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The lasting effects of the Diesel controversy

Emissions and costs of this debate have been weigh on consumers…

I was recently reminded of the effects of the long-lasting Diesel controversy on a trip to the Netherlands. The city centre of Amsterdam is a restricted traffic zone for certain types of engines, for the purpose of protecting air quality. The website of the city government says:

“City traffic is a major polluter of the air. Amsterdam therefore has environmental zones that keep the most polluting passenger cars, trucks, company cars, taxis, buses and mopeds and mopeds out of the city. With the environmental zone we want to improve the air quality in the city. In municipalities with an environmental zone you may encounter a yellow or green environmental zone. Amsterdam has a green environmental zone.”

Most diesel engines have since been barred from entering the city centre, under the threat of hefty fines for their users. For years, the city has refused to be polluted by cars. This anti-conformist left-wing municipality, traditionally run by the Labour Party and its green allies, managed to reduce traffic by 25% in the 1990s. This was despite the fact that road traffic increased by 60% elsewhere in the country during the same decade.

In March, a set of member states consisting of Austria, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg and Malta, and led by Denmark and the Netherlands, called on the EU to propose tougher emissions standards, in order to set phase-out dates for both petrol and diesel cars.

This contradicts the premise of free choices for consumers. Individual cities in Germany have also decided to implement similar bans; a third of Germans drive diesel cars. Are they supposed to sell their vehicles within the coming months? Or worse, should they move out of these two cities? What sense does it make to have a major continental country become a Swiss cheese of diesel no-go zones, in which both residents and visitors will have to count in major bypasses when they travel through the country?

On top of the consumer choice question, governments do not seem to link the question of CO2 emissions. Diesel emits more of those. A petrol engine ignites its petrol-air mixture by means of a spark plug. Diesel, on the other hand, manages without such external ignition. Highly compressed air heats the diesel fuel, which means that the energy in the fuel can be better utilised. As a result, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are reduced. On average, diesel emits up to 15 percent less CO2 than petrol, even though it has a higher carbon content.

As for the argument on pollution affecting the health of residents, former President of the German Pneumology Society, Doctor Dieter Köhler, contradicts these activists and sees only a minor health-endangering role in particulate matter and nitrogen oxides. Many studies, he says, misinterpreted findings, and the costs of outlawing diesel vehicles would stand in no proportionate relationship to health hazards.

As mentioned above, some countries are calling for or have already set a phase-out date for fossil-fuel powered cars. Those dates vary, sometimes it’s 2035, sometimes it’s 2040. This poses a set of questions. In 2040, if we are still in need of cars running on fossil fuels, the ban would be disastrous and is unlikely to be implemented, or if we don’t need them anymore by that time the legislation would be obsolete. The pretense, however, that it is the role of the government to choose winners and losers in the innovation of a free market, is ridiculous.

We have to realise that when environmentalist activists say “ban diesel”, their actual aim in the long-run is to ban all vehicles running on fossil fuels, regardless of the economic and social consequences that this has.

Consumers deserve the right to choose their own cars, running on the petrol of their choice.

Originally published here.

Казанский и Курский вокзалы Москвы вошли в топ-10 лучших Европы

Два вокзала Москвы Казанский и Курский – вошли в топ-10 лучших европейских, сообщают РЖД в своём телеграм-канале.

“Международная неправительственная организация Consumer Choice Center представила рейтинг лучших европейских железнодорожных вокзалов. В этом году Казанский вокзал Москвы разделил 4 место рейтинга с вокзалом Amsterdam Centraal столицы Нидерландов, а Курский вокзальный комплекс столицы занял 6 место”, – говорится в сообщении РЖД.

При составлении рейтинга учитывается множество факторов, включая пассажиропоток, создание безбарьерной среды для маломобильных пассажиров, навигацию, наличие магазинов и ресторанов, близость гостиниц и общественного транспорта и так далее.

Казанский вокзал в прошлом году также вошел в топ-10 лучших вокзалов Европы, заняв 9 место, добавляют РЖД.

Originally published here.

