The Lobby: Off-topic discussion

Hello and welcome to The Lobby! Your place to discuss subjects that just don’t fit in our other conversations. Make yourself at home!

This Lobby is closed to new comments

Do you want to discuss an issue but can’t find the right place to post it? Or maybe you’re looking for somewhere to chat with your community pals? Well, you’ve come to the right place…

As with any community or conversation it can – and does – wander off-topic. This is perfectly natural, but it hasn’t always been possible to do so on some of our posts because of the precisely defined nature of each subject.

So, at the behest of some of our community members, we created this off-topic discussion area – The Lobby.

Any ideas spawned here in The Lobby could generate new posts for debate and discussion on Which? Conversation, so you – our community members – are able to help shape the direction of our community.

What happened to the original Lobby?

Why do we have two Lobbies? Well, like all good franchises, we wanted to experiment with a sequel. But seriously, the original Lobby was so popular (with almost 13,000 comments), it was becoming hard to load the page.

So we’re starting fresh with what we’re affectionately calling “The Lobby 2”.

No comments from first Lobby have been deleted, and you can still link to comments, but you won’t be able to add new comments.


To ensure The Lobby remains a healthy and friendly place for you all to share your thoughts, musings all of our Community Guidelines apply, with the exception of one:

You may go off-topic… that is the purpose of The Lobby.  🙂

Looking for other areas to talk?

• Website feedback: Let us know about any technical issues, and share your ideas on the future of Which? Conversation closure: A discussion about the closure of

Which? Members: Discuss issues related to our organisation, including governance

Welcome to the Lobby!

So without further ado… welcome! What are you waiting for!?


A study by King’s College, London of 13 cities in the UK and Poland found air pollution contributes to a higher chance of heart disease, strokes, heart failure and bronchitis. The study found roadside air pollution stunted lung growth in children by approximately 14% in Oxford, 13% in London, 8% in Birmingham, 5% in Liverpool, 3% in Nottingham and 4% in Southampton.

“Air pollution makes us, and especially our children, sick from cradle to the grave, but is often invisible,” said Dr Rob Hughes, senior fellow at the Clean Air Fund.

“This impressive research makes this public health crisis – which affects people all across the UK – visible, and shows the urgency with which all political parties must prioritise cleaning up our air.”

Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, called on the UK government to legally commit to the World Health Organisation’s targets to clean up the country’s “dangerous” air.

This is yet another reason why the Government has to encourage the use of EVs and PHEVs by whatever means necessary and why we need to build more train track.

It might take some time to build more miles of railway, especially in urban areas, but there is no good reason why we should not start electrifying all the remaining tracks and getting rid of diesel trains – especially in urban areas. The government keeps saying we don’t need to electrify every line because there are alternative battery and hydrogen technologies available but these are largely still in the development stages. Their other answer is that bi-mode trains would be a better option but that means electric trains having to drag a diesel engine around for the unelectrified sect ions of a route [as is now happening on a growing scale] or a huge weight of batteries or hydrogen. Action this day is what is required, and quickly.

For many years, people living in built-up areas and near roads inhaled lead and a cocktail of other harmful chemicals thanks to leaded petrol. Despite considerable opposition, the lead content was decreased and eventually banned around 20 years ago, making it possible to fit petrol cars with three way catalytic converters to help deal with the other chemicals. The sulphur content of both petrol and diesel was reduced, resulting in lower emissions of sulphur dioxide which with soot was responsible for smog. Diesel particulate filters and exhaust gas recirculation have eliminated visible smoke from modern diesel engines.

I suggest that rather than building more railways and roads, we focus on ways of reducing our dependence on transport. In the days before the train and the car, people walked or cycled to work. If we are genuinely interested in sustainability and the health of our population, that could happen again.

wavechange, I think bicycles and railways developed at the same time, see:- .

With decent electric public transport in towns and cities we would be able to regulate the use of polluting private transport in a credible way. We do not all need personal transport to get around town.

We should reduce the need for more railways by changing our attitude to commuting. Take businesses out of town rather than transport people into town. That requires longer-term planning.

Walking and cycling to work means living fairly near to your employment. Either more overcrowding in expensive towns – or move employment. Maybe Which? could start the trend?

