East Midlands Trains | Frustration at Derby Station

I travel to London a lot. The only way to go is by train really and I make the trip 1-2 times a week typically. The service is average at best with a mix of new/ old trains and weak/ slow WiFi connectivity (which is over priced), to name just two frustrations with the service. A standard open return ticket to London is £185.50. You can fly to Europe for that! Interestingly the equivalent ticket to Manchester (which is also a similar journey time) is £55.20.

I park at Derby station (well try to). Rather than a proper multi-storey (like Nottingham and other Cities) Derby’s car parking offer is fragmented into three surface car parks. The main one on Railway Terrace serves multiple functions; it’s a general customer car park, a short stay drop off, parking for the Police, disabled parking and first class parking. The daily charge is £14. There are two other car parks I could use, but one is on Pride Park and the other is behind the Post Office (which I’d rather not leave my car in, especially overnight, due to security concerns).

Most of the parking bays are marked out, although some are vague and some old ones have been partially removed, but are still visible. When the car park is full, the entry barrier continues to allow cars in (as that’s the drop off circuit). There’s no indication that the spaces have run out, other than driving around. Furthermore the signage advising that 30mins entry/ exit is free, is not clear. I assumed that once I was in, I’d be required to pay £14, or some portion of it, if I then exited to park elsewhere. I suspect others are the same.

Because of the unconventional layout, there are areas outside of bays where you could feasibly park without disturbing other vehicles and there’s nothing to discourage you from doing it. It seems that a lot of people use these areas, as did I one day when running late to catch a train.

When I returned I found a parking notice for £70 on my windscreen. My offence was stated as “Causing an obstruction” and “Failing to park correctly within a marked bay”.

There is a single sign which states the regulations for parking, this is by the entry barrier in small font; not exactly an ideal place to be able to read it, either in a car or on foot. The entry into the car park is badly designed/ dangerous too!

Accepting I wasn’t in a marked bay, I had actually parked with some consideration to other vehicles and know for a fact that I wasn’t causing an obstruction on the one-way road. I disputed the charges and also pointed out the inadequate signage, poor use of the entry system and photos of four other vehicles parked ‘illegally’ but without parking notices. One of which was a Police van, which is located there daily!

IMG_1451
My appeal was rejected (twice) and I was advised that other vehicles/ cases could not be discussed due to “Data Protection” (that classic catch all). I wasn’t asking for names and addresses of people! I was simply pointing out a blatant inconsistency in how they manage their policies.

The very next day I parked in the same car park. The photo below is how I found my car when I returned. The white car is clearly completely obstructing my black car in the middle. However there is no parking notice and in fact all three cars are parked in marked bays (although the white car is in an old bay which has been poorly removed).

IMG_1476
Whilst in dialogue with the Appeals Department, I pointed out that my return train on the day of my parking offence was delayed by 34 minutes (there’s that average service again). As stated on the website I am eligible to claim 50% of my journey cost back as I was delayed, this would be £46. I therefore suggested that my parking fine (which is reduced to £35 if paid within 14 days) could be dropped and I wouldn’t pursue a claim for the delayed train (which incidentally I’ve never claimed for previously). That wasn’t an option for them. I’ve now paid my fine and have made a claim for a part-refund of my delayed journey. I will be doing this in all future delay occurrences as well.

I’m not suggesting for a minute that I’m completely innocent here, I accept I didn’t park in a bay. But I do feel aggrieved by my experience of this episode, which has been poor to say the least! The policies East Midlands trains have imposed are badly managed and poorly communicated to customers. Surely better signage and perhaps a warning notice on my car could have been an option before prosecuting me (as I genuinely didn’t know I’d be causing an offence). Why are there no yellow lines on the roads? That would make it much clearer.

My final point is this; why are the Police permitted to blatantly ignore the parking regulations and consistently park in the marked ‘Drop off’ bay and partially on the pedestrian footpath, causing an obstruction to vehicles and compromising safety of pedestrians? If they need easy access to their vehicles, for genuine emergency activity, then they should have clearly marked adequate spaces.

IMG_1470
East Midlands trains, I think you you need to urgently review your parking strategy in Derby and significantly improve how you communicate to your valued (?) customers…

Formula One; They think it’s all over…

It’s been quite a year in F1 with probably good and bad points in equal measures. The year started with much quieter engines which drew criticism about the ‘spirit’ of the sport being lost. However, some of the racing this year has been pretty good.

One team and two drivers have clearly dominated; the Mercedes Benz with Lewis and Nico behind the wheel. The drivers championship could go right to the wire and either driver could win thanks to double points at Abu Dhabi. That could result in a messy end to the season if Nico snatches the title from Lewis. My money is on Lewis.

