Fire sweeps boat on London Duck Tours; passengers leap into the Thames
Credit: Reuters/Shadi Bushra By Shadi Bushra LONDON | Thu Oct 3, 2013 1:48pm EDT LONDON (Reuters) – A Chinese billionaire said on Thursday he planned to spend 500 million pounds ($810 million) rebuilding London’s Crystal Palace, a huge glass and steel building that captivated the world before it burned down almost eight decades ago. Ni Zhaoxing, chairman of the ZhongRong Group real estate investment firm, hopes to recreate the 19th century palace that was the world’s largest glass structure before it was destroyed in a fire in 1936 that could be seen across London. The original Crystal Palace was designed by Joseph Paxton to host the 1851 Great Exhibition, held when Britain sought to awe other nations with spoils from its empire and the wonders of industrialization. Originally located in Hyde Park, it was moved to south London in 1854, and Ni now wants to build a replica there to the original dimensions of about 500 meters (1,640 ft) long and 50 meters high. “This is going to recreate a 21st century version of the palace,” London Mayor Boris Johnson told reporters. “This isn’t an act of nostalgia. It is looking forward and it is about adorning our city with a world-class structure.” The 180-acre park, where the palace once stood and includes the original terraced steps, is currently home to an amphitheatre that once hosted reggae singer Bob Marley, a national sports centre and a collection of giant dinosaur sculptures, which also date from the 1850s. If the proposal goes through, it would be another example of China’s growing appetite for investments in Britain. A Chinese firm signed a deal this year to convert London’s Royal Albert Docks into the city’s third financial district. “London is renowned across the world for its history and culture,” said Ni, who says he was tied to Britain through his English-educated daughters and love of British art. “This project is a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring its spirit back to life by recreating the Crystal Palace and restoring the park to its former glory,” he said. The Chinese company, which says the project would create 2,000 jobs, is seeking to profit from its investment by drawing tourists and using the area to host international exhibitions. Residents of the surrounding area have rebuffed numerous development efforts in the past, including proposals to build a cinema, a new sports centre and housing developments.
London’s Heathrow to face cap on charges by UK regulator
If so, please share on iReport. (CNN) — People had to leap into the River Thames on Sunday after the amphibious tour boat taking them around London caught fire near Parliament. “There were flames, and there was lots of black smoke,” Phil Beasley-Harling, an eyewitness, told CNN affiliate ITV. “At one point, it looked as though the boat wasn’t going to survive.” Amateur video showed several passengers jumping into the water as flames and smoke billowed out from the windows at the front of the London Duck Tours boat, a bright yellow vehicle that takes sightseers around the British capital by road and river. After reports of the fire were received late Sunday morning, firefighters, a police helicopter and paramedics rushed to the scene. Several people were pulled from the water, and the blaze was eventually extinguished. Police said all 28 passengers and two crew members on board the vessel were safe. No one was seriously injured, and three people treated at a London hospital for “minor smoke inhalation ailments” have all been discharged, London Duck Tours said. Most of the people on board the boat were foreign tourists, ITV reported. The company and the London Fire Brigade both said the cause of the blaze, which damaged one third of the vessel, was so far unknown. River tours suspended Borough Cmdr. Alison Newcomb of London’s Metropolitan Police said that the maritime coast guard is investigating. “At the conclusion of that investigation, I anticipate they will make a decision with regards to future tours,” she told ITV.
London’s Heathrow airport had submitted a plan to the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) seeking to raise tariffs for airlines by 4.6 percent above inflation, as measured by the retail prices index (RPI), for the five years from April 2014. Instead the regulator proposed not allowing prices to rise by more than inflation. “Tackling the upward drift in Heathrow’s prices is essential to safeguard its globally competitive position,” CAA Chairman Deirdre Hutton said in a statement as the agency published its final proposals for consultation. Heathrow, whose owners include Spain’s Ferrovial and the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, China and Singapore, slammed the CAA’s proposals, arguing that a price cap would limit its returns and make investment unattractive. “The CAA’s proposals risk not only Heathrow’s competitive position but the attractiveness of the UK as a centre for international investment,” the group said in a statement. Carriers using Heathrow, including British Airways parent IAG have in the past criticised the airport for its high fees. Heathrow warned, however, that the cap on its charges would create a less attractive environment for investment in Britain’s aviation facilities and mean less funding would be available for a new runway. London is facing an airport capacity crunch and needs to build a new runway to add flights to fast-growing economies and ensure it does not miss out on billions of pounds of trade. Under the CAA’s new proposals, Heathrow’s rate of return on capital investment would decline to 5.6 percent in the post-2014 period, from a level of 6.2 percent between 2008 and 2014, the company said. The CAA said it was satisfied with a plan by London’s second airport Gatwick, which has proposed to raise average prices by 0.5 percent above RPI for seven years. Gatwick Airport Ltd said in a statement that it cautiously welcomed the CAA’s proposals. The CAA said in September it would defer making a judgement on how to regulate London’s third airport, Stansted.