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The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity.

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  • Rights of Way
    Article: Jan 29, 2022

    This is Guidance that Defra issue to Landowners regarding Public Rights of Way across their Land. This is part of what they should and should not do to keep Public Rights of Way across their land unobstructed and easily usable.

    Keep Public Rights of Way clear of obstructions

    As the owner or occupier of land with a public right of way across it, you must

  • St Peters Fields, Manchester, 16th August, 1819
    Article: Jan 14, 2022
    Forget about those Parties, forget about Johnson - the Tories are removing our Freedoms one by one.
    It's the Tories we need to get rid of, not just the current Prime Minister.
    Three years ago I, and about a million other people, marched to Parliament Square campaigning for another Referendum on Brexit - now that the British people finally were realising what it was all about.
  • wp-content/uploads/HS2.jpg
    Article: Jan 2, 2022

    While welcoming the two-year flurry of announcements from Transport Minister Grant Shapps for rail rebuild proposals, local Liberal Democrat Councillor for the Tring West & Rural Ward on Dacorum Borough Council, Nick Hollinghurst has sounded a note of caution.

    "When looking right across the UK - which is really the only way to view proposals affecting a national rail network - there are lessons to be learned. HS2, or "Cameron's Concorde" as some call it was an ambitious, but clearly needed, major capacity enhancement for our national rail network. But HS2 was spoiled completely by a gold-plated over-specification that now looks like coming in well over three times the original budget. Why? Simply because of a political red line that the London - Birmingham journey time had to be less than two hours."

  • Article: Jan 2, 2022

    Liberal Democrats and Labour have always valued public education to a greater degree than Conservatives, if only because the generally more wealthy Conservative mostly have access to an alternative system.

    This system has greater resources per pupil, ready access to the professions and is over-represented in the intake to our better and more prestigious universities. Whilst not necessarily equiping the young people with the modern knowledge or with the practical or professional skills that the country needs to weather the present difficulties, it is rather more successful in endowing what it blatantly regards as the next generation of the ruling class, with immense confidence untroubled by conscience or sound judgement, and a strong sense of entitlement.

    Thus it has been and thus they strive to ensure it will continue to be. Just look at the present cabinet!

    And so when the remarkable spectacle of a protest by 7,000 headteachers arose in March 2019, two Liberal Democrat County Councillors made a public demonstration of their party's support.

  • Stephen Giles-Medhurst and Road
    Article: Jan 1, 2022
    Herts Lib Dems have hit out at Tory County Council claims that our roads are in "Good Shape".
    In March this year, the Lib Dems protested as over 60 road resurfacing reconstruction schemes were cut from works due by the County Council.
    The Conservative administration cut road improvement schemes (mainly on secondary side roads across the county) and reduced the budget for such schemes by £2m - next year and in each of the following three years. This cut £8m in total from the planned £37m spend up to 2025 - a cut of 22%.
    Now council officers have released figures showing that the number of side roads in Hertfordshire that need of repair has nearly doubled since last year - increasing from 7% to 12%.

  • Cheese and Wine
    Article: Jan 1, 2022

    Well, taking advantage of the Two Households Rule - and relying on the efficiency of Lateral Flow Tests - we made bold enough to invite our neighbours over to dinner on New Years Eve.

    Armed with negative test results and fortified by fine French wine we dined off a ham that had been cooked the day before and then lightly baked in a mustard and brown sugar glaze of Rosemarie's own concocting.

  • Christmas Decorations
    Article: Dec 24, 2021

    Wishing everyone as good a Christmas as present circumstances permit!

    And a happy New Year!

  • Deutsche Bahn (Deutsche Bahn)
    Article: Dec 19, 2021

    "The new German Coalition Government may be more willing to invest in infrastructure," suggests Liberal Democrat Councillor for Tring West, Nick Hollinghurst. "If targeted towards rail and transport modernisation this could be a green boost, not only for Germany but also for neighbouring countries."

    Germany's historic hyper-inflationary episodes left the country with cautious approach to public spending and, despite the financial ravages of covid-19, it has a healthy 7% positive balance on its current account. This compares very favourably with a positive 3.2% average for the whole Euro Area and with the UK's negative 2.9% balance.

    On the other hand as a country where environmental concerns are very important, Germany needs to do a bit more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions after Merkel's courageous decision to phase out nuclear power still left an uncomfortably high proportion of energy being generated by hard coal and brown coal. Though now on the wane once again, right-wing populism managed to put the brakes on onshore wind power development and, despite, a growing national enthusiasm for sustainability, this has meant a greater reliance on off-shore wind which, though more efficient and productive, is technically more difficult and slower to install and commission.

    This, however, still leaves great scope for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and increasing efficiency by investing in a greener rail system and providing greater capacity for domestic and international railfreight.

    With the mighty, sprawling DB network now looking in need of rejuvenation and rationalisation, investment in rail might be a more popular option than hitherto and would bring environmental benefits as well as both a domestic and Europe-wide economic boost.

    This should appeal not only to the Social Democrats but also to the Greens with the Free Democrats perhaps appreciating the employment and business dividend that's likely to accrue.

    Signs are that this might be likely. The previous government under Angela Merkel had already brought in a packet of tax and fare reduction measures to reduce domestic air travel and to encourage people to use trains rather than cars. Now a wide ranging package of investments and carbon taxing that was being proposed before the election may prove irresistible for the Red-Yellow-Green "traffic light coalition".

    These include the rebuilding and improvement of key junctions, a new high-speed line from Ulm to Wendlingen and the quadrupling of the line from Karlsuhe to Switzerland and electrification of the line south from Ulm to Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance.

