Thursday, 24 August 2017

UK On the Buses - Mexican and Thai Style?

With both Mexico and Thailand as top 5 UK growth economies for trade and tourism the news of 90 London buses to Mexico is a great result for UK.

Indeed London bendy buses also being donated to Sudan is another superb result with increased DFID UK aid and Kent's Royal Engineers and JCB support, to help that nation fend off famine and conflict. As well as making real the Cape to Cairo road and rail network - and cargo airstrips - from Nairobi in Kenya to Lake Nasser in Egypt.

A link that is also vital in opening up the Eastern seaboard of Africa to India and ASEAN along with OBOR investment in ports from Djibouti to Dhakar. And Sudan long hampered with the problem of being the nation with the fewest roads.

And surely the glut of Thai rice pledge cereals - and normal harvest surplus - should more quickly and profitably find its way to hungry mouths in Bangladesh and India and East Africa? Four famines in Central Africa is a monstrous failure of UNSDG30 and UNFAO and Commonwealth efforts for zero famine.

But back to Mexico, and 90 Arthur Dennis buses is a terrific effort by Liam Fox UK Trade Minister while battling the silliness of Brexit. As well as dealing with an over-reliance on bureaucratic mega-trade deals that hardly deliver a bean in real terms, and can't be delivered until - if at all - UK has left the EU, transition period and all.

Slovakia's PM has already spoken out for the EU27 - and 48% of UK citizens - against UK cherry-picking aspects of EU membership or even assuming part of Brexit is done until it is all agreed.

Having your cake and eating it just isn't on the EU's Brexit menu.

Prime Minister May herself, just back from holiday for the opening of Parliament, was rightly bussed in to the Dennis factory on BBCTV news to celebrate the contract - and no doubt encouraging wiser business heads such as Grant Shapps, former Tory Chair, and Andrew Mitchell, former DFID head, with crossparty support for such trades.

A specific bus contract - or any other bilateral trade contract such as food or services or tourism - is perfectly viable beyond pie-in-the-sky-someday-never mega-trade deals. The Brexit fault lines have revealed a UK over-reliance on mega all-inclusive all-encompassing trade deals. Indeed Minister Fox isn't resting on his laurels in Mexico, but already banging the drum for UK plc in USA with VP Pence, and in Panama.

Surely that other notable Scot, former Foreign Minister Alex Salmond should be coopted into UK and Scots trade activity for a more united kingdom, rather than treading the boards at the Edinburgh Fringe. The hotel and plane minibar might be drained of IrnBru, but it would certainly ramp up broader UK trade efforts.

EKFOS aside, the UK trade offices in San Diego and Los Angeles must also be best placed to capitalise on UK film and television success whether mega movies such as Dunkirk or mega series such as Downton Abbey or quirkier UK efforts. Not to mention the oft-neglected UK computer games and special effects industries that put the kapow into much of Hollywood. Many UK companies without support against the headwinds of Brexit and a softer economy, could jump the Brexit ship to Dublin or Berlin or Amsterdam.

While much of the USA pharma industry stretching from Boston to South Carolina must be ripe for further investment in UK whether focused on lesser known cancers such as liver and colon, or the modern plagues of dementia and diabetes. Or even the old-fashioned plagues of TB and HIV.

And the 90 buses represent only a part of the 5,000(!) London buses driving around Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand etc - the Mexican deal not just including aircon but training and parts and engineering support.

Inter-city buses in Latin America might well be best left to the repurposed USA school buses that I recall threading their way down through the PanAmericana from California to Mexico and Guatemala and Belize and Honduras and Peru.

But surely UK buses should be at the forefront of Latin America's megacity metropolitan bus services? The UK -German car industry could well give General Motors a run for its money in Latin America, with a strategic brand review of Landrover Jaguar and VW.

And UK activity with Bangkok rail is also feted in the Minister Fox contracts.

With the Bestlin 489 Bangkok buses parked at Customs for breaching ASEAN trade deals, and the saga of the Bangkok fire engines, surely UK and Thailand should move into a higher gear on transport? Even on sharing train and metro/tube expertise - particularly now HS3 the hispeed route across UK, from Liverpool - perhaps Britain's coolest city - to City of Culture Hull, is prioritised over HS2 the vertical Y-route from London to Manchester to Newcastle.

Why shouldn't Thailand also capitalise on the volume of new Bombardier carriages that will be required for those routes? Kent's HS1 route from the Channel Tunnel to London and the 2012 Olympics stadium has been a huge and proven success in speed and comfort in both the hispeed and regular trains.

While Lord Heseltine is helicoptered in to keep The City on track with the Thames Gateway Coastal Kent project around Docklands and Ebbsfleet Garden City with Paramount theme park.

That theme park currently seems Mission Impossible - but delays open the door to Disney and Warner's Harry Potter, both giant magnets for UK tourism nestled next to Bluewater, Europe's largest shopping centre. A part of such access will no doubt be tweaks including the regular train commuter route from Kent through to France and Benelux.

That rail service will be a boon too for connecting Kent and Benelux hospitals to share expertise and reduce waiting times - with Kent's rather beleaguered NHS this week gaining a shot in the arm as one of 11 UK areas to gain Whitehall support for increasing overseas medical staff, with 2,000 nurses and doctors required.

Surely that’s an opportunity for both Thailand and Philippines to gain special priority visas and English language training without UK plundering their health services or universities? Minister Fox as an NHS doctor would no doubt be keen to ensure those health contracts and even Operation Smile cleft palate surgeries or Moorfields eye hospital franchises, are a roaring success in ASEAN too.

With the new Bangkok bus route changes with English letters and colour-coded routes surely there's never been a better time for UK and Thailand to work together. Not just on the buses themselves - and aircon should certainly be welcomed by Bangkokian commuters - but also Thai and English language websites and mobile apps and bus shelter real-time information.

While the engineering and servicing training and parts packages that would grow Thailand's autoparts industry too?

One could argue that UK's Crossrail and Chunnel tunneling expertise - both projects, along with The Shard and Docklands and Thames Gateway the largest construction projects Europe has ever seen - would be ideally placed for Thailand's monsoon storm drains and sewers?

While an open top double decker would be a boon for Bangkok's tourist industry - just as the launch of East Kent's open top bus between the world's first seaside resorts of Ramsgate, Broadstairs and Margate, is a sure sign of Summer. And the London tourism open top buses from Madame Tussaud's to Big Ben are a great way to see London.

The Mexican bus export deal with London's limeys, surely means there's also room for one more up top - if not 489 - with Thailand's buses and trains?


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