No, you can't find me in that address now as I move out from the hall. Though I hang around there so...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The "Joy" of High Speed Train (UK Class 43)

(A reply to Joshua Muggleton's Train Again.)

Yes, their engine is one of the noisiest I've ever seen, though hopefully the life extension programme will see the original engine (called Paxman) changed to something just "less" noisy. Some actually lamented the loss of such roar, I, for one rail enthusiast, would definitely not!

I studied in Bath for two years between 2002 and 2004, and travelled a lot between London and Bath. The noise that the train pulls in is unbearable even after two years. I certainly would hate standing in between the vestibules, unless I want a full blast sensory experience of what you just described (or I rather stayed there than listening to all the gossips inside the carriage, which at times, gossips are more annoying than those rather predictable noises!).

Talking about full blast sensory experience, one of the things I love and hate about Mk3 carriages (the technical name of train carriages used for most loco-led train, including the HST in the UK) is the window on the doors. The fact that you have to put your hand (and sometimes half your body) over the door to push down the door handle outside the carriage to open the door means such window is necessary, and at times one would open the window to feel the breeze, or rather, the gale. Though that opened window itself is another source of noise intrusion from the exterior of the train, especially the bogie and the engine, the draught that is drawn in is sometimes so pleasing! That's why I both hate it and love it -- when I ever walk across the train from carriage to carriage (sometimes towards the kiosk, other times just walking around), I end up opening and closing the windows along. Now, that is a bit of sensory incoherence to you.

The compressed air controlled screen doors between the vestibule and the seating compartment are very interesting -- not just they have annoying hisses whenever they open and close, they are also hypersensitive. That means if you stand like 3 ft from the door it would open, which is good if you are moving along, but really bad if you wanted to just stand in the vestibule. Whenever I travelled on HST, I know my clumsiness in opening that coach door so I often move towards the door one stop before I alight. I certainly don't want to hear the opening and closing of doors while waiting to alight, it's not just the hissing of the piston, it is also the sudden plugging and unplugging of the door...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Security, Security, Security

So our straight-talking leader of the UK has unveiled his latest anti-terrorism safety strategy recently. Here are what he said:

The conclusions today of the review by the Noble Lord West on the protection of strategic infrastructure, stations, ports and airports - and of other crowded places - identifies a need to step up physical protection against possible vehicle bomb attacks.

This will include, where judged necessary, improved security at railway stations - focusing first on those of our 250 busiest stations most at risk - and at airport terminals, ports and at over one hundred sensitive installations.

The report proposes the installation of robust physical barriers as protection against vehicle bomb attacks, the nomination of vehicle exclusion zones to keep all but authorised vehicles at a safe distance, and making buildings blast resistant.

While no major failures in our protective security have been identified, companies that are responsible for crowded places will now be given detailed and updated advice on how they can improve their resilience against attack, both by better physical protection and greater vigilance in identifying suspicious behaviour.

So, he wanted more security across the board in public buildings, such as erecting blast-proof walls and restricted road access to annoy everyone who wants to drop off as close to the place as possible (especially for people with mobility difficulties).

Not only that, he also wants to add stop searches at very busy railway stations, which in its very nature is open to the public at most of the times, I don't know how to react on that, as a result that will be subjected to another post.

In lieu of combating the climate change, where air travel is the one of the biggest emitter per capita, I'm sure that's why he's stepping up yet more security measures for visible deterrence, both the "terrorist" and "traveller".

Mr Speaker, just as we are constantly vigilant to the ways in which we can tighten our security, so too we must ensure that the travelling public are able to go about their business in the normal way.

In the most sensitive locations, for example some large rail stations - and whilst doing everything to avoid inconvenience to passengers - we are planning additional screening of baggage and passenger searches.

But in the last few months at key airports there has already been additional investment in new screening capacity. We have been able to review the one-bag per passenger rule and the Transport Secretary is announcing today that as soon as we are confident that airports are able to handle additional baggage safely, these restrictions on hand baggage will be progressively lifted.