I agree, but take a look out of the window at the millions of cars, buses, vans and lorries. Each represents someone going somewhere for some purpose. Examine that and we have to look at what is going on in our crowded world. If we want to cut the number of journeys made, it’s not just a case of walking and cycling (though this helps) it’s a question of looking at why people want to go and what reason there is to stop them going.

When I took a job in 1980 it was a condition that employees lived within 20 miles. Applying this requirement across the UK could improve air quality. I suppose that we could work hard and find reasons why this should not happen.

I suspect most daily travel is to and from work, school and shopping. Apparently our travelling habits are gradually changing (for the better?):
– Long trips (5-50m) about stable
– short trips (1-2m) have fallen significantly
Distance by car p.a. 10% less than 2007
Distance travelled by rail about 2x 2007
Distance p.a. by walking / cycling about the same.
we need to find ways of being forced to travel less, whether it is for shopping (are home deliveries better?), to work (bring employment nearer affordable and cleaner housing), and to school (improve school transport). If we must travel into towns we need places on the outskirts to ditch the car, park free or cheaply, and take a bus, train or tram.

I like that Wave. Something my boss suggested – about 30 years ago – was that a tax on distance between work and normal place of residence would have a similar effect.

Unfortunately my employer dropped the requirement at some stage, but I don’t know when it happened or the reason.

I’m sure that a distance tax would be unpopular, Roger, but think about the time and hassle saved.

When you change jobs you need to consider whether it is in an area you would choose to live, the cost of moving, disrupting schooling, family and friends, coupled with the stability of the new job and whether you will want to stay. Offset that against the cost and time of travel if you decide to stay put. Not as simple a choice as we would like.

Maybe a requirement to live near to work, as I experienced, or a tax mentioned by Roger could help us find solutions that cut down on our need for transport. Some of our cities have illegal levels of air pollution and as Ian mentioned in his original post, roadside air pollution affects public health. As with waste plastics, we should not just continue to ignore the problem.

Moving employment away from high density populations to elsewhere in the country would reduce pressure on towns and cities, help people with more affordable housing, reduce commuting, and allow many people perhaps to live in a nicer environment, one where they would enjoy living and bringing up their family.

Perhaps we need tax incentives for business to persuade them to do this. Perhaps also the lead should be taken by public services.

To elaborate just slightly – It is not just a question of getting in the car, it’s why, and what the end result will be to life style if it becomes impossible. This is not a consideration of the efficacy of travel and the pollution it causes, that’s only one of the problems that has to be solved. I could list a page full of legitimate journeys where the result of barring them would lead to the collapse of an industry, a leisure facility an ability to interact, to go on vacation, to attend a sports match, to hospital visit, to dine out, to get about in inclement weather, to get to and from public transport, to visit relatives, care for relatives, bring tools to work places and, of course get to work, school and appointments. Few would disagree that pollution is a major problem and transport is one of its causes. How do we exist without it? Can we provide enough public alternatives? Currently buses are cancelled when underused, rural people have few of them anyway. It takes twice as long to go on the bus as it does by car locally, where is the time in the busy day to do that regularly? Nothing much runs after six o clock anyway. So let’s change that -not over night we won’t.
If most current journeys are necessary can we match this need publicly so that people can still do the things they do now? That’s one hell of a revolution, and it’s going to take some pretty big changes to get it right.

Years ago for many people shops, work, entertainment, school, doctor, leisure activities were provided fairly locally. Now, many of these have been “centralised” but personal transport has also made more distant and interesting activities possible because we could drive to them. I’d suggest we want to keep these freedoms but without reliance on fossil fuels.

At some point in the future we should have sufficient extra electrical energy from renewables and non-fossil sources to fuel all the electric vehicles we’ll need, as well as provide our heating and cooking energy. At some point also enough people will have exhausted their fossil-fuelled vehicles and replaced them with electric. But I do not see that point being close.

So, we need a solution for the interim. I’d suggest incentives to change to hybrid vehicles are needed, that use fossil fuel for longer journeys and have sufficient battery capacity to deal with urban, town and city journeys. This could make a real, and increasing, impact on air pollution.

What we now need is a UK industry that manufactures such vehicles. Something the government, of whatever colour, could help develop. Could it be a nationalised industry? Would there be enough innovation, freedom to develop, under a political master? I am sceptical.

“Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasesonce again reached new highs in 2018.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says the increase in CO2 was just above the average rise recorded over the last decade.

Levels of other warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, have also surged by above average amounts.