MERCEDES F1 2014

Its been good to see Vettel lose his dominance in the Red Bull – and even better to see Daniel Ricciado do so well. I’d actually say Ricciardo has been my favorite driver this season.

It’s a shame Jenson Button has struggled this year with a poor car. I still believe he’s one of the best drivers on the grid and it would be a great shame if he didn’t get a seat next year.

My top team this year, despite my long-standing allegiance to McLaren, is actually Williams. They have done an incredible job in returning to competitive form in F1, on a much lower budget than the others!

McLaren and Ferrari have had a woeful year. For two teams who have been in F1 for so long to get it so wrong seems odd, especially as they have big budgets as well.

The recent departure of both Marrussia and Caterham from F1 has brought to light some serious questions of Bernie Ecclestone (again!) For two teams encouraged to enter F1 with financial support, to then go into administration because the support hasn’t been delivered on is wrong. The balance of funding in F1 is unbelievable.

There’s a really interesting article by Andrew Benson at the BBC on how F1 funding works, what budgets the teams have and how much the drivers earn (or contribute) – click here to see it

Formula one generates an annual income of £1.1bn. 63% of that goes back to the teams. However the way the money is distributed is crazy and supports the dominance of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes and McLaren.  Other teams such as Force India, Williams etc. get much less. Top teams have a racing budget of £250m, they then have separate budgets for things like marketing and hospitality. Smaller teams like Marrussia race on £70m.

I think most people would agree that the racing is what it’s all about in terms of fan support; the strength of the drivers and the teams working together to a generate subtle competitive edge. If so much is influenced by money ‘off the track’ – and the bias of that is firmly placed towards certain selected teams, then surely to some extent the sport ‘on track’ has no real integrity?

So as F1 this season nears a potentially dramatic conclusion, more controversy seems to hang over the sport and question whether its sustainable in the way it’s currently led? Will 2014 be Lewis’s 2nd title year? What will emerge in 2015 to make sure the sport remains engaging and successful?

Mercedes Benz

mipim UK

Last week saw the launch of mipim UK in London. Whilst the organisers and name of the event may be consistent with the annual property pilgrimage to Cannes in the south of France, the event in London was actually very different. Initially I was very negative about it on Wednesday, but the event grew on me through the week.

I’ve talked lots on this blog about what defines mipim in Cannes and how unique it is in terms of an annual event of value to the property market. The UK event was really more of an Expo; a collection of stands which varied from Local Authorities, Developers, Investors, Law firms and the odd Consultant. It was really a show of the regions and everyone was ‘open for business’ (?). Unlike Cannes, the action/ events outside of the conference seemed very limited. I guess a large proportion of delegates were London based so would have been visiting the event, rather than basing themselves there. I also read that 80% of delegates were mipim first timers.

Getting into the conference proved a challenge on the first day as a public protest blocked the entrance to Olympia and even involved mud being thrown, literally. See the Guardian piece on it here.

The talks (well, the ones I could actually get into!) were focused on; a) the seemingly infinite expansion on London fueled of course by foreign investment, and b) The future of our regional cities. The exhibitor presence seemed to major more on the regional cities than London. One key observation was that Manchester and Liverpool shared a stand; promoting a collaborative presence, rather than competing. It seems that George Osborne’s Northern Powerhouse idea has gained much momentum and support already.

Key themes which emerged from the event were;

  • Supporting devolution of power from Central Government to the Regions.
  • The long term impact of overseas Investment on the UK property market.
  • How to promote the regional economies, with HS2+3 being hailed as the answer to all.

Nottingham had a ‘proper’ presence at this event which was good. They had a brand new stand in a prime location – this was much better than the rather generic “D2N2” version used at mipim in Cannes.

On Friday I attended an interesting talk on Tall Buildings in the UK. On the panel was president elect of the RIBA Jane Duncan. One of her key messages at the moment is to promote the importance of having the best quality Planning officers within our UK Local Authorities.

We’ve been facing a few frustrations in recent months on new projects, as LA’s were quick to cut back their Planning Departments in the recession and now they are feeling the strain. The positive outcome of new buildings is heavily influenced by the Planning Process and to be quite honest our system is still pretty weak it seems to me, particularly with the new pre-application process. The key issue is that LA’s don’t see Planning as ‘income generating’ (?!). Rees Peter Wynne, who is a Professor of Places and City Planning, at UCL suggested that if we want to take Planning seriously in the future, they should teach more about it a Eton College as that’s where our future leaders seem to emerge from.

