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grey_man

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grey_man last won the day on May 18

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  1. It's tricky because I think the councils have been placed in a position where they have to do things like this. I have a degree of sympathy. What worries me in particular about Warrington is not only their habitual reluctance to be open about these things, but also the swagger they have about it all. You get this from the council in the news, but Lynton Green's cocksure boasting about it all (as well as Redwood) on Twitter is troubling. He seems absolutely convinced that the hundreds of millions of pounds they've borrowed is guaranteed to raise income with no risk. If he was so brilliant at getting high returns with no risk on that much borrowing over a period of decades, he wouldn't be working for a council, that's for sure. I'm sure one of those banks who admit they've made no money from investments over a long period would snap him up on a huge salary.
  2. This is a long read, but explores the issues surrounding councils taking on huge debts to invest in property. In a nutshell - it could be OK but the timescales involved are long, the sums involved enormous and if it all goes wrong, it will do so spectacularly. https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2018-12-04/councils-borrow-billions-to-buy-real-estate
  3. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    People won't necessarily own the cars. That's the point.
  4. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    That's not the end game The quick wins will be in freight and restricted city centre routes. Then we'll move on. The paradox is that it may all lead to an increase in traffic as more people will be able to use cars who currently can't while delivery vehicles work round the clock.
  5. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    Absolutely right. And not just the drivers. Anybody working in logistics needs to be thinking about their future.
  6. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    The links show that the technology is being introduced in limited ways right now, as I suggested; city centres on specified routes and limited freight applications. Basically, it's already with us and there's a good reason why the world's car makers are investing so much money in the tech, albeit that there are lots of problems to overcome. Space tourism is clearly imminent. The FT article says that D B Schenker is about to get a licence to carry freight on a hundred miles of Swedish public roads. I've cut and paste the article below. Swedish autonomous vehicle start-up Einride and German logistics group DB Schenker expect regulatory approval within weeks allowing an all-electric, driverless truck to carry freight on a public road. The two groups said the permit would be a world first, enabling the commercial operation of a battery-powered truck to operate without a driver, following a pilot phase in operation since early November. “An all-electric, autonomous truck has never been put to commercial use before,” said Filip Lilja, who co-founded Einride in 2016 alongside Robert Falck, a former Volvo Trucks executive. Einride and DB Schenker each said they expected to gain the permit by January. The 7.5-tonne “smart container on wheels” is called the T-Pod. Resembling a Star Wars stormtrooper helmet, the vehicle lacks a steering wheel or foot pedal — or even a driver cabin, which can be half the cost of building a truck — offering more room for freight. Powered by the Nvidia Drive platform, a powerful graphic card to process real-time, high-resolution visual data from the sensors and radar, the vehicle is considered “Level 4” Autonomous. An operator, sitting hundreds of miles away, can supervise up to 10 vehicles at once and take over when needed to navigate difficult terrain. To achieve “Level 5” a vehicle must operate without a driver in all conditions. The T-Pod is a 7.5-tonne 'smart container on wheels' and does not have a steering wheel or foot pedal “There is no driver in the vehicle, but there is a possibility to remotely drive it, almost like a drone,” said Jochen Thewes, chief executive of the logistics company owned by Deutsche Bahn. The Swedish Transport Agency already allows the T-Pod to operate as a pilot project going back and forth between two DB Schenker warehouses in Jonkoping, central Sweden. The agency said it was reviewing an application that would allow the vehicle to operate commercially but it declined to say how long it would take. The distance the single T-Pod would travel is quite short, just six miles a day and on only 100m of public roads where it would encounter human driver vehicles, but Mr Falck maintained it would still be a milestone achievement. “The Wright brothers flew 300 metres the first time they took off,” he said. “History is made in small steps.” Einride, a top 10 finalist in Sir Richard Branson’s 2019 “Extreme Tech Challenge,” has just 55 employees, most of whom are engineers. In addition to the T-Pod for transferring goods, the T-Log, its newest model, is made for hauling up to 16,000kg of timber over forest roads. The T-Log is made for hauling up to 16,000kg of timber over forest roads Mr Thewes said the partnership was symbolic of how the wider logistics industry is maintaining its competitive edge against a host of technology groups pushing into its territory. For DB Schenker to succeed, he said, it must win the “war for talent” by taking the lead in reducing carbon emissions and introducing cutting-edge technology. “The industry we are in is, by definition, one of the biggest polluters out there,” he said. “[But] we have the means, the capability to do something about it.” Einride has no intention of selling the vehicles; rather, it leases them and works with clients on a service model. Another client engaging in a pilot project is Lidl, the German grocery chain. For freight customers the lack of a driver, lower fuel costs, and ability to operate day and night should be an attractive proposition, Mr Lilja said. “Crunch the numbers, and it’s clear that self-driving technology combined with electrification is the future of road freight transport,” he added.
  7. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    https://www.ft.com/content/f76ef090-f47f-11e8-ae55-df4bf40f9d0d https://www.ft.com/video/8585a287-de36-4a1f-9863-667f030022e7 https://edition.cnn.com/videos/business/2018/11/30/virgin-galactic-christmas-orig.cnn-business
  8. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    Sure enough. Addison Lee planning self driving taxis by 2021 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-45935000
  9. grey_man