A digital tax would hurt consumers

The EU has long considered levying a tax of between two and six percent on the local revenues of platform giants. The prospect of trade talks with the US has brought this topic back into the spotlight. However, an EU-wide digital tax would limit potential …

As it stands right now, the European Commission is considering three options for a digital services tax. One would consist in a corporate income tax top-up on all companies with digital activities in the European Union, the other a tax on revenues from certain digital activities in the EU. A last option would be a tax on business-to-business digital transactions in the EU. The reasoning in favour of a DST (digital services tax) are two-fold: on one hand, and stemming from French political pressure, the DST is considered to be socially fair. Digital companies prefer tax-optimised HQ locations, which means that those nations with larger corporate tax levies lose out on revenue from digital transactions. This would be changed through a tax that does not consider the location of the firm, but the location of the transaction. On the other hand, the EU has just created the largest budget in the history of the union, and has taken up a loan of €750 billion. It isn’t entirely clear how this money will be paid back until 2058, but a digital tax seems to be among the existing proposals.

A DST is rejectable for many reasons. We don’t know at this point how such a tax would make market actors react. When GDPR was introduced, we saw a large amount of media operators seize their activities in the EU, because they were unsure how to deal with new privacy rules. This goes beyond a rule, and will affect the balance sheets of companies. Adding to that, the thresholds are very important. Low tax thresholds would affect small European start-ups, which could then also revert to only offering their services in low-tax countries.

Innovators should be able to choose between high-taxed and low-taxed locations, not be faced with a uniform unavoidable tax. Complicated issues – such as the EU’s digital lag – require complex solutions according to officials, but that’s not the case. Less intervention means more innovation. Antitrust lawsuits — a direction the EU has been more keen to take in the past years — are a great tool for tax collecting but they don’t solve the core problem. We need a digital market that has many different options to choose from, making it less likely that one company can gain a monopoly as it will be more preoccupied with actual competition, and thus seek to come up with innovative solutions for consumers.

The central justification given by the Commission for both proposals is that digital activities are not subject to traditional taxation. The intellectual property of the companies concerned is often located outside the EU, where most of the added value is created. The income of these companies is generally not taxed in the EU, but this certainly does not mean that the firms aren’t taxed at all, especially since the US has adopted a global minimum tax. It is therefore not the virtuous ideal that “these companies must pay their taxes”, but rather that these companies must pay their taxes to the EU. The difference for an international organisation that has just lost a major contributing member (the United Kingdom) is therefore more a question of revenue than a principle of social justice.

This bargaining tactic could drive up one bill, and that is the one of the European consumer. Very often, increases in company expenditure in indirect taxes, which this would inevitably imply, would raise prices for consumers around the continent. VAT has long been recognised as the tax which hits poor people the hardest, yet many EU countries now prefer to introduce higher levels of indirect taxation. Just at a time when especially low-income earners can have simpler access to many products because of the internet, it seems cruel to restrict their purchasing power, particularly in the midst of a pandemic that sees many EU citizens compelled to use digital solutions. If we care about those with low wages, we need a more competitive marketplace in which companies are in a price race, not a race to optimise astronomical tax burdens.

The future of Europe’s market economy undeniably lies in the digital sector. The idea of attempting to massively tax online businesses is not a promising objective, neither for the states nor their consumers. It belongs in the dustbin of creative political EU integration.

Originally published here.

Два московских вокзала вошли в десятку лучших в Европе

Два вокзальных комплекса в Москве вошли в десятку лучших в Европе, сообщает Агентство городских новостей «Москва» со ссылкой на пресс-службу ОАО «Российские железные дороги».

Как рассказали в «РЖД», Казанский и Курский вокзалы столицы попали в рейтинг лучших европейских железнодорожных вокзалов, составленный международной неправительственной организацией Consumer Choice Center.

«В этом году Казанский вокзал Москвы разделил четвертое место рейтинга с вокзалом Amsterdam Centraal столицы Нидерландов, а Курский вокзальный комплекс столицы занял шестое место», – заявили в пресс-службе.

Там пояснили, что рейтинг составляется на основании различных факторов, в число которых входит пассажиропоток, навигация, наличие магазинов и ресторанов, наличие поблизости гостиниц и общественного транспорта, а также создание безбарьерной среды для маломобильных пассажиров.

