a radar reflector. The pier itself would also require some shelters for waiting commuters to occupy in inclement weather - the wind coming off the Thames at Erith in winter can be absolutely bitter, not to mention the freezing rain. Who would foot the bill for all of the alterations and upgrades is uncertain - at this point it has not actually been debated. The second barrier to using Erith Pier as a landing place for Uber Clipper Ferries is actually by far the more difficult one - the bureaucracy and vested interests of the likes of The Port of London Authority, Morrison's Supermarket (who own the pier) and Bexley Council. I know from personal experience that dealing with these organisations, when any mention of Erith Pier is made, it tends to provoke the response of "The answer is no, now what is the question?" Long term readers may recall that I had a small involvement some years ago with an abortive project to bring the Ross Revenge - the Radio Caroline ship to Erith Pier to open it as a public attraction for the Summer season. The objections and bureaucratic barriers that were put up to block the temporary project were simply staggering, and even the involvement of the then Teresa Pearce, MP for Erith and Thamesmead was not enough to get the project the green light, and it ended up being abandoned. The transformation of Erith Pier into a ferry terminal is of a completely different scale, as it would require permanent changes to the pier structure and thus its functionality, which has since it was refurbished and repurposed in 1999 been exclusively for leisure use. Morrison’s could well also object to the change in use, on the grounds that users f any ferry service would be likely to park their cars in Morrison’s car park – despite the car park actually being owned and administered by a third party. There is already a three hour limit on any stay in the car park. If London Mayor Sadiq Khan does put his weight behind the project, I can see it getting enough momentum to actually come to fruition, but to be honest, I still am of the opinion that it is unlikely to happen. What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I took the photo above on Wednesday morning; it shows the single electric vehicle (EV) charge point, located in Walnut Tree Road, Erith, outside of Bexley College. Recent news would indicate that this point may soon be joined by others in the local area. According to reports in various local news websites, Morrison's supermarket has plans to become the leader in the provision of super fast electric vehicle (EV) chargers in the UK. The new charging points, one at each supermarket, are said to charge electric cars six times more quickly than standard points, and will allow customers to go from a flat battery to full charge in under 45 minutes while they wander through the aisles or grab something to eat in the supermarket cafe. A typical 30 to 40 minute charge using one of the new planned charging points, says Morrisons, should give drivers around 100 miles of travel range. Morrisons, which has partnered with company EQUANS for the expansion, says customers will never be more than 50 miles from one of its rapid GeniePoint charging points under the plans now being rolled out. A confirmed list of stores to receive a new charge point have not yet been released. They will be located around the perimeter of Morrisons car parks to ensure they are available to those who need them but do not prove to be an obstruction to other customers and will join 200 charge points already in operation. Andrew Ball, Fuel and Services Manager of Morrisons, said in an interview with Kent Online:- "We know customers don’t want to spend hours waiting for their cars to charge, which is why we’ve made the decision to install the next generation of rapid chargers. It’s important that we continue to offer our customers the convenience of charging their EVs as they shop or eat with us. All of the electricity used for charging will come from zero-carbon energy sources like wind and solar". This announcement comes hard on the heels of one made during last week, that was reported by the BBC News website on Wednesday. The Parliamentary Transport Select Committee announced that people must be protected from excessive pricing for public electric car charging. It is currently far cheaper to charge an EV at home than it is at a public charging point, and that some charging organisations charge excessive amounts. There is also the issue of several, competing and proprietary charging formats, with different plug styles and smart phone apps to manage the vehicle charge, and subsequent payment. All of these are deliberately incompatible with each other. Local EV expert Miles has been in contact with me regarding the situation; he wrote regarding the news of fast EV chargers at Morrisons:- "Now that's interesting, and also news to me. Last time I spoke to Morrisons they had no interest in electric vehicles despite being almost perfectly suited for the infrastructure - I believe they said to me speak to the council? (not sure what the council had to do with a private business?) Not cheap at nearly 40 pence per kilowatt hour, that's nearly £30 to fully charge a modern EV. Cheaper than petrol but blimey, not exactly a bargain which everyone is led to believe. It's good they are rolling out these chargers but they need to get a handle on the pricing structure - why would your average Joe Bloggs move an EV if it's no cheaper (and likely more expensive) than an ICE?"
