22 April 2009

Speed limit to be cut

The Times (21 April) reports that the speed limit on many UK A roads will be cut to 50 mph under plans to reduce the number of road deaths by a third. The default limit will be reduced from 60 mph to 50 mph unless the local council gives acceptable reasons to retain the higher limit. It would become easier for councils to reduce the limit on residential roads from 30 mph to 20 mph, and average speed cameras would be introduced to enforce the new limits.

The UK achieved huge improvements in road safety between 1990 and 1995, when the annual death rate fell from over 5000 to under 4000. It's now under 3000, and continuing to improve. This is despite a rising population and hugely increased number of vehicles using the roads. So despite the success of the current measures, our heroic Government has come up with an idea that will restrict everyone who lives outside a built-up area and uses cross-country routes. The unpopular measure can be enforced through the recruitment of thousands of new automated police officers (average speed cameras) that can issue penalties 24 x 7, regardless of the traffic and weather conditions, and into the bargain develop a database to show the vehicle movements of a majority of the population. So useful to maintain public safety.

Of course, in revenue terms, this will be 'free'. The cameras, data network, central fines processing and recovery, repairs, replacement, surveillance database if required, signposting, etc., will cost a few billions per year. But the Government probably reckons that it can get the money back through fines - and if they don't collect enough, keep raising the fines. If all else fails, print a bit more money. Of course, we can be sure that this HM Government IT project will be a glowing success. So important when taxpayers money is involved.

Of course, this may be just another kite-flying initiative either (a) to distract the mob from the appalling Government debt that will be revealed in today's Budget or (b) to allow the spin doctors to say "we've listened" when the whole thing is scrapped. Time will tell...

19 April 2009

EDF Energy AngloWelsh Cup

After the excitement of the semi-finals, the final was one-sided. Gloucester never managed to raise their game in the way that had seen off Ospreys. They never looked as though they would win the collisions. It almost seemed as though the confidence that had allowed them to put extra firepower against Ospreys into the breakdown had evaporated against Cardiff. The half time score was 22-5 to Cardiff, and maybe they'd had one or two lucky breaks to be so far ahead. By the end, the result of 50-12 was fully justified, and they were worthy winners.

What a shame that this competition, in this format, won't be around next year. It's a fantastic opportunity for the best teams of the two countries to test themselves against each other, and to give great entertainment and thrills to their fans.

17 April 2009

Greedy Times?

The hikes in the annual subscription for The Times/Sunday Times have outstripped the rises in the cover price. Since 2001, the cover price has doubled, but the subscription rate that we pay has almost trebled.

Annual subscription
06/06/2000: £91
23/05/2001: £91
17/06/2002: £91
4 x 12 weekly subscriptions: (add 8% for yearly rate)
24/11/2003 - 24/10/2004: £96
25/10/2004 - 10/09/2005: £120
11/09/2005 - 20/08/2006: £144
21/08/2006 - 16/07/2007: £156
17/07/2007 - 16/06/2008: £192
17/06/2008 - 16/05/2009: £216
17/05/2009 - 16/04/2010: £240 (about £260 a year)

Some cover prices gleaned from Google:
Oct 2001: 40p weekdays, 70p Sats, £1.20 Suns - £3.70 per week
Oct 2002: 45p weekdays, 80p Sats, £1.40 Suns - £4.45 per week
Sep 2006: 65p weekdays, £1.30 Sats, £2 Suns - £6.55 per week
Sep 2007: 70p weekdays, £1.40 Sats, £1.80 Suns - £6.70 per week
Aug 2008: 80p weekdays, £1.50 Sats, £2 Suns - £7.50 per week
Jan 2009: 90p weekdays, £1 Sats, £2 Suns - £7.50 per week

01 April 2009

EDFEnergy Anglo-Welsh Cup

I've now finished catching up on recordings of the two semi-finals in this year's Anglo-Welsh Cup. Magnificent! Gloucester beat Ospreys by 17-0, with an 80 metre interception try by Balshaw at the death to seal an intense match. This showed Dean Ryan's coaching and direction of the team at its magnificent best - committing more men to the tackle area and literally blasting Ospreys off the ball. Ospreys, despite the brilliance of their attacking resources, never managed to compete against the sheer commitment shown by Tindall's team.

Northampton stayed in touch but never led against Cardiff Blues in the other match. In the first half, their defence was awesome but they rarely left their own end of the pitch. Cardiff pressure brought a deserved try by scrum half Spice, following an early penalty, to lead 8-0 at half time. Northampton came back strongly after half time with an early try by Ansbro, created by Myler (8-5). Northampton had the lion's share of territory and possession for the remainder of the match, but were unable to break through. A penalty for Blair, with 10 minutes remaining, gave Cardiff a wider margin at 11-5, but the match remained on the knife edge until the last play. It was a strange game, with both kickers misfiring and odd tactical choices made, but the intensity of the physical confrontation was wonderful to watch.

Sadly the future of the competition is undecided - the RFU and Premier Rugby seem unable to agree, and this excellent link with the top Welsh sides could be lost. That would be a shame. At least we still have this year's final to look forward to, on Saturday 18th April at Twickenham.