REO collapses into administration

Real Estate Opportunities has been put into administration by a UK judge after its owners failed to repay debts of £501m owed to Lloyds Banking Group and Ireland’s National Management Asset Agency (NAMA).

Administrators Ernst & Young have taken control of the Grade II listed red-brick building and will now either sell the site or the debt to recover the amount owed. The creditors initially called in the loans on 29 November and REO was inviting offers for its controlling stake in the site soon after.

Lloyds told the Guardian: “From the outset we have been determined to secure a buyer who will kickstart the regeneration of Battersea Power Station and we have done everything possible to give the owners both the time and financial support to achieve this.”


“However, after several months of discussions and still no acceptable offers on the table, administration is the only means we have to ensure that a sales process is put back on track. Without a financially stable owner, the site’s future remains unclear and that’s a situation we want to avoid.”

Keith Garner of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, which opposed the Irish company’s plans, called for the power station to be returned to the public sector, with repairs to be funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The group said on its blog: “For the Battersea Power Station Community Group it is just another ‘new beginning’ as the fourth developer limps off stage to boos and jeers.”

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Olympic road signs unveiled – and they’re not green

Road signs giving priority to 50, 000 Olympic vehicles were revealed earlier this week.

The signs, published by Transport for London, show how regular motorists will have to give way for official vehicles during the 2012 Games. Members of the Olympic family will have exclusive use of the right-hand lane of a dual carriageway, in a few cases shared by local buses.

Olympic lanes will also be used by athletes, media, officials and corporate sponsors, while cyclists and taxis are banned. The use of the roads by about
25, 000 sponsors has proved particularly controversial, as they will not be travelling out of operational necessity.

Priority road corridors will operate from 7am to 7pm on a third of the 106-mile Olympic network.

The signs will be installed next year but won’t become active until a few days before the operating ceremony on July 27th. Affected roads will also be painted with the Olympic rings.

Back in 2007 the organisers claimed that “walking, cycling and public transport would be promoted as the best ways to get to the events”. Despite this, they’ve now gone ahead and banned cycling on a third of the Olympic network.

Also, it has previously been revealed that guests of soft drinks company Coca-Cola will be travelling to the venues in Stratford using VIP buses, rather than public transport as called for by the Mayor.

One can certainly start asking questions about whether the organisers will be able to live up to their promises about making the London 2012 Olympic the “greenest ever.”

To quote Simon Jenkins of the London Evening Standard: “The only green thing (…) is the traffic light phase fixed for the IOC limousines and luxury buses. “

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Coca-Cola break Olympic Pledge to Public Transport

Soft-drinks company Coca-Cola have been accused of ‘breaking the Olympic spirit’, following another recent controversy over transport in London during the 2012 Games.

Guests of Coca-Cola, one of the official sponsors of the London 2012 Olympics, will be transported to and from the games in Stratford by VIP buses, it has been revealed. As a result, they are now being accused of breaking the Games’ pledge to encourage those attending the event to rely on public transport.

Whilst it would take just 20 minutes on public transport for guests to commute from their 5-star rooms at the Langham Hotel to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, guests of Coca-Cola will instead be travelling on VIP buses, driving up to Euston Road and joining the Olympic Route Network.

The Olympic Lanes were initially created for the quick transportation of competitors and employees. Yet sponsors of the games, including Coca-Cola, will also be allowed to take advantage of these specially created routes, even though the majority of their guests will be attending as spectators.

In addition to this, parking for residents around the Langham Hotel will be restricted during the games, in order to make way for the VIP buses.

Whilst London commuters are being urged to avoid making any unnecessary trips into the capital during the Games and employers are being urged to increase the number of Londoners working from home , guests of Coca-Cola and other Olympic sponsors will be able to enjoy VIP transportation.

“Coca-Cola will benefit from special measures during [the] Games … the rest of us are being asked to make sacrifices. It is a blatant affront to the Olympic spirit.”

As Simon Jenkins says, ‘Olympics VIPs and their cronies […] can cruise through London unimpeded by traffic lights, white vans, taxis, cyclists, zebra crossings or ordinary Londoners, who will be shoved into the gutter like medieval peasants’

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Olympian battle to get London’s transport fit for the Games…

A guaranteed budget of £6.5bn has been set aside to get London’s transport network up to speed in time for the Olympic Games next year. Thanks to the Games, this budget is also protected during present austerity measures.

With an estimated eight million visitors expected in London during July and August 2012, Graham Stephens, the co-ordination manager for the Olympics for Transport for London said that transport was marked as a potential problem right from the start: “The first advisers for the London bid helped us a lot when they stressed right at the beginning of the process that transportation was a major issue.”

Speaking about the legacy, Stephens pointed out that the transport system after the Olympics will be “significantly reinvigorated.” In the meantime, Londoners continue to face delays and line closures while the transport system goes through its upgrade.