Concerning local EV charging facilities, Miles writes:- "I have also spotted the charge station which is under development at the (BP?) garage on Bexley Road is still ongoing - it's been months now. They are also notorious for issuing parking charge notices should a driver make the mistake of staying on premises for more than 15 minutes - this'll cause chaos for EV drivers". He then followed this message with an update:- "It looks like the BP charge station on Bexley Road is indeed coming along. It appears that the four(?) charge units are now erected in place and if I didn't know any better, they look to be 175kW stations. It's a shame I couldn't get a photograph as I was passing - they looked hard at work. Indeed public charging is few and far between here, if the world and his dog are to move to electric cars this rollout needs to improve and quickly. Hopefully they have more than the CCS connectors - I'm not sure why that's become the global standard anyway, it's bulky and heavy (see the picture above comparing a Tesla Type 2 vs CCS charging plug) - how is a potentially old or frail person supposed to plug that in safely? With ULEZ threatening to expand to Bexley, and the ever more strict emissions regulations in London it may simply be a matter of time. Not to retread the ground too much, Bexley really need to invest in segregated cycle lanes as I suspect a good portion of people will just consider a car a pointless expense". As it stands, access to EV charging points is a "postcode lottery" with London streets ahead of every other part of the UK. So says the "Electric Vehicle Charging Market Report" from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which found that there are 80 public charging points per 100,000 people in London compared to just 20 per 100,000 in Yorkshire and Humber. All told, there are around 25,000 public charging points up and down the UK today but the CMA reckons that figure will need to swell to between 280,000 and 480,000 as motorists switch to EV. According to Garry Whittaker, electric vehicle expert, the problems around charging infrastructure are much more than just numbers. In an interview with The Register, he said:-"The issue is not so much the general lack of charging points as there are more chargers than petrol stations already. It is more about the location, quantity, and maintenance of chargers. Most EVs have more range than most people's daily commute, so most charging will be at home for those people who have off-street parking." Instead, the issue – for now, at least – is what happens when drivers get caught short and must recharge their batteries? The answer, according to Whittaker, is the need for a "good rapid charging infrastructure nationwide on the key travel routes." Last month, during the G7 summit, a "zero carbon" bus trip was set up from London last month to coincide with the G7 meeting in Cornwall shows just how bumpy the road can be. The idea behind the EV coach trip was to promote the benefits of greener living by driving around the West Country in an electric coach. But that plan ground to a halt when the organisers realised that, despite planning ahead, the charging infrastructure at garages and service stations simply did not perform as it should. In an interview in The Register, event organiser Steve Malkin said:-"The first charging point we called at should have been compatible with the coach – based on the information provided – on arrival, however; it was not," he wrote. "This left us with the decision to 'risk' moving on to the next charging stop 88 miles away. We were able to successfully make it with 15 miles range left on the charge, but it was nail-biting and did not help alleviate the 'charging anxiety' that is felt by so many EV owners and drivers across the UK right now." The coach made it to the Eden Project, where it was widely reported that passengers had been left stranded after the bus failed to find a suitable charging point. Following a succession of disappointments, the tour had to be curtailed and, once eventually recharged, the coach returned to London, empty of its passengers. What do you think? Email me in confidence to my usual address - email@example.com.
This month marks the 25th anniversary of a rather influential piece of computer hardware. In August 1996, Microsoft announced its first mouse with a scroll wheel: the Microsoft Intellimouse. It wasn’t the very first wheel mouse, but it set standards and made a huge impact, which is still being felt today. Since the invention of window-based software systems, there’s been a need to let people change what information is viewed in the window. Somewhere along the way, the scrollbar was born—a user-interface element that lets you move viewable text within a window—and it became the standard way that users scrolled through text for at least a decade. Scrollbars are handy and still in use today, but the act of finding the scrollbar on the screen and then clicking its arrows or clicking and dragging a bar slowed things down. That’s why the Intellimouse felt like such a big revelation. It included a wheel that, when rotated, let you scroll through text with ease. In fact, in its initial Intellimouse press release, Microsoft wrote, “IntelliMouse eliminates the need to use scroll bars.” Notably, the Intellimouse wheel also functioned as a third mouse button that clicked when pushed down, which added more possibilities as to how it could be used. The first Intellimouse wasn’t optical yet—that wouldn’t come along until the Intellimouse Explorer in 1999. No, this unit shipped with a then-traditional mouse ball, which tracked movement with a rolling, rubberised metal ball that moved X and Y positional rollers inside the mouse. I recall back in the day, I would spend ages taking apart Intellimice in the company where I worked at the time, in order to clean the grease and fluff the got caked on the X and Y positional rollers over time, and stopped the mouse from working properly. My