Ранее сообщалось, что Москва вошла в список мировых столиц, где в 2020 году был самый чистый воздух.

Originally published here.

Switching From Smoking To Vaping Could Save Thousands Of Lives, Report Finds

Report claims over half a million Malaysians smokers would switch if vaping is promoted as a harm reduced alternative.

An international consumer group has called for a “rethink” of approaches to vaping, saying regulations that facilitate it as a means to help people quit smoking could save thousands of lives.

The Consumer Choice Center (CCC) made this call in a report it published with the World Vaping Alliance (WVA) titled “From Smoking to Vaping – Lives Saved”.

The report analysed data on smoking and vaping from 61 countries and assessed how many smokers could potentially switch to vaping if the regulations encouraged vaping as a means to quit smoking.

The researchers looked to the United Kingdom to establish a “switching rate” because of the rate at which smoking decreased while vaping increased in the UK.

In the UK, people are “actively” encouraged to switch to vaping, and the country has seen a 25% reduction in smokers since 2013 when vaping became a key asset for the UK health agencies to urge smokers to quit smoking.

In the same period, Australia, which has one of the toughest vaping regulations saw a decline in smoking of only 8%.

The report estimates that if the right regulations were in place, around 196 million smokers in the 61 countries could switch to vaping, an alternative the two organisations say is 95% less harmful than cigarettes.

In the case of Malaysia, the report cited that the country could see well over half a million smokers in this country would make the switch if vaping is promoted as a harm reduced alternative for smokers.

A growing number of studies are pointing to the effectiveness of tobacco harm reduction (THR) measures including safer alternatives to cigarettes, to help smokers kick the habit.

A recent review of studies by Public Health England, an executive agency of the UK’s Health and Social Care Department found “stronger evidence” that nicotine vaping products are effective for smoking cessation and reduction.

This was in comparison to its 2018 review of studies which found that “tens of thousands” stopped smoking as a result of vaping in 2017 alone.

In “From Smoking To Vaping – Lives Saved”, the report notes that vaping has been recognised as one of the most effective tools to help smokers quit and this has been endorsed by health authorities in several countries including the UK, France, Canada, and New Zealand.

CCC Managing Director Fred Roeder said about the report, “Smart rules on advertising e-cigarettes to smokers, displaying e-cigarettes at the point of sale for cigarettes, lower rates of taxation for e-cigarettes, and public health bodies endorsing the evidence of vaping being at least 95% less harmful than traditional smoking, everything that the UK has done right, can help save the lives of thousands of smokers by helping them switch to vaping.”

WVA Director Michael Landl meanwhile said the report highlights the significant potential of the benefits of switching from smoking to vaping.

While the benefits of vaping as an alternative to smoking have been known for some time, the research shows just how significant the potential is: almost 200 million lives saved. If COVID has shown us anything, it’s that our health is paramount and regulators that want people to quit smoking need to be led by science and ensure that ideology takes a back seat to pragmatism.

World Vapers Association (WVA) Director, Michael Land

Originally published here.

Казанский и Курский вошли в топ-10 лучших железнодорожных вокзалов Европы

Об этом сообщает портал Ассоциации туроператоров России.

Ежегодный рейтинг европейских вокзалов составляет международная организация по защите прав потребителей Consumer Choice Center. В этом году она проанализировала 50 вокзалов в 15 странах.

Лучшим в Европе стал железнодорожный вокзал Лейпцига. На втором месте центральный вокзал Вены, а лондонский Сент-Панкрас занял третье. На четвертое место попал центральный вокзал Амстердама, а пятым оказался московский Казанский вокзал — он обошел вокзалы Франкфурта-на-Майне и Мюнхена. На восьмой позиции также московский вокзал — Курский, девятое и десятое места у центрального вокзала Милана и бирмингемского вокзала Нью-Стрит.

В число критериев оценки вошли количество национальных и международных направлений, удобство доступа к платформам, в том числе для инвалидов-колясочников, чистота, удобство навигации, количество ресторанов и магазинов, наличие беспроводного интернета, близость отелей и общественного транспорта.

