Weekly Highlight: 16.09.2008

Denmark:

Public transport losing out to cars
16.09.2008

A new independent report shows that the billions of kroner set aside to improve public transport have not lured people away from their private vehicles.
Despite the government setting aside 25 billion kroner to improve public transport in Greater Copenhagen, passenger numbers have not increased over the past five years, according to a new independent report.
The report from engineering and planning consultancy COWI cites rising ticket prices, disruptions in bus and train service and notable increases in people’s disposable income as all having a hand in putting a dent in overall public transport passenger figures.
In 2002, there were an estimated 255 million trips on the city’s trains, busses and Metro system – roughly the same figure as in 2007. The government had estimated a passenger increase of 30 million for the period.
The COWI report indicates that ticket prices for public transport in the city have risen 29 percent over the five-year period. In contrast, petrol prices rose by ‘only’ 20 percent during that time. A strong economy has also been partly to blame for stagnant passenger figures, as more people have been able to afford buying vehicles.
And automobiles are the biggest problem, according to many traffic experts. They point out that while the government has poured billions into public transport, it has poured even more into bettering conditions for vehicle traffic.
‘Investment in road construction is the worst thing for public transport,’ Per Homann Jespersen, traffic researcher at Roskilde University, told Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
‘When you improve motorway conditions to and from the city, demand for the use of those roads increases. And that will only lead to more traffic congestion in the near future.’
Some experts also point to a 100 million kroner government public transport subsidy for city residents that was revoked in 2004. The money was instead put toward nationwide rail renovations.
But while passenger figures for the capital region have been disappointing, Søren Eriksen, managing director of national rail service DSB, said the company has seen record growth in its passenger numbers. As of the first half of 2008, DSB had a 3 percent increase in passengers since last year. But Eriksen agreed that focus on private vehicle transport does not helped train and bus figures.
‘When you create better conditions for private vehicles it weakens the ability for public transport to compete,’ he said.
‘But the way to solve the problem isn’t to make driving more difficult but rather significantly improve public transport and improve the infrastructure. That will undoubtedly result in more passengers.’ (rc)

Finland:

Beer Sales Decline, Wine Sells Well
Published 12.09.2008, 17.19 (updated 12.09.2008, 19.40)

Sales of alcoholic beverages declined in the first half of this year by three percent. Sales in restaurants and bars declined by eight percent, while retail sales went down by just two percent.
According to figures put out by the National Product Control Agency, sales of beer declined by nearly four per cent at the beginning of the year, while sales of wine rose by just over a percent. Sales of fortified wine was also rising slightly.
Sales of strong spirits went down by more than four percent. 

Netherlands:

Offshore wind power targets will not be met
Monday 15 September 2008

The government will not meet its goal of having around 30 offshore windparks (total capacity 6,000MW) in the North Sea by 2020 if it maintains current policy, reports Saturday’s Financieele Dagblad.
After 10 years of dithering on issues such as locations and subsidies, the Netherands has managed to build just two offshore windparks with combined capacity of 228MW, enough to supply electricity to 225,000 households, the paper says.
In 2011 there will be another three windparks at the most, leaving the country far behind its own target and those of neighbouring countries, says the paper.
Project developers have to negotiate with five ministries for licences and it is often unclear what the criteria are. This means investors are going abroad, Marcel Gerritsen, head of project financing at Rabobank, tells the paper.
The price of electricity in Europe is between 8.5 euro-cents and 11 euro-cents per kilowatt hour. Producing electricity from offshore turbines costs between 14 and 16 euro-cents, says the FD.

Norway:

Malpractice kills 2,000 each year
First published: 11 Sep 2008, 16:59

At least 2,000 patients die as a result of an “unfortunate occurrence” in hospitals each year.
No one knows the exact figure as patients may already be severely ill and many errors never get reported to hospital managers.
We need greater openness at all levels. We have to be willing to admit that this is a problem and the authorities have to accept that this is a big figure,” says Øistein Flesland, who heads the National Body for Patient Safety to news bureau NTB.
The first Norwegian conference on patient safety was held in Oslo on Wednesday. Flesland wants future conferences to address patient safety in primary health care and psychiatric care.
“If we are going to improve patient safety we have to look at survival statistics from hospitals, count cases of hospital infections and to be able to report unwanted occurrences,” says Flesland.
Incorrect medication and infections are the main errors which cause severe illness or death in patients.
“Some improvements are both cheap and simple to implement,” says Flesland. For example, two medicine bottles containing different concentrations of morphine may have almost identical labels. Why not give them different colours?” says Flesland.
State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Dagfinn Sundsbø, estimates that as many as 10 percent of hospital patients may experience an “unfortunate occurrence”, which in some cases might lead to death.
“We have to learn from our mistakes and work towards a working environment which is both more open and which allows mistakes to be reported freely,” says Sundsbø.
Anders Baalsrud, who heads a department at the National Hospital in Oslo, says that Norway is known for being good at safety in the oil industry. “Why aren’t we equally good at hospital safety,” he asks.
Baalsrud estimates “unfortunate occurrences” in hospitals rank fourth in the list of causes of death in Norway, after coronary disease, cancer and respiratory illness.

Sweden:

Study: Swedish men sensitive and lazy
Published: 15 Sep 08 14:38 CET

While Swedish men are more willing to accept their role in raising children than men in other parts of Europe, they can’t seem to be bothered to do much about it, according to a new study.
Unsurprisingly, Swedish men rank the highest in Europe when it comes to equality between the sexes, with 78 percent agreeing that a man can raise a child just as well as a woman, reports the Göteborgs-Posten newspaper.
The results come from a study ordered by media company Discovery Networks in order to learn more about the attitudes of their male viewers and involved a survey of 12,000 men in 15 countries.
Nearly two-thirds of Swedish men also believe it’s more important for fathers to provide emotional support than economic support.
However, the study also reveals that Sweden’s sensitive, new-age men may have shed the Protestant work ethic behind the traditional stereotype of the stoic, hard-working Swede who puts his head down and does what is necessary to complete the task at hand.
Only 63 percent of Swedish men agreed that “The most important thing for me is to support my family”, the lowest figure recorded in Europe.
Furthermore, only 35 percent reported that staying in shape is a priority, again the lowest among men from other European countries included in the study.
And more Swedish men, 35 percent, also see going on holiday as an excuse to do nothing when compared to men from elsewhere in Europe.
The study also confirmed some broader trends that European men in the 25- to 39-year-old demographic are delaying the traditional milestones of adult life, such as having children, purchasing a home, and becoming economically independent from their parents.

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