So was it worth it? I think so. I saw a good number of people I know, including clients who I spent time with. I also made a number of new connections which was useful and will hopefully lead to new opportunities.

Mipim of course is not about instant results – it’s all part of a rich organic web of profile raising and relationship development which, if managed properly, will lead to new work down the line.

IMG_1054.JPG

ROAD BIKE EVENTS; THE NEW BUSINESS ‘GOLF DAY’.

Last week we hosted a construction and property focussed road bike ride just a stone’s throw away from our group head office in Chesterfield. The event, named ‘Le petit tour de Derbyshire’, was made up of teams from Morgan Sindall, Simons Group, Henry Boot, Turner and Townsend, Monaghans and Vinci Construction, as well as WCEC of course.

WCEC Bike Ride_1_2

The ride was a 28 mile figure of eight road course between Bakewell and Hathersage in the Peak District and passed Chatsworth House. There was also a gruelling 3.5 mile climb close to Froggatt Edge onto the Moors.

Commenting on the event, Tom Robinson, Chief Executive of Simons Group said;

“It was really good to take part in something a bit different in terms of a business event, in part promoting cycling and health. Being so close to WCEC’s Head Office, this was a great idea. We found that the whole event was really well managed, with a challenging ride and some healthy competition. The atmosphere was informal and everyone seemed to really enjoy it”.

The idea for the ride was that of our Group Chairman James Kemp who originally suggested the idea on LinkedIn; we saw an instant response in terms of interest so it all came together quite quickly from there. The event was a big success for us and demonstrates the huge rise in popularity of road cycling in recent years.

WCEC Bike Ride_2_2

There was a charity angle to the day as well, with teams invited to make a contribution to Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice which, the business has supported and raised substantial funds for in recent years as part of our ongoing Corporate and Social Responsibility work.

In other news…

You might have noticed that the blog has been a bit quiet recently; life seems very busy at the moment! Certainly from a work perspective, we have a significant amount of project work and new opportunities coming through.

From my point of view our Residential and Student Living teams are very busy. We are now working with a number of student living clients, from established national operators to emerging players. Our first scheme, a circa £30m new-build, is now on site in Ealing London, working with GB Group and The Collective. In recent weeks I’ve been racking up some big miles travelling all over the country as a number of other projects are nearing instruction. More to follow on these soon…

Last week WCEC Group were awarded the Gold certification under Investors in People; the highest attainable accreditation level on the scheme. This is a huge achievement for us and again underlines our level of focus and investment in our staff, who are by far our greatest assets.

This evening we are hosting our annual London drinks event in Mayfair with a high profile guest list attending. Next week is the first MIPIM UK. I’ll be there (although the jury is out on how it will compare to the global MIPIM event in Cannes). One thing we can be almost certain of; the weather won’t be as good and travel could be a nightmare thanks to planned strike action on the London Underground!

Major building fire in Nottingham. Industry impact

Last Friday evening news started to break of a large fire at the University of Nottingham’s Jubilee campus. News broadcasters and social media channels were streaming live images of a major incident unfolding. Thankfully nobody was hurt. However the fire it seems was a significant one. It completely destroyed the new £15m GlaxoSmithKline building which was around 70% built by Morgan Sindall.

Jubilee Campus Fire 2014
I know the University quite well having led the design and delivery of two new-build projects in the past, one of which is on the Jubilee campus. I was last down there just a few months ago for a meeting and saw this building emerging.

The proposal for the GSK building was innovative and placed a substantial emphasis on sustainability. The laboratory building was intended to be carbon-neutral over its lifetime and also targeted BREEAM ‘Oustanding’.

The fire investigations will hopefully reveal both the cause of the fire and why the damage was so total in terms of destruction. But one thing we do know is that the building had a structural timber frame, as oppose to more traditional steel/ concrete methods.

GSK University of Nottingham Fire
The use of timber in buildings has increased a lot in recent years, mainly due to its ‘green’ credentials. In simple terms; trees can be re-planted, whereas the environmental damage imposed by Steel and Concrete production are much greater. However, timber is also a solid fuel for fires and therefore risks are increased when using the material  in construction, especially where the full fire protection strategy isn’t fully in place (protection to structure, compartmentation of the building, sprinkler systems etc).

As it happens I worked on a timber framed student accommodation development with the University out at their Sutton Bonington campus a few years back. When we did this, we had to ensure that robust life safety evacuation procedures were in place during the build at all times, meaning more temporary escape stairs were formed on the building.

There have been mixed views in the construction industry for sometime now about the use of timber framed buildings, specifically in relation to fire risk and associated insurances. In July 2006 a six-storey apartment block in Colindale, North London caught fire during construction and the structure collapsed in less than nine minutes.