Как отмечено в исследовании, большая площадь вокзала не гарантирует комфорт или качество инфраструктуры, поэтому парижские вокзалы Пари-Норд и Шатле — Ле-Аль, а также крупнейший железнодорожный узел Испании — мадридский вокзал Аточа вообще не попали в первую десятку.

Originally published here.

Európa egyik legjobbja a Bécsi Főpályaudvar

A nemzetközi fogyasztóvédelmi szervezet, a Consumer Choice Center 2021-ben a Bécsi Főpályaudvart választotta a második legutasbarátabb pályaudvarnak Európában. A szempontrendszer olyan mutatókat vizsgált mint megközelíthetőség, tisztaság, gasztronómiai kínálat, célállomások száma és az ingyenes internetkapcsolat megléte.

A fogyasztóvédelemmel foglalkozó nemzetközi szervezet, a Consumer Choice Center rendszeresen készít különböző ranglistákat az utasok tapasztalatai alapján, például a legjobb repülőterekről és pályaudvarokról. A 2021-es “European Railway Station Index” a kontinens ötven legnagyobb pályaudvarát vizsgálta, amiből végül a tíz legjobbat választották ki. 

A 2015-ben átadott, 109 hektáron elterülő Bécsi Főpályaudvar, a Wien Hauptbahnhof kiemelkedő szolgáltatásainak köszönhetően a második helyre került a listán, maga mögé utasítva például a londoni St. Pancras pályaudvart és az Amsterdam Centraalt valamint a moszkvai Kazanyi pályaudvart. A lista, melynek élén a Lipcsei Főpályaudvar áll, olyan mutatókat vizsgált mint megközelíthetőség, tisztaság, hazai és nemzetközi célállomások száma és az ingyenes internetkapcsolat megléte. Ezen kívül figyelembe vették még az éves utasforgalmat, a liftek és mozgólépcsők valamint a mozgáskorlátozott utasok számára rendelkezésre álló mellékhelyiségek számát, a vásárlási élményt és a gasztronómiai kínálatot, illetve, hogy vannak-e autómegosztók a közelben.

A Wien Hauptbahnhof a fenti kritériumok alapján kiemelkedően jól teljesített. A létesítmény területén kilencven üzlet található – például élelmiszerbolt, drogéria, bank –, illetve számos étterem és szolgáltató. A pályaudvar egyúttal egy nemzetközi közlekedési csomópont, hiszen minden osztrák távolsági vonat a Hauptbahnhofra érkezik, három transzeurópai vasúti folyosó is összefonódik itt, illetve a repülőtér is könnyedén elérhető az innen induló járatokkal. Az állomás jól megközelíthető metróval, busszal, villamossal, biciklivel vagy autóval. Utóbbiak számára hatszáz parkolóhely áll rendelkezésre, illetve kerékpártárolókat is kialakítottak. A pályaudvar ezen kívül környezetbarát szemléletmódjával is kitűnik: energiaellátását a jövőben egy 1.200 négyzetméteres napelemrendszer biztosítja, amit geotermikus hűtő- és fűtőrendszer is kiegészít.

Originally published here.

Austrija / Glavna željeznička stanica u Beču među najboljim u Europi

Međunarodna organizacija za zaštitu potrošača “Consumer Choice Center” u svom europskom poretku željezničkih stanica za 2021. godinu ocjenjivala je iskustvo putnika na 50 najvećih stanica.

Glavna željeznička stanica u Beču, izgrađena 2015. godine, zauzela je drugo mjesto.

Bečki “Hauptbahnhof” ne privlači pažnju samo svojim karakterističnim dijamantnim krovom, već je i iz perspektive putnika odnosno korisnika jedna od najboljih.

Kriteriji koji su se ocjenjivali uključuju dostupnost, čistoću, izbor restorana, broj odredišta i pristup besplatnom internetu. Prvo mjesto u poretku zauzela je stanica u Leipzigu. Željeznička stanica “St. Pancras” u Londonu zauzela je treće mjesto, a četvrto dijele “Amsterdam Centraal” i moskovska Kazanjska stanica.

