Melksham Community Transport’s two Stratas

first_imgCommunity Minibus Fund has helped pay for the two new Mellor StratasMelksham Community Transport has taken delivery of two Mercedes-Benz Sprinters with coachbuilt Strata bodywork, supplied by Mellor (01706 860610).They carry up to 16 passengers and they have been purchased thanks to a grant from the government’s Community Minibus Fund.“We’re delighted with these additional buses,” says Bus Manager George Brown. “We needed to replace two older vehicles but without the grant it wouldn’t have been possible.“The new Stratas will allow more people to get out, and being brand new, they are more comfortable and will be more fuel efficient.”last_img

MPs start inquiry into CT sector

Roadgas offers biogas fuelling plant leasing

first_imgRoadgas can offer leasing options on depot infrastructure for the supply of biogas as part of “a range of financial options” to help a transition to the use of the fuel, it has announced.The development comes after Roadgas expanded Nottingham City Transport’s biogas fuelling station with the addition of two compressors and three further dispensers to support 120 biogas double-deckers.Says MD David Rix: “The capital investment required to support the introduction of biogas into a fleet of any size is significant. That is why we have developed a range of financial options to help operators transition to the use of gas as an alternative fuel.”Besides leasing, Roadgas also offers gas station purchase.last_img

Two ZE bus projects terminated and grant funding returned

ADL UK sales team restructure ensures ‘continued customer focus’