    We shall see. (pix by Deutsche Bahn)

  • Integrated Transport
    Article: Dec 18, 2021

    A local Liberal Democrat Councillor has called for a new way of looking at Basic Public Transport - we should view it as a Public Service, not as a cash cow for private industry.

    "Let's face it," says Nick Hollinghurst, Liberal Democrat Dacorum Borough Councillor for the Tring West & Rural Ward. "If we want decent, affordable and accessible public transport we need to recognise that it will require significant public subsidy. But what would be the alternative? Roads continually congested by polluting cars and lorries, burning money and getting nowhere fast? Or efficient, affordable public transport - less stress, cleaner air and a safer future."

    Cllr Hollinghurst, who was first elected to Dacorum Borough Council in 1981, remembers that local councils used to play an active role in planning, supporting and developing public transport. "The bus networks in Dacorum used to be far more extensive and frequent - and we used to have our own Park & Ride Scheme based in Gadebridge Park. The County Council and the 10 District and Borough Councils in Hertfordshire would co-operate in planning and both tiers of local authorities also contributed significantly to keeping the bus service affordable and effective."

    "The councils used to share the support costs on the basis of districts and boroughs contributing 25p for every pound the Councty Council paid out in their areas."

    "However," he continued, "this was not to last. First Margaret Thatcher's 1985 Bus Act forced local authorities outside the large metropolitan areas to withdraw from involvement in bus transport and secondly co-ordination and integration of services between different companies and cross-subsidy between routes, was prohibited on competition grounds. Secondly, under the onslaught of their war on local government, Tory governments - in those times when we had them - unleashed cut afterl cut on local council funding while tightly capping council tax rises. Inevitably, faced with steadily shrinking budgets and resources, the district and borough councils, one by one, had to abandon their bus transport support. Faced with rising costs and shrinking revenues, the private companies providing the services cut back more and more to those routes that remained profitable routes. As Hemel Hempstead and the rest of the Borough expanded, paradoxically the bus services contracted and it wasn't very long before Dacorum closed down its Park & Ride Scheme."

    "But we cannot continue like this," he concluded. "We are faced with a Climate Emergency and must cut our carbon dioxide emissions. Just converting all cars to Electric vehicles is not enough. We need to take two other related actions. We must cut the number of private cars on UK's roads by at least 25%, increase the use of public transport and de-carbonise the vehicles that are used."

    Apart from the installation of more roadside and car park EV charging points Nick is advocating:
    * restoration of meaningful financial support for public transport from all local councils
    * finding ways to support and integrate the use of taxis with the rest of public transport
    * developing effective and economic demand-responsive bus services
    restore a more extensive Park & Ride service in Hemel Hempstead
    * car and cycle parking facilities at strategic bus stops
    a requirement for all bin lorries and delivery vehicles to be all-electric

    "If we don't take reasonable actions like these, our great-grandchildren will be faced with disaster in world we would find unrecognisable!"

  • Dirty Ship (Economist)
    Article: Dec 17, 2021
    Out of sight, over the horizon, possibly out of mind as well - but still pumping out pollutants! There's one massive transport network that needs cleaning up, but which we might have forgotten - shipping.
    There are 110,700 ships of over 100 gross tonnes ploughing through the world's oceans. Although mile for mile and ton for ton ocean shipping is be far the cheapest way to transport goods, a great deal of energy is needed to push them through the water. Though fitted with enormous, relatively efficient, diesel engines, the "bunker fuel" that most large ships use for fuel is basically the unrefinable junk that the petroleum discards - something like the tar that is used on roads. Not only is it black, sticky and unheathily dangerous, but it is rich in pollutants such as sulphur and produces clouds of black poisonous smoke full of dangerous micro-particles.

    And that's before we even start worrying about the carbon dioxide that's emitted. This which adds up to more than 1 billion tonnes a year, roughly the same as aviation and the container ships are the worst offenders.

    "Marine Diesel Oil" is a much cleaner fuel, and is often used when close to land or in harbour, but, although pollution is singnificantly reduced, there is little benefit in terms of efficiencience and thus in greenhouse gas emissions. There are some practical and operating changes that can help. For instance bow profiles could be altered to reduce hydrodynamic drag, more efficient packing of the containers, travelling only when full and rerouting to avoid bad weather. The simplest and most effective of all would simply be to reduce speed by 50% - which would reduce fuel use by two thirds.
    Electric power of some sort would be an ideal solution of course, but with battery power this is only practical with short haul ferries with journies of less than 20 miles. Hydrogen plus fuel cells might be usable in the future but at the moment it remains inefficient, expensive and hampered by the fact that most hydrogen supplies come from methane steam reforming and this is even less green than using methane directly in diesel engines, which could well turn out to be a useful intermediate technology. It would produce about a quarter less carbon dioxide than either marine diesel oil or bunker fuel - and would be certainly a lot cleaner than the latter.

    Natural gas, or methane, is, however, a very powerful greenhouse gas - although it persists in the atmosphere for a lot longer than carbon dioxide - and many shipping companies are concerned that leaks from tanks and pipeworks could make the problems worse. This consideration has led several to experiment with supplementing some of its bunker fuel with treated used cooking oil (UCO).
    Eventually, as more surplus electricity arises from wind turbine farms, this could be usefully used to to produce hydrogen by hydrolising water, despite the inefficiency. Then the hydrogen, or, in another variant technology, ammonia, though toxic, could be used to generate electricity in fuel cells.

    One way or another the carbon burden and pollution from shipping must both be reduced - and at a faster rate than the current piecemeal solutions described above are achieving!

Nick Hollinghurst