colleagues thought I was some kind of mouse repair guru, and brought their Intellimice to me for cleaning and repair - and I rather made a rod for my own back in the process. The Intellimouse retailed for $85 in the US, and around £70 in the UK - a huge amount of money for a mouse when compared to today. They began shipping to the UK in November of 1996. At launch, it only worked with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 3.0 web browser, File Explorer in Windows 95, and Office 97, but that was enough to make it useful - and more support would come soon. To bring scroll-wheel support to unsupported apps early on, Planet Crafters created a popular shareware program called Flywheel that allowed people to use the Intellimouse with Netscape Navigator before it gained official scroll-wheel support. But other apps soon fell in line. With endlessly scrolling websites growing in popularity at the time, the mouse wheel became a must-have productivity feature. You might say its killer app was enabling you to devour the web at record speed. Within a few years, it felt like scroll wheels had always been there. Microsoft veteran Eric Michelman, the former group programme manager for Excel, wrote an excellent account of the creation of the scroll wheel within Microsoft from his perspective. In the article, the hardware scrolling idea originated when he sought a new way to quickly zoom in and out of spreadsheets in Excel. He rigged up a prototype using a PC joystick and presented the idea to Microsoft’s hardware team, receiving a tepid response. But Michelman didn’t give up. It isn’t clear exactly where the idea of adding a wheel to the mouse originated within Microsoft. Michelman wrote that after some more experimentation on his part, “The hardware guys came back and said that they had considered adding a wheel to the mouse, but they weren’t sure what it would be used for.” Regardless of the wheel’s ultimate origins, the Office team quickly understood that it could be useful—but they disagreed about how. After some vigorous internal debate about whether the wheel should scroll text by default (in Word) or zoom in and out on data (in Excel), the scroll function won out. With a clear purpose in mind, Microsoft’s hardware team got to work crafting the mouse. With regard to scrolling vs. zooming, the Office team ultimately reached a compromise, allowing people to hold down Ctrl on the keyboard while moving the wheel to zoom in and out. This alternate zooming behaviour is still a standard feature of Windows and Windows applications today. After launching in late 1996, the Intellimouse received a warm reception from the press, who viewed the innovation with curiosity. They initially pointed out its limited software support, but soon grew to love it and cite it as an essential upgrade. Today, few recall that Microsoft also launched an Intellimouse trackball—which also included a scroll wheel—at the same time. Meanwhile, the input device industry adopted the wheel-mouse idea wholeheartedly, with several manufacturers (especially Logitech) creating their own scroll-wheel mice and trackballs in short order. Variations of the scrolling idea also sprang up, including mice that used buttons or a rocker switch to scroll instead of a wheel as well as a Trackpoint mouse from IBM. On Microsoft’s part, the Intellimouse was a big commercial success. It spawned a line of successor mice and trackballs that added more buttons, optical tracking, wireless support, and more features over the following decade. In 2018, Microsoft relaunched the Intellimouse brand with the Classic Intellimouse, a new variation on a classic wireless scroll-wheel design. Today, you can still buy Intellimouse models from Microsoft, including the Microsoft Pro Intellimouse, which is aimed at gamers. What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As mentioned previously, Bexley Police have ceased releasing detailed weekly ward report information to Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association, and the public in general. I am aware that this is a source of friction between the various parties, and I am not aware that a solution is yet in sight, though we live in hope. This week Bexley Police have released some statistics on crimes reported in the borough. You can download the PDF document by clicking here. In my opinion the document is little more than useless, as it gives no details of the crimes, the circumstances under which they were committed, or indeed what efforts the Police are making to solve the crimes and bring the guilty to justice. To this end, Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association have released the following request:- "The police would like to hear your views on how they deliver updates to you. Your views will help them improve the way they do it. Please complete the short online survey to tell them how you feel about the information you receive or the lack of it. Your comments are required by midday on Friday 6th August". There have been a few isolated ward reports, but unfortunately these are the exception, rather than the rule. There is a brief report from Barnehurst ward:- "The Barnehurst Safer Neighbourhoods Policing Team will be holding a crime prevention Smart Water event on Saturday 7th August. It will be held outside the main entrance of Barnehurst Golf Club, Mayplace Road East, DA7 6JU, between the hours of 1100-1300 hours. Residents will get crime prevention advice and be offered Smart Water property marking kits free of charge". Erith ward:- "Our Erith Ward panel meeting is on the 4th of August at 7 pm at the Exchange Erith. Hope you can attend and if you could let me know that would be wonderful". Slade Green and Northend ward:- "At approximately 22.30 hours on Monday 26th July, a man was seen in Oak Road walking down the street trying car door handles. He managed to get into 1 vehicle, where he stole a wallet and was caught sitting in another vehicle before running away".