Train times

We spent a lot of time on trains while we were away, so coming back to news about the lack of progress investing in UK railways was a bit depressing. Lots of people have said this before but the model for all countries should be Japan (despite the horrible news today). The peak being the Shinkansen which we used to travel between Tokyo and Osaka. I’d never been on a Nozomi Superexpress before, which is the fastest of the lot. It’s not just the speed (max 320 km/hr), it’s the pride and level of service — the trains are always clean, the staff know their stuff and want to help and the stations are full of great food.
A good railway system will be one of the most important pieces of infrastructure for mid-sized competitive countries in the 21st century. You just can’s shift enough people or goods by air or road as efficiently as you can by rail over hundreds of kilometres. At peak times the Shinkansen runs up to thirteen trains per hour with sixteen cars (a train has a 1,323-seat capacity) in each direction between Tokyo and Osaka (just over 500km). Even with six Airbus A320 planes an hour you can only shift just over a thousand people so trains can carry an order of magnitude more people for this kind of distance in a great deal more comfort. Apparently the Japanese experience is that if the Shinkansen connects two cities in less than three hours, most passengers choose the Shinkansen, but if it takes more than four hours by Shinkansen, the majority choose air.
I know railways are difficult to build — I read Christian Wolmar’s excellent book ‘To the Edge of the World’ about the building of the Trans Siberian while we were on it — but with the interest rates that government is able to borrow at at the moment so low, it seems like the perfect time to spend on infrastructure. It’s also going to be an expanding market in developing countries so building an industry able to sell it abroad would be a good idea too.

Formula-e revs up

I went along to my first Formala-e race at the weekend, spending Saturday afternoon in a very different looking Battersea Park which had been kitted out with concrete barriers and steel fences to turn it into a leafy street circuit with narrow twisty turns and a couple of long (fairly bumpy) straights.

It was great fun and there was a pretty big crowd but it did feel like very early days for the organisers. The e-Village was a bit sparse (only BMW seem to have grasped the opportunity to show off their road cars) and the food was a bit meh. They also could have done with some support races as their was not a lot going on between qualifying and the race. I watched the Sunday race on the TV and it’s tricky to say that I got a lot more from actually being there on the Saturday.

Richard Branson is right to say that it’s going to be bigger than Formula One, especially as manufacturers can build their own cars from next year. Competition is hotting up in the electric car world and hopefully the benefits will soon trickle down to road cars and all of us through reduced emissions. Congrats to Nelson Piquet jr on becoming the first electric world champion!

Back and at ‘em


Just back from the longest break I’ve had in ten years I think. Anna and I got married in May (yay!) and we’ve spent the last two and a half weeks on a honeymoon adventure taking the very slow way to a very relaxing time in Japan via Russia, Mongolia, China on the Trans Siberian railway. We had an amazing time and learned quite a bit about what’s going on in those countries.
I’ve come back determined to do a bit more blogging so this is just a marker for that. I’ll share a few of the highlights from our travels and a lot more about what’s going on at BGV. You might have noticed that we announced our brilliant new teams whilst I was away!