For the full article click here

 

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TFL Confirms Cable Car for 2012 Olympics

Cable Car in Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Phil Whitehouse

Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed plans to open a cable car in time for 2012 Olympics, operating 50 metres above water between the Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks. The cable car is to transport up to 5,000 passengers (cyclists and pedestrians) per hour, between the two Olympic venues (the O2 arena and ExCel exhibition centre). The duration of the trip will be approximately 5 minutes one-way, cars running every 30 seconds. According to the Guardian, the system will be privately funded, costing £25 million provided by a number of potential operators.

London Mayor Boris Johnson claims that “A cable car spanning the majestic Thames would not only provide a unique and pioneering addition to London’s skyline, but also offer a serene and joyful journey across the river”. “Passengers will be able to drink in the truly spectacular views of the Olympic Park and iconic London landmarks whilst shaving valuable minutes from their travelling time”, he continues. Johnson believes that the cable car will provide a much-needed enhancement of cross-river options to the east of the city.

Former Labour Mayor Ken Livingstone does not object to the idea, as a cable car would be a development for the area. However, he states that “what is really needed is a road bridge that would carry more commuters.” The other alternative types of river crossing , according to professors of transport, are a rail-only bridge, a new river-ferry crossing, a walk and cycle-only bridge, and a car bridge adapted to take more public transport. The professors claim that a cable car would be the most sustainable of these. The question here, however, is whether a cable car is the most realistic option? Or is this an attempt to keep up with other major cities of the world?

Barcelona, Cologne, Hong Kong, Lisbon, New York and Singapore are amongst the cities
currently employing a cable car. Does TfL feel that London is lagging behind? After the Olympics, will the public want to use the cable car as an every-day mode of transport? Not only does it sound unrealistic to think that the public will choose to “take the cable car” to work, but the route (from one place in the middle of nowhere to another) seems extremely Olympics-centred. Will the cable car be purely used as a way to impress the masses of tourists organisers claim will visit London in 2012? (In fact most host cities experience a drop in tourism during the Olympics) Quoting Tfl analysts, it certainly seems so: “A cable car would bring excitement and iconic importance, which would generate interest in tourist visits.” Let’s go fly a kite.

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There are no plans to build the Battersea Tube Station – Sadiq Khan MP, Minister of State for Transport

Proposed Tube Plan

Proposed tube extension

Sadiq Khan MP, Minister of State for Transport, confirmed that there are no plans to build the Battersea tube extension and no public money from either the Mayor or the government for such a scheme- dashing the hopes for the Battersea Power Station development.

Owners of Battersea Power Station, REO (Real Estate Opportunities), claim their plans for the Power Station, currently out for public consultation, depends on the extension of the Northern Line to a new tube station at Battersea (near to Battersea Park rail Station.)  Khan’s unequivocal statement bangs the nail in the coffin of a public funded tube extension.

Besides the recently announced £4 billion short fall in Transport for London’s budget the Battersea tube project was never likely to happen for a number of reasons.

The site is well connected by buses and only a short walk to Vauxhall and one stop by train to Victoria. Nearby Queenstown Rd Station connects in minutes to Waterloo and Clapham Junction.

While Battersea has long wanted a tube station a bizarre two stop branch from Kennington is not the answer. As a cul-de-sac it will either be a shuttle service or will have to have two platforms (or the shunting infrastructure) for tube trains to “turn around”.  What is needed is an integrated transport scheme.

For a tiny fraction of the cost extra buses or even a tram line could improve the connections between Victoria, Vauxhall and Waterloo, all more useful transport nodes  than Kennington on the already over crowded Northern Line. Overhead rail infrastructure exists but there is simply not enough rolling stock. The Victoria to London Bridge service that goes via Battersea Park Station has a useless two trains an hour. More frequent  trains could make it a very useful line. A bus linking Clapham Common tube, via Chelsea Bridge, with Victoria, Pimlico and Westminster tube stations would go a long way to integrating transport of the area.

Finally even with REO’s dense and greedy plans for developments all around the power station there will simply not be enough people in the station’s catchment area to make it viable. The proposed US Embassy would be as near to Vauxhall so why bother going all that way to Battersea tube simply to arrive at Kennington?

REO claim they are going to pay for the tube and it will not need public money but with debts of £1.6 billion REO are hardly in a position to engage in tunnelling, one of the construction industry’s most expensive activities. They do not seem to even have the money to repair broken windows in the Power Station.

The reality is that REO have made a seriously bad investment, they bought the site for £400m at the height of the property market. The previous owner had bought it for £100m only a few years earlier. The only way REO can recoup their investment is to demolish the power station. Without the power station the site is one of Europe’s biggest and most valuable inner city brown field sites. REO insist the tube line extension is key to their development but it is just a red herring that simultaneously wins support from locals keen for transport improvements and plays for time. It adds to the delaying tactic of perpetual deferment while the building is allowed to rot and fall down.

REO’s plan far from benefiting Battersea condemns the area to years more planning blight, their pie-in-the-sky transport scheme will never happen and only distracts attention from intelligent, achievable improvements.

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