    Council buy Eddie Stobart HQ

    Time will tell obviously. I am not reassured by the council's headlong rush into so many of these investments nor their bullish attitude. I'm amazed for example that Lynton Green hasn't been snapped up by the Treasury or a major blue chip given the confidence he displays on social media about his exceptional business acumen. This extends to Redwood Bank, which seems an ill-advised thing to be crowing about just now. I haven't posted the comments underneath the FT story, many of them from people within the property and investment sectors, but they are even more pessimistic than the tone of this story. WBC has, of course, now invested far more than the sum quoted in the story which was essentially Birchwood Park. I do wonder who is advising them and also worry about their very close associations with developers like Langtree and Peel. If I had to bet, I'd say at least one or two of these deals will go tits up in spectacular fashion. If that does happen, I imagine the fingers will point at somebody no longer with the council - my guess will be Steven Broomhead who probably will be retired by then. Younger people like Russ Bowden and Lynton Green might have to face some music if it completely goes awry and the town ends up bankrupt. That is also a possibility.
  10. grey_man

    Council buy Eddie Stobart HQ

    Local councils ramp up exposure to commercial property Britain’s indebted councils have been spending billions of pounds on commercial property, raising fears that local authorities have ramped up their exposure to the troubled UK high street just as specialist investors look to exit. Councils invested £4bn in land and buildings in the financial year to March 2018, an increase of 43 per cent from a year earlier, according to data from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Officials believe £1.8bn of last year’s total was for investment purposes, a sixfold increase from 2014. Local councils’ budgets have been squeezed by years of austerity, leaving them in search of new sources of income. Some have used record-low interest rates to borrow money to invest in property, including commercial assets ranging from office blocks and industrial buildings, to shopping centres and retail parks. Councils are not meant to borrow to speculate: the government said in 2009 it was “unlawful to borrow with the sole purpose of investing at a profit and without any spending objective”. However, the 2003 Local Government Act does allow councils to “borrow in advance of need”. The latest data also show that borrowing by councils shot up to £10bn in 2017-18 from £4.4bn four years earlier. The biggest spenders on commercial property were Spelthorne Borough Council — which invested mainly in offices — with £270m, Warrington Borough Council at £220m and Eastleigh Borough Council at £194m. Data from the property agents Carter Jonas show councils invested £2.3bn in office buildings between 2013 and 2017, along with £1.5bn in retail property. The figures suggest local authorities are putting an increasing amount of money into shopping centres and retail parks, just as experts warn of a structural decline in the sector as consumers increasingly move online. Though many are buying properties within their own borders as part of regeneration plans, the investments leave them vulnerable to market downturns. Landlords are struggling to sell billions of pounds of UK retail property, as they seek to reduce their reliance on a sector plagued by high-profile collapses. More than 2,100 stores and almost 40,000 employees have been affected by retail failures this year, according to the Centre for Retail Research. “Local authorities are trying to square an impossible circle and raise the funds they need to provide services which the government isn’t funding them properly for,” said Steven Norris, a former minister and chairman of Soho Estates. He said councils risked a repeat of the 1970s and 80s, when Hammersmith and Fulham council entered into billions of pounds’ worth of interest rate swap deals, threatening large losses until the derivatives were ruled invalid by the courts. Joel Benjamin, who is investigating financial activity at local authorities for Research for Action, said councils were taking “leveraged . . . bets underwritten by taxpayers”. He drew parallels with the financial crisis, when 127 councils had almost £1bn on deposit with failed Icelandic banks. Many authorities had borrowed that money, seeking to take advantage of favourable interest rates. “Our town councils remain financialised, unregulated, and financially reliant upon gambling activity, the risks of which, history suggests, they are entirely incapable of managing,” Mr Benjamin said. The government issued new guidance earlier this year forcing councils to explain how asset purchases relate to their core purposes, which could make it harder for them to buy properties beyond their own boundaries, some experts say. However, Tony Travers, visiting professor at the department of government at the London School of Economics, said the investment trend was likely to continue given the continued pressure on local authorities’ budgets. “They will continue looking for any revenue they can to try to prop up their much-reduced resources, and I suspect there will be more [property] investment unless the government decides it wants to cap it off more than it has already.”
  11. grey_man

    Council buy Eddie Stobart HQ

    From yesterday's FT, Warrington cited yet again as one one of the main arse-barers, sorry I mean standard-bearers, of this approach. https://www.ft.com/content/5dcd8fa6-d1e7-11e8-a9f2-7574db66bcd5
  12. grey_man

    Council buy Eddie Stobart HQ

    Well. Firstly, from a purely financial point of view, they need to be getting all of this right. If anybody isn't concerned, they should be. It has the potential to become a massive problem. Secondly, the council's growing role as a developer is in direct conflict with its role as a planning authority. Councillors should be raising some serious questions about what this means for local democracy.
  13. Now here's a thing. UK banks have made zero money from investing in commercial property in the long run. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-10-04/banks-beware-decades-of-commercial-real-estate-made-you-nothing
  14. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    I think you're right in many ways, but there are dozens of cities already piloting autonomous vehicles and drawing up the necessary legislation. That will be where it begins, sometime within the next ten years. Cars driven by people will be restricted in major city centres. Then the creep on to the rest of the network begins.
  15. grey_man

    Motorway woes

    I think you'll see fully autonomous vehicles sooner than you think, first in city centres where other cars will be banned, then with freight and cabs, then more and more on other roads. All of this is the end game for Tesla, Uber, Dyson and Amazon as well as the car makers themselves. There's some interesting research about what happens to motorists' driving behaviour when they know another car is autonomous, because they make different ethical choices and know that the autonomous car will not respond in the same way as a human driver. Basically they behave more like arseholes. I'd like t link to it but can't be bothered to find it
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