Man, 30, shot on W. Kenwood Street in South Bend

Preventing conflict could be the EU’s best idea yet

first_imgThere is a desperate need to strengthen the existing vague Union criteria governing arms exports, and support is growing for the introduction of an EU code of conduct to establish clear rules for weapons transfers.Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland all support the development of a responsible common export policy, but such moves have so far been blocked by the UK and France.However, with the new British Labour government firmly committed to establishing a code of conduct, there is now a real chance for progress. Member states should agree a declaration at the Amsterdam summit on developing a common policy which should be implemented by the end of the UK presidency in June 1998.One welcome initiative anticipated at the Amsterdam summit is the introduction of a programme to tackle the illicit trade in small arms, such as machine-guns and mortars.It is estimated that these weapons are responsible for up to 90% of the casualties in modern wars. The Netherlands’ proposals include improving coordination of customs and police operations and supporting ‘on the ground’ schemes to demobilise and disarm soldiers when conflicts have ended.Ending the absurd compartmentalisation of aid is an urgent priority. The EU should adopt a ‘security first’ approach which integrates money for demobilisation into development assistance. If soldiers are not effectively reintegrated into society when wars end, countries can oftenlapse back into conflict, thus rendering development aid useless. Security first assistance can, therefore, also save money. Compare the 880,000 ecu spent in total on the successful United Nations programme in Mali with the 880,000 ecu a day being spent on the UN peacekeeping operation in Angola.This all sounds like an immense task – and it is. It requires vision, leadership and, fundamentally, political will. There is no bigger test for European leaders in the closing stages of the IGC and beyond.From Albania to Zaïre, the challengeis clear. A coherent strategy of conflict prevention would project European influence on to the world stage, address the external problems which the Union faces and protect the economic and political interests of member states.Furthermore, 40 years on from the establishment of the European Community, it would reaffirm the values of peace and liberty which are the historic foundation of today’s European Union.Paul Eavis is director of Saferworld, an independent foreign affairs think-tank. European countries repeatedly face huge bills for picking up the pieces of conflict. For example, the EU has spent well over 770 million ecu on humanitarian assistance to the Great Lakes region in the last two years.Add to this the cost of refugee flows, peacekeeping, reconstruction assistance and lost trade and investment opportunities, and the expense is formidable. Over half a million refugees have sought asylum within the EU from the countries of the former Yugoslavia. Germany alone has spent 9.3 billion ecu on their welfare.Consider the political damage, and the harm done to the values which lie at the heart of the Union itself, when we were seen to be incapable of preventing a war ‘in our own backyard’ – such as in Bosnia – and the case for action becomes even more imperative.For the EU’s potential ability to help prevent violent conflict has not been fully recognised. The Union has the world’s largest single market, the biggest aid budget, an unparalleled web of historic and cultural ties, representation at thetop tables of diplomacy and economic planning, and access to over 600,000 professional soldiers.Used carefully, these ‘carrots and sticks’ could be targeted to help relieve the tensions which can so often lead toviolent conflict. However, this is clearly not happening.Take the Great Lakes. A convincing EU response to the crisis would have been one which helped mitigate the negative effects of structural adjustment and falling commodity prices, and helped stem arms flows into the volatile area. Coherence between the different strands of European policy is the key to effective preventive action. This in turn demands a common analysis of impending crises and how the Union’s policy instruments could make a difference.Sadly, this is some way off. When foreign ministers met in March to discuss the EU’s response to the Albanian crisis, they did not even have a common brief on what was happening on the ground.The creation of a forum for shared analysis – an EU early warning and policy planning capability – is essential.Thankfully, such a unit looks likely to be established at the IGC. It should be tasked with gathering early warningsof potential conflict situations and formulating practical proposals forprevention. It is crucial that this unit is at least quasi-independent of the Council. The development of shared analysis must take place independently of the political decision-making process which is marred by national interests.Yet all the planning in the world will go to waste if the Union does not control its arms exports.In 1995, the EU accounted for 30% of all weapons sales to the developing world, exports which have exacerbated conflicts, fuelled human rights abuses and increased instability. As it was, the causes of conflict went unaddressed and the Union again simply treated the symptoms with the expensive sticking plaster of emergency relief.The IGC is a vital opportunity for European leaders to prioritise conflict prevention in all aspects of external relations and establish it as an aim of the common foreign and security policy.The current draft treaty text includes crisis management amongst the Union’s tasks.While this is welcome, it is in many ways symptomatic of the reactive state of the current debate. If governments are prepared to commit themselves to managing crises, surely a logical extension would be a firm commitment to try to prevent them from occurring in the first place? Making this explicit in the treaty would provide a useful yardstick against which to measure the EU’s performance.Foreign ministers should follow the lead of their colleagues in development ministries. The Council looks set to agree a declaration at the June Amsterdam summit on Union support for conflict prevention in Africa.This welcome move will commit member states to principles such as the need for coherence in EU-Africa relations as well as specific initiatives such as supporting the development of a multinational African peacekeeping force. Politicians traditionally turn to foreign policy when the going gets tough domestically. “There is nothing like awar to distract the electorate,” cynical commentators have noted down the years.But there is an alternative take on this idea. Why not re-establish the prevention of war at the heart of the EU’s vision? This could be the ‘big idea’ which the Union so badly needs. It would simultaneously demonstrate the importance of the EU to its citizens, provide governments with a welcome diversion from EMU, raise the Union’s international status, lower costs and save lives.Preventing a further war in western Europe was the prime reason for establishing the European Economic Community 40 years ago. This task has been successfully achieved – a fact that should be enough to make us all positive Europeans.However, although EU countries have enjoyed a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity, the same cannot be said for the world as a whole.Since 1945, over 50 million people have lost their lives in conflict and millions more have been forced to live in abject poverty. There are currently 30 major wars and countless lower intensity conflicts taking place across the globe.Europe clearly has a compelling moral duty to prevent conflict. But stopping wars before they start is not simply altruistic. It also makes economic sense. Europe’s citizens – its biggest asset – are being alienated by the European project.What is urgently needed is a raison d’être, a fundamental vision to drive the Union which goes beyond fiscal guidelines and demonstrates the EU’s relevance.With just under six weeks of the Intergovernmental Conference still to run, now is the time for European leaders to address this pressing problem.last_img read more