Since 1990 there’s been an increase of 43% in the warming effect on the climate of long lived greenhouse gases. “

I was just about to post the same link.

Vynor mentioned the need for ‘a hell of a revolution’. That’s about it. I suggest that the first step should be to tackle commuting.

Not eating red meat would probably be quicker. Not sure what we’d do about milk (butter and cheese). There will be no revolution; it will need to be evolution, but planned. Well, in my view.

However, we can do something about single use plastics if enough people were sufficiently motivated and their energies harnessed by some organisation.

We should bear in mind that many of the great developments of the industrial revolution happened in the countryside because that was where the water, fuel and minerals were.

We are where we are after two centuries of headlong expansion of urbanisation but there is growing recognition that we do now need to adjust to the impact this has had on our lives. Perhaps we need to walk backwards to the future one step at a time. The technology is available now to undertake many business activities away from urban areas and I would support financial or tax incentives to enable this. A multi-pronged approach across a wide spectrum would probably be needed rather than one dramatic reversal of behaviour. Leadership and good decisions on the future framework of human activity are now required.

I think we must also address the enlargement of the population – in more ways than one – as one of the pressing issues.

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I’m not suggesting a vegan diet, duncan, but cut down on red meat from ruminants to cut down methane emissions. We can still eat meat from chicken, pig, deer, horse if we choose, although they are not efficient sources of protein. And we can eat fish.

Diametric voted to leave the EU.

Diffusion – vote to stay.

Wavechange: just so I can be sure my spam filter isn’t going berserk, have you had some emails from me in the past week?

Sorry about that. I’ve replied. 

Welcome to Manatee Awareness Month, the day in 1922 when UK archaeologist Howard Carter opened Tutankhamun’s tomb and the day in 1983 on which £26m in gold, diamonds and cash were stolen from Brink’s-Mat warehouse at Heathrow.

Karaoke: Japanese for ‘tone deaf’.

Lecture: the art of transmitting the lecturer’s notes to the students’ notepads without passing through the minds of either. (at least three of us disagree…)

I’ve got my presenter’s notes nearly, nearly almost ready for my next gig on Thursday. Looks like we’ll be having a nice day “somewhere near Harwell” 🙂

Lobster: a tennis champion

Welcome to Wednesday, the day in 1895 on which Nobel’s will established the Nobel Prize, the day in 1980 on which Pinter married his second wife, Antonia Frazer.

Margin: mother’s ruin

Middle age: when we exchange emotions for symptoms

Osmosis: Early Australian prophet.

Welcome to French Toast Day, the day in 1814 when The Times appeared,. printed on automatic, steam powered presses and the day in 1967 on which the first radio pulsars were detected by Burnell and Hewish at Cambridge

Out of Bounds: exhausted kangaroo

Wait for a leap year.

Oyster: a large crane

Palaver: a type of jumper

Interesting to read in New Scientist, today, that Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and his colleagues have managed to make E. coli consume CO2 instead of sugar. This may sound like good news for the BioFuel industry but the single fly in the ointment is that, as they grow, the bacteria still emit more CO2 than they consume. Oh, well.

That’s interesting. Here is a little information in a dumbed-down Nature article:

E. coli is normally a heterotrophic bacterium that uses organic compounds such as sugars to produce all the components needed for growth and division and the energy needed to carry out these processes. What has been done is to allow the bacterium to grow autotrophically, using carbon dioxide as a carbon source instead of organic compounds. Specifically the modified organism is a chemoorganotroph, using oxidation of an organic compound (formic acid) to provide the energy needed to support growth and division.

Naturally occurring autotrophic bacteria are common.

Welcome to Buy Nothing Day, the day in 1935 when Schrödinger’s cat was published by the eponymous theorist and the day in 1870 on which Compulsory education was proclaimed in England.

Peace: a period of unrest and confusion between wars

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War is a period of far greater unrest and confusion but, more important, great tragedy and brutality for many. Which do you prefer?

It’s not quite that simple.

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I’ve no idea whether anything underlay Ian’s contribution. I took it as an amusing thought. I don’t know why the USA is continually referenced in these Convos.

Reoriented: a parcel returned to China.

I thought that China had stopped importing waste from the UK.

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I presume that a fair proportion of plastic in our oceans is from dumping of waste.

China exports a lot of waste to the UK….via Amazon.

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Pessimist: one who burns their bridges before they get to them.