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Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

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Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

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Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

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Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

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UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

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Why the London Cycling Campaign designed a bike-friendly lorry

Category : Business

A lower driving position and bigger windows could help curb the number of serious cyclist accidents involving construction lorries.

The London Cycling Campaign has designed a new Safer Urban Lorry, and is calling on the construction industry to adopt it to make our towns and cities safer for walking and cycling.

Compared with current construction lorries, our design has a much lower seating position, lower ground clearance, and larger windows at the front and side. Crucially, the driver can now see what’s happening immediately around the vehicle, significantly reducing the risk of killing cyclists and pedestrians.

At present, half the cycling fatalities in Greater London involve lorries, and about three-quarters of those vehicles are from the construction industry. A large proportion of pedestrian fatalities also involve lorries. Tellingly, the most frequent response from lorry drivers after a fatal collision is to say they didn’t see the victim in the moments leading up to the crash.

We’ve taken care to design our Safer Urban Lorry using existing technology, with features that are already found on many refuse trucks. Modern bin lorries are designed to minimise the risk of running over refuse collectors working close to the vehicle (as well as protecting anyone walking or cycling nearby).

Already a common sight in town and city streets, these vehicles have the same low driving position and high-visibility cab seen on our Safer Urban Lorry. All we’ve done is to marry this type of cab with a lower chassis from a construction lorry.

Worryingly, current construction lorry design prioritises off-road convenience and site cost saving over cycling safety. A high clearance means, in the event of a collision, cyclists are often dragged under the wheels instead of being pushed clear. The high driving position encourages the driver to go faster and closer to other traffic; it doesn’t reduce danger.

We’re confident our Safer Urban Lorry features could be adopted without significant risk to the driver or the lorry. New lorries don’t need such a high ground clearance because site roads are becoming better graded for all vehicles, while low-entry cabs reduce falls and injuries to drivers and also encourage more cautious driving.

Indeed, there are no reasonable impediments to the construction industry adopting, over time, our Safer Urban Lorry design. Too many people – often very experienced and responsible cyclists – have already lost their lives because they were run over by lorry drivers who didn’t see what was happening right next to their vehicle. Drivers should not be put in a position where they have restricted vision.

There’s clear evidence is that current construction lorries pose an unacceptable risk when driving urban areas. Only when the construction industry accepts its responsibilities can we expect fewer crashes, and look forward to safer and more inviting streets for everyone.

Safer Urban Lorry features

1. Lower driving position
The seating position in our lorry is approximately 60cm lower than in a conventional construction lorry, which provides the driver with a much improved view of what’s happening around the vehicle, significantly reducing risk to anyone in the immediate area. Inside a traditionally designed lorry a cyclist in a normal riding position is invisible, yet the driver of our Safer Urban Lorry can see them clearly.

2. High-visibility windows
The windscreen and side windows are much larger in our design than those found in today’s construction lorries, which means enhanced visibility to the front and the side, The area to the front-left of the lorry, where the vast majority of lorry-cyclist collisions occur, is clearly visible.

3. Lower bumper clearance
Reducing clearance between the underside of the lorry and the ground helps lower the height of the cab and the seating position. It also increases the chance of a cyclist being pushed to the side in the event of a collision, rather than being dragged underneath the wheels.

4. Sideguards
Sideguards work in the same way as the lower bumper, increasing the likelihood of a cyclist being knocked away from the lorry in the event of a collision, rather than being dragged under its rear wheels.

5. Early-warning cameras
The best of today’s camera systems provide a 360-degree view around the lorry, ensuring the driver is aware of pedestrians and cyclists at the sides and rear of the lorry, even if they’re not directly visible.

Charlie Lloyd, campaigns officer at the London Cycling Campaign, is an expert on the transport and haulage industries, as well as being a former lorry driver. Mike Cavenett is the LCC’s communications manager.

Fresh blow for Bombardier on £1.4bn Thameslink contract

Category : Business

British firm unlikely to clinch deal, which would have guaranteed 1,600 jobs in Derby, as rival bidder Siemens steams ahead

Bombardier’s faint hopes of wresting back the £1.4bn Thameslink trains contract from Siemens, and guaranteeing 1,600 jobs at its Derby factory, face another blow as its German rival edges closer to a significant milestone in completing the deal.

Siemens is expected to reach commercial closure on the contract this week, leaving the financial terms to be thrashed out before it starts building 1,200 carriages for the cross-London franchise.

In October the Department for Transport sent a shot across Siemens’ bows by announcing it was “assessing options” for the contract, while reaffirming Bombardier’s status as second-in-line to take over the project.

But it is understood the commercial terms of the contract – such as the cost of the trains, depots and carriage maintenance, alongside terms and conditions – have been agreed and the parties are committing them to paper, in a process that could be completed by Friday. Once that is finalised, the commercial terms will be scrutinised by a group of banks which will decide whether to fund the contract, in the final hurdle to be jumped before construction begins.

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, who has campaigned for Bombardier to be awarded the contract, said the DfT “seems incapable of acting in the national interest” by awarding a government procurement to a British-based manufacturer.

He added: “It’s been obvious from the start that the government’s original decision was wrong. But, successive transport secretaries have ploughed on regardless, seemingly blind to the wealth of evidence and deaf to the strength of feeling against the decision.”

In a parliamentary answer last week, the transport minister, Simon Burns, gave an indication of the government’s confidence that Siemens will complete the contracts. He said the DfT had “no plans to announce an assessment of alternatives to Siemens.” In a statement, Burns added: “We are confident we will be able to secure agreement of the commercial terms with Siemens and their equity partners by the end of the year. Financial close is targeted for early in the new year.”

Bombardier, a Canadian industrial group, is the owner of Britain’s only active train factory and has cut 1,000 jobs since Siemens beat it to the status of preferred bidder on the Thameslink contract last year. The decision sparked a political furore and stoked fears that the remaining 1,600 employees at the plant would lose their jobs. Bombardier has indicated the plant will be in danger if the company does not win a £1bn contract to build trains for the Crossrail route in central London. It is shortlisted for the Crossrail contract with Siemens, CAF of Spain and Hitachi of Japan.

The government is negotiating the Thameslink deal with a consortium comprised of Siemens, and the investment funds Innisfree and 3i Infrastructure. The Thameslink deal is structured as a private finance initiative, with Siemens and its consortium partners raising debt to finance construction of carriages at the Siemens plant near Düsseldorf. Siemens and its partners are equity investors in the project, but they are largely financing it through debt and speculation that the contract has been in difficulty has focused on the consortium’s ability to raise the finance.

Letters: Thameslink contract needs full review

Category : Business

I was surely not the only one who was optimistic that Patrick McLoughlin’s appointment as transport secretary might offer a glimmer of hope to Bombardier (Doubts raised over Siemens Thameslink contract, 31 October). As a fellow Derbyshire MP, I presumed he would better understand how damaging the government’s decision not to award the £1.4bn Thameslink contract to the Derby train-maker was. That is why his announcement that he still expects the contract with German firm Siemens to be signed early next year was so disappointing.

Serious doubts remain over the decision made 18 months ago. And there is now an even greater justification for Mr McLoughlin to revisit the decision. At the outset of the procurement process it was envisaged that Thameslink would operate as an independent franchise. The goalposts have now moved. It is now anticipated that a “super-franchise” will be created, also involving some of the Southern and South Eastern services. This is a fundamental shift. Mr McLoughlin’s predecessor, Justine Greening, accepted that termination of the Thameslink contract could take place if there were significant changes to external factors. I have written to Mr McLoughlin to highlight this point and await a reply.

I fear the government is continuing with this process out of sheer stubbornness. The weight of evidence against its original decision is overwhelming. I certainly will not let this issue lie until the ink on the contract is dry and all hope is lost. I only hope Mr McLoughlin, who owes his position not to David Cameron and his cabinet colleagues but to the people of Derbyshire who elected him, shares that loyalty.
Chris Williamson MP
Labour, Derby North

Let’s not avoid the difficult questions on the future of our airports | Observer editorial

Category : Business

Howard Davies has an onerous task in choosing whether we need a new airport or an expanded Heathrow

Sir Howard Davies, the man with the job of deciding whether Britain needs a new airport, must be looking with some alarm at the precedents. In 1971, after more than 18 months of work, the Roskill commission recommended that a four-runway airport to serve London be built at Cublington, near Aylesbury.

When Michael Noble, then minister for trade, opened the debate on the commission’s findings in the Commons, he said of its authors: “I hope that they may draw some comfort from one of my hon friends who said that the fact that he totally rejected their conclusion did not in any way diminish his admiration for the way in which they had done their work and presented their report.”

Their plan, of course, never got off the drawing board.

Committing the Conservatives to blocking a third runway at Heathrow was a key plank of David Cameron’s strategy to detoxify the Tory brand and prove that he would put polar bears before sharp-suited businessmen. It was also built on political expediency – he needed to win Conservative seats in the area. Further, it was a recognition that the building of a third runway would hurt Britain’s then leading role in reducing global carbon emissions

But with the economy trapped in a deep malaise Cameron is having a rethink. There is a strong lobby that suggests that UK plc needs extra airport capacity in order to boost future economic prospects. Also, the UK is on track to meet its Kyoto targets, albeit partly because of economic weakness. There is, too, an argument that the tax system may be a better way of reducing the number of unnecessary flights than a ban on building new runways. Flight travel is simply too cheap compared with rail fares – this is the fault of a tax system that gives an advantage to airlines.

George Osborne now firmly believes that if the UK really wants to build an economy that can properly connect with the rest of the world it needs more airport capacity. But the economic case is being driven largely by self-interested parties, not least British Airways, the British Airports Authority and the bodies that represent them.

It will be a crucial part of the Davies commission to identify the economic benefits a new airport or runway would deliver. Multinational companies make inward investment decisions on the basis of a whole range of factors, including the skills of the workforce, the strength of the currency and the generosity of state support for industry. Whether the chief executive can jet in direct from Chicago or Shanghai may be a marginal consideration.

However, those advocating the development of a hub airport may have a case. If Britain allows its one airport that comes close to being an international hub to become ever more clogged up while Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris become transit points for Europeans, including enterprising Brits, wanting to get to the fast-growing economies of China, India or Brazil, there is a risk that economic opportunities will be missed, ambitions stunted, jobs lost.

However, if any British government is to press the case for extra airport capacity, it needs to make a convincing case for continuing to meet its ambitious carbon emissions target. As this paper said in 2008: “It will require a radical programme of wave and wind turbine construction, nuclear industry expansion and the building of underground vaults to store the carbon dioxide that currently pours from the nation’s coal, oil and gas power plants.”

Unfortunately, there is absolutely no evidence that this government’s energy policy is fit for that purpose. Indeed the government’s desire to pursue a dash for gas as a future energy strategy is precisely the wrong direction of travel.

Even if the case for a hub airport is established, Heathrow is not the only answer: Heathrow already creates all-but-unbearable noise, pollution and disruption for unlucky residents, and its transport links are groaning. Of those affected by noise pollution in Europe, 30% live in and around Heathrow. Is it really sensible to build more airline capacity in the middle of a major population centre?

There is a plausible case that bringing in as many planes as possible – the proposed estuary airport – over sea instead of hundreds of thousands of rooftops makes more sense. As importantly, a giant new airport would provide a powerful economic boost for an area where unemployment is high. Although characterised, until now, as a Boris Johnson vanity project, there is support from politicians of all persuasions to the east of London to try and create a hub – in all senses – which would address the historical inequalities and poverty to the east of the capital.

There is no easy solution. Davies will need wisdom and a good dose of political nous to weigh up the issues – the financial and environmental costs and any economic advantages. He should use his authority to seize the initiative and insist that the question of airport capacity in the UK be settled sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the likelihood of a repeat of the Roskill commission is all too likely.

National Express rues loss of coach concessions

Category : Business

Britain’s leading coach operator said there would be 1m fewer journeys in the first year since the government cut the grant to over-60s and disabled people

The abolition of concessionary coach travel has led to a dramatic drop in journeys taken by disabled and older people, National Express has revealed.

Britain’s leading coach operator said there would be 1m fewer journeys in the first full year since the government cut the grant which gave over-60s and disabled people half-price travel, out of 2.9m such journeys in 2011.

Despite National Express putting its own scheme in place, giving one-third off ticket prices with a £10 coach card, the company has concluded that the move “severely affected the affordability of travel for our senior citizen passengers”.

A spokesman said: “It appears people have been more price sensitive than we thought.” The dwindling numbers contributed to a difficult year for the company’s coach division.

Meanwhile campaigners called on the government to reconsider the cuts. Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, said: “We know many older people depended on the government coach concession to get out and about and see friends and family or go further afield. It was an important way of making travel accessible and affordable which can help prevent loneliness and social isolation. But today’s figures clearly show that abolishing the concession has made it harder for people to travel, particularly in these tough times.

“Many older people live in rural areas where there is often little in the way of public transport so, if they cannot afford to take coach journeys, many will have little option but to stay at home.”

National Express has cancelled three routes since last November due to falling passenger numbers since the subsidy was withdrawn.

Richard Hebditch of the Campaign for Better Transport said: “The announcement from National Express demonstrates exactly what campaigners said would happen. By cutting support for concessionary travel, government is harming older and disabled passengers, while threatening the viability of coach services. The government should reconsider the cut in the light of this evidence.”

Richard Branson denounces DfT for accepting FirstGroup rail bid

Category : Business

Virgin Rail head claims department is being taken for a ride by rival’s ‘preposterous’ sum for lucrative west coast rail franchise

Sir Richard Branson has accused the government of failing to follow its own rules by accepting an “absolutely preposterous” bid from FirstGroup to run the west coast railway.

In a parliamentary showdown between the head of Virgin and rivals from British railways, Branson told the transport select committee inquiry that awarding the west coast main line franchise to FirstGroup was like “renting out your house to the one who offers to pay twice the rent in 10 years’ time [despite] being burnt three times already”.

However, Tim O’Toole, chief executive of FirstGroup, accused Virgin of peddling “outrageous” versions of history, and of making guesses about a bid they had not seen.

The government last month announced it had awarded FirstGroup the rights to the west coast main line, one of Britain’s most lucrative rail franchises.

However, Virgin applied for a judicial review hours before the signing of the contract on 28 August.

City analysts and the RMT union have joined Virgin in querying FirstGroup’s bid.

Branson, who has run the route since 1997, claims the sums mean FirstGroup will follow National Express and GNER in not seeing out the franchise commitments.

In a furious attack on the Department for Transport, Branson said officials had been taken for a ride by the bid: “They’ve thrown this enormous cheque at the end of the franchise and somehow got away with it.”

Branson said Virgin had spent £50m on four failed franchise bids, twice losing out on the east coast line when the winners eventually failed to honour their contracts.

He said: “At some point you have to draw a line. We’d much rather the DfT was open and transparent, and then we wouldn’t have to go to court.”

FirstGroup, the UK’s largest rail operator, bid a basic £5.5bn to run the line until 2026. The sum was £700m more than Virgin offered. With a likely extension and inflation, the difference rises to £1bn-£2bn.

Virgin’s lawsuit claims that the DfT’s procurement process did not correctly assess the risk of FirstGroup defaulting, with guarantees far below the premiums it would have to otherwise pay.

But O’Toole described Virgin’s allegations as “flat-out wrong” and “just another guess they have made about our bid”. Later he promised: “The rent is coming in regular instalments.”

He said the larger sums were due to compounding growing passenger numbers and revenues in the last years of the franchise, where Virgin was predicting flat growth. He said: “Even with a railway stuffed to the gills like Great Western you can achieve growth.”

He hit back at Virgin’s comparison with the previous east coast debacle, saying: “The most outrageous thing is the history Virgin presented. Virgin would have been crushed, it would have defaulted [had it won the franchise].”

He denied excessive risk in FirstGroup’s current bid, but said: “This will require a lot of hard work. There is always risk. We just think we will be able to handle it.”

It emerged in the hearing that the DfT had demanded a greater surety from FirstGroup, pushing up the bond from £50m and settling on £200m, although at one point FirstGroup had offered £15m more.

A Virgin spokesman said the DfT needed be “upfront about these last-minute, behind the scenes, negotiations with taxpayers’ money”.

The DfT said it was unable to confirm any negotiations which were confidential and the subject of legal proceedings.

A spokesman said: “The department was involved in active dialogue with all bidders about the details of their proposals.”

The department has said it would increase its focus on contingency planning in case Virgin’s legal action meant FirstGroup could not take over the franchise on 9 December.

One option was taking the line into state control in the interim. Directly Operated Railways, the government company now running the east coast line, was reported to be looking at the running of the line.

Branson reiterated his offer on Monday to continue to ing running run services for free pending the high court’s legal decision. But the DfT was not thought to be keen.

Speaking afterwards, O’Toole said he had met west coast railway staff and that FirstGroup was pressing ahead for the change of ownership on deadline. “The only fact you know is, no matter what happens Virgin is leaving on 9 December.”

A third runway at Heathrow would be an off-the-scale betrayal | Zac Goldsmith

Category : Business

David Cameron will pay a high price if he opts for the unfair and unpopular non-solution that Heathrow expansion represents

The prime minister believes we face a crisis over aviation capacity in London. As a result, he has put Heathrow’s third runway back into the mix. Given the “no ifs, no buts” pledge he made before the election, it’s a major leap. Combined with the removal of the well-respected transport secretary, Justine Greening, and the equally respected aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, both of whom resolutely defended the government’s stated opposition to Heathrow expansion, all this points to an imminent U-turn.

Why else would the government have announced (yet another) aviation review that will not report until the summer of 2015? After all, if we face a crisis of undercapacity, it is surely odd that the only policy we have in place is an absolute commitment to do nothing for three years. There is only one explanation: the government believes it can press on with a third runway, and without fronting up to the electorate.

This matters for countless reasons. First, political promises need to mean something. As William Hague has said, there’s no justification in U-turns unless the facts change significantly, which they have not. If there is a pre-election U-turn, my colleagues will struggle at the next election to persuade voters that their manifesto is worth the paper it’s written on.

I don’t actually believe we will see bulldozers this side of the election. That would represent an off-the-scale betrayal, and would be noted by voters everywhere. It would also be logistically difficult to pull off. But unless the government is clear with voters it will be assumed that it is wedded to a post-election green light.

A decision to expand would be the wrong decision, on every level. Despite the scaremongering, it remains a fact that Heathrow already has more flights to business destinations than any other airport in Europe. More passengers fly in and out of London than any other city in the world. We are well-connected, we have ample capacity, and we are starting from a position of strength. The problem is that we don’t use that capacity well. If we want to preserve Heathrow’s hub status, we need to stop clogging it up with point-to-point flights to places such as Cyprus and Greece, which between them account for 87 weekly flights, and contribute nothing to overall connectivity.

We also need to discourage operators guarding their slots by flying half-empty planes. Heathrow has terminal capacity for an extra 20 million passengers, and with fuller and, in places, bigger planes, we’d be able to accommodate many more. In addition, we need to encourage a shift from air to rail wherever possible. Every week, for example, there are more than 300 flights from Heathrow Brussels, Manchester, Newcastle and Paris. In time, a better high speed rail network will help.

These measures would relieve pressure on Heathrow, but by improving links to other airports, we can do more. For example, Stansted is massively underused, by nearly 50%, and with proper rail links to the City, it would be the natural place for business flights. There is no reason why we couldn’t facilitate a two-hub approach, with Heathrow catering (broadly speaking) for western-facing flights, and Stansted catering for eastern business flights.

It has been argued that these measures are inconvenient and complicated. But subjecting 2 million residents to aerial bombardment is far more inconvenient. And making room on London’s roads for an extra 25 million road passenger journeys to and from Heathrow is far more complicated.

Always on the look out for the quick answer, the government appears to have been seduced by vested interest. But it will pay a high price if it opts for the deeply unfair, and unpopular non-solution that Heathrow expansion represents.

Heathrow third runway: coalition will not give go-ahead, says Nick Clegg – video

Category : Business

The deputy prime minister says the coalition government will not allow a third runway at Heathrow airport

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Labour calls for delay on west coast rail decision – video

Category : Business

Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary, says the government should delay signing a new £10bn west coast mainline contract until parliament returns next week

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FirstGroup warns against rail franchise delay in Branson row

Category : Business

Department for Transport set to sign £5.5bn west coast rail contract, as Virgin Trains considers last-ditch legal action

Sir Richard Branson’s hopes of clinging on to the west coast rail franchise are fading as the government prepares to formally strip Virgin Trains of the London-Glasgow route.

The Department for Transport has rejected Branson’s offer to run the franchise for free if it delays its decision to award the 14-year contract to FirstGroup. It is expected to sign the new £5.5bn deal as soon as Wednesday morning, although Virgin was still considering last-ditch legal action.

FirstGroup’s chief executive, Tim O’Toole, warned that any delay in awarding the contract would wreak havoc as the industry prepares to bid for a slew of high-profile routes, including the Great Western and east coast franchises.

“This is a huge piece of work that is in front of the industry and we have to get on with it,” O’Toole said. Delaying the west coast decision would “invite this kind of behaviour in other deals”.

He defended FirstGroup’s record as the operator of multiple franchises, including Scotrail and First Capital Connect. Responding to repeated warnings from Branson that FirstGroup had overbid, O’Toole said: “This company is going up against an organisation whose core competency is publicity and PR. And they would be a formidable opponent if that was the only criteria.”

Branson took to the radio and TV studios on Monday to urge David Cameron to intervene in the row and “get some sense” into the DfT. He said on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme: “The person that can really intervene to try to get some sense into the Department for Transport is the prime minister, and the prime minister is currently on holiday, the chancellor is on holiday and we would like things delayed by a month or so.

“If, as a result of that, it means that the handover is delayed, we would obviously be very happy to run it on a not-for-profit basis.” The DfT said it had no reason not to sign the agreement.

The Labour party called for the east coast mainline, which runs trains from London to Edinburgh, to remain in public hands. The shadow transport secretary, Maria Eagle, said Britain’s mainly privatised rail network would benefit from a “public sector comparator”.

Eagle told Progress magazine: “I think having a public sector comparator is actually tremendously important. I don’t really think that east coast as it currently runs has had enough of a chance to be that.”

The east coast mainline was returned to public control in 2009 by Lord Adonis, then transport secretary, after he stripped National Express East Coast of the franchise. The company defaulted on its contract after two years on the grounds that it could not afford the franchise payments.

In June, the government decided to launch a consultation to reopen the franchise, with the aim of returning it to the private sector by next year. Eagle said: “There is a very strong argument for not doing that and just letting east coast see what it can do and supporting it in doing that.”