Business – 1

There is often talk about creating new jobs by the business world, the governments of the day, trade unions and the public.  But, the real issue is about what sort of jobs, and more importantly, what sort of businesses we should have.  For if we do not get that right, we will continue to have recessions and the gap between the rich and poor will grow wider which does not help anyone.  So, I would like to suggest that all businesses, large, medium and small check themselves against the following possible criteria as to whether they are likely to last.  Obviously, more work needs to be done in this area, but I hope it starts the debate rolling.

1. Is the business ethical?

This area covers honesty, morality and integrity.  Are the finances transparent? Is the business above board in all areas of its work, even if competitors gain an advantage?

2. Is the business environmentally-friendly?

Does the product/service have an impact on the environment and the local community, if so, does the business take appropriate actions to mitigate it? Does the business operate to ISO standards in production, property and services?  Are local ethically-sourced products and services used and activelly supported?  Can the products they make be recycled into other products when no longer required.

3. Is the business owned equally by employees, customers and other investors?

Are customers and employers encouraged to participate in decision-making processes?  Is each multi-site business unit manageable and distinctive in its own right?

4. Is the business model sustainable for the long-term?

Is the business model based on long-term sensible profits at a level that is sustainable and most of which are re-invested in the business and the community?  Are the products or services of such a nature that they are adaptable to changing situations and markets?

5. Is the business model based on quality, sensible prices, transparency, service and longtivity?

Are all products made using high quality materials, ethically and environmentally-sourced, that will last a life-time.  Is the customer service based on a life-long relationship, which is genuine?  Are they charging fair prices and is the business transparent in all its dealings with its stakeholders?

6. Is the business based on relational principles?

Are all employees treated equally and fairly in terms of pay, conditions, health, safety, and well-being?  Is the business based on mutual relationships between suppliers, customers, employees, and the local community?  Does the business collaborate with other businesses so that competition is not intense or under-hand?  Businesses do not seek to close down other businesses or provide over-competition in any locality or area of business.  Pay for senior staff is no more than 10 times the trainee non-managerial member.

7. Government support

Government to encourage an even spread of these businesses across the country, particularly in areas of high unemployment, and where various ISO standards are met, bureacracy and legislation is eased.  ‘Beacon’ status is encouraged whereby such businesses help others, through mentoring relationships, get established.

Rail – 1

I wrote the following comments (amended) on the future of UK’s railways and sent them to ‘Modern Railways’ magazine:

With the current situation, there is very little competition and also no co-ordination as to who can do what and when, and no flexibility with regard to innovation, so my tentative suggestions as to improving the situation are as follows:

Abolish all franchises as they currently are, except Scotrail, Northern Ireland Railways and possibly Arriva Wales and re-structure as follows:

  1. Network Rail – to own and run all the track and signalling throughout the UK, with its income to come from access charges, but where a railway company gets price reductions, the more track it uses.  The Government should give it a grant for new tracks and signalling on an annual basis.  Between cities, there should be four tracks so as to provide ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ services and to allow competing companies to operate.  There should also be an accelerated programme for the electrification of all track, with ‘green’ electric power coming from the track, but made safe so that only power comes on when the trains actually connect with the track.  They need to find a lot more staff to facilitate the work to be done during the night from 12.00 am to 5.00 am each day except on Sundays.  This includes intensive maintenance of all tracks and signalling as well as barriers.
  2. A new company should be set up to operate all the stations, with its income coming from the railway companies for stopping at each station.  If a service stops more than twice an hour, there should be cheaper charges.  Each station to build a  community link between local heritage, environment, the bus companies, police and other interest locals so as to increase improvements at each station as well as security and usage.  They should be used for non-train purposes to avoid vandalism. Marketing should play a large part in a station’s life.  Hence the importance of each station being manned.  Stations should be altered so that, along with the trains, they are step free – to facilitate access for the disabled, families with children and the frail.
  3. Companies should be allowed to operate services wherever they wish, in conjunction with the Network Rail, the stations’ company and the strengthened Office of the Rail Regulator.  Hence the need for more track.  This will stimulate competition.  New routes should be encouraged, especially east to west and linked with bus services at interchanges.  If a route is not likely to make a small profit, a subsidy should be given to the franchisor, paid for by local council and national government.
  4. Train companies should have unlimited access to either buy or lease whatever trains they want, providing the trains meet certain criteria regarding step-free access to stations, spaces for wheelchairs and other mobility equipment, braille and loop systems, decent seat pitches for passengers (so they are not like cattle on planes), both for leg room and width, and they are adaptable to either electric or non-electric power, and only using renewable energy.  Better catering facilities, with cheaper prices, should also be provided on more trains.  There should also be a certain amount of co-ordination between companies over ticketing and timetabling to make it easier to access cheaper fares and make sure timetabling doesn’t chaos periods of no trains or connections.  The companies should not receive a subsidy from the government, instead they should receive a one-off subsidy, based on track usage, as a start-up’ package.  Franchisors should be encouraged to buy trains that can travel a minimum of 125 mph and have dynamic external and internal designs that make them unique (see the continental trains).
  5. There should also be a ‘national’ intercity train company, offering prime services between London and key cities throughout England, Wales and Scotland.  These are to include the major ferry and freight ports.  This would be a ‘franchised’ operation, but with no subsidy.  These companies should have a unique ‘branding’ as well as trains that can travel at least 150 mph.
  6. And finally, the Office of the Rail Regulator should have the full authority to inspect the track, signalling, stations and trains and all the companies concerned to check they are upholding standards and fining them accordingly when they do not.  Inspections should occur on a six monthly basis. This office would also run the Rail Investigation Branch for accidents.