“Ovo je lijepa potvrda našeg svakodnevnog rada. Želimo boravak naših putnika na Glavnoj bečkoj stanici učiniti tako ugodnim iskustvom da će u sljedećem rangiranju završiti na prvom mjestu.”, rekao je izvršni direktor ÖBB-a Andreas Matthä.

Glavna željeznička stanica u Beču impresionirala je pozitivnim putničkim iskustvom, visokim nivoom čistoće i opsežnim uslugama, ali i ekološkom prihvatljivošću. Naime, fotonaponski sistem od 1.200 m² na krovu koristi se za napajanje stanice, a dio energije za grijanje i hlađenje se dobija geotermalnim putem.

Originally published here.

Bečka glavna železnička stanica među najboljim u Evropi

Međunarodna organizacija za zaštitu potrošača „Consumer Choice Center“ u svom istraživanju „European Railway Station Index 2021“ analizirala je doživljaj putnika na 50 najvećih železničkih stanica Evrope. Bečka glavna železnička stanica, izgrađena 2015. godine, osvojila je drugo mesto među najpopularnijim stanicama u Evropi.
Ova stanica nije samo zbog svog karakterističnog krova, čiji su okviri oblikovani u dijamantsku šemu, arhitektonski magnet, već i iz perspektive korisnika. Kriterijumi koji su se ocenjivali su između ostalog: dostupnost stanice, čistoća, gastronomski izbor, broj destinacija i dostupnost besplatnog interneta. Analiza je pokazala da je za potrebe putnika najbolja i najadekvatnija železnička stanica u Lajpcigu. Na trećem mestu je stanica „St. Pancras“ u Londonu a četvrto mesto dele „Amsterdam Centraal“ i moskovska Kazanjska železnička stanica.

Glavna železnička stanica u Beču ne ističe se samo pozitivnim doživljajem putnika, čistoćom i brojnim uslužnim službama, već i ekološkom inicijativom. Postrojenje foto-naponskih ćelija veličine 1200m2 postavljeno je na krovu stanice za interno snabdevanje strujom. Deo energije za hlađenje i grejanje dobija se i geotermalnim putem.

Originally published here.

Vídeň má jedno z nejlepších nádraží v Evropě

Mezi nejlepší vlaková nádraží v Evropě patří podle žebříčku European Railway Station Index 2021 i vídeňské hlavní nádraží, které se umístilo na druhém místě hned po německém Lipsku. Moderní nádraží zaujme nejen architektonicky, ale především kvalitou nabízených služeb  pro cestující.

Žebříček Consumer Choice Center

Ve svém žebříčku hodnotila organizace Consumer Choice Center celkem padesát největších evropských nádraží. Kritérii hodnocení byla např. dostupnost nádraží, čistota, nabídka restauračních zařízení, počet cílových destinací a také bezplatné připojení k internetu.  Vídeň ské hlavní nádraží se tak umístilo hned po Lipsku na druhém místě. Na třetím místě Vídeň následovalo londýnské nádraží St. Pancras, o čtvrté místo se letos dělí amsterdamský Centraal s Kazaňským nádražím v Moskvě.

Vídeňské hlavní nádraží

Vídeňské hlavní nádraží, které bylo slavnostně otevřeno v říjnu 2014 a postupně nahradilo dvě dřívější hlavová nádraží, je největší a také nejmodernější nádraží v Rakousku. Vedle letošního mezinárodního ocenění, které se zaměřilo především na úroveň nabízených služeb, je nádraží i ekologicky a architektonicky zajímavou stavbou. Díky začlenění fotovoltaiky, geotermální energie a ekonomického dálkového vytápění a chlazení bylo nádraží oceněno jako Udržitelný projekt města Vídně 2014.

Architektonicky nádraží zaujme především svou výrazně tvarovanou dynamickou střechou, ani interiér ovšem nepokulhává. Veškeré haly a schodiště jsou velkoryse široké a přehledné a tudíž také bezpečné. V okolí nádraží navíc vznikla i moderní čtvrť pro více než 20 500 obyvatel a pracujících. Okolí nádraží se tak díky citlivé modernizaci stalo jedním z nových center Vídně.

Originally published here.

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