NEWS IN BRIEF

first_imgTHE Commission does not expect to decide for some months whether to allow EU governments to shelter parts of their electricity monopolies from competition, a spokeswoman said this week. The institution will take several weeks to work out ‘detailed guidelines’ for judging member states’ requests before it decides whether or not to approve them, with final rulings not expected until several months later. Twelve EU member states have applied for permission to delay liberalisation beyond the February 1999 deadline, arguing that transitional periods are needed in certain sectors of their power networks to avoid stranded investments.VAN Miert has rejected US accusations that consumers would pay the price if airlines were forced to reduce flights on transatlantic routes in return for EU approval of their alliances. The Commission fears these air link-ups could reduce or eliminate competition on routes between the EU and the US, and wants the airlines involved to reduce flight frequencies to allow space for rival carriers. But Van Miert said airlines would only be asked to cut flight frequencies if competitors were ready to operate on the routes they dominated.THE Commission has described as “rubbish” press reports that the institution would force WorldCom Inc to divest some of its Internet holdings to win approval for its deal with MCI. The reports that WorldCom would be forced to sell part of its UU Net venture came as the Commission held hearings with the merging companies and third parties. A spokesman for Van Miert added that the Commission “never prejudices anything” before merger hearings, which are a normal step in alliance investigations. SBC Communications Inc said this week it did not believe that its merger with Ameritech Corp would need to be approved by the Commission. SBC spokesman Selim Bingol said the deal would only need to be looked at by member states on an individual basis. The merger would mainly affect the US, creating the country’s largest local telephone company. However, Ameritech has a significant international portfolio including a 42% stake in Danish telecom firm Tele Danmark and a 49.9% share in Belgium’s Belgacom in partnership with Singapore Telecom.EU INTERESTS in negotiations on radio-frequency requirements at the World Radiocommunications Conference 1999 (WRC-99) should be better coordinated than in the past, the Commission said in a policy paper this week. Legally binding decisions on the use of scarce radio resources are taken at the WRC. Next year’s conference will address key issues such as the frequency requirement for global mass market radio communication applications and mobile broad-band services, where the EU has heavy economic interests at stake. Given this, insisted the Commission, it is “crucial the EU adopts common positions”.THE Commission has referred its inquiry into Deutsche Telekom AG’s fees policy back to German anti-trust regulators, citing its belief that the authorities will “take the appropriate action”. Commission officials decided to open their own inquiry in January after the German operator announced plans to charge its customers for switching to rivals. This probe ran in parallel with one conducted by the German national telecoms regulator in Bonn, prompting criticism of a lack of coordination on the issue. Deutsche Telekom had wanted to charge customers between 27 and 48 ecu for changing operators.last_img read more

Conquering the final frontier: mission to Red Planet may finally answer age-old question …is there life on Mars?

