Tag Archives: transporation infrastructure

From the Rush Hour With Love: Jakarta ‘Escapes Death By Gridlock’!


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On the Right Track: Three Moroccan Environmental Policies Which Should Go Viral


Thanks to diaspora remittances and a longstanding culture of everyday luxury, the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Morocco are not exactly slumming it in quality of life terms. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that today’s Morocco is a little bit like China in the pre-Deng Xiaoping 1970s: a once-great power experiencing a tricky 100-200 year period. Moreover, with a GDP/capita of just US$8,460, those remittances are far more important than they should be; it is safe to say that the country as a whole is underachieving.

It was therefore with some surprise that our Creative Director & CSO recently came across three eco-friendly initiatives – all of which can be filed under ‘cutting-edge’ – which are being implemented in a country that most people think of as a little more than a cute tourist destination on the periphery of Western Europe. While none of these policies are, technically-speaking, original, Morocco is nevertheless breaking new ground in deploying them; this sparsely-populated North African nation should inspire both far wealthier countries and its continental neighbours to copy Maghrebian best practice in the following domains:

  1. High-speed rail. In partnership with France’s SNCF, the Moroccan state railways company ONCF is presently constructing the beginnings of an HSR network; the first line will start in the port city of Tangier before eventually terminating at Marrakech, turning what is presently a ten-hour slog into a <three-hour trip. The initial section of the network is scheduled to go live at some point in 2018, well before planned HSR lines in the US; no other African country is presently attempting anything resembling this level of rail infrastructure.
  2. Bike-sharing. Another first for Africa is Marrakech’s Medina Bike cycle-sharing programme, recently installed as part of the hosting for the COP22 international environmental conference and another Franco-Moroccan partnership, this time between Smoove and Estates Vision respectively. As with HSR networks, bike-sharing schemes can direct the trajectory of economic development away from automobiles, and therefore help preserve the best bits of urban fabric.
  3. Solar power. Morocco is currently constructing the world’s largest free-standing solar power station, a facility that will power no less than 1m homes and which has seen the country receive broader international recognition for its ecological efforts: the kingdom was the only non-European country in the top ten of the Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe’s 2016 Climate Change Performance Index. Most countries in Africa and many far beyond stand to benefit greatly from replicating this technology; for particularly poor countries, investment in solar can slash their energy import bills and enable them to take a more sustainable path to development altogether.


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I’m (Always) On the Train: UK #Commuters ‘Involuntarily Pioneering Mobile Office Concept’!

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Over-Subsidised Savages? Londoners ‘Extravagantly Cream-Off UK Rail Infrastructure Budget’!

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M̶o̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶ City, USA? Detroit ‘On the Verge’ of Eliminating Key Suburban Motorway!

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Copenhagen, Utrecht…Istanbul? Turkey’s Largest City ‘To Become Cycling Mecca’!


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London Property Bubble Latest: Explaining the ‘Blackspots’

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Last month, the Financial Times published one of the more interesting maps that our Creative Director and CSO has glimpsed in recent times, a piece of cartography illustrating the change in property prices over the past five years in the triple-dip recession-hit United Kingdom. The picture is a sobering one, with the vast majority of the country covered in one or other shade of red: since 2007, the value of the housing stock of Northern Ireland has plunged 50%;  one-bedroom flats in the Ibrox neighbourhood near central Glasgow presently retail for a measly £22,000.00.

There is one small part of the UK which has proven (at least thus far) resilient to the general reversal in the cost of property, which is London and a select few environs: indeed, the choicest central municipalities of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea now have a combined real estate worth of more than £90bn, a higher nominal value than the entire property portfolio of Wales.

Yet within this island of house price inflation that may be the only thing standing between the nation’s banks and complete fiscal meltdown, there are some mysterious deflationary tendencies. Boroughs such as Bexley (-4%), Newham (-2%), Redbridge (-2%) and Barking & Dagenham (-11%) have all seen significant price falls in the last five years, with a number of neighbouring municipalities recording almost static growth levels. These are London’s property blackspots, places where a first-time buyer can once again purchase a three-bedroom house for between £100,000.00 and £250,000.00.

But why exactly are they blackspots at all? Why are property prices in these areas falling vis à vis other localities which are arguably at least as overvalued and not nearly as well endowed with new(ish) public transportation systems such as  the Docklands Light Railway, Tramlink and London Overground? After some quick contemplation, we came to the following, tentative conclusions:

1. Historical Perceptions. The east and south-east of the capital has long suffered from a reputation as a crime-ridden, bombed out and polluted part of the world. This may have some truth to it – but it doesn’t correlate with the eye-watering property price hikes in Hackney (33%) and Tower Hamlets (24%) over the same period that the above-mentioned municipalities have lost value.

2. Broader Economic Reasons. The eastern half of London is synonymous with comparative (and in some cases, absolute) urban deprivation. But even within this part of the conurbation there are some locations broadly recognised as aspirational – not least leafy Redbridge. And there appears to be little correlation between the ghettoes of, say, Southwark and its 28% post-2007 property spike.

3. Primeval Swamp. Many of the boroughs where the property bubble has been pricked contain are characterised by possessing an unusually high African, Asian and Eastern European population, particularly recent migrants from West Africa, the Baltic nations, the CIS, China and South-East Asia. Is London a swinging, sophisticated capital? Or a city where novelty + ‘foreignness’ negates the possibility of ‘gentrification’?

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