Now I don't know whether it seems to be all smoke and screen. I would definitely propose the following security measures to protect public safety (the use of italics makes the statement half-ironic):

  1. Guard towers surrounding the perimeter as well as fences
  2. Setting up checkpoints for all entrances of the airport
    • All entering and exiting vehicles subject to ID check and boot search by airport security
    • All entering passengers would have their passport checked, no matter how they come in: by bus, by car, by coach and even by train. Train passengers would have to pass through a security booth not unlike Eurostar
  3. Check-in baggages screened with X-ray machine prior to approaching check-in counters for all destinations, not just the US, not just a number of airlines. That would of course include budget airlines.
  4. Normal security procedures like any other airport at the security gate. However, Japanese have already concerned with explosive liquids (read molotov cocktails) before 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot.
Where the hell you can find such security? Narita International Airport, the International Gateway of Tokyo. Why? Because of the use of land to build the airport. That's why most new airports in Japan are built by the sea: it is easier to buy off fishermen apparently.

I'm sure some people would like to travel like that, right?

Of course, Japanese being Japanese, they make you feel that despite the inconvenience, they will be very considerate and provide as much assistance as possible to make you feel that you are respected as a human being rather than a scum. Here are a story I heard from my friends of parents:

They travelled in January 2002 around the world for business, especially attending some trade fairs. One stop was Orlando: as a result, they have been singled out to the most stringent security procedures all over the journey whenever and wherever they boarded the plane during the journey. That meant full baggage search while checking in and full body search and shoe search at the security. Now, it went off badly as security attendants badly treated one of them at the start of the journey in Hong Kong, she was so incensed by the insensitivity of their command that she threatened to lodge complaint against them. However things changed in Japan...

When they arrived and departed in Japan, they also got their shoes searched. However, the security attendants provided them sleepers when their shoe got searched, they even offered a cup of tea. Now this is the way to treat your suffering passengers while scanning.

Now, not only they want to provide extra security for us, they wanted to extend the period of detention without charge from 28 days to 58 days. This is subject to another long post, from the history of habeas corpus to the controlling nature of the New Labour government and the Bush government...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

How to beat the Tube Strike

(AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE on 8/9: It might be a week late, but since RMT vowed another strike in the coming week (10/9 - 12/9), I would like to say a few words about that)

As I have heard, there is a wide-spread tube strike in London at the moment. Simon moaned that he is not looking forward to go to Newbury for the next few days. I believe many of you would have the same feeling under such crippling strike. Here are some of my tips you can get around a bit.

1. Read your map!

Yes, you should read not just the Tube Map, but the Tube and Rail Map like this.

So, say you live in the South-West of London and you're trying to get to Newbury. Forget about getting to Paddington first even though it is usually quicker: go through South West Train and change at Reading. Where to get on this particular train to Reading? Clapham Junction mate. Even though the journey between Clapham and Reading is about 50-60 60-70 mins, it'd beat getting stuck at the traffic trying to get into Paddington!

(Edit notes on 5/9: I've rechecked the timetable and therefore change the time needed to travel from Clapham Junction to Reading. It is also interesting to know that South West Trains had retimed slower than it used to be!)

2. Get a bike

If you're adventurous enough, riding a bike would be a fast option in London nowadays sans strike. You'll get sweaty but fit. Though you might inhale a lot of exhaust so wear a mask. Man, you should wear a mask even taking a tube! (Prominent example: this)

(PS. Since taking the tube often involves getting into a deep-level staion, the apparent time benefits have diminshed there. Still, it's quicker than bus before the road traffic above can be horrid in rush hours.)

3. Just stay at home

If you can afford to work at home, do so. You'd alleviate people from crushing buses.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

A Quick line

I'm coming back to London on 24th September and study Electrical Engineering again.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home at last

This is not intended to be a concisive update, in fact I'm doing this on a high speed screeching bus heading back to my home in HK. Just spoken to a couple of mates here, they're pleased that I'm back to say the least.
Well I've a lot to update but whether I bothered to do them is another question. I'll tell you more once i had back home.

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