A TINY space probe the size of a garden barbecue will tomorrow (19 December) embark on the final leg of its hoped-for Christmas rendezvous with history.Mars Express – Europe’s first solo mission to another planet – will send its Beagle 2 lander hurtling towards the Red Planet where it is due to arrive on 25 December.All eyes at the Paris-based European Space Agency (ESA) will be on Beagle 2’s parent space craft as it jettisons its ‘stowaway’ into Mars’ atmosphere. The craft has survived some of the fiercest solar storms in history on its seven-month journey Two-thirds of Mars missions have ended in failure, often during landing Beagle 2 is due to start capturing images from 4 January The final bill for the mission will be in the region of €300 million Beagle 2 commemorates Charles Darwin’s voyage on HMS Beagle that led ato the publication of On the Origin of SpeciesUnlike Darwin’s Beagle, however, the space version will not be coming back Only then can it set about trying to answer a mystery that has puzzled generations…are we alone in the universe or is there life on other planets?Astronomers have yet to resolve the issue, despite centuries of searching, but we might soon get an answer.If the 65kg Beagle craft survives its fiery descent to the crater of Isidis Planitia at 2.45am on Christmas Day, Europe will have pipped the Americans in a remarkable race to Mars.To achieve interplanetary immortality, all that is needed is for the probe to survive the next 14 days as it makes its final approach to the planet.Beagle 2 mission manager Dr Mark Sims said: “We’ve tried to choose the landing site, tried to choose the engineering to make sure it’s a success. “But there are no guarantees in life.” If all goes well, Beagle 2 will set about its task of looking for signs of past or present life on Mars. It will use a robotic arm to test for evidence of organic matter and water while Mars Express orbits overhead.During its working life of 687 days, European Space Agency controllers hope Mars Express will send back detailed pictures of the surface and use radar to scan for underground water. Scientists think Mars, which has frozen water in its ice-caps, may have had liquid water and appropriate conditions for life billions of years ago. It is thought water may also still exist as underground ice.Mars Express has already provided ESA with a unique perspective of Mars, managing to capture pictures with its high-resolution stereo camera which are quite different from those taken by Earth-bound telescopes.What we know from these pictures is that the sun shines on part of Mars’ western hemisphere, but the rest of the planet remains in the dark.The dark areas at the top of the planet are part of the northern lowlands and the terrain is pitted with huge boulders, volcanic deposits and wind-blown dust sculptures. The camera will play a key role in the spacecraft’s mission to investigate the structure, geology and atmosphere of the planet. It will create an image of the whole of Mars in full colour and 3D.If Beagle meets its milestone next week, probably the biggest cheer will come from UK space scientist Colin Pillinger, the man who invented the lander and, back in 1997, convinced ESA that it had to include a landing craft on the mission it was planning to orbit Mars.Pillinger, 60, who also manages to run a farm, scribbled out his initial design on a beer mat while chatting in a bar.Then he set about raising the €50 million necessary to build his dream machine.“There are more things that could go wrong on Beagle than you could ever imagine,” he admits.“But there is no point thinking about them now as there is not much we can do about them.”One thing is sure: if the mission is a success it will prove that some ideas cannot be ignored – even those that started out on the back of a beer mat. [email protected] riding on interplanetary craft Beagle 2 is a robotic spacecraft that took off from Earth after being launched on a Russian Soyuz-Fregat rocket from Kazakhstan on 2 June 2003 Two crafts are travelling to the planet – Mars Express is the main craft and Beagle 2 is hitching a ride The aim of the mission is to look for life on Mars and discover how its mountains and rocks were formed Mars Express will orbit the red planet and investigate from there It will send the lander twirling towards Mars at a velocity of Mach 31.5 (19,300 k/ph relative to Mars) on a precise trajectory. Beagle has no propulsion system of its own but will rely on the laws of physics to find its way to the planned landing site, a flattish basin in the low northern latitudes of Mars.Once Beagle 2 enters the Martian atmosphere, a heat shield will protect it as it is slowed by friction.Nearer to the ground, parachutes will be deployed and large gas-filled bags will inflate to cushion the final touchdown.Beagle 2 should bounce to a halt on the rocky red soil of Mars in the early hours of Christmas morning.Its first communication – relayed through NASA’s Mars Odyssey craft – will contain a call signal especially written by the British rock band, Blur.The first day on Mars will be crucial for the lander. It has only a few hours of sunlight to recharge its battery using solar panels. read more

Iran deal may be imminent

first_imgNegotiators from the United States, Iran and five other nations neared a deal Sunday on an accord that would lift some international sanctions on Iran in return for stiff curbs on its nuclear program.A provisional deal could be reached as early as Sunday with a formal announcement on Monday, according to the Associated Press, citing diplomats involved with the talks in Vienna.The State Department would not confirm the reports and an Iranian official told POLITICO that a deal was not imminent. “We are working hard, but a deal tonight is simply logistically impossible,” the Iranian government official said. “This is a 100 page document, after all.”Other top officials sounded optimistic in their public comments Sunday. “I think we’re getting to some real decisions,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters on Sunday, without commenting more specifically on timing. “So I will say, because we have a few tough things to do, I remain hopeful. Hopeful.”France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, sounded a similar note. “I hope, I hope, that we are finally entering the final phase of this marathon negotiation,” Fabius told Reuters upon his return to Vienna from a meeting on the Greek financial crisis in Paris.Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who had departed Vienna, is headed back to rejoin the talks, Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Twitter.A senior State Department official declined to confirm that an agreement could come as soon as Sunday.“We have never speculated about the timing of anything during these negotiations, and we’re certainly not going to start now — especially given the fact that major issues remain to be resolved in these talks,” the official said. The nuclear talks between the U.S., Britain, China, France, Russia, Germany and Iran have hit several roadblocks in recent days, including a dispute over whether the United Nations must fully lift an arms embargo on Tehran as part of any deal.A preliminary framework laying the ground for a comprehensive deal was reached in April. The current stage of negotiations was aimed at hammering out the technical details, including how and in what order sanctions might be lifted. Also On POLITICO Iran talks snag on final issues By Michael Crowley Iran talks extended — again By Nahal Toosi John Kerry: ‘We will not rush’ on Iran By Nahal Toosilast_img read more