The fire last week is a setback for the University and I wish the teams involved in rebuilding this project the very best. But I strongly suspect the risks/ issues around using timber framed buildings will resurface within the industry, sooner rather than later. Clients, Construction firms and insurance companies will once again focus on whether timber framed buildings really are sustainable? – in more ways than one of course.

UoN Fire VC Blog

 

An open letter to Apple…

Dear Apple Inc,

I’ve been using your devices for a number of years now. In fact I have come to rely heavily on both your iPhone and iPad products for my day to day business. Notwithstanding the hopeless battery life on the phone particularly, both products have been pretty reliable.

I have updated the software as new releases have been issued by you to keep my devices up to date. However in using iOS 7.1.2 in recent months you appear to have created a conflict with .PDF file formats. I am now unable to view .PDF files on my devices properly. This is kind of critical to me as I both send and receive a lot of .PDF files.

Bad AppleSo my question is really very simple; When (after several months of waiting now!) are you planning to rectify this??

I’m looking forward to the imminent release of the iPhone 6 (or other such name), but my choice to acquire this when released will depend heavily on me being able to access .PDF files properly.

In the interim I will continue to consider switching to a Samsung Galaxy or perhaps the HTC one…

7640b463cac7decf65c571aca949d

Thank you.

Nick Riley.

One ‘Oarsome’ Expedition

Two young men, one rowing boat, and a non-stop unsupported trip across the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Salcombe!

Ocean Valour 2015_3
Every year we head down to Salcombe in Devon for our family summer holiday. This year I spotted a distinctive looking rowing boat out on the water. After a bit of searching I discovered ‘Team Ocean Valour‘; two young local adventurers who are planning an epic rowing expedition next May (2015). Their adventure has a compelling story so I contacted Tom Rainey and Sam Coombs to find out a bit more, and offered to help raise their profile a bit by writing a blog…

Their challenge is for the pair of them to cross the North Atlantic, from New York to Salcombe, in a rowing boat. Their objective is to be the youngest ever team to row from mainland USA to the mainland UK, entirely unsupported. To give some context to their mission, it’s a crossing which has been attempted around 60 times and completed by just 22 (with 5 crews lost at sea!) in 118 years of records. By compassion there have been over 5000 successful summits of Mount Everest.

Ocean Valour 2015_1
The idea emerged to raise funds for The Brain Tumour Charity, an organisation particularly close to Tom’s heart after sadly losing his father Luke in late 2012. The guys also wanted to use the row to raise awareness of the growing North Atlantic Garbage Patch; an area of man-made debris which stretches hundreds of square kilometers, with over 200,000 pieces of debris per square km. This is largely plastics which never dissolve and have a significant detrimental impact on the life of seabirds and marine mammals.

These two graduates are in their early twenties and have spent their whole life on/ around water. They studied Marine Environment at University in Plymouth and have represented GB sailing around the world. They are also surfers, ultra marathon runners and extreme white water kayakers. It’s safe to assume these guys don’t do things by halves!

I met Tom last weekend and had a tour around their amazing £45k rowing boat, purpose built by ocean rowing specialists Sea Sabre. The trip will cover 3800 miles and they will experience freezing conditions, winds of up to 80mph and waves equivalent to seven-storey buildings! This is one seriously hardcore 2+ month long Ice Bucket Challenge…in a rowing boat!

Ocean Valour 2015_4
The boat is pretty basic really, but has some important essentials…

  • It has the latest Communications and GPS/ Navigation kit which will help them navigate and be seen on the Ocean.
  • There’s solar panels for power and a water machine can convert sea water into drinking water.
  • Speakers have been built into central area so they can play music from iPods.
  • They have a Sea Anchor which is like a parachute. This will help them from drifting off course in bad weather.
  • The sleeping area is Bijou, but adequate for both of them to fit in. However they’ll be doing a constant 2 hour rotation most of the time for rowing.

I really admire what these guys are doing, it’s a genuinely massive undertaking and one they seem to understand well. They also have some experienced people around them who are advising. This expedition has to be ranked highly in terms of challenging the human body to its absolute limits, both physically and mentally. The reality is that not many people could do this sort of thing.

You can see more of their story as it happens on their website and donate to the mission for The Brain Tumour Charity. They want to raise £250,000, on top of their costs.

Personally I reckon they could smash this target, especially if they get some support so please help spread the word…

www.oceanvalour.co.uk
Follow them on Twitter @OV2015
Follow their page on Facebook ‘Ocean Valour 2015′

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 60 other followers

%d bloggers like this: