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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.

Recent updates

  • Clayton Hybrid Shunter (Clayton Equipment Ltd)
    Article: Jul 11, 2020

    Shunting locomotives are the less-than-glamorous diesel-powered machines that carry out the hum-drum work of moving rail wagons around to make up trains or for shifting heavy loads around extensive heavy industrial sites. Most people have probably seen the squat 6-wheel shunting engines which have served marshalling yards, docks and factories across Britain since 1952.

    Most are now over 50 years old, expensive to maintain and spare parts are now becoming difficult to source. In addition they are noisy for machines that often operate out of doors and at night. They do not comply with modern emission standards and large diesel engines cannot easily be switched on and off so they run idle in between movements, wasting fuel and adding to pollution and noise.

    Electric power means simple traction motors and, with battery storage, a hybrid locomotive can be operated with a small, quiet, cleaner diesel engine delivering continuous recharge power and compliant with the latest EU Stage V emission and efficiency standards. So batteries are now getting everywhere as companies move to cut costs and economies get slowly greener.

    Clayton Equipment Ltd (CEL), based in Burton-on-Trent, is now establishing itself in the niche market of hybrid shunters. CEL first came into existence in 1920 as Clayton Wagons Ltd, a subsidiary of Clayton & Shuttleworth (founded 1842) but emerged under its present name in 1931 as a private company with one employee and two directors - the employee and his wife! They successfully built up a business trading in goods and spare parts for Clayton Wagon's former customers in agriculture and manufacturing. After WWII they acted as agents for International Combustion Ltd who eventually took them over and and both companies ended up as past of Rolls Royce Group. They were floated off by RRG in March 2005 have now become a successful independent company specialising in the conversion of old diesel-powered locomotives and in manufacturing new diesel-battery electric hybrid locomotives for a variety of applications.

    They are currently working on contracts for five 90 tonne, battery hybrid shunters with 56kW diesel rechargers for Tata Steel, Port Talbot. These will be the largest locomotives built in the UK since 2003. Power is delivered by the traction battery and 416 kW maintenance-free, high torque electric motors. The need to deliver 2,500 tonne loads of molten iron safely across the Port Talbot steelworks, operating on gradients of up to 1 in 60 requires high torque and high track adhesion. In these conditions the weight of the locomotive needs to be high and this led to a design based on standard lead-acid accumulators which provide the necessary weight, are cheaper than Li-ion batteries and are easier to replace and recycle.

    Two similar 80 tonne shunters from CEL have been also been ordered for Sellafield Ltd for their nuclear site in Cumbria.

    Pic from Clayton Equipment Ltd

  • Sharon Bowles HS
    Article: Jul 5, 2020

    Sharon Bowles, who is part of the Liberal Democrat Group of the House of Lords, intends to speak on Monday on the second reading of the Business and Planning Bill requesting several changes to the bill so that it becomes more effective in helping the hard-pressed hospitality sector.

    Baroness Bowles is not one to shirk research in preparation for a speech and in order to assess our local situation and to view premises at first hand managed over the last few days to visit nearly every pub in Berkhamsted, Northchurch and Potten End.

    Owners and managers of pubs are very grateful for the provision in the bill to fast-track pavement licensing. However she discovered that this provision by itself actually benefits very few pubs. Relatively few front onto pavements that are wide enough to accomodate tables and chairs, especially as the pavements will have to be used anyway for social distancing for people coming in.

    Of course many pubs already have defined outside areas to which their existing licences apply. Others, however, do not - and even those that do are likely to need increased space at the present time. The problem is that those that could use and benefit from extra licensed space (e.g. they might find it helpful to put some tables and chairs in, say a car park at the back), cannot legally do so without getting their licence specifically extended for that purpose.

    Sharon's simple suggestion is that the bill could be amended so that more licence variations to generate extra space for socially distanced customers could also be fast-tracked - not just for pavements. This temporary help could then cover any suitable areas under the pub's control, and so be much more useful.

    She hopes this amendment, which has cross-party support will pass in the Lords and be accepted by the Commons.

    We wish her and her fellow peers good cheer with this one!

  • Cycling Space in Cow Roast
    Article: Jul 3, 2020

    Thank you to everyone (108) who took part in the informal survey on Safer Cycling and Quiet Roads.

    Local Survey results
    June 21st to 2nd July.

    You can still take part in the survey, if you like.



    1. Would you like to see segregated off-road cycleways alongside suitable roads where space exists?

    Yes: 101, 94%; Maybe: 6, 6%; No: 1, 1%

    Should the segregated off-road cycleways be?

    For use by cyclists only? Cyclists only: 61, 56%
    Shared use between cyclists and pedestrians? Shared: 47, 44%

    3. In some counties a "Quiet Lanes Policy" has been adopted. To make our country lanes safer for leisure use by walkers, families and cyclists would you like to see a 40 mph limit imposed on all unclassified roads within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty?

    Yes: 80, 74%; Maybe: 11, 10%; No: 17, 16%

  • First Spinach
    Article: Jul 2, 2020

    The more you learn about Covid-19, the less you want to catch it - especially if you're over 70 or medically vulnerable. Now it seems that the risk with age goes up even more steeply than we originally thought.

    So we're being very careful about where we go (IF we go anywhere), wear a mask and keep strictly to the 2 metre separation.

    But there's still plenty to do - thanks to Zoom - and of course there's always housework.

    And we've also been putting some work into the garden, with Nick specialising on the two vegetable plots.

    The pic shows the first picking of our spinach.

    You forget just how much better home-grown food tastes than stuff from supermarkets (remember them?).

    Not got a big enough garden? Well, rent an allotment from your local town, parish, district or borough council!

    Fresh air, enjoyable and productive exercise, good companionship (usually) and really tasty food.

  • Cambridge Charge Up Leaf
    Article: Jul 1, 2020

    "The expansion of EV motoring is far too slow," claims Hertfordshire County Councillor for Tring, Nick Hollinghurst. "We need to double the number of publicly available fast and rapid chargers and roll out a thousand or more ultra-rapid EV chargers at strategic locations right across the UK network of principal roads and motorways."

    Nick, himself the driver of an battery powered electric vehicle (BEV) for 5 years, claims that the rate of expansion of the charging points is far too slow - and this is holding back the uptake of BEV cars in particular as well as the general longer term electrification of transport.

    "To head off dangerous levels of global heating we need to do many things together", Nick explains. "Not only must we use active travel such as walking or cycling but we need to use public transport far more - and in many countries people combine these. They walk or cycle to a bus stop, parking their bicycles in secure, sheltered bike racks and then continuing their journey by bus or train."

    "We need to do this because we must cut the use of private cars by 20% at least. And the same time, the cars that people continue to own and use, along with light vans and buses, must be 100% battery electric powered."

    Although most people with hybrids and BEVs have a charging point in their home, many other people are unable to do that, and for them, publicly accessible charging is essential. Workplace charging facilities are now being installed and this is most helpful, but for people on holiday or who have to roam far from home or workplace, rapid or ultra-rapid charging points are important.

    Nick Hollinghurst added, "Early last year, when BP took over Chargemaster, who operate the Polar Network, they made a commitment to supplement Chargemaster's 6,500 charging points with additional chargers located in the 1,200 BP service stations. So far I personally have not seen any yet. BP are ambitiously planning new 150kW chargers able to deliver 100 miles worth of charge in 10 minutes. 400 are to be rolled out by the end of 2021 with 100 in place by the end of 2020.

    "Meanwhile, Ionity, a joint-venture comprising Daimler, BMW, Ford and Volkswagen, is planning to install 240 High-Power Chargers operating at an almost unbelievable 350kW at 40 UK sites and 2,400 at 400 sites across Europe."

    "On a less technically ambitious level, Volkswagen have announced a rather more conventional mix of 2,400 fast 7kW and rapid 50kW chargers at 600 Tesco stores."

    Nick concluded, "There's certainly no shortage of announcements! What is needed, if we are going to make a serious dent in CO2 emissions, are usable charging points right here and now. I hope the slow roll out is not due to the inadequate electricity distribution at the local level of the Distribution Network Operators (DNOs), though I fear that this is indeed the case - a consequence of the privatisation of the electricity supply industry by the Tories all those years ago."

  • Refrigerated Rail Freight Containers (Network Rail and DB Cargo)
    Article: Jun 30, 2020

    European railfreight giant, DB Cargo, has recently launched two services from Valencia and Murcia to their intermodal terminal at Barking in East London. The services were put in place at short notice to transport fresh produce and medical products to the UK to maintain supplies of food and medicines during the covid-19 crisis. The new service uses the Channel Tunnel and HS1, taking 72-hours for the journey. Each train carries over a thousand tonnes of goods and removes carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to that produced by 30 HGVs.

    A third service goes in the opposite direction and moves steel for Tata fom Port Talbot and Llanwern to customers for the manufacturing sectors of Luxemburg and Belgium.

    This time wholly within the UK, a weekly service has been started up for CEMEX taking aggregates from quarries at Peak Forest, near Buxton, to their Birmingham facility. Trains of 22 box wagons will transport 1,684 tonnes of stone each time, loads which would require nearly 75 HGVs.

    Finally a fifth service, also within UK, has been instituted departing from the new dedicated railfreight terminal at Cricklewood in North London. The terminal is already used by Tarmac and FCC Environmental and two other companies will move in shortly. Tarmac alone is served by trains of 1,500 tonnes of aggregates and gravel each. FCC Environmental processes 250,000 tonnes of waste (planned to rise to 500,000 tonnes) to recover useable building material. The new railfreight service will transport residual un-recyclable spoil to Calvert in Buckinghamshire to the north of Aylesbury, to fill in an old quarry.

    The picture is from Network Rail and DB Cargo and shows refrigerated containers from Spain in the Barking intermodal terminal.

  • Brexit Extension
    Article: Jun 29, 2020

    It's been four years since the EU referendum, the UK has left the EU - and the Tories not only are not ready, but are now trying to go back on what has been agreed so far.

    Liberal Democrats are passionately pro-European and while this is a hard pill to swallow for many of us, the issues now at hand are not about Leave or Remain.

  • John Bowden
    Article: Jun 24, 2020

    John Bowden - a Husband, Councillor, Community Worker a Friend and Colleague.

    It is with great sadness that we record the death of our friend and colleague, John Bowden, on Monday 8th June, 2020.

    John had been suffering from cancer for some time, which he fought bravely and without complaint. He endured numerous sessions of chemotherapy and a number of operations but these were successful in giving him many more years of high quality life, with his beloved wife, Karen, and in the community which was so important to him.

  • Watton Works A602
    Article: Jun 23, 2020

    Work to improve the A602 between Tonwell and Watton-at-Stone began in mid-June, with roadworks all along the route. The works will:

    • Enlarge and improve the Watton-at-Stone roundabout where the A602 meets the A119
    • Realign the A602 between Heath Mount School and Stony Hills junction to smooth out tight bends
    • Improve junctions to reduce delays from traffic turning right on this realigned section of the A602.
    • Plant new trees and hedges to improve wildlife habitats along the route

    The work will be carried out by contractor Interserve Construction Ltd and will require a series of road closures including:

    • Tues 23 June - Wed 30 September: Ware Road closed from A602/A119 roundabout (western leg) to Watton House Lodge.
    • Tues 16 June - Mon 29 June: Whempstead Lane closed from junction with A602 Ware Road to Whempstead Lane
    • Mon 29 June - Tues 14 July: Sacombe Pound closed from junction with A602 Ware Road to Sacombe Green Road
    • Mon 29 June - Wed 15 July: Night-time works (Monday - Friday from 8pm to 5am) on A119 roundabout. 3-way traffic lights in place
    • Wed 15 July (overnight): A119 full closure from 10pm to 5am
    • Thurs 16 July onwards: narrow lanes on A602/A19 roundabout in place 24h a day

    Information on roadworks is available on the www.one.network website.

    HCC is also applying for further planning permission for a cycle path to run alongside a section of Ware Road to connect popular cycle routes in the area.

    The Cabinet Member for Highways & Environment, said:

    "The A602 is a key route between the A1(M) and the A10, and important for local traffic. With around 100,000 new homes expected in Hertfordshire by 2031, we're expecting an increase in the number of vehicles on the roads, so it's vital that we invest in key schemes to improve the road network and keep Hertfordshire moving as the population grows."

    Improvements have already been made to other sections of the A602, including the Hertford Road junction in Stevenage and the Anchor Lane roundabout and A10 junction near Ware. This project is jointly funded by HCC and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which has contributed from the Local Growth Fund.

    Adam Wood, Head of Infrastructure & Regeneration at Hertfordshire LEP, said: "Our £20m investment towards the improvement of the A602 is facilitating vital work needed to increase the safety and reliability of this busy section of Hertfordshire's highway network. It will improve journey times and strngthen the resilience of the route to increased traffic flows as Hertfordshire's population increases and its economy grows."

    Cllr Nick Hollinghurst, Herts County Councillor for Tring & the Villages, who is a strong advocate for Active Travel commented, "I very much welcome the commitment to provide an off-road cycle path at least as far as Watton High Street. It is disappointing however that the opportunity is not being taken to instal well-designed and engineered cyle paths to facilitate safe access to the stations at Hertford North, Watton and Knebworth for cyclists. Hertfordshire has many wide roads which are well suited tothe provision of parallel safe, segregated cycleways."

  • floella
    Article: Jun 22, 2020

    A personal tribute from Floella Benjamin.

    Floella Benjamin, Baroness Benjamin, DBE, DL is a Trinidadian-British actress, author, television presenter, singer, businesswoman and politician. She is known as presenter of children's programmes such as Play School, Play Away and Fast Forward.

    "Seventy-two years ago today, HMS Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. Its arrival marked a significant moment in British History. Many of the passengers on-board came from the Caribbean, by invitation, to support the reconstruction of our country. Their hard work and skills would later bolster the economy, fill labour shortages and help establish our National Health Service.

Nick Hollinghurst